ben's Pen: First our land, now our ocean
28 October 2008
by Sen. Ben Pangelinan
Guam Variety News
First they liberated us from the Japanese. It was a brutal occupation where lives were lost and the people suffered tremendously at the hands of the oppressors and occupiers.
For this the people were eternally grateful and when they said they needed our lands to ensure that such an occupation would never occur again in our lifetime, willingly, a grateful generation surrendered up the lands.
For most of that grateful generation, time is now eternal. They have passed from this earth and are now in a place of eternal rest.
Those remaining behind have seen the truth, no longer colored with gratefulness. The treatment and injustices have erased the goodwill of liberation.
And now they come for more. This time, they want our ocean and deny us of its bounty, which have supported our lives and our families through thousands of years. They want to preserve and conserve, but we have done this for centuries. The only reason they can make such a case today is because we have successfully done so for hundreds of years. But they want to dictate once again on their terms.
But this time, we are not hampered by gratefulness. Among us are vigilant citizens and responsible stewards of our resources.
Mr. Manny Duenas of the Fisherman's Co-op and the other members of the fishing community of Guam who took the initiative to learn about and spread the information regarding President Bush's proposed establishment of a Conservation Area surrounding the Marianas Trench are such.
Ever watchful, the recent meeting was not called by any federal or local government office or elected official, but was organized solely by the community-minded efforts of Manny and others.
Manny and others printed colored maps of the areas potentially affected, comment forms, the August memorandum from President Bush initiating the process, and other relevant information so that we on Guam could quickly educate ourselves and comment before the deadline which was only days away.
His direct efforts resulted in the attendance of NOOA officials, a representative of the federal Council for Environmental Quality, Congresswoman Bordallo, and many of our local fishermen and community members.
The information Manny presented at the meeting, and in particular the President's memorandum, immediately confirmed that restrictions resulting from the establishment of a conservation area of such great scale and without little input on the eve of the largest increase in military activity and equipment in US history affecting the same land and ocean area would "not limit the Department of Defense from carrying out the mission of the various branches of the military stationed or operating within the Pacific."
I object to any further restriction of the local people, especially Guam fishermen, from access to these areas while the military and other international or US commercial access continues.
A matter with tremendous significance for not only the fishermen but for ALL of the people of Guam should have been brought to us and our input solicited by government representatives with more resources for public education purposes, and especially by the federal agencies purporting to work with Guam on matters regarding our oceans, our environment, and our economic viability.
I am proud of and commend these private citizens who despite the odds against the people of Guam having an impact on federal action by the President in this case, are not only brave enough and love Guam enough to stand up for themselves but to also make the great effort to invite and assist all of us on Guam to speak up for ourselves.
They are truly public servants and public leaders.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.