Guam Senator Challenges DOD's Draft EIS Intentions
Written by Guam News Factor Staff Writer
Tuesday, 12 January 2010 21:29
Blas Tells DOD To Deal With Guam's Unresolved Issues First
GUAM - Language in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) suggests the military is intentionally sabotaging efforts to resolve Guam's political status and uphold indigenous rights, Senator Frank Blas Jr. testified at a public meeting Tuesday night.
Blas made the accusation based on language in the draft, which states that "an expansion in non-Chamorro voting population could... affect outcomes of any future plebiscites about Guam's political status." The report also notes that budgets for cultural activities, the number of native Chamorros in government offices or leadership positions, and activities dedicated to cultural issues could also be affected by the population shift.
"Is it part of your military buildup plans to inundate our island with people who will have no appreciation or consideration of our culture and beliefs?" Blas asked in his testimony. "Do you firmly believe that we are going to sit back and let you take over our lives and force us to forget who we are?"
The senator also demanded that the Department of Defense and the federal government address war reparations and political status questions as part of the preparation process. The offensive and inflammatory language in the DEIS raises these issues despite the military's insistence that these concerns are not associated with the buildup, Blas added.
Another mention of Guam's efforts to hold a Chamorro plebiscite also suggested the military fully intends to ignore decades-old concerns about Guam's status, Blas noted.
According to the draft, "the political importance of some Chamorro issues would likely recede as the 'militarization' of Guam is stabilized at something close to present levels," the draft states. Blas called the characterization "both disturbing and highly offensive" and said the promise of economic activity in no way compensated for all that Guam has lost due to military activity.
Blas' message to the Department of Defense? "Deal with our issues first, then come back to me with your EIS!"
Hundreds of residents have testified at a series of meetings to inform the public about the military's upcoming buildup, and to collect comments on a draft impact statement that is federally required as part of the development process. In addition to the concerns raised by Blas, residents have formed numerous groups and organizations to protest environmental issues, proposed land acquisition, and other impacts that will result from increasing military activities in coming years.
Senator Frank Blas Jr.'s Testimony
My name is Frank Flores Blas, Jr., a Senator in the 30th Guam Legislature and this is my testimony:
In 2005 during the initial discussions concerning the anticipated military buildup, I had the opportunity to speak with Air Force Lieutenant General Daniel Leaf on the need to address quality of life issues for the people of Guam in order to gain its acceptance by the people. Two issues directly related to the quality of life for our people are war reparations and the amounts spent by the people of Guam to provide services relating to the Compacts of Free Association. We were informed then that those matters as well as any other unresolved issue that didn't relate to the construction of the needed military facilities would have to be brought up with other federal entities other than the Department of Defense.
In conversations I have had with Major General David Bice and Mr. John Jackson, they too further related that the Department of Defense was in no position to deal with Guam's unresolved issues and that DoD's plans relating to the military buildup will be presented and discussed in the DEIS. I was also informed that although the issues were important, it had no relevance to the tasks they were directed to perform.
I believe that before we can have any meaningful conversation concerning the impact that the proposed buildup will have on our island or the requirements that need to be fulfilled in order to accomplish this action, Guam's unresolved issues pertaining to war reparations, compact impact reimbursement, the return of excess lands, the unfretted access to private lands blocked by federal installations, political status, and true representation in Congress have to be addressed and determined.
In Chapter 3 of Volume 7 of the Draft EIS, more specifically on Page 3-55 under the sub-heading "Sociocultural Impacts," it states, "The political importance of some Chamorro issues would likely recede as the 'militarization' of Guam is stabilized at something close to present levels."
I find this statement both disturbing and highly offensive as to suggest that the promised economic activity as a result of the buildup will cause us to forget the sufferings and the killing of our people because of their loyalty to the United States during World War II. I don't appreciate the suggestion that we will forget the hundreds of millions of dollars that we have had to spend to fulfill the mandate imposed upon us as a result of the Compacts of Free Association. 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. And like your fore-fathers who established the United States of America because they firmly believed that it was unconscionable to have no representation in a Parliament that was making decisions for them without their representation, I am offended that you would believe that the militarization of Guam will cause me to continue to accept my status as a third class citizen and let you continue to impose your will without a discussion with me.
Or maybe this is part of your plan.
In the same chapter of the same volume, but now on Page 3-64 under the sub-heading of "Chamorro Issues," it states, "Guam's indigenous Chamorro population has strong concerns about whether incoming military populations would recognize them as both American by nationality and also a unique ethnic culture worthy of respect and preservation." It goes on to say, "However, an expansion in non-Chamorro voting population could eventually affect the population of Chamorro office-holders and government workers; thereby affecting the current government budgets and activities dedicated to cultural issues and practices. It could also affect outcomes of any future plebiscites about Guam's political status."
What are you telling me?
Is it part of your military buildup plans to inundate our island with people who will have no appreciation or consideration of our culture and beliefs so as to derail us from our inherent and moral responsibility to protect our homes and our dignity? Do you firmly believe that we are going to sit back and let you take over our lives and force us to forget who we are and where we came from? That's never going to happen!
I have always said that before we have any discussion with what you further want to do on our island, we first deal with those issues that have been unresolved for too many years. Although it had been initially stated that those issues were not relevant nor connected to the buildup, the statements made on Pages 55 and 64 just made their relevance very significant. You opened the door on this, and now we're not going to let this go.
Where I have said, now I demand! Before you tell me of your plans to widen my roads, lease my property, strain my healthcare system, or overcrowd my schools, and how you intend to help me help you, deal with our issues first, then come back to me with your EIS!