DEIS gives rise to a new breed of local advocates
Wednesday, 10 February 2010 04:03
by Zita Y. Taitano | Variety News Staff
A new voice to reckon with
THE draft environmental impact statement, released to the public in November, sparked a wide array of concerns and serious inquiries from residents and activists. It also gave rise to a new group of advocates for local issues who have immediately made their mark in the community.
Known as We Are Guahan, the coalition is comprised of individuals from various ethnic backgrounds. They are people who were either born and raised on Guam or those who now call the island their home.
But group members Melvin Won Pat Borja and Victoria Leon Guerrero said they don’t want the group to be portrayed as “activists.”
“That’s admirable but to say We Are Guahan is an activist group is inaccurate; we stray away from activism. Our goal is to inform; our goal is to unite,” said Leon Guerrero.
Borja said their intention is simply to be educated on the document, read it and then comment on it. “I think that if we see what the plan is really about, the more informed we are,” he said.
Borja said the group actually started out with a bunch of friends who wanted to dissect the draft environmental impact statement in order to understand what is really being said in the 11,000-page document.
From there, the group set up at various venues to promote residents to learn more about the draft study. That was the goal of the Guam Music Festival held last December at the Paseo Stadium.
Leon Guerrero and other members including Monaeka De Oro informed individuals they met about the document and passed out flyers on the effects the buildup would have on Guam.
When the hearings began, the group took a few steps further and spoke out against the buildup. They set up tables and posters pinpointing sections of the draft study. Among the posters that were on displayed was the name of the coalition.
“We felt the community really needed to be informed. We couldn’t be voiceless,” Leon Guerrero said.
They organized a hike to Pagat, where the military plans to build a firing range.
“We kind of switched gears and became more active in speaking out on these issues,” Leon Guerrero said.
From there, We Are Guahan was born.
Kara Flores Mays speaks before a crowd on board the Atlantis Submarine prior to Sunday’s snorkeling trip to Apra Harbor’s Western Shoals, where the military plans dredging activities to accommodate more military vessels.
Leon Guerrero said the group, which has about 5,000 members, started with members aged between 20s and 30s. The group membership has since expanded to a wider spectrum.
“It’s really a diverse group,” Leon Guerrero said.
The group also includes biologists, educators and social workers, who are helping in the dissection of the huge draft report.
“That’s what’s cool about We are Guahan. We are all inclusive,” Leon Guerrero said. “We welcome all perspectives and for people who are part of this island, who have been part on this island and want to be part of this island in the future.”
We Are Guahan has received high praises from veteran activists including Josephine Jackson, Danny “Pagat” Jackson, Hope Cristobal and Trini Torres.
“I give them kudos. I’m very proud of what they’re doing,” said Josephine Jackson, a member of the Taotaomona Rights Group and Nasion Chamoru. “We want our youth to go out. I’m so glad that they did this that they came out to speak out on the draft impact report.”
She explained that the younger activists made it easier for manamkos such as herself to understand the draft study.
For more information about We Are Guahan, residents can log onto their website at www.weareguahan.com.