Senators frustrated with military
Thursday, October 11, 2007
By Gerardo R. Partido
Variety News Staff
SENATORS yesterday expressed frustration with the military, and particularly at the lack of information about the coming buildup and the assistance to be given to the local community.
In discussing Bill 33, sponsored by Sen. Rory Respicio, D-Agana Heights, both Democratic and Republican senators expressed support for the creation of a panel to be called the “Commission on Community Support of the Military Mission on Guam.”
Saying that neither the Joint Guam Program Office nor the governor’s Civilian Military Task Force have shed much light on the military buildup, senators said the creation of the special panel is necessary to formulate a “team Guam approach” to strengthening relations between Guam and the federal government.
“All we’ve heard so far is what would be done inside the fence. We have heard scant details, if any, about what the military plans to do for the people of Guam,” said Sen. Jesse Lujan, R-Tamuning, who has been an outspoken critic of JGPO.
JGPO on Tuesday delivered a briefing at the Legislature for the senators but Lujan said nothing new was revealed about the community’s benefits.
“If anything, there was alarming news that Japanese labor and Japanese companies are now being considered for the buildup to the detriment of local workers and companies,” Lujan said.
“It is also only now that they are revealing that the proposed military highway would be accessible to civilians,” the senator added. Lujan had previously criticized JGPO for not disclosing details about the proposed military highway.
Sen. Tina Muna-Barnes, D-Mangilao, said the military seems to be sending conflicting messages to the people of Guam.
On the one hand, the military is assuring us that it will help the community cope with the buildup. “But they raised the water rates at Fena unilaterally. Now, we will be suffering with higher rates for using what is ours,” the senator lamented.
Sen. James Espaldon, R-Tamuning, who previously had reservations about Bill 33, now has had a change of heart.
“I previously had reservations about Bill 33 because I thought it would be unwise to change horses midstream. But with the amendment put up by Senator Blas to include the Civilian Military Task Force under the proposed commission, I’m now inclined to support the bill,” Espaldon said.
The bill proposes to create a 12-member panel that would develop “new initiatives to support the current military mission on Guam and foster its expansion.”
The commission, which Bill 33 proposes to create, would “help coordinate and support all aspects of government policy and private sector efforts in support of achieving the best results for all concerned.”
Respicio first filed the proposal to create the military commission in the 27th Legislature but it did not pass.
The senator’s attempt to get it on the floor in the 28th Legislature wasn’t successful either as Gov. Felix P. Camacho created the Civilian/Military Task Force to create a master plan for military expansion preparations and planning.
But Respicio sees no conflict with the administration, pointing out that the governor is included on the proposed commission.
The proposed commission would be composed of representatives from the governor’s office, the Guam Chamber of Commerce, the Guam Visitors Bureau, Chamorro rights groups, the Mayors Council, the Legislature, and the Guam Youth Congress.
Minority Leader Judith Won-Pat, D-Malojloj, is glad the youth sector is to be included in the proposed commission.
“Here we are talking about the future of Guam and making decisions when the future of Guam is really for the island’s youth,” the minority leader said.
Bill 33 has been placed in third reading and is expected to be voted upon this current session.