Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Both sides of buildup debate release lists: Chamber, Coalition post 14 separate reasons on their Web sites

Both sides of buildup debate release lists: Chamber, Coalition post 14 separate reasons on their Web sites

By Amritha Alladi • Pacific Daily News • January 19, 2010

Increased crime rates, stresses on the public school system, and more sex and drug trafficking are reasons the Guåhan Coalition for Peace and Justice says the military buildup's economic opportunities will be overshadowed by its negative impacts.

Responding to the Chamber of Commerce's "14 Reasons Why We Need the Military Buildup," the Guåhan Coalition of Peace and Justice released "14 reasons Why We Don't Need the Military Buildup."

According to the list posted on the Chamber's Web site, the relocation of 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents to Guam will provide revenues "our government desperately needs ... in order to provide services our people depend on." The list includes a revenue surge, infrastructural improvements and investments in health-care facilities and equipment as benefits resulting from the buildup.

Yet the coalition argues there is no mention of the 26,000 jobs that will no longer be needed by 2017, according to Audrey Ward, a member of the coalition.

Among the things listed by the coalition of what the draft EIS doesn't provide are solutions for job competition between Guam residents and 9,000 military dependents scheduled to arrive.

"There are no training options outlined in the EIS to help unemployed Guamanians better qualify for buildup jobs," the coalition list states. "The military will not be helping locals get any of the positions they are offering."

Neither has the local government, for the most part. The bulk of job training being offered in connection with the military buildup has been provided by the Guam Contractors Association's Trades Academy, with some construction-related programs at Guam Community College.

The coalition also says tourism will be hindered by an increase in crime.

Plus, some tourism expansion opportunities also may curbed, too, according to Gary Hiles, chief economist with the Guam Department of Labor.

"Increased military activities will open up new economic opportunities, but at the same time, will limit or preclude operation or expansion of other productive economic activities which could employ a large number of people in more labor intensive activities, such as tourism, due to increased land use and access restrictions and create costs of opportunities lost for other activities," Hiles said.

However, Gerry Perez, the general manager of the Guam Visitors Bureau, has said that the island has been starved for cash in recent years to make necessary upgrades to the island's infrastructure and tourism attractions; the buildup would not only widen Guam's tourism market, but help fund some of those improvements, he said.

"The military buildup will stimulate new markets, attract higher-spending business travelers and generate more income to pay for improvements in public service," Perez said.

Hiles also said while the buildup will bring more jobs to the island and more revenue to the government of Guam, it will also create substantial additional capital investment for infrastructure and increased operating costs in public safety, health care and education.

But if some residents have been strongly opposed to the buildup's negative effects on the local culture and environment, local businessman James Adkins said they haven't suggested any other viable alternatives that will solve Guam's economic problems.

"We have to have something to bring cash money back onto the island," Adkins said in late December. "We are spending more money than we are bringing in."

According to Ernie Galito, deputy general manager at the Guam Visitors Bureau, Guam's proximity to Asia and its status as an American territory opens up possibilities to develop other industries.

"Guam could develop finance, insurance, arbitration or ship registry industries," Galito said. "Of course, much of the market study work has yet to be done, but these examples would seem to be the most viable opportunities outside of tourism."

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