Friday, May 30, 2008

Military Makes Guam More Valuable to Continental

Military makes Continental's hub in Guam more valuable
May 30, 2008

The military is the reason Continental Airlines has a hub on Guam, and the military is the reason it could get a big boost soon.

Continental Micronesia, which began in 1968 as an offshoot of the carrier's troop transport business during the Vietnam War, is expected to benefit over the next few years as the U.S. territory plays a central role in the realignment of U.S. forces in the region.

Some 170,000 people live on the Pacific island now, but the population is expected to swell by nearly one-third to roughly 225,000 by 2014, according to David Cohen, former deputy assistant secretary of the Interior Department.

That will mean Guam will have to be better equipped to handle the influx, said Cohen, the federal representative to the U.S. Pacific community from 2005 to 2007.

"The military buildup is going to require that Guam's civilian infrastructure be significantly upgraded and significantly expanded," said Cohen, a lawyer who returned to private practice earlier this year.

"The public infrastructure on Guam is not adequate to meet the needs of the current population."

The buildup will require thousands of additional skilled workers, and that is expected to trigger more business for Continental Micronesia, a subsidiary of Houston-based Continental.

Known as Air Mike, the carrier has 30 departures a day to 23 cities across the Pacific Rim, Micronesia and Hawaii.

Continental Micronesia is the dominant carrier in the region and the largest private employer in Guam, with more than 1,500 workers.

Northwest Airlines, Japan Airlines, China Airlines and All Nippon Airways also serve the island.

The carrier already is seeing a "slight uptick" in travelers, said Mark Erwin, its president and chief executive.

He expects that to accelerate quickly, with an increase of about 12,000 more people than normal during the next year. The carrier now flies about 1.5 million people annually.

"We see this as a great growth opportunity for our fourth hub," he said.

Family ties
Guam Gov. Felix Camacho said during a recent news conference related to Air Mike's 40th anniversary on the island that the carrier, which has a payroll of more than $90 million, is part of Guam's family.

"We do recognize that the privilege of having Continental here on Guam establishes a main transportation hub," the governor said.

"It's not only people who come in and out of Guam. It's also the cargo that comes in daily that affects our lives."

Camacho cited heavy investment at Guam's A.B. Won Pat International Airport that Air Mike has helped attract, and the Federal Aviation Administration recently approved an additional runway.

The Pacific region for Continental, which includes Guam, saw growth of

12 percent during the first quarter of this year compared with last year, according to a recent regulatory filing by the airline. The region generated $257 million in revenue during the quarter, compared with $462 million for Latin America, $606 million for the trans-Atlantic region and $1.3 billion domestically.

Guam often isn't mentioned as a Continental hub alongside Houston, Cleveland and Newark, although that could change as the military shifts some 8,000 Marines — along with about 9,000 dependents — from Okinawa, Japan.

Military presence
The U.S. has long had a military presence in Guam, located on the other side of the International Date Line from the U.S mainland, spurring the slogan "Where America's Day Begins."

The entire island would fit inside Houston's Beltway 8, noted Walter Dias, staff vice president of sales and marketing. Dias has worked for Continental both in Houston and in Guam, where he has lived for the past 15 years.

The relocation of the Marines will cost more than $10 billion and will involve the construction of a new base, housing and improved utilities.

Plans call for billions more to be spent for the Army, Navy and Air Force. Japan will foot about 60 percent of the relocation bill, Cohen said.

The U.S. and Japan came to an agreement to realign U.S. forces and determined it would be in the best interest of both countries if troops were shifted from Okinawa, he said.

"Guam is strategically located but on U.S. soil, which gives the military greater room for maneuvering than is usually the case in foreign nations," Cohen said.

Erwin said Continental could have a Houston-to-Guam flight or Los Angeles-to-Guam flight within about three years. For now, flights from the U.S. mainland stop in Hawaii.

The carrier already has a big presence on Guam, with pilots and flight attendants and others living there, he noted.

Continental Micronesia takes its presence in Guam seriously and is an integral part of the community, Erwin said. That includes donating computers to schools and operating medical evacuation flights when a Guamanian suffers emergency health issues. Those flights are conducted using miles donated by frequent fliers.

Air Mike pilots and flight attendants also largely live there.

"So a lot of money stays on the island," he said.

In addition to the Marines, the buildup is expected to attract an influx of foreign workers, many from the Philippines, as there should be more work available than there are locals to do it as port facilities, the electrical system and wastewater plants will need upgrades.

President Bush signed a bill earlier this month that lifted some caps on temporary foreign workers, although that law may have to be tweaked again, Cohen said.

"But it is certainly a good start to help the military attract the workers it needs to make this happen," he said.

A growing reach
As for Continental, the growth will enhance Continental's international expansion program. Air Mike recently ran a charter flight from China to Guam, which already is a major tourist destination for Japan.

Without naming names, Continental Micronesia's Erwin said Guam's reach will only grow in the coming years.

"This gives us additional opportunities to expand to other international destinations from Guam," he said.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Guam Honors War Dead

Guam honors war dead
By Brett Kelman
Pacific Daily News
May 27, 2008

Guam Remembers.

Yesterday, several hundred people gathered at the Piti Veterans Cemetery for a Memorial Day ceremony held to honor American servicemen who have fallen in the many military conflicts since World War I.

Military personnel, veterans and community leaders laid wreaths on bone-white graves to mourn the men and women who have died for their country. Tears, song and prayers marked the occasion.

"We acknowledge today the debt and incredible sacrifices made by many who have served throughout our nation's history," said Maj. Gen. Donald Goldhorn, Guam National Guard adjutant general. "Throughout America and in many parts of the world, the debt of our wars will be honored with recollections of heroes' valor and sacrifices. ... Many that we honor here today rest their souls on Guam."

Twenty-five sons of Micronesia have been killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa since the War on Terror began in 2001. Many more were killed in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the first Persian Gulf War.

A large factor is the high level of patriotism in Guam and the region, which is reflected in high enlistment rates, which in turn have led to a high per-capita rate of combat deaths in every U.S. conflict. In the War on Terror, the death toll per capita for Guam and Micronesia is among the highest in the United States, according to the Washington Post.

Goldhorn said none of those killed were lost in vain.

"They believed that what we have, the freedoms that we enjoy, are worth fighting for -- and yes -- they believed the freedoms that we have were worth dying for," he said.

According to Pacific Daily News files, 13 servicemen from Guam were killed in Korea, 70 were killed in Vietnam and two were killed in the first Persian Gulf War.

Families remember
At yesterday's ceremony, Agnes San Nicolas Rillera, mother of Army Maj. Henry Ofeciar, said she found solace in the knowledge that her family didn't mourn alone. Ofeciar was killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 27, 2007, by enemy fire.

"It is not only comforting, but it is a remembrance and it is a very nice turnout," she said. Rillera thanked those who came to the ceremony and those who kept soldiers in their thoughts and prayers.

Ofeciar's sister, Orlene Ofeciar Arriola, said yesterday's ceremony would have pleased her brother.

"He really took these kind of things seriously," she said. "He would have been here. And I think he would have liked it."

Veterans remember
Joe Moore, president of the Guam Veterans Motorcycle Group, said he found himself surrounded by his fellow soldiers -- both the living and the dead. The cemetery was filled with mourning servicemen and civilians, who withstood a daunting rain to honor those who had died.

"This rain doesn't compare to what these guys gave," he said, pointing to the surrounding graves. "I know a lot of these people that are in here. Over there sits all the Vietnam guys. Some of my friends are down there. Up there sits my son-in-law. Over here sits my pari's son."

Moore said the ceremony was overwhelming, but he expected nothing less from his fellow Chamorros.

"This is tremendous. I mean this hits the heart," he said. "Guam is very patriotic island. ... If you join the service, regardless of what service, and you tell these people you're from Guam and you're a Chamorro, they expect 110 percent more than what everyone else is giving. That's just the way it is."

Yesterday, local veteran Joe Taitano remembered a particular fallen soldier. Taitano and his friend spent a month on military leave on Guam before being deployed to Vietnam. Only Taitano came back.

In April, Taitano ventured all the way to England to visit the grave of his fallen comrade on the 40th anniversary of his death. He found the grave in a small haven outside of Liverpool.

Taitano said he mourns on Memorial Day and Veterans Day for every fallen friend. Yesterday was no exception.

"Every year I do this and it's just to remember. It's not much comfort because you always wonder why it wasn't you," he said. "Why did they make the ultimate sacrifice and why did I come back? ... As I grew older, I thought maybe this was my purpose -- to ensure that everyone remembers them."

Sewage Concerns Persist

Sewage concerns persist: Emerald development worries residents
By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News
May 27, 2008

For more than a year now, Jonestown, Tamuning, residents have seen their neighborhood change.

New, single-family homes with price tags of $500,000 or higher have sprung up on once-empty pieces of land, adding value to the generally upper-middle-class neighborhood.

But while the new, standalone houses have been welcome additions, some Jonestown residents aren't too keen on two 15-story condominium buildings and two 18-story condo high-rises that are planned for the area.

The four high-rises are part of the proposed Emerald Ocean View Park, a $100-million project of Younex International.

Jonestown resident Nelda Flynn, through her son Michael Flynn Jr., has written to the Guam Land Use Commission that the project, "is too massive in scale."

"Water, sewer, roads and traffic would be substantially impacted by the proposed development," according to the Flynns, who submitted the letter days before the commission approved the project in November.

Nelda Flynn provided a copy of her letter to the Pacific Daily News recently in light of the growing debate about the numerous proposed high-rises on Guam amid the water, wastewater and infrastructure constraints the island faces.

Jonestown already goes through periods of low water pressure.

Court petition
Another Jonestown resident, Mary Ann C. Sablan, has taken her concerns to the Superior Court of Guam.

Sablan is petitioning the court to order the Guam Land Use Commission and the Department of Land Management to reverse approval of the Emerald Ocean View Project.

Part of Sablan's court petition states the Jonestown area is zoned "R-2" residential, which, according to Guam law, generally limits multi-family structures to 30 feet, or three stories.

Developers, however, can ask the Guam Land Use Commission for an exemption from limits on buildings, size, height, distance from lot boundaries or property use.

Several members of the public have expressed concerns about "the systemic problems Jonestown ... experiences, such as frequent periods of extreme low water pressure and traffic congestion, and that these problems would be increased," Sablan's petition states.

Jonestown currently has about 125 homes connected to the island's sewer system, and the Emerald project would add 280 condo and villa-style units, according to a study submitted to the Guam Land Use Commission as part of the developer's proposal.

An executive for Emerald Ocean View's developer, Younex International, was unavailable for comment by phone and e-mail as of press time yesterday.

But the developer is addressing some of the residents' concerns.

For example, the developer has submitted a plan to the Guam Land Use Commission to pay for $935,000 in upgrades to water and sewer lines in the area. The developer's upgrades include installing underground, 12-inch-diameter sewer pipes from Jonestown to the main sewer line on Gov. Carlos Camacho Road.

The Emerald Ocean View's additional housing units will result in more than 591,000 peak gallons per day of wastewater flow to the main sewer line in Tamuning, according to the study. That's an increase from Jonestown's current wastewater peak of 351,495 gallons per day, the study states.

But after the Emerald Ocean View received approval from the GLUC and Guam Waterworks Authority, things have changed at GWA.

The agency last week put in place a moratorium on water and wastewater hookups for new projects in Tamuning, parts of Tumon and parts of Hagåtña because the main water and sewer lines in those areas have reached maximum capacity.

The Emerald developer's sewer line upgrades from Jonestown to the main sewer line in Tamuning won't ease the capacity problem with Tamuning's main sewer line, which sometimes overflows with its current load.

But the Emerald Ocean View project received GWA approval before the agency knew that the main sewer line had reached its maximum capacity, said Simon Sanchez, chairman of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities. The CCU functions as GWA's board.

GWA needs about $30 million to install new main sewer lines from Tamuning to the Hagåtña wastewater treatment plant. The governor's office on Friday stated it's working with GWA and the CCU to identify funding to address the wastewater constraints, but it's unclear if GWA would be able to expand the Tamuning main sewer line before the Emerald Ocean View's 280 condo units and villas get built.

In December, the developer estimated the Emerald's units will be available starting around the second quarter of 2010, with a starting price tag of about $500,000 per condo unit.

If the developer's time frame holds, GWA has about two years to add capacity to the main sewer line from Tamuning to the Hagåtña sewer treatment plant.

Felix Camacho asks for the Forgivness of the CNMI

Guam governor asks NMI people’s ‘forgiveness’
By Moneth G. Deposa Variety News Staff
May 27, 2008

GUAM Gov. Felix P. Camacho asked forgiveness from the CNMI for his island’s rejection of the proposed Marianas reunification in 1969.
Camacho was the keynote speaker during Friday’s Attorney General’s Cup speech competition whose theme this year was: “Should the Northern Marianas and Guam unite as One Marianas to form the 51st state of the union?”
Camacho said the issue was “very timely” and “very important.”
On Nov. 4, 1969, the people of Guam voted against reintegration.
Some believed that the rejection was “payback” to the Northern Marianas Chamorros for their assistance to the Japanese forces during the occupation of Guam.
During World War II, the NMI was a Japanese possession.
Others argued that the reunification issue lost its significance on Guam which was preparing to hold its first gubernatorial election in the following year.
Camacho’s father was the last appointed governor of Guam and became its first elected chief executive in 1970.
“He told me… ‘Son, this was what happened.’ ” Camacho said, adding that Guam and the NMI inherited what their former leaders have left behind.
Noting that the reunification issue continues to be discussed, Camacho said “it is time to focus on a vision and plan for unity —we cannot allow others to break that hope.”
He encouraged the CNMI people not to lose hope.
“Keep an open mind about the possibility of reunification,” he said. “I have faith in the Northern Marianas…and this is the right time to realize our expectations—expect the very best vision of reunification.”
Camacho believes that 40 long years “is enough to end all bitterness and isolation among” the Chamorros of Guam and the NMI.
“You must tear down the walls. Learn to forgive because it’s a choice, not an option,” he said.
According to Camacho, Guam will consider holding similar competitions to get their youth’s opinions on reunification.
From 1667 to 1898, Guam and the NMI were known as the Marianas and administered by Spain. In 1898, Guam was ceded to the U.S. In the following year, Spain sold the NMI to Germany. In 1914, the Japanese took over the Northern Marianas, which was invaded by the U.S. in 1944.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Land Use commission Blasts CCU

Land Use Commission blasts CCU's development moratorium
by John Davis
Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Consolidated Commission on Utilities' decision to implement a moratorium came as a complete surprise to the Guam Land Use Commission, tasked with approving new development projects across the island. The agency in a meeting this afternoon said the CCU's decision deals a devastating blow to the island's economy.

Tuesday's decision to ban all new development in the central part of Guam came as a shock to the GLUC, whose chairperson, Jay Lather, said, "Imagine the message that would go to investors when we say that we're not going to allow anymore applications to come in and we're not going to allow approved applications to go forward. I mean, this is a death blow - I personally think it's a mistake, and I won't stand for it."

Commissioner Frank Blaz also echoed the confusion amongst his colleagues, saying since the news of the moratorium he has changed his position regarding the approval of new development because he didn't realize how big the problem was. Now, he's just confused. "I don't know what to do, I'm not sure what I do is right when I approve, am I right if I disapprove, am I right? I'm in that state," he expressed. "It's not fair to say OK, we approve and you go and find solutions with the Guam Waterworks Authority. We're passing the buck here."

As a result of the confusion created by the moratorium, one developer's plan has been put on hold. Studio E Development's proposed ten-unit townhome was put on the backburner for at least a week. The development of Chichirika Estates in Tamuning runs close to $2.5 million and would create at least 50 jobs during its construction phase, not including future jobs the development would create through building maintenance, landscaping and security. Studio E project manager Jae Ji says he doesn't see why his project would be put on hold, but if GWA doesn't allow them to tap into existing sewer lines, they have a backup plan.

Ji tells KUAM News that if approved by Guam Environmental Protection Agency, they will install a septic tank, which would be pumped and transported to a wastewater treatment plant. The GLUC in the meantime will meet to discuss the issue again next week, hopefully with the presence of the Tumon Bay Improvement Consortium, the CCU and GWA.

Central Guam Reaches Sewage Capacity

No more developments; Sewage reaches capacity in central Guam
Guam News
Thursday May 22, 2008
By Mar-Vic Cagurangan, Variety News Staff

THE sewage system in the central part of Guam has reached choking capacity, prompting the Guam Waterworks Authority to declare a moratorium on development in the affected areas, utility officials said.

GWA's chief engineer, Don Antrobus, told the Consolidated Commission on Utilities that the agency is not likely to flash the green light for any new projects -- whether single-family homes or large developments -- in East Hagatna, parts of Hagatna, Tamuning, Upper Tumon, Harmon, and a section of Tumon Bay from the Pacific Islands Club going south toward the Hilton.

"We are informing developers right now who come into GWA and want to proceed with project plans that if they don't already have an existing building permit with us, they will not be able to move forward as we cannot allow any projects at this time to tie into our wastewater and water systems," Antrobus said.

James Martinez, executive director of the Guam Contractors Association, said GWA and project developers must negotiate a solution to avert the development moratorium that will bring the construction boom in Guam to a halt.

"A moratorium on development means potential revenue loss for the government of Guam in terms of taxes and future jobs," Martinez said.

But Martinez acknowledged GWA's dilemma.

"Developers understand that GWA doesn't have the capacity anymore to handle further developments in those areas, and we can hardly go around that," he added.

Martinez said GWA could benefit from more developments because it would mean more revenues that will enable the agency to handle and sustain developments.

"In the long run, the use of the wastewater facility pays for itself. But do they have the money to improve and sustain wastewater facilities? It's a Catch-22. What comes first: the horse or the cart?" Martinez said.

"I think both parties, GWA and the developers, need to come to a common ground and reach some kind of an agreement," Martinez said.

The GCA executive director suggested that developers could possibly split the bill with GWA to defray the cost of sewage facility upgrades. "You have to negotiate something and try to find solutions," he added.

GWA General Manager John Benavente said the agency is trying to develop "some bridge solutions that could assist with this challenge."

"But we need the community's support as well as we will need approximately $30 million to get the system up to speed to meet today's demands," Benavente said.

Karl Untalan, chief planner for the Guam Land Use Commission, said projects that have been approved by GLUC will be hooked up to the north wastewater system and will therefore not be affected by the GWA's development moratorium.

Untalan said the two controversial high-rise condominium projects proposed by Access Ypao Inc. are not likely to be affected because their water and wastewater systems will be connected to the north district.

"Only projects that will be hooked up to the system leading to the Hagatna Treatment Plant are affected," Untalan said.

He mentioned the Oka Point development plan is a project that will possibly be affected by GWA's decision.

GWA issued 700 building permits last year. At least 90 percent of the approved development plans were single-family dwelling projects.

GWA spokesperson Heidi Ballendorf said the agency will have to hold approval for any new projects until it raises $30 million for wastewater improvements.

She said GWA has identified the moratorium areas for sewage system improvements in the next five years.

Ballendorf said the need to upgrade the sewage system capacity was prompted by the impending military buildup, which wasn't factored into the GWA 20-year master plan when it was drafted four years ago.

"It wasn't in our master plan to improve our wastewater capacity until we saw this accelerated growth in these [affected] areas," Ballendorf said.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Condos Create Infrastructure Worries

Main sewage line at capacity
Planned condos raise infrastructure worries
By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News
May 20, 2008

When manhole covers pop open and wastewater overflows onto busy Marine Corps Drive in Tamuning, it calls attention to a broader problem Guam faces amid a flurry of proposed high-rise condominiums.The main sewage line in the area has reached its limit, Simon Sanchez, Consolidated Commission on Utilities chairman, said yesterday.

"We have a major chokepoint," Sanchez said of the wastewater transmission line from Gov. Carlos Camacho Road in Tamuning to the Hagåtña sewage treatment plant near the marina.

With the line's capacity reaching its limit, GWA is at a point where it could refuse wastewater connections to new customers in the area served by the main line, Sanchez said.

The main wastewater line transmits sewage from areas beyond Tamuning. Its reach starts from the Pacific Islands Club in Tumon, to all of Tamuning, including Airport Road, and then East Hagåtña, according to GWA. The main wastewater line also services some areas of Barrigada, Sanchez said.

The main line serves the area in Tamuning and Tumon where at least three luxury condo high-rise projects are proposed for a total of almost 1,000 additional units.
The northern half of hotel row in Tumon Bay, from the Guam Marriott Resort to the proposed 700-unit condo project in Gun Beach, also faces wastewater capacity challenges that GWA has previously acknowledged.

"We don't want to stop development, but our growth has surpassed the current infrastructure capacity," Sanchez said.

He said about 20 to 30 condominium building projects are in various stages of planning by developers.

There's a consortium of luxury condominium developers that's working out a way to pay for upgrades to GWA infrastructure to allow their developments to get off the ground.


But the filled-to-capacity main wastewater line from Tamuning to Hagåtña is an example of what Sanchez called a "fundamental project that you can't just assign to one particular developer."

The cost to add a main sewage line from Tamuning to Hagåtña is about $25 million, Sanchez said.

GWA doesn't have an extra $25 million in its bank account to pay for the main line upgrade, but the agency has a plan to borrow about $100 million to $150 million from the bond market next year to pay for projects such as upgrading the main sewage line from Tamuning to Hagåtña.

But what's to be done until then, Sanchez asked.

"What do you do in the meantime? Are we at a point where we can't permit the next projects if we don't have the capacity?"

Wastewater capacity for Tumon Bay in general -- from Oka Point to Gun Beach -- is at capacity or has exceeded its load, according to GWA.

"Tumon Bay's sewer collection system is currently at maximum capacity and additional capacity will need to be added before it can take any additional wastewater loading," GWA officials said.

The agency is working "in partnership with a consortium of developers to create this capacity," officials said. Duenas, Bordallo, Camacho and Associates conducted an engineering study, and its analysis showed the sewer system in Tumon "is at or above capacity," according to GWA.

The study identified about $4 million in projects that will add enough capacity to central Tumon and the Ypao Beach area to allow the consortium's member-developers to proceed with their projects.

The developers' money, however, does not address what the CCU chairman calls the fundamental improvement that's needed for the main wastewater line.
The northern half of Tumon Bay hotels send their wastewater to the Fujita pump station, which has needed capacity upgrades because of its history of break-downs that has caused sewage to flow into Tumon Bay in previous years.

New charge

In addition to bond borrowing, part of the GWA plan to pay for upgrades to its infrastructure is its proposed system development charge.

The charge will require a new home construction to pay $4,000 for water and $4,000 for wastewater. Hotel and condo projects would have to pay $1 million.

Money collected from the charge will fund infrastructure upgrades for water and wastewater, Sanchez said. The charge also will pay for water and wastewater plants and other general infrastructure upgrades that may not necessarily be in the developer's area, he said.


But while some developers are talking about helping to pay for increased wastewater capacity, one developer, Michael Ysrael of Tanota Partners, questioned the GWA move to let developers "pony up" for more wastewater system upgrades.

Ysrael said when he reviewed GWA reports, he concluded that the capacity issue for wastewater in Tumon "has nothing to do with the system."

"It's not that the system is over capacity; it's not being run right," Ysrael said.
His family owns Tanota Partners, which owns the 600-room Outrigger Guam resort, a few other Guam hotels and is building the luxury hotel resort The Bayview 5 next to the Outrigger.

GWA, in response, stated it "routinely performs preventative maintenance on sewer lines in Tumon and on all sewage pump stations and wastewater treatment plants."
Ysrael also said in 1999, sewer lines were installed in Tumon Bay as part of the multimillion-dollar Tumon Redevelopment project, which was funded with borrowed money from the bond market.

But the Department of Public Works has previously acknowledged those lines, which have almost double the capacity of current sewer lines in Tumon, have not been in use because they're not connected to a pump station.

"The new station would pump sewage to another never-built pump station at Gun Beach, which would pump the sewage out of Tumon. These two stations were never built," according to GWA.

At least $8 million of the $53 million the local government borrowed from the bond market to fund the Tumon Redevelopment project, which started in 1998, was for wastewater lines, according to Pacific Daily News files.

Public Works Director Larry Perez said in an interview in December there was $2 million available for Tumon Redevelopment's phase 3, which would include a sewage pump station. But when DPW put the project out for bid, the price tag came to $6.9 million, Perez said at the time.

DPW did have an additional $4 million available from the Territorial Highway Fund, but lawmakers authorized use of that money for the partial payment of the local government retirees' cost-of-living-allowance back payment, Perez has said.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Military Dog and Pony Show

Military buildup "dog and pony show"
From the Marianas Variety

Last Wednesday, the military Joint Guam Program Office visited our Dededo village to "announce" that the decision for the military buildup on Guam is on track, and the island would reap significant economic benefits.

As we all know, Guam is primarily a "wage economy" dependent on two basic economic industries, i.e. tourism and military. Neither of these two are relatively stable. They are greatly volatile and Guam has learned from past experiences that both are sensitive to global circumstances, and are subject to change dramatically at a moment's notice.

During the JGPO meeting, residents expressed serious concerns regarding the forthcoming military buildup, including the following:

* There will be an immediate population growth in the municipalities of Dededo and Yigo, exceeding over 100,000 people;

* Concerns with the impact of such on the northern water lens;

* Employment opportunities would appear to benefit local US citizens, but, it was rather vague as to how to make these opportunities really become real;

* Access to the shorelines, once the military occupies and encompasses the land areas, from Wettengel to Potts junctions, with planned movement of the Andersen Gate near the Santa Ann subdivision. A Marine Colonel responded with an assurance that "complete access" would be provided. However, a local resident responded that his family was constantly being subjected to Andersen AF whims with regard to their property in Ridtidan, despite a court order giving them unrestricted access. The resident therefore quite openly and candidly expressed "distrust" with historical military pronouncements, not being able to honor their commitments; and
* It was conceded that the Environment Impact Statement would not be completed until the late 2010, and only then will the overall so-called Master Plan can be finalized;

* Senator Tony Lamorena acknowledged that the Government of Guam is working closely with the military on the "few and sporadic military information" provided to them, and expressed concerns with the impact on the "quality of life" on the island's growing population. He indicated that once the government "deals with the many uncertainties," the government of Guam would then go thru the "same dog and pony show" with the local communities.

Additionally, no one mentions the fact that the most recent GAO publication dated May 1, 2008 entitled "Defense Infrastructure- Planning Efforts for the Proposed Military Buildup on Guam Are In Their Initial Stages, with Many Challengers Yet to be Addressed," indicated among other things that "the exact size and makeup of the forces to move to Guam and the operational, housing, and installation support facilities required are not yet fully known."

Joe T. San Agustin

Developments Raise Concern

Developments raise concern
Tumon set for a boom in luxury condo construction
By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News
May 19, 2008

Despite Guam's one million tourists a year, island residents can still take walks, nap on the sand and go snorkeling in Tumon Bay without getting that too-crowded feeling.

But that might not be the case for too much longer.

The tropical feel in Tumon Bay and in other parts of the island could change irreversibly, said some island residents who voiced concern about the lack of a comprehensive government approach to review a resurgence of proposed high-rise projects.

Japanese investments fueled the Tumon Bay hotel construction boom in the 1980s. This time, proposed high-rises are primarily for luxury condominium projects.

Several Tumon Bay condominium development projects have been approved by the Guam Land Use Commission since last year, which will add almost 1,500 condo units to the local real estate inventory -- if all are built.

A few more applications await the GLUC decision, including Ypao Luxury Resort Condominiums, which proposes 608 condo units and 32 villas on a vacant property next to Ypao Beach Park.

But while there's support for condo high-rises for the jobs they create, the taxes they contribute and other economic reasons, some residents said they don't want to lose the few remaining open spaces in Tumon Bay to towering concrete structures.

Losing the view
A Tumon Bay area resident, local attorney Jay Arriola, said he doesn't want development to run rampant.

The Arriolas' ancestral home will be obstructed by the twin, 32-story high-rises proposed in the Ypao Beach area. But Arriola said the issue is bigger than just losing an ocean view.

Arriola questioned whether there's enough of a market for all the luxury condo units being proposed in Tumon Bay and areas within about a mile of Tumon's hotel row.

"The worst-case scenario is these towers will be empty," he said.

The proposed site for the Ypao condo project and the Ypao Beach Park next to it are some of the few remaining open spaces in Tumon Bay.

"The negative impact on the public interest ... seriously outweighs any need for more high-end condos," Arriola stated.

Linda Flynn, a former Guam Land Use Commission member, said without proper government controls and a comprehensive approach to review major projects, Tumon Bay will turn into another Waikiki, where towering high rises leave small open spaces between concrete structures.

"The island needs to decide: What is it that we want? What are our priorities? Do we want to maintain a certain amount of tropical atmosphere of Tumon Bay, or do we want to be a Waikiki?" Flynn asked.

In a recent Land Use Commission hearing on the proposed twin, 32-story high rises next to Ypao Beach Park, some of the area's residents opposed the project.

A 15-story condominium project is also proposed on a lot between the 32-story twin towers project and the Proa restaurant in the Ypao area.

Owners' rights
The proposed Ypao Luxury Condominiums is seeking GLUC approval to build about 150 more units than what regulations would normally allow for that land size.

GLUC Chairman Jay Lather said he understands residents' concerns. Lather said that as a private citizen, he too thinks it's a "bad idea" to add more high-rises on Guam. But as chairman of the Land Use Commission, Lather said he must balance the residents' concerns with the developers' property rights.

Landowners have a minimum expectation to have the best current use of the property they paid for, Lather said.

Earlier this year, Ino Corp. paid $19 million for a piece of non-beachfront land across from the Fiesta Resort for a 396-unit condo and commercial development. Ino Corp.'s project has received GLUC approval.

After the GLUC approval, other agencies must sign off on a project, such as the Guam Waterworks Authority for water and sewer connections and the Department of Public Works for the construction permit.

In the area where the 32-story Ypao luxury condo is proposed, hotel and condo high-rises are allowed, as illustrated by such nearby existing projects as the Pacific Islands Club tower, Lather said.

The Land Use Commission postponed its decision on the proposed Ypao Luxury Resort Condominiums project while waiting for an opinion from the attorney general's office regarding how to proceed.

The AG's opinion is being sought in light of an ancient bull-cart trail that dissects the proposed Ypao Luxury Resort Condominiums' site. The local government owns the trail, and it takes legislative authority to relocate it or for entities other than the owner to use it, Sen. Ben Pangelinan said.

The project's developer still has to obtain proper government approval on how to work around or relocate the trail, and until that's resolved, the Land Use Commission won't be able to make a decision, Lather said.

The bull-cart trail, however, does not lead to the beach and instead ends at the PIC boundary, Lather said.

'Open mind'
"We approach this with an open mind. Generally, (the commission) supports what I call intelligent development. We don't approve projects that don't make a lot of sense," Lather said.

The proposed Ypao condo project is a major project for Guam in terms of its impact on the economy, Lather said.

"There are some benefits to Guam and the people of Guam and we have to look at what drives the economy on Guam," he said.

The Ypao Luxury Resort project's developer was unavailable for comment as of press time.

First lady's support
First lady Joann Camacho testified in favor of the proposed Ypao Luxury Resort Condominiums earlier this month.

"The administration has worked very hard to change that situation ... over the past year or so, we have seen several substantial world-class (proposed projects) ... these projects mean hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in Guam, more jobs for our people and more revenues for the island," Camacho wrote to the GLUC on May 9.

Design elements
Michael Ysrael, of hotel developer Tanota Partners, said he "kind of likes the way it's been working out" in terms of how the Land Use Commission has dealt with development applications.

"I think GLUC has been very good in balancing," Ysrael said of concerns about keeping the tropical look of Tumon Bay and at the same time approving projects that blend well in the area.

Ysrael's family owns the 600-room Outrigger Guam Resort and a couple other smaller hotels. In March, they broke ground on The Bayview 5, a luxury hotel high-rise project next to the Outrigger.

Ysrael mentioned the Pleasure Island area as an example of a development that involves structures that stand close to each other, but still look nice overall because of the buildings' architecture, landscaping and other design elements.

The Land Use Commission attaches stringent conditions to projects that it approves, Lather said.

For example, the commission recently approved a townhouse development on Nimitz Hill, on the condition the developer will build water and sewer systems that will benefit the entire Nimitz Hill area, Lather said.

The infrastructure improvements that are required of the Nimitz developer will cost about $4.5 million, Lather said.

The proposed Emerald Ocean View Park will add 260 condo units and 20 villa-style luxury homes along a cliff-line property in Tamuning. In response to already strained infrastructure in the area, developer Younex International will install an additional water line from the water tank at the Nissan dealership in Upper Tumon, according to Pacific Daily News files.

The project also includes plans to install sewer lines that will be used not only for the Emerald project, but which can increase capacity for existing customers and future developments in the area.

Another developer, which has received GLUC approval for a $250 million high-rise condo and hotel development in the Gun Beach area, also has had to work out a solution to utility challenges. Kyung Maek C&D LLC has made initial discussions with GWA for a wastewater line to be routed away from Tumon and toward the GWA wastewater treatment plant in Dededo, according to Pacific Daily News files.

Flynn said she's been voicing concerns that when major projects do get approved, there's a lack of follow-through from the different government agencies on whether developers comply with land-use applications.

Public Works is supposed to issue notices of action when developers don't comply, but the local government's pool of prosecutors is so strained, there aren't enough people to take on criminal cases, she added.

The local government approach to hold developers accountable has been what Flynn called "too wishy-washy."

"We can't afford to keep developing like that," Flynn said. "We are just at a point where we are seeing another boom, and part of it is speculation."

Members removed
Flynn was supposed to have stayed on the commission until her term expires on June 25. But a recent letter from the governor stated her service to the commission has ended.

Lisa Arriola, Jay Arriola's sister, also recently received a letter from the governor, ending her term on the commission.

Flynn said the governor's letter didn't state why her term on the GLUC was cut short.

Governor's spokesman Shawn Gumataotao said the members of local government boards and commissions "serve at the pleasure of the governor."

Gumataotao didn't specify why Arriola and Flynn have been removed from the Land Use Commission.

Lather said he's sorry to see Arriola and Flynn leave their seats on the commission.

The governor "wanted to make a change, and we all serve at his pleasure," he said.

Asked about Gov. Felix Camacho's position on the debate over high-rise development projects, the governor's spokesman said, "The governor believes that all development should be measured and responsible and that is why we have commissions such as the Guam Land Use Commission in place."

"This commission is tasked with taking concerns such as these and those of the community into consideration," the governor's spokesman added.

The first lady's support of the proposed Ypao Luxury Resort Condominiums, Gumataotao said, was made "in her personal capacity."

Friday, May 16, 2008

First Solid Waste Status Hearing Set

First status hearing set for solid waste receiver
Guam News
Friday May 16, 2008
By Gina Tabonares, Variety News Staff

DISTRICT Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood set a July 10 status hearing yesterday to discuss the progress of solid waste management since the court appointed a receiver two months ago.

The scheduled court date will be the first status hearing that will involve Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc., the Washington, D.C.-based firm appointed by the court to handle Guam's decade-old garbage problem.

The court also gave notice to the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Office of the Attorney General but did not mention whether the presence of the governor of Guam or the elected officials and department heads that concern solid waste management are needed or required for the next status hearing.

The last court activity made in relation to the Consent Decree compliance case was the GBB officers' on-site visits to Ordot Dump and Dandan on April 24 headed by the Chief Judge.

During the said visits, Dominic Muna, Department of Public Works Solid Waste Division superintendent, briefed the receiver on the daily operations of the Ordot Dump site and the installation of the new scale.

Project Engineer Kenneth Rekdahl of Duenas, Bordallo, and Camacho & Associates discussed property boundaries with GBB Vice President Tim Bratton, Special Principal Associate David Manning, Vice President Chace Anderson and Senior Project Engineer Chris Lund.

Tor Gudmussen of TG Engineering presented maps of the Dandan site while Cynthia Jackson of DPW provided information as to the temporary and permanent access roads of the new landfill site.

The Guam solid waste receiver initially briefed the media during its first press conference held on April 25 and outlined several objectives that revolve around Consent Decree compliance.

The receiver also outlined its findings on the solid waste management crisis in Guam.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Regional Leaders Discuss Military Buildup

Regional leaders discuss military buildup issues, ideas
by Clynt Ridgell,
Monday, May 05, 2008

Members of the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures are on Guam, meeting with local leaders as well as military officials in order to gain a better understanding of the Guam military buildup and how their member nations can fit in. American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Chuuk State, Kosrae, Pohnpei, Yap, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, the Republic of Palau, the state of Hawaii and Guam make up the APIL's membership.

It's an organization created to contribute to the acceleration of economic and social development of the member states individually and collectively. While today they were on Guam to learn more about the military buildup it appears that Guam itself still has a lot to learn. According to one of the major findings of a recently released General Accountability Office report, the U.S. Department of Defense has yet to determine any specifics with regards to the Guam buildup. For example what units, U.S. Marines, facilities, and equipment will be placed on the island.

Joint Guam Program Office forward director USN Captain Robert Lee admits that the planning process is ever changing because of the constantly changing world in which we live. "Even for the Marine Corps, as they're making this move each and everyday, they have to look at what are we going to see in 5, 10, 20 years, and so you know you can take the 8,000 Marines and transplant them. But are they the right 8,000? Exactly which forces do we need to go?" he said.

Senator Ben Pangelinan (D) says that the GAO's report is not surprising, telling KUAM News, "It's no news to me, I think that's how I would sum that up - it's no news to me that the military is still not set in their plans that they haven't identified exactly what their going to do to Guam and what their going to do for Guam. Who are they going to move?"

While Cpt. Lee says that the agreement between the governments of Japan and the United States is still set on moving Marines to Guam, he also admits that no one can says for sure whether or not a change in the U.S.'s administration will mean a change in the Marines' movement. "Anything can affect this move, but keep in mind we've already got commitments from the military, the Government of Japan, the U.S. Government. You've heard the presidential candidates talking about their commitments, so there is a possibility anything's possible. But the wheels are in motion money is being put in place assets are being put in place, so it would be a big surprise if it didn't happen."

While the move of Marines may not be a sure thing, Republican senator Jim Espaldon says the island still has to prepare for the move as if it were going to happen, saying, "The reality is and we're going to have to accept and I think we can acknowledge that we need to prepare ourselves, and so going forward even without the military plans in place and us not being able to finalize and develop our own master plan. And again, we can't do a master plan until we fully understand what the military is going to do and what kind of impact it's going to have. And yet the military, even in its draft master plan, basically states that they're waiting for us to develop a master plan, which is nonsense."

In anticipation of this military buildup, APIL president Sabino Sauchomal explains the importance their visit to Guam. "It looks like the military is here to stay," he said, "So we might as well learn what is in store for all of us those of us who are in the neighborhoods of Guam. I know there are not only bad consequences of this buildup, but there are even more opportunities good things that will happen to Guam."

Sauchomal says the buildup will no doubt open up opportunities for his people and the people of APIL's membership nations, as well.

Read the full report at

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Tiny Guam has Its Say

Tiny Guam has its say on US presidential outcome
May 3, 2008

On the distant Pacific island of Guam, nearly a day's plane ride from Washington, a few thousand voters seized centre stage Saturday in the race for the US Democratic presidential nomination.

Turnout for the Democratic caucus was low early in the day as temperatures hovered around 90 degrees (32 Celsius), but local party officials expect some 4,000 people would vote before the polls close at 8:00pm (1000 GMT).

Although there are only four party votes at stake, each one has now become crucial in an epic clash where Barack Obama leads Hillary Clinton by a narrow margin estimated at 1,738 to 1,599.

The results are expected around 1600 GMT Saturday and there was no obvious pre-election favourite.

The caucus is the only opportunity Guam residents will get to influence the presidential outcome; the island's people, while US citizens, are not allowed to vote in November's election for the White House.

"We're a little island that doesn't matter most of the time because we're thousands of miles away from DC," said local resident Tes Venzon.

"This political event gives us our chance to push for our own local issues, which are largely ignored by Washington."

Guam, which has been a US territory since 1898, rarely steps anywhere near the limelight in US politics, lying as it does right on the other side of the international dateline.

So its sudden high profile on the political scene has prompted some jokes from commentators, as the island is more known as a US military base and scene of some of the bloodiest battles against the Japanese in World War II.

The Western Pacific island of just 540 square kilometres (209 square miles) has about 48,000 registered voters, and residents wanted Obama and Clinton to address its political status and self-determination.

"In this situation in which every single delegate vote counts to win the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, Guam suddenly feels its own political significance," said Guam Democratic Party chairman Tony Charfauros.

"We used to not get this kind of national attention, but when the caucus started coming up, all the issues affecting Guam suddenly received attention in the nation's capital."

Neither Obama nor Clinton visited Guam ahead of the vote but both vowed to address local issues, such as the relocation of 8,000 Marines from Okinawa in Japan and war reparation claims.

"I'm supporting Barack Obama because I think he will be the new face of America, with that kind of mixture and optimism that is exactly what we need. And with a president like that, our status will go up," Miget Tarpley said as she went to vote.

To which Clinton supporter Leah Ortiz retorted: "Hillary's plans for us are more specific.

"Obama's plans for Guam sound like press releases. They're vague. Most of the Obama supporters on Guam are young, college students, many of whom are not registered voters."

One major campaign concern are plans by Washington to transfer thousands of troops over the next decade as it faces base closures in Japan.

The US military owns nearly one-third of Guam, which is home to one of the largest US naval bases in the region, and the island is banking on the buildup to bail it out of its economic woes.

Obama has pledged that local contractors would get the lion's share of the upcoming construction work to build homes and offices for the arriving forces.

His campaign has insisted that the Illinois senator, born in Hawaii, has an instinctive understanding of the problems facing the tiny territory.

Apart from the island's four delegates to the party's nominating convention in August, it also has five so-called superdelegates who can vote for whoever they like.

One of them is Madeleine Bordallo, the island's only representative to the US Congress, who has yet to take sides.

The local Pacific Daily News estimates Clinton and Obama will get at least one each of the superdelegates.

Marines Still Coming to Guam

Marines still coming to Guam despite rumors
Thursday May 1, 2008
By Zita Y. Taitano
Marianas Variety News Staff

THE Joint Guam Program Office is dispelling rumors that the Marines to be relocated from Okinawa will be transferred to Hawaii instead of Guam.

Because of a lag in the island's infrastructure upgrade and problems at the port, some quarters have suggested that it would be better for the military to move the Marines to Hawaii.

There are political considerations as well since Hawaii's lawmakers are lobbying to have some of the Marines relocated to the Aloha State.

Acting JGPO Director Capt. Robert Lee, however, said that this is not true. "They (Marines) are still coming to Guam. They're still on track," he said. "The move is still the same as always, for the 8,000 Marines and 9,000 families to come to Guam."

However, according to the website of Hawaii Representative Neil Abercombie, $21.2 million has already been budgeted for construction projects at Hawaii's Marine Corps Base in Kaneohe Bay. While there was no mention of whether the budget included transferring Marines from Okinawa to Hawaii, it did list projects that would receive funding for design at the Marine Corps Base and makes mention of Okinawa.

In the website, at least $6.8 million will be used to support the relocation of the 3rd Marine Division Headquarters from Okinawa to Hawaii. This includes the company and division headquarters, armory, training facilities, motor transport maintenance, electronics, and communications maintenance.

Another $1.5 million will be used to transfer the 12th Marine Regiment from Okinawa. The rest of the funding would be used to build new facilities and expand current buildings at the Marine Corps Base.

In the meantime, Civilian Military Task Force Chairman Tony Lamorena confirms that there is a move being made by Abercombie. However, Lamorena said he had met with Marine Corps representatives on Guam on the matter and was told that transferring the Marines to Hawaii would not be a viable choice.

"It's most likely not going to happen and that a contingent from California will most likely be sent to Hawaii," Lamorena said.

Otherwise, it should be noted that this past Wednesday was the deadline for agencies that are part of the Civilian Military Task Force to submit a budget of financial requirements for fiscal year 2010 to the Bureau of Budget and Management Research.

Lamorena admits they have not received all of the budget requests. "Hopefully by today or early next week, everyone else will turn in their proposals," he said. "They have to project what their anticipated expenses are going to be in 2010."

The proposal will be turned over to Washington D.C. later on this month and will be comprised of agencies that will be impacted. They include the Department of Public Works, Guam Environmental Protection Agency, Guam Contractors Licensing Board, Dept. of Agriculture's Aquatic and Wildlife, Bureau of Planning's Coastal Management, and Department of Land Management.

Lee, in the meantime, indicated that budget requests for the construction required for the military buildup won't occur until two years from now. "Keep in mind they (federal government) are planning more for FY-2010. That's going to be the beginning of the actual construction funding." He said.

Gov. Felix Camacho is in Washington D.C. this week meeting with federal officials concerning the buildup. In his recent state of the island address, the governor mentioned that he and Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo would be "presenting their case" on the build up before Congress.

In the recently released draft military buildup master plan, the preferred site for the new Marine Corps Base on Guam is still near the Navy Computer and Telecommunications Station in Finegayan, Dededo. The draft master plan also lists an area of Apra Harbor that would be expanded for the Marines and Navy and the addition of an Army Missile Ballistic Task Force.

Residents are invited to discuss the plan from May 12 through May 15 in the following villages: May 12 - Mangilao community center; May 13 - Yigo gym; May 14 - Dededo community center; and May 15 - Yona community center.

CNMI to be included in DOD Economic Program

NMI to be included in DOD Economic Program
Press Release
Published in the Saipan Tribune

CNMI Resident Representative Pete A. Tenorio announced yesterday that a vital amendment to Department of Defense Programs has been introduced. Sponsored by Guam Rep. Madeleine Bordallo, H.R. 5931, the Joint Guam Projects Oversight Act, includes a section that proposes to include the CNMI and the Virgin Islands in the authorizing legislation for the Office of Economic Adjustment.

The OEA is responsible for the planning, directing, coordinating and managing of DoD economic adjustment programs for communities, areas, and states adversely affected by DoD realignment actions. It also assists local communities, areas, or states with special impact assistance in expanding public service facilities to meet requirements generated by major expansions or the establishment of new DoD installations.

“This is a major step forward in preparing for the relocation of marines to Guam from Okinawa. Even though DOD has not yet released their final plans for the relocation, it is important that the CNMI is eligible for these impact grants,” said Tenorio. “I am thankful to.Bordallo for including this provision in her bill, and looking out for our interests.”

The section is also included in the 2009 Defense Authorization bill that is currently under consideration by House Armed Services Committee.

“OEA grants will be essential for repairs to Tinian's harbor and other infrastructure to support DOD's plans for use of their land. I am very thankful to the Tinian Delegation and Phil Long for bringing this need to my attention,” said Tenorio.

Marines' Move to Guam May Be Delayed

Marines' move to Guam may be delayed
The Japan Times
Saturday, May 3, 2008

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) A plan to relocate U.S. Marines to Guam from Okinawa Prefecture by 2014 is facing delays due to the new host site's lack of infrastructure and fiscal constraints on the part of both governments, a U.S. government agency said Thursday.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a report submitted to the Senate that some Defense Department and Guam officials "believe that this is an optimistic schedule."

The relocation plan inked by Washington and Tokyo is part of a bilateral agreement in May 2006 to realign the U.S. military presence in Japan by 2014.

Any delay in relocating the marines to Guam could affect another key element of the agreement — relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station's heliport facility from downtown Ginowan to Nago, both in Okinawa.

While noting uncertainties over the final size of the military population and the kind of military facilities to be built, the GAO report touches on the possibility that an environmental impact assessment could be delayed.

It refers to "the complexities of moving thousands of marines and their dependents to Guam, and the need to obtain sufficient funding from the governments of the United States and Japan to support the move."

Immigration Flexibility for the CNMI

The Saipan Tribune, Sunday, May 04, 2008
GAO: Flexibility in immigration will be given NMI
By Rianne Pangelinan-Brown

The Government Accountability Office has issued its report on the pending legislation that would apply U.S. immigration laws to the CNMI with a transition period.

According to the GAO study, the pending legislation applies U.S. immigration law to the CNMI and provides federal agencies some flexibility on preserving the CNMI's access to workers, tourists, and foreign investors as it transitions to a federal system.

“During the transition period, foreign workers may be admitted to the CNMI through exemptions from caps that restrict the number of U.S. visas for nonimmigrant workers. Workers not otherwise eligible under federal law may be admitted through a CNMI-only permit program, which may be extended indefinitely for up to five years at a time,” the GAO reported.

It said that current workers who do not obtain U.S. immigration status may continue to live and work in the CNMI for a limited time. “During and after the transition period, CNMI employers also can petition for nonimmigrant and employment-based permanent immigration status for workers under the same procedures as other U.S. employers.”

The GAO said that access to foreign workers in low-skill jobs will be limited after the end of the transition period in 2013 or 2014 and after any extensions of the CNMI-only permit program “because the demand for certain U.S. nonimmigrant worker visas recently has exceeded the supply and because no nonimmigrant visas are available for workers in continuous low-skill positions.”

The GAO reported that while fees for the CNMI-only work permit will be determined by federal regulations and are unknown, the current fees for U.S. foreign worker permits that would apply after the end of the transition period and any extensions will be higher than the CNMI’s current foreign worker permit fees.

The report added that the pending legislation establishes a joint visa waiver program by adding the CNMI to an existing Guam visa waiver program.

“The program exempts tourism and business visitors from certain countries to the CNMI and Guam from the standard U.S. visa documentation requirements,” the GAO stated.

Citizens of countries not included in the CNMI-Guam or other U.S. visa waiver programs may apply for U.S. visitor visas, which require in-person applications and higher fees than the CNMI currently assesses. Changes in tourists’ access to the CNMI will depend on the countries included in the CNMI-Guam visa waiver program.

Until the joint program’s implementing regulations are established, GAO cannot determine whether the program will be more or less restrictive than the current CNMI and Guam waiver programs.

The GAO report concluded that after federal immigration law applies, new CNMI foreign investors must meet federal law’s more stringent investment requirements to obtain immigrant investor status, which allows investors to petition for U.S. permanent resident status that is currently unavailable in the CNMI.

“New investors also could apply for nonimmigrant treaty investor status. In addition, the pending legislation allows current CNMI foreign investors to convert to CNMI-only nonimmigrant treaty investors during the transition period,” the report states.

Federalization Now With Bush

Federalization bill now with Bush
The Saipan Tribune

The omnibus bill that extends federal immigration laws to the Northern Marianas is now with President Bush and it is expected to be signed within the next 10 days.

According to a status report on S.2739, the U.S. Congress' website states that the measure, officially called the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, was presented to the President on May 1 (Friday, Saipan time).

The bill authorizes certain programs and activities in the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service, and the Department of Energy, extends immigration laws to the CNMI, and amends the Compact of Free Association. It also gives the CNMI a non-voting delegate to Congress

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and introduced on March 10, 2008. It passed the U.S. Senate on April 10, 2008, on a vote of 91 - 4.

The U.S. House passed it on April 29, 2008, on a vote of 291 - 117, and was cleared for the White House that same day.

It was presented to President Bush on May 1, 2008.

The Fitial administration and the private sector have warned that the bill would further hurt the CNMI’s struggling economy. They believe that a federalized immigration system would make it difficult for the CNMI to hire alien workers to fill jobs on the islands. They also fear the CNMI will lose its edge as a destination for Russian and Chinese tourists.

Proponents of the immigration measure had hailed the passage of the bill.

Local business groups have committed to working with the administration and the federal government in the education effort and in the drafting the implementing rules and regulations.

“We need to think as practically as possible about this, and business people can help think things through. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” said Hotel Association of the NMI chair Lynn Knight in a previous interview.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Democratic Battles Shifts to the Pacific

Wednesday May 2, 2008
Democratic battle shifts to Pacific at weekend

By Maureen Maratita

THEY can't vote for the president, but thousands of people in the tiny U.S. territory of Guam will do their bit to decide the Democratic candidate this weekend.

The Pacific Ocean territory, which sends eight delegates with half a vote each to the Democratic convention in August, holds its primary on Saturday.

With Barack Obama leading Hilary Clinton by an estimated 1,733-1,598 in the delegate count, the vote from Guam may not count for much.

But the grueling fight between the two has riveted attention in the territory.

"It is a rare opportunity for the citizens of Guam to participate in the presidential primaries in a way that can have real effect," said Ron McNinch, a professor of public administration at the University of Guam.

"Usually, the main choices have formed by the time of the Guam process."

Guam, a 212 square mile island in the Western Pacific Ocean, was ceded to U.S. control at the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898. It is the only significantly populated U.S. territory to have ever been occupied by a foreign power -- the Japanese during World War Two.

The island returned to U.S. control in 1944. The Americans then built up an air base there, which saw heavy action for bombing runs during the Korean and Vietnam wars.

The United States plans to move 8,000 Marines and 10,000 dependents from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to Guam by 2014 as part of a global realignment of U.S. forces.

According to the Guam Election Commission, there are about 48,000 voters out of the island's 170,000 people, and about half of them are registered Democrats.

Only about 4,000 of these are likely to vote in the Democratic primary, but that is a huge jump from the 1,500 who voted in 2004.

The territory will also send five superdelegates to the Democratic convention.

People in Guam vote for a 15-seat unicameral house but have no electoral votes in the U.S. presidential elections.

"While it is ironic that Guamanians cannot vote for president, it is even more ironic that Guam has no voice in the U.S. Senate," McNinch said.

"For the first time since President Kennedy was elected in 1960, the president elected in 2008 will come directly from the U.S. Senate. Thus, the people of the U.S. territories face many ironies in their political relationships with the U.S. federal government."

But Guam is an island that has its own priorities. Democratic voters in the village of Inarajan cast their votes for the primary on April 26, so the village could celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph through the weekend of May 3.

On an island that has an annual calendar of fiestas set in stone, nobody has found that the least bit extraordinary.


Guam Always Left Out to Dry

'Year after tired year, Guam has been hung out to dry'
The Marianas Variety

I listened attentively to former President Bill Clinton call some of the island's radio stations yesterday. I admit that it was nice to hear his voice once again, and many of my friends and family appreciated his time and attention. However, I'm struck by the fact that the former president is calling once again for our island's assistance when it is Guam that has needed the help of the Clintons and the federal government for many years.

The people of Guam donated almost $600,000 to the Democratic National Committee during the Clinton Administration and almost $200,000 to the Clinton-Gore Campaign of 1996. Justifiably, there was never any problem taking our money, and I know that my fellow Democrats on Guam never made the Clintons feel embarrassed for asking repeatedly for more. That's politics. I get it.

But what has irritated many of us about the Clinton Administration is their follow through. In early 1997, when there arose a series of questions about money from China that may have made its way into the Clinton re-election campaign, enough individuals in the federal government who were opposed to Guam Commonwealth falsely began to lump us into the China mix, labeling us a foreign country running interference in American politics.

It would have been a relatively simple task for someone inside President Clinton's Administration to take a stand and let our nation know about the sacrifices our island and its sailors, soldiers and Marines continue to make in the name of America's defense, that we're the first line of defense in all of Asia. But this never happened. In fact, after Guam and China were lumped together in the national press, after the Clintons went back to their homes, those who had taken our money would not even take phone calls from Guam representatives.

On Guam, we're realistic about our relationship with the greatest nation on our earth. We understand we are small, but we still believe we are significant. We understand that because we gave money time and time again does not mean we would automatically get something in return, but even a common courtesy of a returned phone was lost by late February 1997, and many of us felt as if we were penalized because we had helped. This is not what we in the islands expect from those we have helped.

On May 3rd, Guam will go the polls to vote for our choice for the Democratic nominee for president. It gave me a warm feeling that President Clinton visited Guam in November 1998, and that he called some of our island's media outlets today. But I don't want warm feelings any longer. I want a true seat at the table. I want hope. I want change. And Sen. Barack Obama, who currently leads in the Democratic Primary with the most popular votes, pledged delegates, money raised and states won, is the only candidate left of the remaining three who I believe could provide a greater voice for our people in Washington D.C.

Barack Obama grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia as the product of a mixed race marriage. His mother worked through a period when they had to resort to food stamps and public assistance, and Obama excelled despite the obstacles. If anyone could ever understand the complex and unique struggles we face on Guam, it is Sen. Barack Obama, the inspirational junior senator from Illinois.

Ryan Flynn
Former Guam resident

Obama's Letter to the People of Guam

Obama's open letter to the people of Guam
The Marianas Variety - 5/2/08

Growing up in Hawaii, I learned firsthand about the unique issues facing Pacific island communities, while also appreciating the wonderful traditions of Pacific islanders. As a candidate to be the first President of the United States born and raised in the Pacific, I am determined to bring about real change for the people of Guam.

Our campaign is based on the premise that change happens from the bottom up, no matter how far you may be from Washington. That's why we have extended our grassroots movement to Guam, where we've opened a campaign office, put a leadership team in place that was born and raised on Guam, and drawn support from elected officials and community leaders from across the island.

On Monday, we presented a comprehensive policy agenda to make sure that Washington works better for Guam. As President, I will ensure that the people of Guam are heard during any military build-up, and make investments that lead to more jobs, improved infrastructure, and lasting development on the island. I'll also work with Congresswoman Bordallo to address Compact Impact reimbursements, while extending access to quality health care and education.

My commitment to making these changes is backed by a record of working for Pacific islanders in the Senate. I've stood up for Guam War claims, recognized the status of Native Hawaiians, and worked to tackle the unique health care challenges that Pacific island communities face.

That's why it's so disappointing that some have chosen to play politics and question my commitment to critical issues related to Filipino veterans. Because as a native son of Hawaii – and grandson of a World War II veteran – I know that the patriotism of Pacific islanders is rooted in shared values and the legacy of shared sacrifices during World War II.

Let me set the record straight. I co-sponsored the Filipino Veterans Equity Act in the Senate because I believe deeply that we must honor the heroic sacrifices of Filipinos who fought side by side with Americans on behalf of freedom. My staff stayed in close contact with key national organizations like the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans as well as the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity, which heralded my support "at a critical juncture for this bill."

Earlier last year I was proud to join my friend Chairman Daniel Akaka in voting to pass key elements of this important measure out of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and send it to the full Senate as part of an omnibus package of long overdue benefits for our veterans. I was on the campaign trail when the Senate voted on final passage of this measure, but since the bill passed with a comfortable margin, I knew my vote was not needed.

I strongly support swift action on getting this package, the Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act (S.1315), sent to the president for signature. This bill finally provides Filipino veterans and their survivors with the benefits that they were promised, and that they bravely earned in battle. Indeed, throughout my time in the Senate, I have fought to increase care and benefits for our veterans and their families And I will continue to fight to ensure we are keeping that sacred trust.

The United States has a special relationship with Guam and the Chamorro people. But under Democratic and Republican administrations, Washington has failed to keep its promises to the people of Guam. If you support me on May 3rd, we can finally bring about the change that is needed in Washington to benefit the people of Guam. If you stand for change, I will stand up for you as President.

Barack Obama

U.S. Senate

Akaka Speaks to Seante Committee on Guam's Military Buildup

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) has attended a hearing this week on the military buildup on Guam, and the impact on the civilian community, planning, and response, in the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which has jurisdiction over U.S. territories such as Guam.

His opening statement follows:

Thank you Chairman Bingaman and Ranking Member Domenici for holding this hearing. I see that we are also joined by my former colleague, Congressman Ben Blaz of Guam, Aloha Ben.

I welcome our witnesses, especially those that have traveled a great distance to testify today. I look forward to receiving your testimony as the Committee explores the impact that the DOD’s plans for an increased military presence will have on the population Guam. I also look forward to the opportunity to discuss the planning and resources needs of the civilian community in preparation and response to the build-up.

It is my understanding that while the Department of Defense has established a broad framework for military build-up on Guam, the DoD continues their planning process including a the preparation of the of a Join Guam Joint Military Master Plan which I understand is still in the DOD review process. Similarly, I know that the Government of Guam is still in the initial stages of addressing the many infrastructure challenges associated with the military build-up. I want to congratulate you for the work you have all done thus far. I know this process poses many inherent challenges and unexpected difficulties and you are to be commended for your efforts.

As we move forward, it is crucial that DoD and other federal agencies continue to work in close coordination with one another and Guam's local government. In particular, it is vitally important that each entity and contributing partner share a collective understanding based on accurate and timely information with respect not only to the military’s but also the community’s needs. Only by working collaboratively will we truly be able to plan accordingly including ensuring that federal resources are appropriately allocated to this undertaking.

I also want to take this opportunity to express my support of H.R. 1595, the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act, which passed in the House and is currently pending before the Senate Committee on Judiciary. The people of Guam deserve no less than to be recognized for the loyalty and courage they displayed during the World War II occupation of Guam by the Japanese.

Once again, thank you to the witnesses for appearing before us today.

Guam Democats Grateful for Privilege of Being Involved

Guam Democrats grateful for privilege of being involved
by Ronna Sweeney, KUAM News
Saturday, May 03, 2008

How have the campaign ads and interviews with local media for presidential candidate hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton paid off with the Democratic voters of Guam? A steady stream of such supporters made their way to the polls today. In Mangilao, retired sailor Manuel Leon Guerrero Sablan and his wife Aurora agreed it's an exciting time to be on island, with the former saying, "This is a very history for us to try and come out like this and try and vote for the president of the United States." Aurora added, "I vote for the people that will benefit the island of Guam, and this time I am going to vote for Hillary Clinton because she's going to be the first woman president."

While we found plenty of Senator Clinton supporters at the polls, equally out in force were those in favor of Senator Obama. Kerry Cutting said, "It's Guam's chance to be in the sun. I want to participate in the process. We usually don't get a chance to participate in the presidential process. I supported Barack Obama."

Some, like Bill Pesch of Sinajana, chose to keep their preference for either candidate private, but did note how important it is to be involved in the whole caucus process. "I think it's an exciting election, because really for the first time Guam's votes count and we've had some promises made by both the Democratic nominee hopefuls. Let's hold them to their words and see what happens if they're elected."

And with every vote counting, a number of island residents registered as democrats in order to participate today. Another Sinajana resident, Marvin Quinata encourages everyone to get involved, telling KUAM News, "It's for the better of the people of Guam, so I just want to tell my friends and colleagues to come down and vote because every vote counts because it will really help the people of Guam."

If you'd still like to participate in the Democratic Caucus, the polls remain open until 8 o'clock this evening.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Federalization OKed by Congress

Congress OKs Federalization Bill
The Saipan Tribune
Thursday, May 01, 2008
By Agnes E. Donato, Reporter

A bill federalizing the immigration system in the Commonwealth is only one step away from being law.

By a vote of 291-117, the U.S. House of Representatives approved yesterday Senate bill 2739, which includes a provision to federalize immigration controls in the Northern Marianas. The bill also grants the Northern Marianas a delegate with limited voting powers in the U.S. House.

The measure now heads to the White House. Once the bill is received from Congress, President George W. Bush has 10 days to sign the bill into law. With Bush expected to approve the legislation, the federalization bill could be in effect within the next three weeks.

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial deferred issuing comments on the passage of the bill, which his administration has opposed strongly.

“I am pleased with the enactment of the legislation providing for a Northern Marianas delegate in the House of Representatives. I am disappointed with the remainder of the legislation and may have further comments on the subject in my State of the Commonwealth speech on Friday,” he said.

Pete A. Tenorio, the Commonwealth's resident representatives to Washington, D.C., called the expected enactment of the bill “a new era for our government.”

“I am pleased with the passage of the bill, and I am sure most people will agree with me that this something we needed for a long time,” said Tenorio.

Rep. Tina Sablan, also a supporter of the bill, said she was pleased that “we're one step closer to normalizing our labor and immigration.” She expressed hope that local officials and community leaders would now stop arguing the pros and cons of the bill and work together to make the new system work for the Commonwealth.

For the local business sector, hotel industry leader Lynn M. Knight warned of the bill's massive implications which she said will not be fully understood until the bill is implemented.

“This legislation will put further strains on a small island economy that is already in a severe economic decline. We hope it will not hamper our ability to recover,” said Knight, chairwoman of the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands.

“Unfortunately, rather than taking the opportunity to give us tools to pick our economy back up, the bill does not offer any incentives to help mitigate the impacts it will have as it forces massive changes. Going forward, it is clear that we are going to need more help,” she added.

But Knight also said that HANMI is committed to working with the administration and the federal government on the education effort and on the drafting the implementing rules and regulations.

“We need to think as practically as possible about this, and business people can help think things through. We've got a lot of work ahead of us,” she said.

Jim Arenovski, president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, told Saipan Tribune in an e-mail that he has nothing new to say on the bill. “It just passed the House as predicted and we will probably have nothing to say when the President signs it.”

Proponents of the immigration measure in the U.S. House hailed the passage of the bill.

“For too long, abuses took place in the CNMI, and for too long, remedial legislation was hostage in this body. Let this legislation bring forth a new dawn, a start of a new era, and with a delegate to this body, let the voices of the people of the CNMI be heard,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick J. Rahall. He co-sponsored the House immigration bill that was later incorporated in the Senate bill.

U.S. Virgin Islands Rep. Donna M. Christensen, chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs and chief sponsor of the House bill, sought to allay fears of local employers about the future ability to hire foreign workers in the Commonwealth.

“The Congress approval of [the Northern Mariana Islands Immigration, Security, and Labor Act] will ensure that employers have the ability to fill jobs, continue vocational training to CNMI residents with skills needed to succeed in their economy, foster partnerships with neighboring Guam to diversify the region's economy, maintain adequate protections for the nonresident guest worker community, and strategically secure the Marianas archipelago,” said Christensen.

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr., also a cosponsor of ISLA, said the federalization bill “closes the guest worker loophole under which so many were held in modern slavery. The Constitution's guarantee of freedom must apply everywhere in the United States, no matter how remote.”

For her part, Guam Rep. Madeleine Z. Bordallo praised the provision granting the CNMI a congressional delegate. “I look forward to the day that the delegate from the CNMI is sworn in to the House of Representatives,” she said.

The Bush Administration has testified before both the House and Senate in support of the legislation. Christensen, expressing a strong concern that all people on the CNMI have an opportunity to voice their opinions on H.R. 3079, held the first Congressional hearing on the islands in August 2007.

New WWII Monument on Guam

Japan peace groups to unveil WWII monument in Guam
Kyodo News
May 2 02:38 AM US/Eastern

TOKYO, May 2 (AP) - (Kyodo) — Japanese peace groups are set to unveil a cenotaph in Guam on May 18 to honor the more than 20,000 Japanese and U.S. soldiers as well as islanders who lost their lives in the Battle of Guam in 1944.

Peace Ring of Guam, a Guam-based nonprofit organization, and its Japanese arm have erected the monument by the sea in Agat Village, one of two locations on the western coast where U.S. forces landed and fought with Japanese troops.

Kensuke Haga, vice president of the Guam group, said he hopes many Japanese tourists will visit the Agat WWII Peace Memorial Monument and learn about wartime incidents on the resort island including massacres by Japanese soldiers of members of the local Chamorro ethnic group.

"We want to share the pain Japan inflicted on the Chamorro people during the war to create true friendship between Japan and Guam," Haga, 59, said.

Guam, a popular tropical resort for Japanese tourists, is known as the site where some 8,000 Marines based in the southern Japan prefecture of Okinawa will be relocated in line with a 2006 Japan-U.S. agreement on the realignment of the U.S. military.

"But the number of people who know about Guam's war history is very limited" and it was this reality that prompted the peace group to build the cenotaph, Haga said.

The Chinese "kanji" character for the Japanese word "wa" (harmony) is engraved in the center of the marble cenotaph, which is 2.4 meters wide and 1.7 meters high and cost 3.6 million yen.

The character is based on calligraphy by former Imperial Japanese Army soldier Shoichi Yokoi who was found in a jungle in Guam in 1972 believing that Japan and the United States were still at war.

The village of Agat has provided a site for a planned tourist center where the cenotaph stands.

Agat Mayor Carol Tayama told Kyodo News that she welcomes the project as she has worked hard to "encourage harmony between the Japanese and Chamorros." She also said, "I am very proud we can have the monument to signify the feeling we have."

The old imperial Japanese military invaded Guam, a U.S. possession since 1898, in December 1941 and the U.S. military reoccupied the 550- square-kilometer island after landings July 21, 1944 on the western coast at Agat and Asan. It is believed that nearly 20,000 Japanese soldiers and more than 1,000 U.S. soldiers as well as some 700 islanders were killed in the battle, according to Haga and the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Peace Ring of Guam Japan, based in Tokyo, plans to send a delegate to the ceremony. The group comprises former Japanese soldiers and people who lost their relatives in the fighting in Guam as well as their supporters.

Heitaro Matsumoto, a 67-year-old corporate executive who heads the Tokyo group, said, "We should not let the history of the Battle of Guam fade with time."

Senate Committee Hears About Buildup's Impacts to Guam

Senate committee hears testimony on buildup's impacts on Guam
by Clynt Ridgell, KUAM News
Friday, May 02, 2008

Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo and Governor Felix Camacho testified before a U.S. Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy this morning. The full committee hearing was held to hear testimony on the U.S. Military buildup on Guam with regards to its impact on the civilian community. Both elected leaders say they were able to present Guam's concerns and needs related to the military buildup during this morning's hearing.

The congresswoman explains in more detail some of the things she discussed with the full committee, telling KUAM News, "Specifically, I raised the issue of memorandums of understanding between the Government of Guam and their federal counterparts. MOUs will help keep a level of continuity in the buildup process as administrations here in Washington, DC will change at the end of the year."

Governor Camacho says while it was a privilege to sit before the committee. More importantly, it was an opportunity to make the community's case to the Senate about the buildup. "I focused specifically on the fact that this is going to have a severe impact on the people of Guam and that there are monies appropriated to take care of the Department of Defense commitment to the buildup but not to the civilian government, not to the people of Guam," the chief executive recalled.

The governor says he also stressed the importance of MOUs and, in fact, has already coordinated at least one. "We have established a memorandum of understanding with the Maritime Administration, upon which they will administer any funds that would come through, be it federal. It's been back and forth and right now I believe it's with the Maritime Administration for their final acceptance once they sign off on it it'll come back to me. I believe there was a $100,000 commitment as seed money to begin this process," Camacho added.

In addition to MOUs, the congresswoman says she's working on a bill known as the Joint Guam Projects Oversight Act, which she will be introducing shortly. "We cover the MOUs, we cover all of the concerns that the people of Guam have with about this buildup, so we're just putting it in bill form. It will probably be included in the appropriation measure, but we want to be sure it's specific and that we get what we feel is owed to us with this buildup, we're taking care of the people of Guam," Bordallo said. "So certainly I hope this is favorably received."

The congresswoman says this will likely be included in the 2010 Appropriations Act. Both the congresswoman and the governor agree that Guam will need assistance in beefing up the port and it's infrastructure from the U.S. federal government if this move is going to happen. Governor Camacho said, "Something of this nature and magnitude and the severity of it, in such a short compressed timeline, no American community can be expected to be bear such a burden and certainly they could not place that burden on the people of Guam.

"And we are asking and requesting for their help in the way of appropriations."