WASHINGTON, D.C.—Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-GU) issued a statement Thursday last week regarding the 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 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.
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. 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 [Thurday] marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Guam on Dec. 8, 1941, and the start of what would be 32 months of enemy occupation by Imperial Japanese forces,” said Bordallo.
“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 Gov. [Eddie] 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 [Guam] 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. [Thursday] 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 Co. Danny Santos for bringing several cases [in] 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 [fiscal year 2017] 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 [Guam Waterworks Authority], as well as for the cultural repository. While I am disappointed that my provision to provide [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] 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.” (PR)