JGPO: ‘It’s a process’
Friday, 08 January 2010 00:39
by Zita Y. Taitano | Variety News Staff
Bice says checks and balances in place to protect landowners
JOINT Guam Program Office executive director General David Bice expressed confidence that mutually acceptable arrangements for acquiring the additional lands – as outlined in the draft environmental impact statement – will eventually be reached.
Bice made his comments during the first planned public hearing for the controversial report last night in Santa Rita.
Close to 100 people attended the hearing of the draft environmental impact statement at Southern High School to learn more about the massive report contained in 10 volumes.
The executive director, trying to assuage fears of military grabs for land like those of the past, Bice explained acquiring new land is a process.
“It has to go through an approval process all the way to congress and a key committee to approve and fund the agreement with the land owners,” he said, noting that Guam delegate Madeleine Bordallo serves on that important board, the House Armed Services Committee. “There are checks and balances all the way through to achieve and insure that this a fair deal for everyone involved,” Bice claimed.
Looking around at the set up, Frank Schacher, chairman of the Chamorro Tribe organization, said he had read the draft study in its entirety and came to the hearing to voice his concerns about the entire process.
“I think what we are seeing right now is in conformance with NEPA regulations. That’s the National Environmental Protection Act and were it not for NEPA, we would not even have a voice in this process,” he said.
“And that’s the most disturbing part,” Schacher added. “We’re not being totally represented or directly represented as a people so the impact this would have on the Chamorro people is not a concern to them and has been addressed within the draft impact report, that’s what concerns me. There’s nothing in the [impact statement] that addresses or mitigates the Chamorro rights of the Chamorro people, not one single paragraph,” said native rights group leader.
Some in the community have stated that as it is their perception that the military will do whatever it is they so choose and believe the public input aspect is a futile effort with no real chance of having any sway over foregone conclusions made in the JGPO report.
“This is very much a public process and we want to hear comments from the public on the draft EIS,” assured Bice. “Every comment will be evaluated and analyzed and considered as we look into producing the final EIS.”
“I think it’s good that we have these hearings and I think it’s good to hear all the view points because I think its good information,” said David Leddy, president of the Guam Chamber of Commerce. “This whole process has to involve our people to get involved and interact.”
When asked about opposition to the draft report, Leddy said the Chamber supports the buildup but maintains his organization is equally concerned about possible adverse affects on the environment and community the massive buildup could have.
“We’re the voice of the businesses, but our members all live in Guam, too. So, we’re looking out for the best interests of our businesses and the community at large and so we’re looking at everything, the Chamber president said.
Leon Guerrero said his family owns property across the street from Camp Covington, Next to Naval Magazine, and near the Sasa River along Route 1, Kellis Leon Guerrero, 48, of Agat, wanted to know how the plans would impact their land.
“They said I wasn’t going to be affected and they have no plans for that area,” the property owner said. “No eminent domain on my part.” As for the buildup, he said he is in favor of the move.
“Guam needs it,” Leon Guerrero said. “With the tourism industry going the way it is right now. The economies of the world especially with the countries we deal with, Japan and Korea, we need funding to build that void and the military buildup will fill the void.”