Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Failure to Communicate?

ben's Pen: A failure to communicate?
Guam Editorials
Tuesday February 12, 2008
By Ben Pangelinan, For Variety

In the movie Cool Hand Luke, one of the most popular lines in the movie was when the Captain of the chain gang says to Paul Newman's character, "What we have here is a failure to communicate."

I am getting the same feeling with regards to the parties involved in the planning of the military build-up. The planning is beginning to intensify and increase in its scope. As we know or been told they will follow all of the required laws and rules and regulations related to the contemplated activities. I have heard the statement "even if we even think about doing it, we have to study and justify it according to the law" as the baseline comprehensiveness of the planning process.

The whole process will be governed by Title I of the National Environmental Policy Act which requires the federal government "to use all practicable means to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony." Section 102 requires federal agencies to incorporate environmental considerations in their planning and decision-making through a systematic interdisciplinary approach.

Specifically, all federal agencies are to prepare detailed statements assessing the environmental impact of and alternatives to major federal actions significantly affecting the environment. These statements are commonly referred to as environmental impact statements (EIS). Section 102 also requires federal agencies to lend appropriate support to initiatives and programs designed to anticipate and prevent a decline in the quality of mankind's world environment.

The NEPA process is a three-step process and this week will kick off the third step in the process with the beginning of the data collection phase of the environmental impact statement portion that will study the socio-economic impact of the relocation of the Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

There is very little communication with the local people on this phase of the study. It was only last week that the local government was notified by JGPO that the "expert consultants" would be on Guam this week for meetings. This short notice illustrates my point on the failure to communicate.

The JGPO must put out a schedule for the beginning of each phase and each component of the EIS study. They must give adequate notice to the public. One or two day notices is just not acceptable and in my mind not what real communication should be. This was my point at the beginning of this process. We must be kept in the loop during the entire process, so that we can voice our concerns along the way, rather than to be expected to comment after the completion of the EIS.

Even the consultants admit that they are scrambling to plan this trip and to schedule the meetings.

What and how the study will include and the process for the data gathering also demonstrates this failure to communicate. We have General Bice, executive director of the JGPO, being quoted on the socioeconomic impacts assessments saying "Analysis of socioeconomic impacts is essential to understanding the effects the relocation will have on Guam." Presumably, such understanding will lead to an action plan on mitigation programs. Yet, the JGPO documents outlining the work to be done clearly states "Because the EIS will probably summarize Chamorro interests and concerns rather than attempt to make specific predictions about the actual impacts…..we simply wish to obtain an articulate enumeration of those issues.


Oh and by the way, if we don't get to assess the socio-economic impact on Chamorro interests by the military build-up on this trip, we may "set the stage for communication by e-mail or phone."

I believe Chamorro interests deserve more attention than assessment by e-mail.

ben pangelinan is a Senator in the 29th Guam Legislature and a former Speaker now serving his seventh term in the Guam Legislature. E-mail comments or suggestions to senbenp@guam.net or ctzenben@ite.net

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