Friday, November 06, 2009

Political status education program in House bill

Political status education program in House bill

By Dionesis Tamondong • Pacific Daily News • November 7, 2009

Guam's political status will likely be decided by a new generation of Guamanians, and they need to be educated about their options, Guam's governor and legislative speaker said in support of a House bill that would extend federal assistance to Guam for a political status education program.

The House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife held a hearing yesterday in Washington, D.C., on H.R. 3940. The measure, by Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, authorizes the U.S. Department of the Interior secretary to extend grants and other assistance to facilitate a public education program on Guam's political status. Other forms of assistance include research, planning assistance, studies and agreements with federal agencies.

Gov. Felix Camacho testified at the hearing, saying the measure is a good start in allowing Guam's electorate to make an educated decision on their political identity.

"For the record, I believe that the people of Guam will choose a political relationship that brings Guam closer to the United States, and maybe one day, our brothers and sisters throughout the Marianas," according to Camacho's written testimony.

Speaker Judith Won Pat, in her testimony submitted to the committee, said she was concerned the bill didn't have an appropriation to carry out the mandates of the bill. She suggested a direct appropriation from Congress to the Interior Department be included.

Won Pat also urged quick passage of the bill in light of the population boom expected from the military buildup.

"This (buildup) will ultimately dilute even further the pool of eligible indigenous voters, leaving the native inhabitants, the Chamorros, a minority in their own homeland and thus, denying the Chamorros the opportunity to truly voice their political desire," she wrote.

Guam remains under the 1950 Organic Act model of territorial administration, with limited local powers of self-government over the civil affairs of the territory. Efforts to pursue greater self-government and a permanent political status have failed.

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