Saturday, October 02, 2010

New Political Status Options


A bill funding an education program to enable Guam to explore other political status options is now headed to the president’s desk after the U.S. Congress passed the amended version of H.R. 3940 that Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo sponsored.

Guam has been an unincorporated territory of the United States since 1950.

The U.S. House and the Senate passed on Tuesday the bill which had since been transmitted to President Barack Obama.

Bordallo said the Obama administration supports her bill. So did other federal and local officials, including cause-oriented groups and decolonization and indigenous rights advocates on island.

“I look forward to President Obama signing the bill into law. As soon as it becomes law I will request Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta to follow Congressional intent and provide federal funds to Guam for a political status education program,” she said in a statement.

Bordallo introduced the bill on Oct. 27, 2009 and originally passed the full House of Representatives on Dec. 7, 2009 by voice vote.

On Tuesday, the House passed the amended version by a vote of 386 ayes to 5 noes. The Senate passed the amended measure by unanimous consent late Tuesday.

"The passage of this bill by the Senate and the House recognizes the importance of political self-determination for the people of Guam. The bill makes it clear that the Secretary of the Interior has the authority and should provide federal funding for political status education for a future self-determination vote,” said Bordallo.

Speaker Judi Won Pat said she’s happy to learn that the bill passed Congress but raised concern on funding issue.

“Of course, we're very happy. My concern here is the funding. I believe that $300,000 to fund this education program was identified at one time. However, according to the Commission on Decolonization, they said it would cost at least $500,000 and so, if we get $300,000, it's shy of what we're going to need,” she told the Variety.

With the military buildup progressing, the speaker said: “It’s important that we do a thorough, extensive education program on self determination on the different choices that we have. We really need to do a good job on this one.”

Firing Range

In related news, Bordallo also questioned Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn on the proposed firing range location on Guam during a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

“I urged Secretary Lynn and the Department of Defense to strongly consider proposed alternatives to Marine training requirements like moving the proposed firing range to Tinian or using existing DoD lands on Guam,” the congresswoman said.

The House Armed Services Committee held two hearings in September and another will be held on Oct. 1, Washington time, on H.R. 5136 or the National Defense Authorization Act which will appropriate funds for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction and for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths for the fiscal year and for other purposes.

The bill mentioned Guam and the Committee’s commitment to the international agreement between Japan and the United States, including the movement of Marine Corps forces to Guam.

“This bill includes several key provisions to assist in a smooth implementation of this strategic realignment, including allowing the administration to spend up to $500 million to provide community infrastructure on Guam to support this move and a process to unify the utility systems on the island,” according to the bill.

Bordallo expressed her belief that acquiring additional land on Guam for a firing range is unlikely and that, in order to get the military build-up done right, all other options be considered.

Lynn stated that the DoD will examine alternatives to the proposed firing range location, including a location on Tinian, and agreed that a resolution beneficial to the civilian and military community must be reached.

“I appreciate the DoD's willingness to seriously consider other alternatives for the proposed firing range location and I will continue to work with my colleagues and stakeholders on this important issue,” added Bordallo.

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