Wednesday, 13 January 2010 04:27
by Therese Hart and Zita Taitano | Variety News Staff
Okkodo meeting draws huge crowd
LAST night’s public hearing on the draft environmental impact statement drew a bigger crowd at the Okkodo High School in Dededo, where lawmakers and community members weighed the pros and cons of the military buildup, bringing out more concerns and anger than unity and acceptance.
Last night’s meeting on the draft study hosted by the Joint Guam Program Office was the last for Guam. The next meetings will be held on Saipan and Tinian.
The military's testing of radioactive sediment at Apra Harbor where the two U.S. carriers will be berthed raised a serious cause for concern since they only dug one inch deep in grids of 36 square inches at 100 tested sites in that area, said Vice Speaker BJ Cruz.
Cruz testified that he was not in favor of the dredging unless the military can provide details of what they were dredging and the composite contents of the dredge.
Cruz said he was told in August that the sediment was tested and he was shown 10 grids that didn't have radioactive materials, because at that time, testing for radioactive sediment was not requested.
“The military only dug one inch deep, of course you're not going to find all the radioactive sediments in one inch of dredging,” said the lawmaker.
Cruz was told that it wasn't necessary to test any deeper than one inch since “that's the only thing the fish are going to get to.”
Cruz said that now that the military is digging deep and their own documents have reported spills in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, it is cause for concern to know and document what is being dug up.
Senator Frank Blas Jr. found disturbing and highly offensive a statement in the draft report that the political importance of some Chamorro issues would likely recede as the “militarization” of Guam is stabilized at something close to present levels.
Blas said the statement gave an impression that the promised increase in economic activity as a result of the buildup will compensate for the sufferings and the killing of family and relatives because of their loyalty to the U.S. during World War II.
“Your promise of economic activity does nothing for the many people who had their lands taken from them for military purposes only to see that those lands now sit dormant and selfishly held for no compelling reason,” Blas said.
Janet Perez Aguon, a retired military personnel, said holding the meetings was just a formality and the mission of the U.S. for the buildup is a “done deal.”
“This is psychological warfare. Serving in the military and retired, I know the war games they play- from the physical to the psychological. They don't care what you think or what you have to say or how you feel, because the military, once they decide to do something, they will do it,” said Aguon.
Martin Benavente, chief of staff for Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes, said that he was in favor of the buildup.
“We need to do our part in making sure our country is ready to defend itself. We are Americans after all. I think the U.S. government needs to work it. There's no need for this grandstanding,” Benavente said.
“These meetings have brought out the anger of the local people. Work it out. It can be worked out. Stop it already and let’s move on, do what needs to be done. We shouldn't be talking so negatively and become divisive. We're not enemies, we're one. We're all Americans,” he added.
The young crowd
John Norman Sarmiento, 19, of Dededo said, “Quite frankly I think it’s unfair that they give us three minutes to speak on microphone and they use bullet points to explicate the draft report which is 11,000 pages long which is completely unfair to me.”
Alissa Eclavea of Yona and another friend, Anjelica Bamba from Maite attended the JGPO hearing with Sarmiento.
“I feel like we don’t have a say (as) youth,” Bamba said. “I just think it’s unfair. They didn’t ask us.”
Her 17-year old friend Eclavea concurred, further expressing her dissent over what she anticipates to be an unmanageable population explosion.
“We’re going to add more people to this island…80,000 more people,” Eclavea said. “We are going to have a new dump just for them and we can’t even afford our own debts yet we’re going to have them here. I believe that the process is just going to be ridiculous.”
Sarmiento cited a common perception among local residents over the military’s actions to acquire more land despite reiterating for years the lack of need for such a move.
“As far as the military buildup, I personally am opposed to it only because they’re threatening a lot of our land and there’s a lot of issues that surround that,” the 19-yer old Dededo resident said, “and there’s a lot of injustice going down with it.”
As the crowded public hearing got underway, another teenager from Dededo was one of the first to speak.
Fifteen year old Li-Yen Mai is half Chinese and half Chamorro. She expressed her concern over the potential loss of heritage sites of historic importance but told residents despite all the exasperation Chamorros should never give up the fight to protect their culture.
“Our Chamorro culture will only die if we let it,” the young girl said. “We still have a chance and I know that it’s in the Chamorro blood to not give up,” she said.
We Are Guahan organization members Monaeka De Oro, 24, and Eva Aguon Cruz, 22, were present in the crowd of hundreds and had reservations of their own about the buildup and its inevitable impact on Guam.
“No matter whom you are and no matter what you do, this buildup will affect everybody and everything on Guam and the rest of the Marianas. We’ll never be the same with 80,000 more people and with all the other plans that they have here,” said De Oro.
Cruz doubts the true purpose is to solicit constructive input. “It seems in actuality that this is just protocol,” Cruz said. “It is something the federal government has to do just so they can say they listened to us.”