Sunday, December 11, 2016

Guam war claims passes US Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Office of the Guam Congressional Delagete) — U.S. Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo on Dec. 8 issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Senate’s passage of the Conference Report on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 92 yeas to 7 noes. The House of Representative previously passed the Conference Report on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016 by a vote of 375 yeas to 34 noes. The bill now goes to President Obama, who is expected to sign the measure into law.
Congresswoman Bordallo, her staff, and Guam Society of America members Annie and Larry Quichocho, Margie Mantanona, Lola Torres, and Ed Yanger were present in the Senate chamber during the final vote.

“This is a historic day for our island as the Senate has passed war claims legislation as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017,” Bordallo said. “The passage of this bill brings us a step closer to honoring Guam’s greatest generation and rightfully recognizing the survivors of the occupation of Guam during World War II. The passage of the bill also has special significance as today marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Guam on December 8, 1941 and the start of what would be 32 months of enemy occupation by Imperial Japanese forces. Securing passage of this bill has been a long and difficult process. Yet, despite political and budgetary challenges that we faced along the way, I never gave up on our efforts to resolve this longstanding issue for our island. This has been a long and difficult road, and I appreciate the support and assistance from many in our community, especially my predecessors in Congress who laid the groundwork for this effort, my current and former staff who worked diligently behind the scenes, and the survivors who documented and submitted their experiences during the war. Looking forward, over the coming year, processes will be established for the survivors and heirs of those who died during the occupation to receive their claims. I will continue to work to ensure that the claims process is appropriately carried out, and I hope that Governor Calvo will join me in petitioning the incoming Trump Administration to hold Guam’s treasury harmless in the payment of claims. I will also work with Sen. Frank Blas Jr and the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation to see if they can help our local community be prepared for the claims program once it is established. I think this type of public-private partnership will serve our community well. Today is a proud day for Guam, and I look forward to President Obama signing this bill into law.
“The FY17 NDAA also contains other provisions that build on the progress we have made over the past few years. The final conference report includes a provision that will require the DoD to conduct a review of service records for each military department of Asian American and Pacific Islanders who served during the Korean or Vietnam Wars and earned the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, or the Air Force Cross, but may be eligible for the Medal of Honor. I appreciate retired Colonel Danny Santos for bringing several cases on Guam to my attention and requesting that I seek this legislative remedy. I look forward to having this review conducted in a thorough manner by the Department of Defense. This is an important win for our broader AAPI community.
“Further, the bill contains full funding for Guam’s FY 17 military construction program and it frees up funding for the construction of a cultural repository as an important mitigation identified in the supplemental EIS. This builds on progress I have made over the last two years to support civilian infrastructure projects, which included funding for civilian water and wastewater improvements projects that were recently awarded to GWA, as well as for the cultural repository. While I am disappointed that my provision to provide USCIS with flexibility in administering the H-2B program on Guam, I have received assurances by HASC Chairman Thornbury to revisit this issue next year. These are clear demonstrations of Congress’ commitment to the realignment and efforts to address appropriate mitigations associated with the Marine relocation. In order to ensure the Department of Defense lives up to its “Net Negative” commitment, I was also able to include a provision that requires the Navy to report next year on its plans for current and future land use on Guam.
“Finally, I thank Chairman Mac Thornberry and Ranking Member Adam Smith for their help and support during the Conference Committee. Their commitment to fighting for many provisions important to Guam in this year’s bill was critical to our success. Although this bill is far from perfect, it addresses a number of outstanding issues facing our island and I hope that it will ultimately be enacted into law.”
A list of provisions impacting Guam is outlined below:
• Lift restrictions on funding for the development of civilian infrastructure related to the realignment of Marines from Okinawa to Guam. The provision authorizes the use of funds for infrastructure projects that were identified in the Economic Adjustment Committee report issued in October 2015, including the construction of a cultural repository and further upgrades to Guam’s water and wastewater system;
• Holds DoD accountable to its “net negative” policy by requiring the Navy to report to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on the status of implementing the policy. The report should include the total number of acres of real property controlled by the Navy on Guam as well as the process to determine lands to be returned to the Government of Guam in accordance with the “net negative” policy;
• Authorizes a review of service records for each military department of Asian American and Pacific Islanders who served during the Vietnam War and earned the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, or the Air Force Cross but may be eligible for the Medal of Honor. The provision will correct an oversight of the FY02 NDAA which authorizes similar review for Jewish American and Hispanic American war veterans;
• Promotes invasive species prevention and management in the Asia-Pacific region by requiring a briefing on the Regional Biosecurity Plan on recommendations that will minimize the harmful ecological, social, cultural, and economic impacts of invasive species. The briefing will help to hold the Department of Defense and other federal agencies accountable for providing sufficient funding and prioritization for the successful implementation of this plan;
• Requires DoD to provide a briefing on the feasibility of re-establishing port calls by Taiwanese Naval vessels in U.S. ports during their annual training exercises. The potential for port calls, including on Guam, is consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act and could enhance theater security cooperation plans;
• Requires a quarterly report from the DoD on Freedom of Navigation Operations consistent with the recommendations of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission which help to ensure we are making clear the U.S. position on China’s reckless actions in the South China Sea. This was an amendment co-sponsored with Congressman Randy Forbes, a co-chair of the Congressional China Caucus with Congresswoman Bordallo;
•Expresses a Sense of Congress‎ supporting senior military exchanges between the United States and Taiwan. Increased engagements would further develop the bilateral relationship and encourage the sharing of knowledge, training, and experiences. This was also a bipartisan effort with Congressman Forbes.
• Expresses the Sense of Congress that that the U.S. should continue to support trilateral cooperation with Japan and South Korea. The provision also calls for continued support for defense cooperation between Japan and South Korea on the full range of issues related to North Korea, as well as non-proliferation, cyber security, maritime security, security technology and capability development, and other areas of security mutual benefit.
• Supports $67.5 million in additional funding for water and wastewater upgrades on Guam through the Office of Economic Adjustment.
• Supports the President’s Budget request MQ-4 Triton Navy Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, and adds funding to procure an additional MQ-4 to meet Navy requirements;
• Supports the President’s Budget request for the Long-Range Strike Bomber program;
• Provides additional funding for the National Guard State Partnership Program to help meet the National Guard Bureau’s requirement;

• Provides an additional $15 million above President’s Budget for a total of $75 million for the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program.

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