Sunday, May 17, 2009

Guam Mayors Mixed on Federalization and Military Buildup

Monday, May 18, 2009
Guam mayors mixed on federalization, military buildup
By Nazario Rodriguez Jr.

Guam mayors here for the 2nd Annual Pacific Mayors' Conference have expressed contrasting views about the upcoming military buildup at home as well as the federalization of the CNMI's immigration system.

Mayor Jose “Pedo” T. Terlaje of Yona said he is definitely against federalization because it is already impacting Guam.

He said he's attending the conference not only to talk about agriculture with Philippine mayors but also to share his views on the impacts of federalization. “I'm happy that we're sharing these issues with the other mayors in the region because we are all impacted,” he said.

Terlaje wants the United States to keep its hands off CNMI immigration because he does not want the people of the CNMI to experience what Guam went through.

“It weakened the social life in Guam and it will have the same impact for the people in the CNMI if that happens,” he said.

He said local people, even the local governments, have no control in Guam because the U.S. government runs the entire place.

“Implementing it [federalization of CNMI Immigration] will diminish the life of the people in the CNMI,” Terlaje said.

He said this is because the local workforce will not be enough to supply the needed manpower.

On the issue of the U.S. military buildup, Terlaje said the people of Guam can already visualize the problems and the issues that will confront the people of the region once that happens.

But the oldest Guam mayor, Vicente “Ben” D. Gumataotao of Piti, said the general feeling of the people in Guam is that “we are fully supporting the military buildup.”

He said there are some activists who are against it but they are a small fraction of the population.

Gumatatao, 82, is a retired U.S. Navy officer, who said he trained many people who are now working in Washington D.C. He is a first cousin of Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and an uncle of CNMI Delegate to Congress Gregorio Sablan.

On the issue of the visa waiver program, Gumataotao said he understands the U.S. decision to exclude China and Russia.

Gumatatao described as “suicidal” Fitial's efforts to stop the U.S. government from federalizing CNMI immigration “but it is his right to do so because he takes care of the welfare of the people of the CNMI.”

Mayor Paul McDonald of Agatna Heights, who is also president of the Association of Pacific Islands Local Governments, said most resource speakers of the conference presented bleak prospects.

“It is alarming. But so far the conference is going smooth,” he said.

Vice Mayor Louise C. Rivera of Tamuning-Tumon-Harmon said this kind of gathering is a wonderful opportunity for dialogue.

“We are given the chance to share our visions and how we can best address our concerns on these issues,” she said.

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