Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Military buildup conference begins today

Military buildup conference begins today

Thursday, 19 November 2009 04:03
by Therese Hart | Variety News Staff

DISCUSSIONS on the military buildup begin today as community leaders and members gather for the two-day conference titled “The Military Buildup and Beyond,” which starts at 7:30 a.m. at the Guam legislature.

Co-sponsored by Sens. Judi Guthertz and Rory Respicio, the conference features a guest speakers including local leaders who will speak on a myriad of issues.

The political self-determination panel is led by Sen. Ben Pangelinan, while the Compact Impact issue will be headed by Sen. Fran Blas, Jr.

Dr. Mary Okada, president of the Guam Community College, will discuss GCC's efforts to build a competent workforce as Guam faces a shortage of skilled workers and will have to recruit from the mainland and other parts of the world.

Roger Natsuhara, acting assistant secretary of the Navy Installations and Environment, will keynote the event.

Natsuhara is expected to speak on the many opportunities Guam can reap which will stir the economy with the buildup as the military is able to command huge sums of money via private and independent contractors.

President Emanuel Mori of the Federated States of Micronesia is also among the featured speakers.

On the second day of the conference, Philippine labor undersecretary Romeo Lagman will speak on the Philippine labor workforce that will assist the military during the buildup and its impact on the island.

Other topics for the two-day conference will focus on issues such as the impact to Guam's health care system, protecting the island's community and focusing on the judicial system, affordable housing, being open to change while keeping our identity, Guam's economic forecast, and the potential impact of the buildup on utility rates.

“It's my hope that we'll get a lot of candid presentations by the various speakers and information that has not been discussed previously,” Guthertz said.

She said the community in general is not against the buildup, but are concerned and worried because they don't know how it's going to affect their lives. This is the real focus of the conference, said Guthertz.

Guthertz said it is the job of every elected leader to find ways to make the changes beneficial to the island community.

The inputs during the conference will be documented and will become part of the local community's comments that will be incorporated into the draft environmental impact statement that is expected to be released to the public for comments and review by Saturday.

“This conference is a conference for the people of Guam. It's different from the other ones, because the other ones focused on how to make money, how to get contracts, how to do business with the military,” Guthertz said.

“We're going to talk about what's going to happen to my life and my family and my community, and my village and the way we live. How much is Guam going to change and what can we do to make sure that the change is good for us, that the change doesn't become too drastic. That's what this conference is all about,” said Guthertz.

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