Thursday, April 30, 2009

M. Variety Banned by JGPO

Variety Banned by JGPO
Wednesday, 29 April 2009 01:59
by Jennifer Naylor Gesick
Marianas Variety News Staff

THE Joint Guam Project Office yesterday barred the entry of the Marianas Variety staff to all three venues hosting the Guam Industry Forum III. Two Variety reporters and a staff photographer were told by officials at the check-in tables at the Sheraton, Hilton and Marriot hotels that the Variety has been “banned” from attending the event.

Onsite industry forum personnel notified the reporting staff that the ban was on a “federal level” and was issued as a “government order” from U.S. Marine Corp Capt. Neil Ruggiero with the Joint Guam Project Office. JGPO is the liaison between Guam and the military regarding the military buildup.

The ban was in effect in all venues, as confirmed by Variety reporters in the field. Press passes were printed for every media company on island, except for the Variety.

When reached for comment yesterday afternoon, Ruggiero refused to call the restriction a “ban,” and claimed that the forum personnel were subcontracted and were not speaking directly for JGPO.

Registration fee
Ruggiero argued that Variety could have attended the event as a business if the publishers had registered with the forum.

“Marianas Variety was given the same opportunity as anyone else, they just chose not to be paying registrants, [Pacific Daily News] chose to pay and they were allowed access,” he said.

“I had to pay to work, everybody has to pay to be there,” Ruggiero added.

However, any media covering the event was allowed in free.

In response to claims of a violation of the freedom of the press in restricting access to the forum, Ruggiero responded that “the press who only stays one session is allowed in free.” That accommodation was not extended to the Variety.

Ruggiero also said that a Variety columnist was given access to represent the paper.

Variety columnist Jayne Flores confirmed that she was given a pass, but Ruggiero later said, “I told her she could not come as Marianas Variety or write any news for them.”

Firing range
The “ban” stemmed from a story titled “DoD’s plan to build off-base ranges confirmed,” published in the Jan. 15 issue of the Variety, in which the JGPO was reported to have confirmed speculations on the Department of Defense’s plan to build firing ranges on Route 15 in Yigo, commonly known as “the back road to Andersen.”

“These are small arms ranges that are not new to Guam; rifle and pistol ranges as well as machine gun ranges that are direct fire weapons and primarily used for the annual qualifications of Marines,” the Variety quoted a written article submitted by Ruggiero on behalf of the author Lt. Col. Rudy Kube, JGPO’s operations director.

Prior to publication of the story, the Variety editor informed Ruggiero that Kube’s piece would be rewritten as a staff-story. He did not object to the request, but protested when the article was published.

Ruggiero has since informed the paper’s staff that Variety would no longer have any access to any JGPO officials.

Out of context
“Your paper took an editorial out of context. In doing so your readers did not get the full story,” Ruggiero said. “We chose to no longer deal with your paper.”

Ruggiero denied sending a response to the editors, which is commonly done to properly address such issues. “No, I did not write a rebuttal letter. I wanted Amier [Younis] (Variety operations manager) to reprint the original letter as a whole,” he said.

Ruggiero could not grant Variety’s request for access as of press time. “I will have to talk to my boss about that.”

Expressing her opinion on the media ban, Sen. Judy Guthertz, in a letter promptly written yesterday to JGPO director Maj. Gen. David Bice, USMC (Ret.), stressed the importance of granting all media companies equal treatment.

She wrote, “I am writing to express my disappointment that representatives of the federal government have reportedly prohibited a member of Guam’s media, specifically the Marianas Variety, from covering the Guam Industry Forum.

“I understand that JGPO may have a problem or problems with the content of one or more of the Variety’s news stories or editorials. Whatever the case may be, I urge you to strive to work out those problems with the editors and publisher, and not prevent members of the media to cover an important part of what will likely be our island’s more important story this year,” she told Bice.

The letter concluded: “Multiple media voices can be of great value to a community, especially one as small as Guam, where coverage from different sources can often help to provide a variety of points of view.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Battle of Saipan: Vanguard

Once the ultimate globalization success story, the island of Saipan now faces one of the fastest economic collapses in history. After suffering a harsh history of military struggles as well as a temporary economic boom after becoming a U.S. commonwealth, the island now stands devastated. Scores of factories remain empty, rotting shopping centers litter the country, and former factory workers turn to the sex industry for survival. Adam Yamaguchi visits Saipan to document the rise and sudden collapse of a tiny piece of America.

Guam Traditional Chamorro Canoes

Manhita - Building Our Future Together

The tiny Pacific island of Guam is preparing for the largest single U.S. military buildup since World War II, bracing for 20 years worth of development at a break-neck pace of less than 5 years. Between now and 2014, $15 billion will be poured into the economy and a tiny island population of 170,000 residents will balloon by as much as 25% virtually overnight. The impact on Guams society, economy, environment, culture, public services, utilities and infrastructure in the context of a complicated relationship between the islands indigenous people and the U.S. federal government is daunting and inevitable. In this documentary, islanders grapple with how to harness the opportunities of the buildup to shape a positive destiny not just for the military, but especially for Guam and its people.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Remembering Angel Santos

Remembering Angel Santos
Thursday, 16 April 2009 03:16 by Zita Y. Taitano | Variety News Staff

THERE may be no official ceremony to mark the 50th birthday of the late senator Angel Santos, but those who remember his contributions to Guam lit candles to honor the man who fought for the Chamorro people’s rights.The late stone park in Hagatna was named in honor of the late senator Angel Santos, who was known as an advocate of Chamorro rights and credited for the creation of the Chamorro Land Trust by Zita Y. Taitano

Surviving family members, relatives, friends, supporters and activists gathered at the Angel Santos Latte Stone Park in Hagatna on Tuesday night to pay tribute to the late senator, who passed away in July 2003 at the age of 44.

Among the coordinators of the ceremony was Jonathan Diaz, of Nasion Chamorro, who said that the main people responsible for the event were the Santos family.

Diaz said the family traditionally held a ceremony to commemorate Diaz’s death, but this year they decided to pay homage to him on his birthday, April 14.

Tuesday night’s vigil attracted more than 200 people, most of whom knew Santos not only as a leader, but as a friend.

“People are still mourning their leader’s death. When we look back, we realize that he was radical in a sense,” said Diaz.

Paraphrasing a speech that Santos delivered years ago, Diaz said the community “cannot be passive nor silent and that the government should stand in defense of its people.”

“Let’s help our people. Please stand and make it work. Nobody’s Angel Santos. I think he would stand for the plight of our people,” Diaz said.

Santos was credited for the creation of the Chamorro Land Trust Commission, which is currently facing challenges.

Activist Debbie Quinata said if “Anghet were alive, the situation with Chamorro land trust would not have taken place.”Family members light candles at the Angel Santos Latte Stone Park in Hagatna on Tuesday night to pay tribute to the late by Zita Y. Taitano

“He would’ve watched it closely and would’ve been in compliance with the law,” said Quinata. “I think that when we lost Angel we lost a man of compassion and a man of integrity and its’ a very big loss for the Chamorro people of Guam.”

She recalled that Santos was not easily intimated and that he questioned authority in the proper manner.

“We lost a great leader and its’ sad for the upcoming generation,” Quinata said. “But I think his contributions will never be forgotten. He taught the responsibility of standing for what’s right.”

She said Santos stood out from the rest because of his honesty and integrity.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

GYC Passes Same Sex Civil Union Bill

Youth congress pass bill to legalize same sex civil unions
By Yvonne S. Lee
Pacific Daily News
April 10, 2009

The 27th Guam Youth Congress has passed a bill to legalize same sex civil unions on Guam. This is the second attempt by Speaker Derick Baza Hills to pass such a measure. A similar bill failed in the 25th Youth Congress by one vote.

As a Democrat, "I must press forward with realizing that every person is created equal, and all men carry the same weight in society," Hills said in a press release yesterday.

He cited recent coverage of same-sex marriage being legalized in Vermont and Iowa by major media outlets in the U.S. mainland, and said it would require action by the courts to "allow for equal rights" across America, according to a press release yesterday.

On April 7, Vermont became the first state to legalize gay marriage through a legislative vote by overriding the governor's veto, according to the Associated Press. It was the fourth state to recognize gay marriage in the United States. The other states are Iowa, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Rhode Island and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages from other states; New Jersey and New Hampshire allow for same sex civil unions. In California and Oregon, statewide laws provide nearly all state-level spousal rights to unmarried couples, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"I don't feel we should initiate same sex marriage... but that doesn't mean we shouldn't allow for equal rights for those with alternative lifestyles," Hills said.

Hills called for the Guam Legislature to introduce legislation to legalize same sex civil unions on island.

"We do have advocates in the Legislature ... I do feel and know that there are senators comfortable supporting this legislation," Hills said.

Military Expansion Will Tax Guam's Infrastructure

GAO Says Military Expansion Will Tax Guam's Infrastructure
Walter Pincus
Washington Post
Sunday, April 12, 2009; Page A02

The infrastructure and social services on Guam in the next five years will not meet the needs of the more than 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents expected to relocate there, even as other U.S. military facilities on the Pacific island are expanding, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Under a 2005 agreement with Japan, the Marines will transfer from Okinawa to Guam by 2014. At the same time, a $13 billion expansion is planned for Air Force bases and Navy port facilities on the island. Together, the changes will increase Guam's population by almost 15 percent and "substantially" tax the island's infrastructure, the GAO said in a report sent to Congress on Friday.

Guam's water and wastewater systems "are near capacity and demand may increase by 25 percent," the GAO said. The island's solid-waste facilities have "reached the end of their projected useful life," and the military construction demands "will exceed local capacity and the availability of workers on Guam," the GAO added. As a result, outside workers will need to move to the island, the report said.

Also citing what could be an inadequate electric grid capacity and an overload for Guam's only two major highways, the GAO called on Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to urge that other government agencies make the island's problems a higher priority in their budgets.

Although the Defense Department is expected to pay for infrastructure projects directly related to the military buildup and contribute toward utilities and roads, the Guam government "is largely responsible for obtaining funding for civilian requirements related to the buildup," the GAO said.

At a May Senate hearing, Gov. Felix P. Camacho (R) said Guam would need $6.1 billion for fiscal 2010 to support the military buildup. Guam's revenue for fiscal 2010 is projected at $532 million.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

30 Tinian Farmers May Be Displaced by the US Military

30 Tinian farmers, ranchers may be displaced by the US military
By Moneth Deposa
The Saipan Tribune
April 3, 2009

A significant number of farmers, ranchers, and hog raisers on Tinian are expected to be displaced if the U.S. military decides to fully utilize the property it leased on the island.

According to the Tinian Legislative Delegation, up to 30 ranchers and farmers -- about 80 percent of the island's agriculture sector -- would be affected and the municipality needs to find a site soon for their relocation.

Delegation chair Sen. Joseph Mendiola said final plans detailing what specific part of Tinian will be used for military exercises and training will be presented to the island's leaders in July.

The U.S. military holds the lease to about two-thirds of available land on Tinian.

“We don't know yet the final plans for Tinian. Up to this time, we're still waiting word from the military, which is also coordinating with the municipality and the governor. [There is] no final word yet if all two-thirds of Tinian would be used for their training sites,” he said.

Without the military's confirmation, the delegation cannot plan for the future of its farmers and ranchers, Mendiola said.

Although the Tinian community is counting on the positive economic impact of the buildup, they are also concerned about possible displacement.

“A lot of farmers and ranchers would be displaced if they [U.S. military] decide to use the entire two-thirds of Tinian,” Mendiola said

The senator said some public lands on Tinian may be identified as new sites for the farmers and ranchers.

If it were up to him, Mendiola said, he prefers that the military use the North Field as an exclusive military training ground.

He added that the island's airport is close to the U.S. military's leased property and problems may arise if the area is used for live-fire training and other military exercises.

The transfer of some 8,000 Marines from Okinawa, Japan to Guam starting in 2012 is projected to benefit the CNMI, particularly Tinian.

However, Mendiola said, even the approximate number of U.S. Marines who will be assigned to Tinian is not known yet.

“Even that number is not available to us.we're still on a 'waiting game,'” he said, adding that whatever recommendation the CNMI leadership may have for the military would be supported by the delegation.

Marianas Buildup, Not Guam Buildup

'Marianas buildup, not Guam military buildup'
By Haidee V. Eugenio
Saipan Tribune
April 3, 2009

Guam Lt. Gov. Michael Cruz yesterday said he and Gov. Felix P. Camacho propose to rename what has long been known as the Guam military buildup to “Marianas buildup,” and both look to forming a regional economic task force to tap a projected $2 billion to $4 billion in annual defense-related contracts associated with the influx of military personnel on Guam.

Cruz was the keynote speaker at yesterday's opening of the two-day 2009 Economic Restoration Summit, which drew over a hundred businessmen and government officials from the CNMI and Guam.

He talked about the growing need for a regional approach to the economic challenges faced by the Marianas.

“I firmly believe that Guam's strategic value would diminish if not for the assets of the CNMI. The complexity of current military operations and the security requirements which accompany them cannot be resolved by one island alone,” Cruz told participants in the summit held at the Fiesta Resort and Spa in Garapan.


In his remarks, Cruz said he and Camacho propose a regional program in which the CNMI government will share experts with Guam for up to four years, with taxes paid to the Commonwealth to ensure critical government services.

Cruz said the next four years will increase Guam's need for tax enforcement officers, building inspectors, environmental health inspectors, policy specialists and public safety officers.

Although Guam will train its people to meet the increased demand, the number of needed positions requires that it finds other sources such as the CNMI.

“If the CNMI has an excess of these officials, we believe our governments can engage in a program of shared expertise during the peak years of the buildup,” he said.

The program, according to Cruz, would allow the region to share in Guam's future prosperity and by giving jobs to people.


CNMI Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, in his welcoming remarks, recognized the military buildup and the federal stimulus funding as opportunities for the islands.

The summit identified agriculture, aquaculture, edu-tourism and call centers as alternative industries for the CNMI, and brought together experts, entrepreneurs, lawmakers and other policymakers to help develop these industries.

Results of the summit will be presented at the U.S. Department of the Interior-sponsored Business Opportunities in the Islands Conference in Hawaii from April 6 to 8.

In an interview, Cruz recognized the CNMI's growing interest in agriculture and aquaculture which on Guam, “unfortunately, is sort of a dying industry because of multiple concerns, and the increasing price of land.”

Reducing the cost of shipping goods from the CNMI to Guam, he said, is a key area of cooperation.

“Gov. Felix Camacho has been very strong about ensuring the region benefits from the prosperity that Guam is going to see. A healthy region is a healthy Guam, and a healthy Guam should mean a healthy region,” Cruz said.

He added that the Marianas buildup recognizes the various impacts the military relocation will have on the islands, which need to work collaboratively to share in the success coming their way.

“This region must deal with a higher military profile, a large population influx, and a severe lack of skilled labor. If we do not meet our challenges together, we will be divided by them.” he added.

To implement this concept, Cruz and Camacho propose the creation of a regional economic task force that will use the Marianas buildup as the initial engine to address the region's economic concerns.

The proposed economic task force is seen to explore continued collaboration on the guest worker program to ensure new federal regulations address the region's shared concerns.

Accompanying Cruz on Saipan for the summit was his chief of staff, Carlotta De Leon Guerrero, a former TV anchor on Saipan.


Businesses in the CNMI and Guam experience significant difficulty identifying federal contracts and obtaining them, according to Cruz.

While companies with Guam addresses transacted approximately $250 million with the federal government last year, only less than 10 percent of the companies in Guam actually performed the work, he said.

“With a projected $2 billion to $4 billion per year in defense-related contracts associated with the buildup, companies throughout Guam, the CNMI and Micronesia must participate in these good times, especially after we survived the hard times,” said Cruz.

Over the next four years, Guam's population is expected to grow by 28 to 30 percent-the equivalent of some 22 years of population growth occurring in less than a third of that time.

Cruz said the government of Guam is spearheading efforts to prepare for the buildup, but these efforts are not for the military alone.

A dramatic increase in the population requires an upgrade to public services such as health, education, public safety, cultural preservation and economic development.

No easy solutions

Fitial, in his welcoming remarks at the summit, said it's not an easy task to develop promising new industries because of a dramatic change in the economic environment.

For example, the CNMI no longer holds its traditional competitive advantages such as local control of minimum wage rates, local control of immigration, and duty-free access to U.S. markets via Headnote 3(a) provision.

There may be no easy solutions, he said, but the Economic Restoration Summit represents a “good, healthy starting point.”

Fitial thanked former Supreme Court chief justice Jose S. Dela Cruz and others for publicly calling for an economic summit to discuss the CNMI's problems. He also thanked Commerce Secretary Michael Ada for organizing the summit along with other public and private sector agencies such as CDA, Northern Marianas College, and IT&E.

The well organized summit, co-sponsored by the Department of Commerce and the Commonwealth Development Authority, identified agriculture, aquaculture, edu-tourism and call centers as alternative industries for the CNMI.

Commerce Secretary Ada presented the Commonwealth Economic Development Strategy, which serves as a master plan for the CNMI's economic development. Among the priority projects involve the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., inter-island super ferry, alternative energy, and housing. Ada also provided an update on CNMI efforts to tap into the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or the federal stimulus package.

Dr. Arthur L. Smith, president of consulting firm Management Analysis Inc., said with half-a-billion dollar in proposed projects, the cost of which is more than three times the CNMI's annual budget, there is increased opportunity for public-private partnership.

He cited as examples the CUC power plant 1, Garapan Elementary School, Garapan redevelopment, Pinatang Beach Park, alternative energy and international sports complex as areas in which public-private partnership can benefit the CNMI.

Sergio Loya, project manager of MAI, presented the results of discussions on aquaculture, agriculture and edu-tourism. Each was followed by presentations of experts and entrepreneurs, including Dr. Shaun Moss of the Oceanic Institute who talked about aquaculture; businessman Tony Pellegrino, who talked about agriculture; and Wayne Pangelinan, who talked about edu-tourism.

The summit was broadcast through video teleconference to Rota and Tinian participants, who were also able to ask the presenters questions.