Thursday, September 27, 2007

Rate Hike Will Double Rates in Guam's South

Navy will nearly double water rates for southern Guam
By Jennifer H. Svan, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Navy’s plan to double water rates for its southern Guam customers starting next month is drawing sharp criticism from island officials.

The rate for fiscal year 2008 will increase from $2.09 per 1,000 gallons to $4.05, effective Oct. 1, according to a U.S. Naval Forces Marianas news release issued Monday night.

A further increase, to $4.16, also is projected for fiscal 2009, the release stated.

Navy officials said the rate increase was needed to cover ongoing operating and maintenance costs and applies to all water customers equally, not just the local community.

The Navy provides water through its Fena Reservoir water plant to Defense Department customers on southern Guam — including Naval Base Guam and tenant commands — as well as to Guam Waterworks Authority.

“We’ve been operating the plant at a loss,” said Lt. Donnell Evans, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas spokesman, in a phone interview Tuesday.

But Simon Sanchez, chairman of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities, a governing board of elected officials for GWA and Guam Power Authority, said the sudden, steep rate increase appears to signal that the Navy is not as cost efficient as it needs to be with its water system.

“Maybe it’s time to get the Navy out of the water business,” he said.

The Navy’s doubling of water rates “is a significant impact to the civilian side of the community,” he said in a phone interview from Hawaii, while traveling Tuesday. “It’s not a good way to do business together, to just offload a 100 percent increase all at once.”

The rate increase will cost GWA about $2 million, Sanchez said.

While the CCU had informal notice about a month ago that there may be a rate increase, the official written notice came Monday, he said.

“We’re very disappointed in the decision,” Sanchez said.

Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marianas is responsible for engineering, construction, maintenance, utilities and environmental programs for Navy installations on Guam.

Evans said the Navy produces about 8 million gallons per day — 4 million of which goes to GWA.

GWA buys water from the Navy for the villages of Santa Rita, Agat and part of Nimitz, supplying water to about 17,000 residents in those areas, according to GWA spokeswoman Heidi Ballendorf. She didn’t know how many of those residents were U.S. military members.

But Ballendorf, in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes, said GWA has no immediate plans to pass on the rate increase to consumers.

The company, however, will have to cut its operating budget and continue to reduce dependency on Navy water purchases, she said.

Navy officials, in the news release, said the Navy rate for water had increased only 7 percent since 2003. During that period, revenue generated from annual rates fell short of operating costs by more than $9 million, Evans said.

“We are stewards of government resources,” Evan said. “We can’t operate government systems and resources at a loss. As we move forward from here, our goal is to make sure we have better communication with all our customers.”

Sanchez said another concern was the effect the move could have on planned military expansion on Guam.

“Opponents of further military expansion on Guam could use this as further proof that DOD isn’t a good partner,” charging that the Navy made a unilateral move without much consultation, he said.

GWA has raised its rates for the past four years, but in increments that have totaled about 38 percent, Sanchez said.

The Navy noted the 2008 fiscal increase is less than the new GWA residential rate of $4.14 per 1,000 gallons, and the new GWA commercial rate of $5.15 per 1,000 gallons, but also stated those rates are not comparable due to the differences in Navy and GWA water systems and financing.

Ballendorf said GWA charges $2.40 to customers that use from one gallon to 4,999. The average monthly water bill on Guam is about $35 to $40, which includes a $22 sewer fee, she said.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Navy Helicopter Crashes at Fena

Navy helicopter crashes in Fena
One dead, three injured in crash
By Dionesis Tamondong
Pacific Daily News
Sept. 25, 2007

A Navy helicopter crashed into Fena Reservoir last night, killing one of four crew members on board.

Rescue units from the Navy and Guam Fire Department responded to the 911 call, which was made by officials at the Guam airport's flight control tower at 10:17 p.m., said GFD spokesman Firefighter Angel Llagas.

A Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 aircraft that was conducting a training mission crashed in the lake at the Naval Magazine Area in Santa Rita, said Navy spokesman Lt. Donnell Evans. Information on how or why the helicopter crashed was unavailable last night.

Three crew members were rescued and transported to Naval Hospital around 10:40 p.m. while rescue units continued to search for the fourth person late last night. Evans said one crew member sustained a broken arm while two others were treated for minor injuries.

The body of the fourth crew member was recovered just after midnight, Llagas said. Their identities are not being released at this time.

The Fena Reservoir is located within Naval property and is used as a water source for the Navy's water distribution system, according to Pacific Daily News files.

HSC-25 is the Navy’s only forward deployed vertical replenishment squadron and provides a variety of services, including re-supplying deployed ships, 24-hour search and rescue and medical evacuation services for Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands.

An Obvious Question

How will they all fit on Guam?
Retired general works to address GAO report’s concerns of space issues
By Teri Weaver, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nearly 40,000 new military personnel and family members would move to Guam in coming years as part of the Pentagon’s overall plans to build up troop strength and operations on the island, according to the retired Marine general charged with directing the expansion.

That includes the often-reported 8,000 Marines and their families who are expected to move to Guam by 2014. But the big picture also calls for an Army ballistic defense missile station and servicemembers to support periodic visits by aircraft carriers, according to retired Maj. Gen. David Bice, executive director of the Joint Guam Project Office.

The numbers do not include thousands of sailors on the carriers, which are expected to visit the island three times a year for three-week visits, according to Bice’s office and a report released this month from the Government Accountability Office.

And the announced increases — 39,130 estimated servicemembers and their families — also don’t include long-term contractors, teachers and other civilian workers needed to support the troops, according to the GAO, Congress’s auditing and investigative arm.

Those 39,130 people alone would increase the island’s population of 171,000 by nearly 23 percent. Currently, there are about 14,000 servicemembers and family members on Guam.

Finding room

To make room, the military could need more than its current footprint of 40,000 acres on the island, according to the report. That would mark a shift from previous officials’ statements that they would build on existing military land, which covers 29 percent of the island.

Bice, in a telephone interview last week, said his office has yet to determine whether the military would need additional land for the $13 billion project.

“Our guidance was to look at [currently held] lands first,” Bice said from Washington. “We, in fact, are doing that.”

Part of that determination depends on an ongoing environmental review required before construction can begin, Bice said. The process could deem a piece of military-controlled land unsuitable for buildup. It also could determine if the military’s use on one piece of land could adversely affect adjacent sites.

“It’s too early to say whether some land can’t be used,” Bice said of the review process.

Bice also said the military was considering offers from private landowners throughout the island who would like to lease or sell their land for warehousing space or buildings for the construction and buildup.

The military would need temporary sites for construction offices and worker housing, as well as space for permanent operations. To complete the project by 2014, an extra 15,000 to 20,000 workers would be needed on the island, according to the GAO report.

Tough sell

The report, released this month, acknowledges that Pentagon leaders know the $13 billion project may be a tough sell to Congress when competing against other military needs and spending in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In addition to funding, the document also cites concerns about other aspects of the project, including the island’s inadequate infrastructure, the increased distance between the Guam Marines and U.S. bases in Asia, and Guam’s ability to tackle such a massive construction project.

The GAO points out that some of its concerns come as the military is working to answer similar questions: how to position troops on the island, what services will be needed to care for them and their families, and how much the federal government will contribute to upgrading the island’s poor water, sewage, electricity and landfill systems.

Bice and other military leaders have acknowledged the challenges in the past. Last week, Bice said he continues to work with Guam’s leaders to address concerns and to incorporate the military’s plans into the island’s master plans.

“We don’t want to build a firing range next to a senior citizen center,” he said.


The report’s two major criticisms include the military’s failure to make money off of turning over U.S. bases to Asian countries and the lack of planning to solve an air-range shortage in South Korea.

As the military realigns in the Pacific, it is turning over lands to South Korea and Japan. So far, the Pentagon is not looking for any resale value in the turnovers as a part of the overall agreements with the foreign governments. In Europe, countries have paid the United States $592 million in “residual value” and in-kind payments since 1989, the GAO says.

The report also points out that the military’s plans in the Pacific, including the Guam expansion, do not specifically address the U.S. Air Force’s current training problems in South Korea. According to the report, the 7th Air Force at Osan Air Base “may be unable to maintain combat capability in the long term because of a lack of adequate air-to-surface ranges.”

In the past, America used the Koon-Ni range for air-to-grand practice. That range closed in 2005, and attempts to use other South Korean ranges have been difficult. The other ranges do not provide electronic scoring capabilities and airmen have had trouble scheduling training time.

“As a result, the Air Force has been using ranges in Japan and Alaska to meet its training requirements, which results in additional transportation costs to the U.S. government,” the report states.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Navy to Double Rate for Fena Water

Navy doubling rate charged to GWA for water
by John Davis, KUAM News
Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Starting October 1, the United States Navy will increase the amount it charges the Guam Waterworks Authority for water from the Fena Water Treatment Plant. According to a media release from COMNAVMAR the rate increase will go up from $2.09 per 1,000 gallons to $4.05.

And that's apparently just the beginning, as the military also announced future plans to raise the rate again next year by additional $0.11.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

GAO Report

JGPO official felt federal report was fair
by Sabrina Salas Matanane, KUAM News
Sunday, September 23, 2007

The head of the Forward Joint Guam Program Office, Captain Robert Lee, feels the General Accountability Office report was a thorough review of the process to inform the community of the goings-on of moving troops from Okinawa thus far. "If you look at the report," said the naval officer, "It did a good investigation of everything's that's happening today, and then they suggested a few things comments needs to report more to Congress. Well, if you look into the actual paragraph it just stated that we understand there's not a lot done yet, the planning is just beginning, but they suggest that as we get information we do communicate more with Congress."

In terms of his response to KUAM's report on the critically endangered Okinawan Dugong and litigation that was filed in a federal court in California against defense secretary Robert Gates, Cpt. Lee said he was not aware of the specifics of the lawsuit. As we reported, several conservation groups are suing the defense secretary for violating the National Historic Preservation Act, which protects the dugongs. The prime habitat in which they live is located where the Futenma Replacement Facility is to be constructed.

According to the GAO report, any delays with the replacement facility in Okinawa could delay the relocation of U.S. Marines to Guam. Said Lee, "In general there are things that have to happen in Okinawa for this move to happen here on Guam and the Futenma Replacement Facility. That's one of the keys that has to happen in Okinawa, to make sure the rest of this move goes in place. If you look at domino effect, there are certain things that have to happen on both sides of the fence here - as one starts to fall in Japan then one starts to fall on Guam, and we just kind of go in order, but it's tied-in.

"I mentioned before that it's a $10 billion move here; it's $30 billion in Japan, and they're all tied into each other and with all this money and all this movement. Remember, there's one base over here and you're talking five or six bases in Japan. There's a lot of interaction and we're working closely in federal government levels and military levels to make sure we stay in synch."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Guam Parents Say No to Direct Instruction

Community gives thumbs-down to DI
by Michele Catahay, KUAM News
Friday, September 21, 2007

Better than fifty residents attended a town meeting hosted by the Guam Education Policy Board to gather input on the Guam Public School System's implementation of the controversial direct instruction teaching format. GEPB subcommittee chairperson for curriculum and instruction Rosie Tainatongo says a majority of the people in attendance did not want to continue the program, citing the program's inability to help gifted students and the idea that teachers want to teach other subjects in the classroom.

"We want to hear the public speak out. If they are in favor of keeping it, or do they want to drop the second reading block or do they want to continue it? We just want to see how the community feels about it," Tainatongo said.

Last night's meeting held in the Kattan District was the first of four meetings set to discuss DI. Other meetings scheduled will be held next Thursday for the Lagu District at Juan M. Guerrero Elementary School, then on October 4 for the Luchan District at C.L. Taitano Elementary School, and for the Haya District to be held on October 11 at the Merizo Mayor's Office.

Tainatongo says the board wants to hear from the public in order to review and revise the District Action Plan.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Funding for Marine Move May Fall Short

Funding for Guam buildup may fall short
By Gerardo R. Partido
Variety News Staff
September 18, 2007

FUNDING requirements for the military buildup on Guam are not yet fully identified and may be difficult to meet given other priorities and existing funding constraints.

This was among the findings of a comprehensive study on the Guam military buildup conducted by the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress.

According to the agency, various Department of Defense agencies that are to help support the influx of personnel and equipment into Guam will likely incur additional costs that are not yet included in the current DOD $13 billion cost estimate for the military buildup on Guam.

The $13 billion estimate only includes the costs to move the Marine Corps forces from Okinawa to Guam, construct a Navy pier for a transient aircraft carrier, and station an Army ballistic missile defense task force.

GAO pointed out that this cost estimate does not include the costs of other defense agencies to support the additional military personnel and their dependents on Guam.

Furthermore, GAO warned that the government of Japan’s funds will not be made available until it has agreed to specific infrastructure plans for Guam.

The Marine Corps move from Okinawa to Guam is estimated to cost about $10.3 billion. Of this amount, the government of Japan has agreed to contribute about $6.1 billion to develop facilities and infrastructure on Guam.

In addition, the GAO study warned that if the Futenma replacement facility in Okinawa is not built, the Marine Corps relocation to Guam may be delayed. The facility is intended to replace the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and is estimated to cost $4 billion to $5 billion.

DOD officials view the success of the Futenma replacement facility as a key objective of the initiative that needs to be completed in order for other realignment actions to take place.

GAO noted that the government of Japan may encounter challenges in funding its share of the Marine Corps move, considering Japan’s other national priorities and its commitments associated with funding several other major realignments of U.S. forces in Japan under the Defense Policy Review Initiative.

At the time of the GAO study, the Japanese legislature had already approved $228 million for planning and initial construction funds for force posture realignments, including project planning in Guam, and authorized the Japan Bank for International Cooperation to invest in businesses for Guam development.

According to GAO, Department of Defense officials have also expressed concern regarding the department’s ability to obtain a continuous flow of funds adequate to pay its share of the current $13 billion cost estimate for the military buildup on Guam in light of ongoing operations and funding constraints and challenges.

These officials, whom GAO did not identify, informed the agency that obtaining funding for the military buildup on Guam at current estimated levels will be difficult because of the pressures the department faces in funding other defense priorities and activities, including the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and procurement costs for weapons systems.

In addition, there are other costs not included in the $13 billion cost estimate associated with the Marine Corps’ move to Guam that will increase overall costs.

Historically, GAO pointed out that the government of Japan has paid a large portion of the operation and maintenance costs of the Marine Corps in Okinawa in the form of host nation support that will be borne solely by DOD after the move.

Okura Project Hits a Snag

Okura Hotel project hits a snag
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan
Variety News Staff

GUAM Okura Hotel’s $30 million grand expansion project has been suspended due to funding shortage, according to one of the vendors who have been owed hundreds of thousands for supplies and materials.

Clayton Duvall, manager of the Quality Swimming Pools, said all work on the project came to a halt on Sept. 6 because “no money is flowing in” and GC Corp., the main contractor, has been unable to pay its subcontractors and vendors.

Duvall said subcontractors and vendors have been trying to collect payments from GC Corp. for two months now but all they have received was a plea for patience and “a little more time.”

“We are being kept in the dark. We’re all sitting here holding the bag. We’re not being given substantial information as to the status of the contract and they’re not telling us when we’re going to get paid,” said Duvall, whose company is owed $125,000 for swimming pool supplies and materials.

Subcontractors and vendors were expecting to receive their payments from GC Corp., which is believed to have been provided full funding from Okura.

Duvall said the hotel owners suspect that the general contractor may have spent the fund elsewhere.

“So the bottom line is, Okura owners apparently are not ready to release any further fund to the contractors until they come to Guam and determine just what is going on,” Duvall stated in an e-mail to one of the subcontractors.

Mark L. Day, director of Guam Resorts Inc. which operates the Okura Hotel in Tumon, declined to comment. “I don’t have a hold on the situation right now to be able to comment,” Day told Variety.

Variety’s call for Myung Il Kim, GC Corp. general manager, had not been returned as of press time.

In his e-mail to Duvall, Day said Okura is “still in the process of discussion with GC Corporation.”

“It is the intention of both parties to reach an agreement with respect to the ongoing project, but a concrete means of alleviating GC’s financial issues has not been met as this time,” Day said.

Although the discussion with GC Corp. was “progressing,” Day could not tell when payments can be made, saying that “in this situation, a solution is not as rapid as one wishes it to be.”

Among the other subcontractors with collectibles are Conwood, which is owed $200,000; Hawaiian Rock, $250,000; Leed Electric $50,000; Universal AC $50,000; and Pacific Hydronics and Systems, $200,000.

No information about the status of construction workers was available as of press time. Labor investigator Roman Quinata said the Department of Labor has not received any complaint related to the Okura construction project.

The Okura Hotel expansion project, which commenced about three months ago, first hit a snag in late July when local activists called for a stop on excavations at the project site, where over 200 ancient human remains were found.

Guam Resorts Inc.’s suspended project involved the construction of what owners described as “unparalleled luxury destination resort” that would cater to “affluent” and “sophisticated” tourists.

The design includes 23 luxury villas, individual swimming pools and Jacuzzis overlooking the ocean, a wedding chapel, and restaurants that would serve international cuisine.

Monday, September 10, 2007

NZ Businesses to Invade Guam

Businesses encouraged to invade Guam
By MARTIN TIFFANY - Waikato Times | Monday, 10 September 2007

Waikato businesses are being urged to take advantage of a $19 billion boom on the small Pacific island of Guam.

Gilbert Ullrich, chief executive of Ullrich Aluminum, said a number of companies, including his own and Fonterra, already did business with the US territory, but there were huge opportunities with the military build-up on the island.

The US is moving 8000 marines from the southern island of Okinawa in Japan to Guam, although construction activities related to the relocation are not expected to start for about four years because environmental studies and clearances that will have to be done first.

To accommodate the expected swell of marines and their families, Guam residents and businesses are preparing for hundreds of millions of dollars in anticipated construction activity, as well as for more jobs.

While New Zealand companies in the construction and supply field will be the first to benefit, Mr Ullrich said companies "across the board" would benefit from the expansion.

He said there were many opportunities for New Zealand exporters, especially in the perishable food business, because of our close proximity to Guam.

Mr Ullrich, who is also chairman of the New Zealand Pacific Business Council, said New Zealand businesses needed to look more at trade and business opportunities in their own backyard. The US government was encouraging New Zealand and Australia to take advantage of opportunities offered by the military buildup.

A recent trade conference in Auckland, which was a follow-up to an earlier conference sponsored by the council, was attended by US deputy assistant secretary of the interior for insular affairs David Cohen.

Mr Cohen said many New Zealand businesses had vast experience and the US was keen for assistance.

Mr Ullrich said there was huge potential for New Zealand businesses to tap into the contracts that would come out of the relocation.

Construction for the housing, training and other facilities for the 8000 marines and their 9000 relatives is expected to begin in July 2010.

For more check out

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Japanese City Opposes New Runway

Japanese city opposes new runway
Sep 8 05:22 PM US/Eastern

NAGO, Japan, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Residents of a Japanese city remain opposed to plans to build a U.S. military runway near their homes, businesses and schools.

"We want the runway to be built offshore to prevent (noise from) the base from affecting local residents' daily lives," Nago's mayor, Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, Saturday told Defense Minister Masahiko Komura.

The runway is to be built as part of the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station to Camp Schwab in Nago on Okinawa, reported Mainichi Daily News.

Nago's demand for an offshore runway runs counter to an agreement made last year between Japanese and U.S. defense officials to build it at the camp, the newspaper reported.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Okinawa Does Not Need New US Military Bases

POINT OF VIEW/ Manabu Sato: Okinawa does not need new U.S. military bases


Okinawa is in the midst of political struggles on many fronts. The central issue is Tokyo's plan to construct a U.S. Marines base in the Henoko district of Nago city.

On the surface, there appears to be a conflict between Tokyo and the Liberal Democratic Party-backed governor of Okinawa and the Nago mayor over the final location of the new base.

The governor and the mayor both won elections last year with campaign promises to oppose the base plan "as it is," in order to make the base issue less salient in their elections. But they never intended to refuse the construction of a new base. It is obvious that some insignificant compromises will be made to build a massive base with two runways and a military port.

The real battle to stop the base construction altogether has been carried out by civic groups. The groups have been engaged in a nonviolent and direct-action campaign in Henoko since 2004.

Currently, Tokyo is forcing preparatory work for the construction, as well as the related construction of several Marines helipads in the northern forests in Takae, Higashi Village. While there is little objection from the local governments, the civic groups are actively opposed to these plans.

Keiko Itokazu, an independent candidate backed by all of the major opposition parties, easily won the Okinawa Prefecture seat in the Upper House election in July over her opponent, an LDP incumbent. The opposition parties had lost three critical elections in a row, thus this was a crucial victory for those opposed to further militarization of Okinawa.

Had they lost this election despite the favorable political conditions, the anti-base opponents may never win an important election in Okinawa. However, it remains to be seen if the latest election is an anomaly or the beginning of a new political trend.

The favorable political conditions include not only national issues like pension and political scandals, but also issues specific to Okinawa. These issues have never received intensive national media coverage, but they matter greatly to the people of Okinawa.

In March, the education ministry issued an order to delete references to the Japanese military's involvement in the forced mass civilian suicides at the end of the Battle of Okinawa from a high school history textbook. This has become such an emotional issue that a large-scale protest rally is planned in September, which even the LDP-backed governor has decided to participate in.

In May, the Defense Ministry sent a minesweeper vessel to offshore Henoko to intimidate opposition activities. This action was extremely insensitive to Okinawa, where Japanese military did much harm to the civilian population during World War II.

The Henoko base is supposed to be a replacement for the dangerous Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, but it will be a totally different attack base with many more capabilities. Tokyo is determined to push the project through to simply satisfy the U.S. military.

The Japanese government began a so-called preliminary survey for environmental assessment by drilling sensors and other devices into the coral reef.

Since the construction site is not finalized and the types of aircraft using the new base have not been revealed, this cannot be a legitimate environmental assessment, according to Japanese law. Nevertheless, Tokyo is continuing the operation.

The dispatch of the minesweeper represented a decisive departure from postwar practice of the Self-Defense Forces. This was the first time the SDF was used in a domestic political situation.

The SDF dispatch to Henoko violated laws and political precedents, and it could open the door to future use of SDF in any political conflict in Japan. However, this incident never caught national attention, either.

Many other incidents have infuriated Okinawa people, but their feelings have seldom registered in recent elections until the latest one. After the huge 1995 anti-U.S. military base rally following the gang rape of a schoolgirl by U.S. Marines, Tokyo has flooded Okinawa with construction money.

While the political machine of public works has been losing electoral effectiveness in other parts of Japan, Okinawa, especially the northern region, has become more dependent on such pork-barrel projects. Many Okinawans have become conditioned to believe that they cannot live without U.S. bases and they expect to receive "extraordinary" financial treatment forever.

With the enactment of a law to facilitate U.S. military realignment in Japan, Tokyo can now use the financial carrots and sticks more directly to make local governments do its will.

The new helipads under construction in Takae will form a vast jungle training field in conjunction with the new Henoko base. The Marines will love this, but this has nothing to do with the security of Japan or Okinawa.

Marines in the jungle training will not defend Japan from the assumed future threats from China. This plan is aimed strictly at pleasing the U.S. military, particularly the Marines. In addition, Japan will spend more than $6 billion (about 700 billion yen) to renovate a huge U.S. military complex in Guam.

When the Guam facility is completed in a few years, most of the Marines in Okinawa will move there. Guam is a far superior strategic location for U.S. forces in the Pacific than Okinawa, which is too close to China and Taiwan.

Okinawa's usefulness as a strategic point will decrease, yet Okinawa will be burdened with new bases and new jungle training fields with a false expectation of the money attached. Okinawa should wake up now and keep its land in its own hands.

* * *

The author is a professor of political science at Okinawa International University.(IHT/Asahi: September 7,2007)

Real Estate Conference

Cohen to address real estate conference
By Gerardo R. Partido Variety News Staff
September 7, 2007

DEPUTY Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Affairs David B. Cohen will be one of the keynote speakers in the upcoming 4th Micronesia Real Estate Investment Conference to be held on Sept. 28 and 29 at the Leo Palace Hotel.

Cohen will talk about issues facing investors in Micronesia real estate, including the Guam military buildup and other events, according to W. Nicholas Captain, organizer of the event.

“I expect that David Cohen will address issues of real interest to all our delegates. All of us want to know more about the huge opportunities the military buildup will offer investors. The $15 billion in military construction will bring a lot of people to Guam who are all going to have to live somewhere. And the whole Micronesia region is obviously ripe for more development,” Captain said.

Cohen is also expected to address what governments can do to maximize their lands and allow for economic development in his speech, “Unlocking the Value of Real Estate.” “The leaders of Micronesia have some issues before them concerning policy in their regions. I think David Cohen’s speech will lay all of this out,” Captain said.

Captain, who is the president of the Captain Real Estate Group of Companies, said this year’s conference is especially relevant because the expansion of the military on Guam brings along with it many opportunities for real estate investment.

“With the anticipation of about 8,000 U.S. Marines, their 10,000 dependents and an estimated support population of 24,000 coming to Guam, there are many important issues that will affect a wide range of industries in Micronesia. The general military buildup already begins to offer a myriad of opportunities in the real estate investment field,” Captain said.

The biennial real estate conference provides delegates and sponsors a unique opportunity to hear experts, peers and industry professionals speak and share information about real estate investment and development in the Pacific Rim.

Other featured speakers include David Dix, chief executive officer and managing director of Creed Capital Management Australia Ltd. in Australia; Douglas Smith, managing director and head of Commercial Real Estate for Deutsche Bank in Japan; David L. Wickline, managing partner of Pacific Holdings Trust LLC of California; John Baldwin, principal of Bridge Capital of Saipan; and W. Nicholas Captain.

Real estate transactions have already increased on Guam last year in anticipation of the military expansion, with land transactions rising by 6 percent, apartment sales increasing by 25 percent, and condominium sales increasing by 28.9 percent.

Analysts attributed the real estate market’s improvement to “bottom of cycle” prices that were too low, pent-up demand, and deferred “move-up” acquisitions.

During the event, Captain said he will release the latest real estate statistics for Guam.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

More on CNMI Federalization

Homeland Security involved in redrafting of federalization bill
By Gemma Q. Casas
Variety News Staff
September 6, 2007

THE August deadline for the revised version of S. 1634, the bill that will federalize the local immigration system, has been pushed back after the U.S. Interior Department asked the help of the U.S. Department of Security in drafting a new measure.

David Cohen, Interior’s deputy assistant secretary for insular affairs, hopes to submit the new draft of S. 1634 soon.

“We are still working with the Department of Homeland Security to finish up the draft,” said Cohen in an e-mail interview. “We hope to be able to submit it soon.”
Homeland Security will be among the five federal agencies to oversee the transition to a federal immigration system in the CNMI.

The department sent Philip B. Busch, one of its legal counsels, to Saipan to observe the Aug. 15 field hearing conducted by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs on H.R. 3079, the Northern Mariana Islands Immigration Security and Labor Act, which is similar to S.1634 but includes a provision for a CNMI nonvoting congressional delegate.

Busch is with the Office of the Chief Counsel of the department’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Cohen said once his office submits the second draft, the next step will be up to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

“Their next procedural step will be to report the bill out of the Senate committee and a similar process will be going on in the House,” he said.

S. 1634 and H.R. 3079 both propose that foreign workers in the Northern Marianas who have been legally employed for at least five years be given the opportunity to get nonimmigrant visas which will entitle them to freely travel, work and study anywhere in the United States and its possessions.

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial is strongly opposed to both bills citing their “negative economic impact.”


Cohen: NMI situation has changed
By Haidee V. Eugenio
Variety Assistant Editor
Sept 5, 2007

DEPUTY Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Affairs David Cohen says the federal government’s point back in 2004 was that it would not be willing to grant immigration status to nonresident workers “unless the entire CNMI immigration system were to be federalized” but, he said, the “situation has changed now.”

Cohen was responding to a statement from Covenant Party chairman Alvaro Santos who said “it is shameful and disgraceful for Cohen to be representing himself as the ‘savior’ of nonresident workers when you consider the fact that David Cohen strongly opposed the granting of permanent residency status to nonresident workers only a few years ago.”

Among the changes Cohen cited that were beyond the CNMI’s control were the U.S. Congress’ active consideration of federalizing CNMI immigration which is indeed supported by the Bush administration, and the changes in world trade that have contributed to sharp declines in CNMI revenue, depriving it of the resources it needs to properly administer its responsibilities.

“Now that we’re seriously considering immigration federalization, we have an opportunity to examine the situation of the long-term contract workers that have been so essential in building the CNMI economy,” he said. “We have the opportunity and the obligation to try to ensure that everyone — the indigenous community, the contract workers, the business community and others — is treated fairly.”

On Dec. 16, 2004, Cohen was quoted as saying that “there is virtually no hope of the Dekada movement succeeding in getting U.S. permanent residence for its members on the basis of their presence in the CNMI.”

Dekada is seeking permanent residence status for over 3,000 of its nonresident members who have been lawfully working in the CNMI for at least five years.

The movement, formed in September 2004, consists mostly of Filipinos, Koreans, Chinese, Nepalese, Bangladeshis, Thais and Burmese.

In a statement yesterday, Cohen said reasonable people can disagree about what is fair, and that’s why a healthy, respectful debate is essential at this time.

The Covenant Party chairman said he is “deeply offended” by and resents Cohen’s political behavior and unprecedented intrusion into the CNMI’s self-government and local politics.

“The way David Cohen has been carrying on when he visits the Commonwealth, you would think that the temporary alien contract workers negotiated and approved our Covenant agreement with the United States for their benefit, not the indigenous population. This was never the intention of our founding fathers or the great Americans who supported our Covenant agreement with the United States,” said Santos.

Cohen, for his part, said, “Our point back in 2004 was that the federal government would not be willing to grant status to contract workers unless the entire CNMI immigration system were to be federalized. The basic bargain was that the CNMI’s continued control over its own immigration was conditioned upon the federal government not having to bear the burden of immigration decisions made by the local CNMI government.”

He said if the federal government was going to have obligations to those who were admitted to the CNMI, then the federal government would insist upon controlling who is admitted to the CNMI.

“Our point back then was that granting status to the contract workers would bring about federalization. Not even the strongest proponents of federalization in Congress were pushing federalization with any sense of urgency at that time, perhaps because this was before changes in world trade rules helped to plunge the CNMI into the crisis that exists today,” he said.

According to Cohen, this was why they were concerned, back in 2004, about the possibility that contract workers would come to the CNMI, or attempt to extend their stay, on the belief that they would get green cards.

“We were concerned that their hopes would make them exploitable, and that the CNMI would become a magnet for those seeking green cards,” he said.

Cohen said he doesn’t blame people for having anxiety at this time, “because the CNMI is likely to change significantly, one way or another, in the foreseeable future.”

“We don’t yet fully know what that change will look like, and that naturally causes anxiety. Every segment of the community is experiencing anxiety — the Chamorros, the Carolinians, the guest workers, citizens of the freely associated states, business owners and everyone else,” he said.

But according to Cohen, much of this anxiety has nothing to do with the federalization debate.

He said people are worried about their ability to support their families, to pay their utility bills and to rely upon the most basic of public services, and these worries were in full swing long before immigration federalization legislation was introduced.

“We have to guard against this anxiety spilling over into anger that is misdirected at fellow members of the community, especially the most vulnerable members. I’ve said before that everyone in the CNMI is in the same boat, and that the community will sink or swim together,” Cohen said.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Women Resisting Militarism Conference

Women Resisting Militarism and Creating a Culture of Life
please keep in mind that 'woman' is a self-defined term, including folks who defy gender norms.

COMMUNITY CONVERSATIONS: Sept. 11-14, 6.30-9.00pm
Donations requested
Internationally recognized women activists will share their experiences, strategies and projects to transform local communities and cultures affected by U.S. militarism. Local groups will talk about organizing across borders to transform U.S. policy and create a culture of justice and peace.

Tuesday Sept. 11 Voices from the Philippines
Filipino Community Center, 35 San Juan Ave, San Francisco
(buses 14, 49; Balboa BART)
hosted by babae, FACES, Gabnet.

Wednesday Sept. 12 Voices from Puerto Rico & Hawaii
La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley (Ashby BART)
hosted by Bay Area Boricuas and others

Thursday Sept. 13Voices from South Korea
Pacific School For Religion Chapel, 1798 Scenic Ave. Berkeley (Berkeley BART)
hosted by KAWAN, KAUP and PANA Institute

Friday Sept. 14 Voices from Okinawa & Guam
American Friends Service Committee, 65-9th St, San Francisco (Civic Center BART)
hosted by Famoksaiyan, Friends of Okinawa

Guam Landfill Issues

Commission to discuss Guam’s landfill site dilemma
By Gina Tabonares
Variety News Staff
September 4, 2007

THE problem of where to construct the next Guam landfill will be the major topic at tomorrow’s meeting of the Solid Waste Law Review Commission in Adelup.
The selection of the landfill site is complicated by several issues that include pending litigation in the Guam Supreme Court.

Aside from regulations on land use for residential and commercial developments that restrict the number of sites available for the landfill, a study made by the Guam Resource Recovery Partners, or GRRP, stated that landfill development is further constrained by restricted military lands, inadequate roads beyond Cetti Bay and Talafofo Bay to the south, and the close proximity of communities to potential sites.
Based on an earlier study conducted by Juan Tenorio Associates, the drawbacks also include the water resources in the limestone aquifer in the north, stream flow sources in central Guam, and the Fena reservoir in the south.

Several locations have been identified, including ones in Dandan or Layon, Guatali, and Malaa.

The Dandan location is being objected to because of its potential impact on both current and future drinking water resources, while Guatali and Malaa are under scrutiny for their size, slopes and land use incompatibility.

The selection of the next landfill is the subject of a lawsuit filed by residents of southern Guam to stop the government from spending funds in Dandan because of an existing law stating that the next landfill shall be built either at Guatali or Malaa.

To help the commission in its legislative measures, GRRP submitted a preliminary list of ranking candidate landfill sites based on a study of ground and surface water, residential communities, major roadway access, land use and zoning, public and private lands, historic districts, and adequate capacity.

GRRP said Agat ranks number one, followed by Guatali, then by Malaa.

A presentation made by GMP International Inc. president Wagdy A. Guirguis to the Solid Waste Commission last week provided a comparative study between Guatali and Dandan.

According to Guirguis, 100,000 tons per year in Guatali would cost $155.64 per ton in tipping fees by 2010, compared to $267 in a Dandan landfill.

By 2030, the $155.64 will become $63.49 in a Guatali landfill, while the $267 will become $331.57 in Dandan.

The projected household tipping fee in Guatali by 2010 is $14.01, while Dandan will be $24.09 by 2030. In Guatali, it will be reduced to $5.71, while in Dandan it will be increased to $29.84.

Based upon the projected municipal solid waste generation for Guam, the proposed landfill site with the addition of a waste-to-energy facility would accommodate landfill operations for 19 to 21 years. Without the waste-to-energy facility, the proposed site would accommodate landfill operations for approximately 12 years, according to GRRP.

GRRP project coordinator David Sablan said their proposed project site in Guatali Parcel B is located in the municipality of Piti and will provide approximately 3,000,000 cubic yards of solid waste disposal capacity.

In their proposed design, GRRP will include a waste-to-energy facility or incinerator to be located on an adjacent parcel.

The commission will also discuss the GRRP contract, which is currently in litigation in the Supreme Court of Guam.


What about recycling?
The Marianas Variety
September 5, 2007

THE Solid Waste Law Review Commission will meet again today to start discussing — or debating — where to build the new landfill.

Where to build a new landfill? Doesn’t anyone here feel time-warped? Like we’re not moving, or if we are, moving in a circular path. So we’re back on the drawing board?
Of course, the landfill issue must be resolved. But amid all the circular debates over where to build a new landfill, one very important component of solid waste management is neglected, receding to the bottom of the discussion as a mere footnote. We’re talking about recycling.

Recycling is another area where we’re “time warped.” In many states and other countries, recycling is not just a way of life but a major industry as well. On Guam, recycling remains a plan, waiting to happen.

But the plan must take off through setting an aggressive policy. Recycling must be imposed on a community that has yet to appreciate the importance and benefits of recycling. They’ll see its worth eventually.

The policy can start from everyone’s home. Waste must be segregated between recyclables and organic. There has to be a policy that will prohibit garbage collectors from picking up trash not properly segregated.

Offering incentives to green consumers is a good start. The big turnout of participation at the Liberation Day contest for aluminum cans collection proved the success of offering cash for trash.

There are many recycling shops on Guam that buy recyclables. For individual households, recycling can be a source of income that the government should leave tax-free.

Stores can participate by offering discounts for customers who bring their own canvas bags.

The Guam Legislature should revisit an earlier proposal to impose a bottle return policy, which requires that drink bottles be returned to the stores where they are bought in exchange for a five-cent refund. Recycling rates are significantly higher in the 11 states that pay customers a nickel, and in some cases a dime, if they return their bottle. California, Hawaii and Maine include water bottles.

Recycling must be taught and implemented in schools. Collecting old newspapers, aluminum, bottles and other recyclable materials can be a sensible fundraising activity. Starting them young will enable us to raise a green generation.

Imagine if all recyclable materials are recycled. Maybe what we would need is not a landfill but a large compost pit for biodegradable waste that will be turned into fertilizers that our farmers can use.

What else do we need a landfill for — other than the useless garbage being discussed at the Solid Waste Law Review Commission?


Waste-to-energy firm pushes for Piti landfill
By Steve Limtiaco
Pacific Daily News
September 6, 2007

Guam Resource Recovery Partners could have a replacement landfill up and running in Guatali, Piti, by next summer, company representatives told a government commission yesterday morning.

The company, which has a license to burn trash to generate electricity, said it could take several years to obtain the environmental permits necessary for the generator, which means the island's solid waste would be accepted at the site, but not burned, during that time.

The information was provided during this week's meeting of the governor's Solid Waste Law Review Commission, which was created by executive order to address all of the issues affecting the government's ability to close the Ordot dump, as required in a federal court order.

GRRP's contract with GovGuam to build a power plant at the Guatali site currently is being challenged in the local courts, where Supreme Court of Guam justices are expected to issue a ruling.
The GRRP issue is important, because if the commission decides that the government should or must include a trash-burning power plant at a new landfill, it could impact the site selection for the landfill. The current approved landfill site, at Dandan, Inarajan, is too remote to make it cost-effective to produce and transmit electricity to the power grid.

The Guatali site, however, is near a power substation.

Attorney Arthur Clark, who represents GRRP, told the commission that a public law that disallows the use of an incinerator on Guam has not been brought up in court, but the courts have found that a similar law does not affect GRRP's contract with the government.

Clark said Guam law adopted Guatali as the site of the next landfill, and nothing has been presented as a reason to exclude that site.

Commission Chairman Sen. James Espaldon, R-Tamuning, said the commission needs to consider all alternatives as it arrives at its recommendation to the governor.

Algae Bloom in Talo'fo'fo'

Jeff’s Pirates Cove owner pleads for help
By Gerardo R. Partido
Variety News Staff
September 5, 2007

ROTTING seaweed is clogging up the Togcha River and one business in the area wants the government to do something about it.

According to Jeff Pleadwell, owner of Jeff’s Pirates Cove, it’s time to clean up the Togcha River and think of ways to help stop the effluent flow into the river.

“This past year, I spent an average of $200 a day for two weeks after the algae blooms to clean up and avoid the smell and pollution when it decays on shore. The entire bottom of the once pristine, beautiful and healthy river mouth is now covered like a rug with dead grey stinky seaweed,” Pleadwell said.

According to Pleadwell, the bloom occurred monthly from February to July this year and his forced cleanup cost has amounted to around $15,000 or more a year.

“If you multiply that by the five years I have been aggressively cleaning it up, it means I have spent over $65,000 almost all in labor. My loss of business in the early years when I did not know how to deal with the stink and associated problems is substantial,” Pleadwell said.

He added that the government has openly admitted fault in not complying for the past 22-plus years.

He charged the Environmental Protection Agency of allowing a clean water source to be destroyed, as well as the reef and surrounding coastline, which are being poisoned and devastated every day.

“Coral, fish, seaweed, everything is being hurt. Recently, I was told it would be another two years before it will be corrected. I have heard this before and it did not happen,” Pleadwell lamented.

Pleadwell said he can not afford to clean up the mess anymore and wants GovGuam to ask the federal government for assistance on the matter.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Airport Media Blitz

GIAA launches public relations blitz
'Project Airport Now' seeks to inform despite tensions with landowners
By Steve Limtiaco
Pacific Daily News

The island's airport is in the middle of a $95,000 public relations effort, including broadcast and print advertisements, brochures, and a press conference, to "elicit public support and participation" for airport issues, projects and activities that affect the community.

It's called "Project Airport Now," and the airport's board members approved its budget more than a year ago, according to the board's minutes.

The A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority has been distributing information about ongoing and planned capital improvement projects at Tiyan, and last week issued a report crediting the airport with contributing $1.7 billion to the island's economy last year.

It's no coincidence that the airport's message about its positive contribution to the island is being sent just as ground is being broken for the commercial development of former ancestral land at Tiyan -- land coveted by families who have been returned only a fraction of what was condemned by the federal government five decades ago.

"It's a proactive approach to tell the people of Guam, including the subsequent claimants of those (Tiyan) properties, that these are the ABC's and XYZ's of what we are doing right now," said airport Executive Director Jess Torres. "Development of the Tiyan Industrial Park is part and parcel to our development. It just happens to be on the first part of the old enlisted (housing) area."

The government of Guam's policy is to return, through the Ancestral Lands Commission, excess federal land to the families who owned it before it was condemned. In the case of the former military housing area at Tiyan, which is adjacent to the airport runway, only the strip of land between the road and cliffline was returned. Most of the land once owned by the families is on the other side of the street and was deeded by federal officials specifically to the airport for its use.

The airport erected a multimillion-dollar fence in June to separate its property, and last week Triple B Forwarders broke ground on a $2.5 million shipping facility on the land. The airport expects to collect $1.6 million in lease payments from Triple B over 10 years.

Torres said the airport's goal is to do, "What is best for our island. What is best for our people, instead of just a select few."

He said if the commercial projects envisioned at the Tiyan Industrial Park materialize, the children of the ancestral owners, "very likely would end up working for these companies."

"I'm against building more stuff. There's no jungle anymore. What's Guam without jungle?" said 27-year-old John Leon Guerrero, who lives with his cousin in one of the former military houses returned to its ancestral owners.

Asked what should happen to the fenced-in land across the street, Leon Guerrero said, "It should go back to the people who own it... Jobs are good, but where's Guam gonna go? It's gonna be one big industrial park."

Torres said, "We've taken a position that we don't have any excess lands to return to anybody." He said the former military property was not deeded to the government of Guam as a whole, but to the airport as a specific entity, and only for its use to benefit the public.

"I don't think it's fair. Why give partial (to the families), and claim the other side (of the road) to be theirs, when actually the whole lot belongs to my family," said 38-year-old Monica DeVera, who has lived in the former military housing along the cliffline for about 2 years.

Her family's ancestral lot is 91,000 square meters large -- most of it in the hands of the airport.

The approximate value of her family's entire ancestral property, including the majority portion held by the airport, is about $4.9 million, based on comparable property values in the area.

"Give it back to the landowners," she said about the land the airport has fenced in. "If not, then compensate them for it."

The airport stands to receive millions of dollars through the lease of the property, but Torres said the airport's bond agreements, as well as the deed to the property, prohibit the airport from using that money as compensation to the families.

"What more do they need to expand? For what?" DeVera asked. "It's not gonna benefit me. It's just going to cause more headaches."

Global economy
The airport terminal itself has about three times more passenger capacity than Guam currently needs, but airport officials said the development of the industrial park is intended to diversify the airport, beyond serving passengers. The revenue that's generated from the property will help the airport make its bond payments and will pay for any needed increases in airport operations, they said.

"The benefit would be that Guam would continue to be in a position to grow the economy," said airport board Chairman Frank Blas. "If we don't have these warehouses, these people who are transporting cargo from one place to another -- they'll probably go to another airport."

Blas said if Guam were to isolate itself, then the airport probably wouldn't need any further development.

"But we can't help but be part of this growing global economy," he said. "If you don't do what the airlines require, you're going to be left behind."

Sen. Jesse Lujan, R-Tamuning, chairman of the legislative aviation committee, said he supports continued development of the airport-held property.

"If we can become a cargo hub ... that's a great thing," he said. "It creates jobs, they become taxpayers, and there's more economic activity."

Saturday, September 01, 2007

New Luxury Homes in Dededo

Ground broken for 55 new luxury homes in Dededo
By Stephanie Godlewski
Pacific Daily News
August 30, 2007

Ground was broken today for 55 new luxury homes at the Starts Guam Golf Resort in Dededo.

The homes will range in price from the low $400,000s to the mid $600,000s. The new construction will boast homes from about 1700 square feet to 2600 square feet and include discounted golf rates and use of the hotel pool and tennis courts.

The Housing Project Manager for SGGR, Hirokazu Hasegawa said that the company is hoping to target local buyers looking for high-end gated homes.