Activists protest DEIS
Monday, 23 November 2009 00:05
by Jude Lizama | Variety News Staff
LOCAL activists provided a potent reaction ahead of the release of the draft environmental impact statement taking to the streets of Guam to protest what they perceive as non-transparency in the ongoing military buildup planning as the island anticipates absorbing upwards of 45,000 people over the course of the next 5 years.
Residents dissatisfied with faulty dialogue and a lack of clear information demonstrated Friday afternoon at the International Trade Center intersection in Tamuning.
“We are American citizens and I believe that we deserve better,” former senator Hope Cristobal stated passionately. We have this little island of ours that we are depending on to be the kind of environment that will sustain us as a people,” she said.
Cristobal was adamant, “There is no other study more important than the draft environmental statement,” she said referring to the complex document comprised of more than 10,000 pages contained in 10 massive volumes. “We are poor people. We are on the receiving end. We don’t have the kind of resources that the Department of Defense has,” the former senator explained about the public’s inability to access the technical expertise required to decipher the draft impact statement.
The outspoken activist and critic of military bases further noted serious flaws with the plan’s development besides the short review period allowed the public and local government officials. Cristobal cited a personal contact in Washington D.C. who informed her “an environmental impact study on a small island community such as Guam, with the kind of impact this $15 billion project would have, requires not a one or two year environmental impact statement, but at least a 10 year impact statement that would include comprehensive and proper land use planning.”
Senator Matt Rector was present at the Friday protest as well. He emphasized the complexity of the situation. “I have a degree in chemistry with a concentration in environmental science and I don’t have the expertise to evaluate the environmental impact statement. It’s an insanely complicated document.”
Rector, who has previously stated his intent on seeing local workers prioritized in military buildup projects, said he reviewed the executive summary and believes current plans would give 75 percent of the permanent civil service jobs created as a result of the military realignment to workers other than local residents.
“What is that good for? We are increasing our population with foreigners coming in and taking jobs; how is that good for the people of Guam,” Rector asked. “I don’t believe the military buildup will improve the quality of life for our families in the least. That’s why I’m here.”
“It feels very suffocating,” University of Guam professor Dr. Lisa Natividad said. “Because everything about life as we know it is going to be determined in the next 90 days.”
She added that “the imbalance of power, between Guam as a colony and the United States as the administering power, just sets us up so that with this environmental impact statement process and the buildup we are at a significant disadvantage.”
Natividad committed to continuing to struggle with bringing clarity to the situation. “We take hope in greater ideas and possibilities, so we continue to press on in terms of educating our people and taking a stand. We’re just fighting for our survival.”