Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Residents ask Camacho: Why only now?

Residents ask Camacho: Why only now?

Wednesday, 20 January 2010 03:10
by Tiffany Sukola | Variety News Staff

GOVERNOR Felix Camacho was in the hot seat last night during his public workshop meant to help Guam residents sift through the massive draft environmental impact statement.

Concerned citizens listen during Tuesday night’s public symposium on the draft environmental impact statement hosted by the governor’s office at the Yigo Senior Citizen Center. Matt Weiss/Variety

The meeting at the Yigo Senior Citizens Center was barely underway when crowd sentiment turned sour and concerned residents began demanding to know why Camacho was providing the public with the vital information just now.

“We should have had this information before the public hearings,” one person in crowd said.

According to Camacho, Matrix Design Group was contracted to go through the daunting draft report in order to condense the information in the key sections. He added that he wanted to provide island residents with a better understanding of the main issues the document outlines.

The meeting was supposed to help residents draft detailed comments to be submitted before the commenting process ended.

However, another island resident chimed in, asking the governor how he expected the people of Guam to make informed comments on the draft study without providing them with the tools to understand the complex document first.

Senator Judith Won-Pat was also present at the public hearing and repeated some of the frustrated sentiments residents were expressing.

Public release

She asked the governor if he could release to the public the reports submitted by government agencies. She mentioned, for example, the nearly 200 comments made by local biologists so far that have not been made publicly available.

“There are highly technical parts that are hard to comprehend,” said Won Pat, explaining that residents would have an easier time drafting their comments if they knew what experts had to say.

While Camacho said that he would consider the crowd’s demands, he isn’t sure if precedence allows the comments that government departments submit to be made public.

Deadline extension

The governor also defended his decision not to pursue another deadline extension, explaining that the government had already been denied a previous request for more time to absorb the 11,000-page document.

Camacho also said Congresswoman Madeline Bordallo is also working on getting island residents a longer time period to comment on the draft study. He admitted, however, that the chance of Guam receiving an extension is unlikely.

Instead, Camacho said the public should move forward with submitting their comments because despite the too-short commenting period, a deadline does exist.

“An extension could be beneficial,” said Camacho. “But we have to utilize the time we do have and move forward.”

Camacho urged the crowd gathered to continue to submit comments because the military buildup he said is not necessarily a done deal as some of the island’s leaders have said.

“My goal is to get more people to comment, which will result in action,” said Camacho.

The second of the Governor’s public presentations will be held tonight at the Mangilao Senior Citizens Center at 6 pm.

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