Bice insists buildup good for Guam
Monday, 07 December 2009 04:00
by Jude Lizama | Variety News Staff
GUAM and the CNMI will experience economic growth and opportunity as a result of the massive military buildup on Guam, according to Joint Guam Program Office executive director David Bice.
“They will come here from far and wide and see the jewel that you have here,” Bice told island leaders during the 12th Micronesian Chief Executives’ Summit which concluded at Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort Friday.
Despite hints in the draft environmental impact statement that Guam does not have much to expect from the military buildup, Bice maintained the future will be “very bright” for small business as a result of the Marine relocation and buildup.
According to the JGPO director, Marines will take advantage of the regional tourism industry and regional tourism will benefit from allied forces that will frequently come to Guam and the CNMI for training.
Because of a number of factors, the draft impact study indicates the island will not be able to “capture” any significant pools of the billions of dollars that are expected to flow into numerous military projects.
With a plan to use upwards of 30,000 foreign workers who will send most earnings off-island and no recirculation in the local economy and other factors, the low capture rate will mean Guam government coffers, employment and small businesses will be shorted the lion’s share of the billions targeted for preparing for the military’s increasing footprint.
“Our program is going to maximize the use of workers from Guam and neighboring islands before we seek other labor sources,” Bice said.
The program director, however, weighed that assessment by saying the local labor market will “probably remain in turmoil for the next 10 years or so, if not longer.
He said there will be only 1,700 civilian workers supporting the Marine relocation.
Bice recounted his dialogue with Guam labor director Maria Connelly, and hopes for a collaborative effort to host a symposium geared toward ensuring “NAVFAC, the Guam Department of Labor, and the U.S. Department of Labor are all speaking as one voice.”
In addition to the economics of the military realignment, Bice sought to assuage concerns over natural resources and utilities.
The retired major general spoke about Guam Waterworks Authority’s lack of capacity to provide sufficiently for the requirements of the projected buildup construction workforce.
“They are operating at near capacity in terms of water production, at this point,” Bice explained on the military’s plan to bring online 22 additional wells to support their needs.
Moreover, Bice believes an interim solution could be achieved to assist in improving the island’s water and wastewater systems. “There is a lot of unaccounted for water loss,” he said.
In the end
Curiously, Bice addressed upgrades at the Port Authority of Guam which he claimed will “not only help the needs of our construction effort,” but will also help to transform the port into a “viable, integral conduit for goods and services.”
The military impact study leaves open the possibility that the Navy may actually repossess the Guam Shipyard facilities and loading equipment Sen. Ben Pangelinan claims to have observed at Navy docks suggest the military will handle off-loading and cargo movement from their own ports.