Saturday, November 14, 2009

Panelists: Guam's youth should be involved in buildup talks

Panelists: Guam's youth should be involved in buildup talks

By Laura Matthews • Pacific Daily News • November 13, 2009

Guam's youth need to participate in military buildup talks because they are among those on island who will greatly be affected, panelists said.

"We as parents and educators need to ensure that our youths are brought into this discussion -- but a little at a time. That's how we will do it," said local activist Debbie Quinata.

She was speaking on a five-member panel at the Guam Community Economic Development Forum held yesterday at Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort. The forum's theme was "Strategies for a Sustainable Future."

The other members of the panel were Anne Perez Hattori, professor of Pacific History at the University of Guam; Tony Lamorena, director of the Bureau of Statistics and Planning; Lisalinda Natividad, UOG associate professor of social work; and historian Antonio Palomo.

They were discussing with top economic and government officials what they believe are the social and cultural impacts of the buildup for Guam. Hardly any students were present in the room.

"Young people need to take an interest in what's going to happen in the military buildup because this is going to affect them," said Lamorena.

Guam will get 20 years of growth in five years from the upcoming buildup, starting next year. About 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents will be brought to the island. As well, thousands of temporary workers will take part in the buildup, according to Pacific Daily News files.

Hattori said within all this planning, young people are easily left out.

"The youths are very easy to marginalize, especially because they don't have voting rights. So they are very easy to ignore and they need to have some privilege," said Hattori.

They said among the social impacts set to affect young people and rock the island are changes to the Chamorro culture, health care disparities and an exhaustion of the island's already limited resources and personnel. They believe keen attention must be paid to these issues -- not only by the students but by all.

Hattori said she worries that crime and other social issues may escalate.

"Guam is changing as we speak, and if today we are struggling with our social problems, our health problems, it will only intensify with this new population. ... We need to pay attention to the human suffering out there," she said.

Public safety

In another panel, Guam's public safety leaders agreed the population growth would inevitably cause more crime such as assaults, theft and sex crimes.

Although the increase might call for more police officers and prosecutors to be hired, it will not be an easy task.

Police Chief Paul Suba said he could use as many as 120 new recruits during each year of the buildup, but knows the government couldn't give him that luxury.

Attorney General Alicia Limtiaco said the increase in crime could force each of her criminal prosecutors to juggle more than 500 cases at once -- a call for GovGuam to hire more legal personnel and expertise.

But this, too, will be a struggle.

"Every year we have asked for a budgetary appropriation that we hope will allow our office to better meet our mandates and duties," Limtiaco said. "Unfortunately, given limited government resources, that does not happen."

To minimize the buildup effects and to move forward, Lamorena said GovGuam needs to realize that its capacity will be stretched and they will need help.

"In order for Guam to meet the growth demand, we are going to need major assistance from the U.S. government," he said.

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