Sunday, February 06, 2011

JGPO: ‘We do listen’

Friday, 04 February 2011 00:40 by Janela Buhain Variety News Staff

* ‘But money pending because PA unsigned’

JOINT Guam Program Office Forward Director John Jackson said yesterday that the military is in fact listening to the “top concerns and issues” of the people of Guam, but that some of the projects associated with the military buildup can’t move forward without the signing of the Programmatic Agreement.

During a presentation at the Rotary Club of Guam yesterday, Jackson discussed why the military realignment is important for Guam and “half of the population of the world” in maintaining security.

He also touched on the top concerns of the island that the Department of Defense is addressing, and the myths circulating in the community about DoD’s plans to improve Guam.

In his presentation, Jackson identified 15 key issues and concerns the local community has been voicing since the introduction of the military buildup. Of those 15 issues, seven were identified as the “top concerns” that the DoD has addressed and is working to improve not just for the federal government, but for the people of Guam, Jackson said.

The seven include addressing wildlife refuge and threatened and endangered species; $160 million in funding for sufficient and sanitary drinking water through the aquifer; improving Guam’s roadways with $49 million allocated this year for roadways and $67 million possibly next year; improving wastewater treatment plants; returning part of the federal footprint back to the people of Guam; ensuring that brown tree snakes do not spread to other island through cargo ships; and modernizing the port.

The other eight issues that the military failed to or has yet to address include culturally sensitive resources throughout the island; legacy issues like war reparation, compact aid, Jones Act Exemption and voting rights; Guam Public School System; stressed socio-economic support structures; the closure of the Ordot landfill and opening a new landfill; private development; power plants; and the public health system.

Jackson said about $960 million is required for infrastructure improvements. This includes $740 million from the government of Japan for water, wastewater and power; $104 million for the Port Authority of Guam, which was already awarded; and $116 million for roadways over the next two years.

Additionally, he identified about $321 million that’s still pending from the government of Japan.
“Why are they pending? They’re pending because the Programmatic Agreement has not been signed,” he said.MisconceptionsOther issues Jackson discussed were common misconceptions about the military buildup. Jackson said the military will not be shooting into Pagat or in the water near Pagat from the firing ranges they are proposing to build along Route 15. Thus, pristine and culturally sensitive areas will not be destroyed.

Also, the military is going to spend money to ensure all citizens of Guam benefit from the military buildup and are not burdened.DOD is also looking to shrink its federal footprint, from 27 percent to about 24 percent, he said.
Jackson also stressed that the military realignment is strategically and vitally important to “half the population of the world.”

Further, Jackson said the military buildup is important for Guam because of what its senior citizens had experienced during World War II.

“I think the best example of that is for our senior citizens here on Guam who have experienced what it’s like to live under the domination of a foreign power,” Jackson said. “We don’t want to see that repeated. It’s very important economically; it’s important to the people of Guam to have that security, to ensure the citizens of all our islands can go to bed at night knowing that tomorrow morning they still can live under the flag they choose to live in.”Very upsetBut Speaker Judi Won Pat, who was at the meeting, said she was “very upset” with Jackson’s statements, particularly referencing his statements regarding senior citizens, and the key issues and concerns that were left out of what the military is addressing.

“How dare he say why it is important strategically and to use our senior citizens and what they had to go through, and what they did for us, our generation, so we don’t go through it again. How dare he say that. Those are my parents; my grandparents. He cannot talk about them like that, he cannot relate to any one of us who know what our parents went through,” Won Pat lamented.
While the military addresses the facts in black and white, Won Pat said they failed to address the emotional issues tied to the military buildup.

“This buildup isn’t just about money. It’s not just about the military’s goals, or their perception that Guam is a ‘strategic location.’ This is about our hospital already brimming with patients.

This is about our already stressed school system. This is about the further environmental degradation of our island. This is about the cultural survival of our island. These are critically emotional issues. More than that, they are the issues that will affect our people the most. And they are the issues that should be the focal point of these conversations,” Won Pat said.

Sen. Rory Respicio, who was also at the meeting, said DoD should consider Sen. Ben Pangelinan’s suggestion to have a supplemental draft and final EIS and Record of Decision inclusive of all the military’s promises excluded from the ROD.

“I certainly share the Speaker’s sentiments … his response regarding senior citizens knowing what it’s like to suffer under enemy hands and foreign control, but it’s no different from the last 66 years in which we had to suffer under the hands of the American system where we haven’t been truly liberated,” Respicio said.

“If they really believe that their superpower can be all things to everyone, then how do they explain war reparations being defeated? How do they explain the unresolved status and the fact that we’re an unincorporated territory? Jackson implied that we have to understand that they’re here to serve us but at what cost to our environment and our island way of life?” Rory stated.

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