Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Public hearings to focus on effect of training on Guam environment

By Teri Weaver, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Friday, February 20, 2009

Military officials were to begin public hearings on Guam and nearby islands this week on a proposal that would allow more large-scale military exercises on land, air and sea throughout more than half a million square miles in the Pacific.

The area — officially called the Mariana Islands Range Complex — includes training facilities and space for all military services, according to the Navy’s program manager for the required environmental impact statement.

Currently, the area is used for preparation and execution of large-scale military exercises that involve multiple aircraft carriers and to rehearse amphibious landings, said Edward Lynch, a retired naval officer who is overseeing the environmental review.

Those exercises involve a variety of military activities, from land-based firing ranges on Guam to deep-ocean anti-submarine tactics to air-bombing practice targets, Lynch said during a phone interview Wednesday from Guam.

The proposal would not change the types of training on Guam, in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, or anywhere else in the area. Nor would it expand the area already used for training, Lynch said.

Rather, it looks at the environmental impact of increasing these large-scale military exercises from once every few years to every year, Lynch said.

The hearings — on Guam, Saipan, Tinian and Rota — are meant to give the public a chance to comment on the military’s plan, he said.

The area also includes portions of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument, established by President George W. Bush in one of his final acts before leaving the White House last month. The monument’s legislation exempts military training from any prohibited uses, Lynch said. The language is similar to that regulating other areas where protected ocean and military training ranges overlap, he said.

The review does not include assessment of the environmental impact of the proposed move of 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam, Lynch said. That study is being conducted separately.

Concern over US deal with Japan over marines relocation to Guam

Posted at 23:13 on 17 February, 2009 UTC

Guam’s deputy speaker says a deal relocating US troops from Japan’s Okinawa to Guam is premature.

US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has held talks with top leaders in Japan where they signed the deal to relocate the 8000 marines plus their families by 2014.

Benjamin Cruz says the territory will need to upgrade its port, roads, and power and water systems to cope with such an influx of people.

Mr Cruz says it’ll also mean a loss of land.

“On the Guam side, if this is in fact elevated to a treaty of the US, they may just say: ’we’ve agreed to move and we’re going to provide anything that the marines want and if it’ll mean an additional 1000 acres then we’ll take it, whether you like it or not’.”

Benjamin Cruz says the territory has introduced legislation to clear the way to survey its population on whether it supports the buildup.

Guam Landowners oppose US troop build up

Posted at 02:19 on 18 February, 2009 UTC

The Guam Landowners Association says it is opposed to United States plans for a military buildup in the territory.

The U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Japan’s Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone signed a deal in Tokyo yesterday to transfer 8000 U.S. Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam by 2014.

The Association’s Antony Sablan says the people of Guam haven’t been asked if they support an influx of soldiers into the territory, which would boost the island’s population by about ten percent.

Mr Sablan believes Guam will not only lose land, but part of its identity.

“We are a foster child of a foster parent, where our resources are getting raped by our foster parent. Somebody has to step up to the plate and take the step to say: ’ hey, you can’t take advantage of this small group of innocent people’.”

Antony Sablan says the international community should step in and protect the people of Guam.

US, Japan sign pact to move Marines to Guam


TOKYO (AP) — Hoping to give new momentum to a plan to rework the deployment of U.S. troops in the Pacific, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signed an agreement Tuesday with Japan that will move 8,000 Marines off the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to the U.S. territory of Guam.

The framework of the transfer had already been agreed on in 2006, but several major points remain to be worked out, including the location of a base to replace Okinawa's Futenma air station, a major hub for the Marines there.

Officials on both sides have agreed to relocate the operations of the base to another, less crowded part of Okinawa, but local opposition has stalled progress.

"This agreement reflects the commitment we have to modernize our military posture in the Pacific," Clinton said. "It reinforces the core of our alliance — the mission to defend Japan against attack and to deter any attack by all necessary means."

Japan's Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone also hailed the agreement.

"We believe this Guam agreement shows the strength of our alliance," he said. "We agreed to work toward the implementation of the 2006 pact in a manner that does not compromise readiness or capability."

There are currently about 13,000 Marines stationed on Okinawa, and 23,000 U.S. troops there overall. They are part of about 50,000 U.S. troops deployed in Japan under a post-World War II mutual security pact.

The cost of the realignment plan has generated intense debate in Japan.

Guam's transformation is expected to cost at least $15 billion and put some of the U.S. military's highest-profile assets within the fences of a vastly improved network of bases. In the pact signed Tuesday, Japan agreed to give Washington $2.8 billion for the transfer costs, though its contribution is expected to go higher.

On Monday, The Asahi, a major newspaper, reported that some of the budget will be used to improve Naval and Air Force facilities on Guam. The daily said that would go against the pact, which has been interpreted to limiting Japanese spending to Marine-related projects.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Boost for Maori Language Radio


AUCKLAND (NZH Online/Pacific Media Watch): An acquisition by New Zealand's MediaWorks should ensure the future of a Maori-language radio station.

MediaWorks Radio has acquired the Auckland-based radio station George FM, and also leased the frequency 96.8FM.

The agreement is with the Manukau Urban Maori Authority (MUMA) and the Waipareira Trust.

"There is a strong, ongoing relationship between the urban Maori authorities and MediaWorks", said MUMA chief executive officer Willie Jackson.

"John Tamihere, CEO for Waipareira, and myself have worked for MediaWorks as talkback hosts for three years now. We will all be working together to ensure Maori language and cultural objectives on George FM continue to be met," Jackson said.

MediaWorks CEO Brent Impey said his organisation is also keen to maintain the cultural and language commitments of the George FM brand.

"George FM is an urban, dance format station with a proud cultural heritage. It complements many of our key radio brands," said Impey.

"We are keen to retain the station's successful format and fully support commitments the station has to fostering the Maori language and culture," he said.

The purchase is for an undisclosed amount.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Free Art Friday

Finders, keepers
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 22:30
By Jennifer Gesick
Variety News Staff

STARTING Friday until the end of the month, you can own a piece of art-- for free. Hence Free Art Friday, a movement that started in Dublin, Ireland and has been adopted by Guam artists.

Free Art Friday is a simple concept where artists create a painting, sketch, sculpture or installation and leave it in public places or on the street. The artwork can be picked up by anyone who wants it, and finders are invited to email the artist.

For the artist, it gives them a chance to create work uninhibited by the requirements of commerce, because art is so often attached to a need by the artist to “make a living” and it is affected by gallery and dealer issues.

All artists whether producing static or removable art want to promote discussion.

“In Guam it always rains so we are going to put the art inside buildings,” said Filamore Palomo Alcon, owner/curator/artist of The Guam Gallery of Art in Chamorro Village and founder of the Chamorro Artist Association.

Free Art Friday will kick off this Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the Guam Gallery of Art in Chamorro Village. At least 14 artists, including Alcon, have confirmed their participation in the project. Other participating artists and photographers are Monica Baza, Viktoria Sayrs, Mar-vic Cagurangan, Moe Cotton, Jason Palmertree, Tessa Borja, Rolly Zepeda, Tina Zepeda, Kristin Zepeda, Jacqueline Hernandez, Tim Hanley, Al Lizama and Michael Lujan Bevaqua.

Alcon said there were some artists who are against the Free Art Friday concept. “One artist said he will not participate in this event because he believes it is devaluing his art.”

He disagrees: “It’s not devaluing art if anything it’s the opposite. It is a good way for people to promote their art, and what is wrong with giving something away when we give away lots of art to charities. Everything good that is given away comes back to you two fold,” Alcon said.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Trailer for the Film The Insular Empire

For more info head to Horse Opera or The Insular Empire

Stars & Stripes: Officials Offer Conflicting Views On Guam Military Build Up

Written by Stars & Stripes

Saturday, 07 February 2009 09:55

Guam - (Stars & Stripes): More officials are expressing concern that the planned move of some 8,000 Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam could be delayed.

While Japanese and Pentagon officials are standing by the timetable in a bilateral agreement signed in May 2006 that the move will be completed in 2014, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific and a Guam senator say it may take a decade or more to accomplish.

One issue is a key provision of the agreement — a new Marine air facility to be built in rural northeast Okinawa on Camp Schwab to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

Okinawa officials want the plan revised to move runways for the new airport offshore. Their opposition has delayed the project.

Another sticking point is that Japanese taxpayers want assurances that money their country spends on the Guam end of the project will help Japan’s flagging economy.

"We are behind a timeline to achieve that goal of 8,000 [Marines] down to Guam, and we don’t have enough money to make it happen right now," U.S. Pacific Commander Adm. Timothy Keating told Reuters in Washington on Thursday.

"I don’t think it will happen on time," he was quoted as saying. "I think it will be more expensive."

However, the Reuters report quoted a Pentagon official as disagreeing with Keating.

"We have no reason to believe that we are not going to meet the timeline we have set out," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said. "He’s certainly entitled to his opinion on this matter. But, officially, we are committed to the roadmap as agreed."

Guam Sen. Benjamin J. Cruz was in Tokyo recently and met with a Japanese Diet member who he said also expressed reservations about the realignment plan.

"There are various issues that they’re trying to deal with, besides the Futenma project," Cruz, vice speaker of the Guam Assembly, said in a telephone interview Friday with Stars and Stripes. "One is getting the Japanese taxpayers to support paying for the relocation of a foreign force."

He said the $6 billion Japan agreed to contribute to the Guam project is contingent on being able to recoup the money by having Japanese companies and workers involved in the construction projects.

"But it’s my impression that the mood in the U.S. today, with the ever-increasing unemployment rate, is to use U.S. companies and workers," Cruz said. "And some Japanese are put off by what they believe are unreasonable estimates for some of the projects. They’re especially incredulous over the estimated $645,000 for each single-family home for military personnel. Frankly, I’m not even sure how the military arrived at that figure."

U.S. and Japanese officials have said from the beginning that the move of the Marines to Guam, including III Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters, hinges on the Futenma replacement project. Once the new Camp Schwab facility is built, the U.S. has promised to close Camp Kinser, MCAS Futenma, the rest of Camp Lester and part of Camp Foster.

In his interview with Reuters, Keating said there was no change under the Obama administration regarding the realignment plan. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to sign an agreement detailing specific guidelines for the project when she visits Tokyo later this month.

Keating told Reuters a delay doesn’t have to be a bad sign.

"A case can be made that a more measured, longer-term approach could be beneficial," he said.

A spokesman for Japan’s Ministry of Defense said Friday he believed the project was still on track.

"The Ministry of Defense has allocated 35.3 billion yen (about $392 million) to be spent for the project for fiscal year 2009," said Takashi Sekine, chief spokesman for the ministry’s International Public Relations Office. "In accordance with the [2006 agreement], and to reduce the burden of Okinawa, we will faithfully implement the plans to move Marines to Guam, aiming to complete it by 2014"

Indigenous group submits anti-federalization declaration to court

Friday, 06 February 2009 00:00 By Junhan B. Todeno - Variety News Staff

The CNMI Descent for Self-Government and Indigenous Rights has filed a motion in federal court, expressing its desire to join the governor’s federalization lawsuit.

The motion for leave to participate as amicus curiae, or “friend of court,” was signed by Washington, D.C. attorney John E. Drury and CNMI lawyer Robert J. O’Connor.

The indigenous group also filed a brief in support of the governor’s lawsuit.

According to the group, it recognizes that the federalization law “will have a profound result for the self-government of the indigenous people.”

The indigenous group said it believes that “many of the issues implicated have not been fully or adequately addressed by the parties already in the case.”

The group “accordingly seeks to participate in this case as amicus curiae, so that the court may have the benefit of its perspective on these important issues.”

The governor’s lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The group’s spokesman and adviser, former Speaker Oscar C. Rasa, , said he is confident that the court will allow their group to participate in the case.

Last December, the U.S. Department of Justice asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that under the Covenant, the U.S. Congress can extend federal immigration law to the islands.

It added that the governor’s economic disaster scenario was hypothetical and speculative

Rasa said the federal government claims that federalization law will not harm CNMI self-government.

Their group disagrees, he said, because the federal government failed to look into the constitutional issues.

“Their definition of self-government is more on institutional in nature which is by mere election and establishment of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government, but ours is constitutional,” he said.

Rasa said the issue should include the U.N. Charter and the Trusteeship Agreement to provide a “more accurate understanding of the Covenant’s guarantee of local self-government.”

He said when the U.S. government passed the federalization law it violated the self-government provisions of the Covenant.

Hocog wants indefinite delay of federalization

Friday, 06 February 2009 00:00 By Emmanuel T. Erediano - Variety News Staff

The House of Representatives adopted yesterday a resolution urging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to delay the implementation of federalization for 180 days.

But Rep. Victor B. Hocog, Ind.-Rota, said the CNMI needs more than 180 days to prepare for the economic losses that federalization will bring to the islands.

He said the CNMI should ask for an indefinite delay.

“ I will be more than happy to see that happen,” he said because it will give the CNMI more time to cushion the drastic economic downturn that will be ushered by stricter immigration rules.

Homeland Security, he said, should consider the economic downfall of the CNMI.

House Resolution 16-23 however, was adopted without Hocog’s proposed amendment.

The federalization law, which will take effect on June 1, allows only for a 180-day delay in its implementation.

According to the resolution, “the absence of any published rules and regulations regarding the transition program are creating a great deal of uncertainty and fear among citizenry, employees and employers as to how it will affect the work force, tourism and economy of the CNMI.”

The resolution stated that there is sufficient time to allow for critically significant and substantial public comments and consideration prior to June 1, 2009.

The transition, the resolution added, should be smooth and seamless as possible.

Congressional Delegate Gregorio C. Sablan, Ind.-MP, has made a similar request to Homeland Security.

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, for his part, has a pending lawsuit against federalization.

The Battle Of Saipan

US cable network airs episode on Saipan collapse

Friday, 06 February 2009 00:00 By Raquel Bagnol - Variety News Staff

Visiting Saipan nowadays is like coming back to what was once a thriving civilization that had been destroyed and abandoned

This was according to Adam Yamaguchi, a television correspondent and producer at Current TV, a cable network founded by former Vice President Al Gore.

He visited the island recently to document the “rise and sudden collapse of a tiny piece of America.”

The trailer for his documentary “The Battle of Saipan” is available online:

“Saipan is a nice place that I would pay a lot of my own money to visit, but Saipan is facing one of the fastest economic collapses in history,” Yamaguchi said in the trailer.

He added, “The present battle of Saipan is an economic one, and throughout the islands you can see the victims.”

He said many of the foreign workers who came to work for garment factories are now loitering the island, jobless and have no means to go home.

He said some factory workers have resorted to prostitution just to survive.

The Current Web site includes an excerpt from “The Battle of Saipan” showing Yamaguchi talking with guest workers now in the sex trade. (

“Saipan used to have the best of both worlds — cheap labor to allow it to compete with the prices of garments in U.S. mainland manufacturers, and no quota on what it could ship to the mainland,” Yamaguchi said.

He added that a few years ago, 17,000 Chinese workers were making clothing in over three dozen garment factories, earning $3 an hour “which is just 60 percent of the minimum wage rate in the U.S. mainland,” Yamaguchi said.

All this ended when World Trade Organization rules took effect in 2005 following a 10-year transition period.

Now, garment factories in Third World countries, where labor is cheaper, can also export their apparel to the U.S. without quota restrictions.

“Once the ultimate globalization success story, the island of Saipan now faces one of the fastest economic collapses in history,” the Current Web site stated. “After suffering a harsh history of military struggles as well as a temporary economic boom after becoming a U.S. commonwealth, the island now stands devastated. Scores of factories remain empty, rotting shopping centers litter the country, and former factory workers turn to the sex industry for survival.”

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Guam Should Be Wary

January 11, 2009

"US PLANS for military buildup leave Guam wary" (Page A9, Jan. 4) reminded me why the Chamorro people are increasingly fearful of the destruction of their environment and culture, and why many are doing all they can to prevent the massive US military expansion in their occupied land.

Guam remains the colony designed to reinforce US dominance in Asia that William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt envisioned when they seized it from Spain in 1898. Twenty-five years ago, members of the Guam Land Owners' Association worked with two maps. One depicted Guam's best fresh water supply, agricultural land, and fishing grounds. The other showed the US military bases in their homeland. The maps were nearly identical.

Now, with many Okinawans and other Japanese saying that they've had enough of US nuclear-powered ships based in their cities, and that they are fed up with the terrifying noise of night-landing and low-altitude flights and the seizure of their lands, the idea is to transfer some of this nightmare to Guam. Guam's isolated 155,000 people are a frail force to resist the imperium.

As a nation, we feel shame when we recall the genocide and cultural destruction of our country's first peoples. We should not repeat it with the military corruption and destruction of Guam.

Joseph Gerson
Director of programs
American Friends Service Committee
New England Region