Friday, November 21, 2008

Forum Presents Different Views on the Buildup

Buildup discussion presents different views
By William B. Martin Jr.
Pacific Daily News
November 21, 2008

Sitting and standing room was scarce at the University of Guam's Class Lecture Hall as students and residents gathered to discuss the military buildup.

Panelists for the event consisted of members of the Civilian Military Task Force and two community action groups -- Guahan Indigenous Collective and Famoksaiyan -- who presented their views on the upcoming military buildup of troops, personnel and civilian contractors on the island. The event was hosted by UOG's College of Liberal Arts and Sanctuary Inc.

Presentations were limited to seven minutes initially, followed by three minute closing remarks and a question and answer session made up of inquiries from the audience.

John Benavente, general manager of Consolidated Utilities, discussed his views on the buildup in terms of infrastructure, in light of a projected surge in Guam's population.

"Our goal in this buildup is not only to meet this demand, but to improve services, as well," he said.

Benavente said with a 30-year-old Guam Waterworks Authority the days of utilities being unable to provide services must come to an end, advocating hand-in-hand collaboration with the military. He said the island is too small for multiple power, water and solid waste systems.

UOG economics professor Roseanne Jones said Guam looks to experience a "restructuring" from a tourism-based economy to one that relies more on military contributions.

She recommended the island continue to develop tourism revenues, as well as a possible "third leg" to strengthen the economy, avoiding economic dependence on too few sources.

Buildup 'partner'
Mike Bevacqua of the group Famoksaiyan encouraged attendants -- many of them university students -- to challenge island leaders in ensuring that Guam receives a benefit from the military buildup.

"If their assumption is that you're all just happy to get jobs, they will just go along with it and do what is easiest."

He called upon those in the audience to envision a situation in which Guam was a "partner' in the buildup -- if island officials were asked before plans were made -- which he said was certainly not the case.

"What are we trading off for our (economy)?" Fanai Castro of the Guahan Indigenous Collective asked. "Will it teach our children to survive when it's gone?"

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