Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Youth take active role in DEIS talks

Youth take active role in DEIS talks

Friday, 29 January 2010 00:37
by Tiffany Sukola | Variety News Staff

WHILE efforts have been made to help island residents sift through the highly technical information contained in the draft environmental impact statement, a major chunk of Guam’s population has been entirely left out of the conversation.

“Everyone talks about how local businesses and government agencies will benefit from the buildup,” said Academy of our Lady of Guam junior Nicole Limtiaco. “But what about the youth, how will we benefit?”

Despite being labeled as naïve and apathetic by some, hundreds of Guam’s youth attended the two-day Tourism Education Council youth summit, to prove that they too have concerns about an increased military presence.

Inevitable growth

“The island is going to grow regardless of the military buildup,” said TEC chairman Robert Hofmann. “These kids are going to be the island’s workforce post-buildup.”

Hofmann said because the buildup will shape the island and the economy that today’s youth will live and work in, it is vital that all of Guam’s youth take part in the discussions o the draft impact study.

Jared Fuentes, a George Washington High School junior, said he was especially concerned about the future of the island’s tourism industry.

“The [draft report] says that nearly 39 acres of coral in Apra Harbor will be dredged,” said Fuentes. “Tourists are not going to want to visit Guam anymore if there are no more natural resources.”

Fuentes added that fewer visitors to Guam also meant fewer jobs for his generation.

Students from the island’s various public and private schools spent the two days openly discussing the impact of the military buildup with government officials, tourism experts and local economists.

According to Hofmann, this is the first time that buildup discussions have been directed towards the island’s youth.

Limtiaco said that before the summit, the only information she had received about the draft study had been in news reports and listening to her parents and teachers discuss the pros and cons.

Right direction

Allowing youth her age to participate was a step in the right direction, giving Guam’s youth a chance to figure out for themselves how they feel about the upcoming military buildup.

“I hope they see that this could be a good thing,” said Limtiaco. “I welcome the opportunities that come with the buildup.”

Limtiaco said that with more education and career opportunities that would come with the buildup, more of Guam’s youth would be enticed to stay on island versus moving to the mainland U.S. to get those opportunities.

“I plan on going to college off-island because the opportunities are better there,” said Limtiaco.

Competitive work force

However, if Guam takes the military buildup as a chance to enhance its educational institutions and offer a competitive workforce than more of her peers would be happy to stay on island.

“It’s just really important to get involved,” said Limtiaco, adding that the 11,000-page document should not stop the island’s youth from engaging in the commenting process.

Hofmann added that the main concern most students had about the military buildup, was if there would be enough natural resources, such as water and efficient dumps, to sustain the island even after the buildup occurs.

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