Tuesday, February 02, 2010

‘Military buildup to hurt Guam’s cultural resources’

‘Military buildup to hurt Guam’s cultural resources’

Friday, 29 January 2010 00:32
by Tiffany Sukola | Variety News Staff

GOVERNMENT officials say the push from tourism experts to change the way Guam sells itself to visitors is easier said than done, especially as military plans outlined in the draft environmental impact statement could compromise some if the island’s historical landmarks.

Earlier this week, tourism industry expert Jim Beighley, of the DFS group, urged the island to branch out and consider creating a more cultural experience for visitors.
He said tourists traveling to Guam now want to immerse themselves in the island’s culture rather than stay in Tumon and shop.

Beighley said it would be challenging however because currently, Guam is putting all of its resources into the Pleasure Island district in Tumon.

However, during yesterday’s Tourism Educational Council youth summit, vice speaker BJ Cruz pointed out that creating a more cultural experience for Guam visitors may not be possible with some of the plans laid out by the military in the DEIS.

Cruz read from a list of concerns published by the Governor’s office, and encouraged the students gathered to start thinking about the effect of an increased military presence on Guam’s cultural landmarks.

“We’re not here to debate whether or not the buildup should happen,” said Cruz. “I just want people to start thinking about where tourism is headed.”

Shut off

Cruz pointed out that the draft study will limit public access to certain cultural landmarks such as Mount Lam Lam. He added that the military also plans on restricting civilian access to land in Pagat, Mangilao to 104 days a year.

The senator also noted that the handling of cultural artifacts during the construction period was not addressed in the draft report.

In addition, the impact study says that nearly 40 acres of coral reef will be cleared and destroyed as part of the dredging project in Apra Harbor. Cruz said that the department of defense’s solution is to build an artificial reef however, that option is not supported by local law.

Cruz said that Guam’s visitors, who come from densely populated areas like Japan, China and Korea, are looking at Guam as an escape from city life.

Just a matter of time

But with Guam needing to build more roads, housing developments and commercial buildings, it won’t be long before the island loses its abundance of green space, Cruz said.

So he asked the students to imagine themselves in these areas, trying to promote Guam.

“How would you like to describe Guam,” he asked. “Do you want to describe it as like being just like another city in Japan or China, or do you want to describe it as an escape with lots of green space.”

Cruz added that the focus shouldn’t be on whether or not the military should continue with plans to move thousands of Marines and their families to Guam. Island residents instead should be looking at protecting Guam’s cultural landmarks and green spaces.

“If these tourists find somewhere else to go, they aren’t coming back,” said Cruz.

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