Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Federal Receiver in Possible Violation at Layon

Federal receiver in possible violation
Tuesday, 30 June 2009
by Therese Hart
Marianas Variety News

THE Guam Environmental Protection Agency is conducting an investigation into the earthwork project at the Layon landfill site, after receiving aerial photos of the landscape, clearly showing some kind of drainage system or culvert where water is being diverted to.

Conchita Taitano, administrator of the Air and Land division, said yesterday that her administrator, Lorilee Crisostomo, passed on a letter sent by Sen. Rory Respicio addressing his concerns regarding recent activities at the landfill site.

Taitano said yesterday that she was very concerned and has contacted GEPA’s water division to investigate. She also e-mailed federal receiver, Gershman, Brickner & Bratton for a response and is awaiting word from the company representative, Chris Lund.

Variety asked Taitano, who had reviewed the photos, if she could tell by the photos whether the apparent water was just rain run-off settling into the new pond or if the groundwater had been reached during the earthmoving process and was now filling the depression.

The administrator of the Air and Land division at GEPA also stated that she could not comment, by “just looking at a photo,” but did say that GEPA is delving into the matter.

“Is that rain water or is that water that was dug up and is filling? I don’t know the answer at this point in time. The administrator gave me the letter last week. I scanned it. I emailed the letter to our water division to investigate this. I also emailed GBB to explain this,” a clearly concerned Taitano told Variety.

The aerial photos clearly show two huge pipes attached to an apparatus of some sort, as well as four excavators.

“Particularly odd is the need for excavators,” said Senator Respicio. The senator believes that such equipment is not required for the type of earthworks the federal receiver should be doing at the site at this point in time.

“There are many questions raised by this photograph,” he said. Taitano would seem to agree.

“It’s obvious in the photos that there are pipes down there. The question needs to be asked--is water being drained out of there? And where is the water coming from? Is the water coming down from higher ground or did someone hit the groundwater? I don’t know at this time,” said Taitano.

TG Engineers is clearing the earth for the construction of Cells 1 and 2 of the new landfill. The contractor is behind schedule, but that is not unusual during the early stages of such work, according to a report filed with the court by the federal receiver.

Speaker Judi Won Pat said that she had spoken to Taitano as well to express her concern about what is taking place in Inarajan.

“It was my understanding that as the earthwork is being done, there would be no contact with the groundwater. I don’t know what’s going on down there, but the concerns are valid and we must get clarification from the federal receiver about what’s happening,” said Won Pat.

Won Pat reiterated her feelings about groundwater that could possibly be used for residents in the south being contaminated because of the new landfill development.

“I don’t want to jump the gun, but every effort must be taken to address all these concerns. I await the response from Guam EPA,” said the speaker.

Respicio said that Guam EPA has the responsibility to ensure that the companies that have received permits perform only those functions that their permits allow.

The aerial photographs were attributed to local photographer Steve Hardy; however, Respicio said he did not commission the flight or engage the photographer. It is still unclear why the photos were taken in the first place.

House Bill Would Sharply Raise Cost of Guam Project

House Bill Would Sharply Raise Cost of Guam Project
By Walter Pincus
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Washington Post

A little-publicized provision in the fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill approved by the House last week would double the $10 billion cost of construction on Guam as part of the realignment of U.S. military forces in the Pacific.

The planned move of 8,000 U.S. Marines and about 3,600 other U.S. military troops and their dependents from Okinawa and mainland Japan to Guam over the next five years was originally expected to cost about $15 billion.

Of that total, $10 billion would be in construction of facilities, family housing and public utilities.

But a provision in last week's House bill would require that construction companies pay their employees working on Guam's realignment construction projects wages equivalent to rates in Hawaii, which are 250 percent higher than those on Guam, according to the Joint Guam Program Office.

The Congressional Budget Office report attached to the House bill estimates the growth in labor costs from this provision alone "would increase the need for discretionary appropriations by about $10 billion over the 2010-2014 period."

The provision was authored by Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), the fourth-ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

Another amendment Abercrombie added to the bill would limit to 30 percent the proportion of foreign workers that would be allowed to work on these projects.

"At a time when a depressed economy has dealt a body blow to our construction industry, the Department of Defense should not even consider turning over badly needed jobs to foreign workers at questionable wages," Abercrombie told his constituents.

"This is a huge opportunity to put Americans to work, in an American territory, building an American military base. My amendments provide clear guidelines to manage the buildup while ensuring quality work for our service members and their families," he added.

Another provision would require the secretary of labor to report to the House and Senate Armed Services committees by June 30, 2010, "on efforts to expand the recruitment of construction workers in the United States to support this effort; on the ability of labor markets to support the Guam realignment."

Not everyone agreed with Abercrombie's proposals. Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), also an Armed Services Committee member, said during debate on the bill, "This provision will lead to inflated wages in Guam, while taking American jobs from construction projects in Texas, Maryland and Virginia."

The realignment, first agreed to in 2006 by the Bush administration and Japanese government, was designed to reduce tensions caused by a large, unwanted American military presence on Okinawa. In February, during her trip to Japan, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton restated the U.S commitment "to modernize our military posture in the Pacific."

The government of Japan is expected to contribute about $2.8 billion to pay for the move. The U.S. government is to contribute $4.2 billion, and an additional $3.2 billion worth of family housing construction will be financed by third parties, who would then take a fee for managing those properties.

The Congressional Budget Office said it "does not expect the Japanese government to increase its share," thus leaving Washington to pick up the additional costs for construction projects if the provision remains in the bill.

A Government Accountability Office report in April raised questions about whether the U.S. government and the military had made adequate preparations on Guam. The GAO pointed out that military members and their families would create roughly a 14 percent increase in Guam's current population of 171,000, which would "substantially impact Guam's community and infrastructure."

There also would be a need for an estimated 22,000 additional construction workers, at least temporarily.

The GAO suggested that Guam's two major highways would need upgrading to carry the increased traffic. In addition, the island's major port would have to double its capacity.

Its electric capacity would need a major buildup, as would its water and wastewater systems, which the GAO said are near capacity already. The estimate was that the latter would have to be increased by 25 percent.

One question was who would fund the additional demands on Guam's roads, schools and public utilities. In last week's bill, the House expressed its "sense of the Congress that utility improvements on Guam should incorporate military and civilian utilities on Guam into a unified [electric] grid."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Amendment Could Stall Marine Transfer

Amendment could stall marine transfer
Monday, 29 June 2009
by Romeo Carlos
Marianas Variety

AS EARLY as June 9, Japanese media reports were saying that negotiations between officials from Tokyo and Okinawa in Japan had come to a standstill over concerns about references made to amendments to the United States’ Fiscal Year 2010 defense budget.

More recently, the office of Representative Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, proposed a key amendment to the fiscal 2010 defense budget that would jeopardize the planned transfer of 8,000 marines from Okinawa to Guam.

The plan to move 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam is part of an agreement struck between the United States and Japan in May 2006 to realign the U.S. military presence in Japan by 2014. Relocating the Marines to Guam is closely tied to a key element of the agreement - transferring the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station's heliport functions from Ginowan in central Okinawa, to an alternative facility located near Camp Schwab, in Nago, a northern Okinawa prefecture.

Abercrombie’s amendment says the U.S. defense secretary should not give its approval to the alternative facility as long as it fails to comply with minimum flight safety requirements. The amendment would make it difficult to realize the agreement.

Abercrombie believes that an area extending from the lower part of Camp Schwab into shallow waters is not the right sort of location for the alternative facility and has urged that an alternate site be considered. The Hawaii congressman told Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun last week that the alternative facility under the current plan does not meet several safety standards; particularly:

- The runways are too short.
- A school, Okinawa National College of Technology, is located nearby.
- There are obstacles, such as utility polls, along the flight path.

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported last Thursday a Japanese government source saying, "The content of this amendment suggests the transfer to the alternative facility agreed by Japan and the United States won't be permitted."

Another Japanese paper, Mainichi Daily, reported in early June that the Japanese ministry of defense is keen to reach a settlement on the relocation of the air base from Ginowan to the coastal side of Camp Schwab in Nago.

The paper detailed a reference made then by U.S. Marine Corps Commandant James Conway to a possible amendment of the relocation plans - an indication the U.S. is not settled in its stance.

Conway spoke to the Senate Committee on Armed Services on June 4, mentioning problems relating to training and the ability to move Futenma Air Station facilities, and said there were several amendments that deserved consideration, indicating that doubts remain over the direction of the relocation plans.

In testimony before the committee, Conway indicated a need to modify the plan to transfer U.S. Marines from Japan's Okinawa prefecture to Guam by 2014.

"This Futenma replacement facility has to be indeed a fully capable replacement for what we're giving up on Okinawa," Conway said, adding, "We are concerned about training opportunities on Guam, in the nearby islands as well as the rest of the Asia-Pacific basin.

"So there are some things like that, that we certainly want to see considered and negotiated as need be with the Japanese before we slap the table," he said.

As part of his opening remarks, Conway said, though the U.S. Marines support this move, he also believes the development of training areas and ranges on Guam and the adjoining islands of the Marianas are key prerequisites to the realignment of our forces.

Japanese Administrative Vice Minister of Defense Kohei Masuda confirmed in early June that, for their part, Japan intends to steadily press ahead with plans in line with the road map adopted by both governments. Another Defense Ministry official commenting on the situation told Mainchi Daily, "We are waiting carefully to see what the U.S. does first."

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan, which has requested that Futenma Air Station be moved out of Okinawa Prefecture, is opposed to an agreement on the relocation of U.S. Marines in Okinawa to Guam. The agreement, approved by the Japanese Diet in May, sets as a prerequisite a development toward the completion of a replacement for facilities at Futenma.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

House Bill May Complicate Things at Camp Schwab

Bill may complicate planned Camp Schwab airstrip
By Leo Shane III and David Allen
Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Sunday, June 28, 2009

The House version of the Fiscal 2010 Defense Authorization Bill could hamper plans to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa with a new airstrip on Camp Schwab.

Under the bill, the Defense Department "may not accept … a replacement facility in Okinawa (for Futenma) unless the Secretary certifies to the congressional defense committees that the replacement facility satisfies at least minimum Naval Aviation Safety requirements."

The language was prompted by concerns raised by Naval Air Systems Command about hazards surrounding the new airstrip location, including utility poles in the proposed flight path, a nearby school and the planned V-shaped runway into Oura Bay, said Dave Helfert, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

The bill allows for safety improvements to be made at Camp Schwab to make it an acceptable replacement for Futenma, Helfert said.

The House approved its version of the authorization bill with the Futenma language Thursday, by a 389-22 vote.

However, the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a statement Thursday citing concern that the clause would "limit the Secretary’s authority to exercise reasonable judgment regarding airfield operations."

"The current FRF (Futenma Replacement Facility) configuration was agreed to during bilateral negotiations with the government of Japan, and this provision places the resulting International Agreement at risk," the office stated.

A Pentagon spokesman echoed the White House concerns.

"There have been public reports in the U.S. pertaining to safety issues with the Futenma replacement plan," the spokesman said Thursday.

"There are processes in place to address these concerns without making changes to the agreement itself. Moving a runway or reconfiguring a facility would be examples of major changes that the U.S. would not support."

Madeleine Z. Bordallo, the House delegate from Guam, said House Armed Services Committee chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., raised concerns about the design of the facility. But, she said, the language in the bill is not mean to scuttle the far-reaching realignment plans.

"The continued commitment to the military build-up on Guam is evident in the significant military construction funding for Guam in the bill," Bordallo said. "The issue of the Futenma Replacement Facility is a provision that the committee leadership will continue to address in conference committee with the Department of Defense."

Japanese officials Thursday said the clause flies in the face of a bilateral plan to replace the air station, close U.S. military bases south of Camp Foster, and to transfer some 8,000 Marines and their families to Guam in 2014.

The plan is part of a well-thought-out agreement made by both governments, said a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defense.

"The plan was not made by a suggestion from one side, but it was a fruit of discussions and studies from various aspects by both governments," she said.

Japanese opposition parties and some Okinawa officials have serious concerns about the safety of the current plan. Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima has demanded the runways be placed farther offshore.

The 2010 appropriations bill allots $934 million for defense projects on Guam for the coming year. That’s just the start of some $4 billion the U.S. plans to spend to build housing and other infrastructure for the move of Marines, including several major Marine commands now based on Okinawa.

The total cost of relocation has been budgeted at $10.27 billion, with Japan paying $6.07 billion, or 59 percent.

But replacing MCAS Futenma has always been a sticking point. The United States and Japan have been searching for a way to replace the air station ever since they signed an agreement in 1996 for the return of some 21 percent of the land on Okinawa used by the U.S. military.

A spokesman for Japan’s Ministry of Defense said he was aware of the clause in the authorization bill, but was hopeful the realignment plan would move forward as planned.

"It has been affirmed by Prime Minister Aso and President Obama that both countries would steadily carry out realignment plans according to the road map, which both governments agreed to in 2006, including facility relocation and closure of the Futenma air station facility," he said.

"Also, it is stipulated in a pact signed by both governments, an international promise, that both governments have an intention to complete the replacement facility," he said.

Stars and Stripes reporters Chiyomi Sumida and Jeff Schogol contributed to this report.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Stars and Stripes Accuses US Military of Censorship

Stars and Stripes accuses U.S. military of censorship in Iraq
June 24, 2009

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Stars and Stripes, the newspaper that receives U.S. military funding to help it cover and get distributed free to American forces in war zones, complained Tuesday of censorship by military authorities in Iraq.

In a story on its Web site, the newspaper known as Stripes said the military violated a congressional mandate of editorial independence by rejecting a request to embed reporter Heath Druzin with the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division, which is attempting to secure the city of Mosul.

The military cited various problems in Druzin's reporting on previous embed assignments with units of the division, according to the story.

One example noted by the military was a March 8 story that said many Mosul residents would like the American soldiers to leave and hand over security tasks to Iraqi forces, the Stripes Web site said.

"Despite the opportunity to visit areas of the city where Iraqi Army leaders, soldiers, national police and Iraqi police displayed commitment to partnership, Mr. Druzin refused to highlight any of this news," Maj. Ramona Bellard, a public affairs officer, wrote in denying Druzin's embed request, according to the Stripes story.

A military official in Iraq defended the move to turn down the reporter's request.

"U.S. Army units in Iraq remain committed to the media embed program and appreciate objective media reporting," said Lt. Col. David H. Patterson Jr., a spokesman for Multi-National Corps-Iraq. "The relationship that Druzin established with the command during a previous embed did not facilitate being invited back."

Patterson added that Druzin was welcome to embed in another unit and that the 1st Cavalry Division was open to having a reporter other than Druzin.

"Accusations of censorship are without merit," Patterson said.

Other allegations against Druzin by the military included that he used quotes out of context, behaved unprofessionally and persisted in asking Army officials for permission to use a computer to file a story during a communications blackout period, the Stripes story said.

Terry Leonard, editorial director at Stars and Stripes, denied the Army's allegations, calling Druzin's previous reporting on the division accurate and fair.

"To simply say 'you can't send him because we didn't like what he wrote' is unacceptable," Leonard said. He noted that Congress set up Stripes as an independent newspaper so that "no commander can decide what news troops in the field receive."

Army officials have offered to allow a different Stripes reporter to embed with the division or to allow Druzin to embed with a different Army unit in Kirkuk, Leonard said.

Stripes rejected those offers because the military has no right to deflect coverage from Mosul or decide which Stripes reporter covers its operations, Leonard said.

"To deny Mr. Druzin an embed under the reasons stated by Maj. Bellard is a direct challenge to the editorial independence of this newspaper," Leonard wrote in his appeal to the decision, according to the Stripes story. "That independence is mandated by Congress. The denial of the embed constitutes an attempt at censorship and it is also an illegal prior restraint under federal law. ... The military cannot tell us what stories to write or not write."

Stripes receives close to $10 million a year from the Department of Defense to help defray the costs of covering "contingency" operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the publishing and distribution of roughly 85,000 free newspapers a day, Leonard said.

The newspaper receives additional government subsidies, with the total amounting to less than half of its budget, he said. Other revenue comes from ad sales and circulation at permanent U.S. military bases and elsewhere, Leonard said.

CNN has been denied embed requests on occasion but never because of the past conduct of individual journalists. The reasons have almost always involved logistical details involving security and force coverage.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Reclaim Guahan, Reunification, the UN and the Marines

From K57:

“Interview between Ray Gibson, Victoria Leon Guerrero and Miget Lujan Bevacqua about the Reclaim Guahan rally which will be held at Skinner’s Plaza on Saturday May 23rd. They discussed how the rally will present cultural history, language, political status, and island politics. They also talked about the testimonies before the United Nations about Guam being a colony of the United States, lack of input from Guam during Compact of Free Association treaty negotiations, reunification of Guam with the CNMI and the Japan - U.S. accord for the relocation of the US Marines from Okinawa to Guam.”


Senators Want to Define Marriage

Senators want to define marriage
Monday, 22 June 2009 02:12 by Therese Hart
Marianas Variety News Staff

Senator Frank Blas Jr. is personally opposed to same-sex marriages. That’s why he wants the term “marriage” to be clarified locally by law – specifically, whether “marriage” should also mean same-sex civil unions. Toward that effort, Blas and Sen. Tina Rose Muña-Barnes last week introduced Bill 158, which seeks to define marriage as a personal relationship between one male and one female arising out of a civil contract.

Blas has gone on record with the Variety saying that he opposes same-sex marriage, but looks forward to having a discussion on the same-sex union measure introduced by the office of Senator B.J. Cruz. Bill 138, authored by the Guam Youth Congress, would seek to establish civil unions on Guam for same-sex couples.

“Let’s have a discussion on the civil union bill, but I’m opposed to gay marriage. And we’ll have this discussion with the same-sex civil union bill. My bill just defines marriage,” said Blas.

Blas said that discussions he’s had with members in the community prompted him to introduce the bill.

“The bill was spurred by the discussions that were going on about the same-sex (civil) union bill and in those discussions, one of the things that came up was marriage. I did research and wanted to find out what the differences were. Our current statute defining marriage is defined as two persons with a union contract,” said Blas.

Under the third section of his bill, “Incompetency of Parties,” Blas includes “persons of the same gender,” saying that this inclusion would make the relationship between same-sex partners illegitimate.

Section three reads, “Marriages between parents and children, ancestors and descendants, persons of the same gender, and between brothers and sisters of the half as well as the whole blood, and between uncles and nieces or aunts and nephews, are void from the beginning whether the relationship is legitimate or illegitimate.”

Blas said that in listening to arguments on same-sex unions, “one of the things that came out of those discussions was that they’re not looking for marriage, they’re looking for rights and benefits. I hope they don’t see this as an affront to them, because that is not my intention.”

Now that local leaders and the community are discussing same-sex civil unions and there is a bill that will eventually receive a public hearing, Blas said he felt it was necessary to define marriage as a union contract between one man and one woman.

“This basically falls in line as defining marriage everywhere else in the nation. Across the nation, the states have defined marriage as one man and one woman union, I just want to clarify that in this bill,” said Blas.

In 1996, the U.S. Congress adopted the Defense of Marriage Act. A section of the Act defined “marriage” for the purposes of federal law and the other affirming federalism principals under the authority granted to it.

The first section states that for purposes of federal law, marriage means a legal union between a man and a woman. The second section reaffirms the power of the states and territories to make their own decisions about marriage.

“I find it necessary to amend our statute defining marriage so that it falls in line with the Defense of Marriage Act,” said Blas.

No Federal Government Land Condemnations in Eastern Guam

Federal government will not condemn eastern Guam property
By Sabrina Salas Matanane
Published Jun 22, 2009

200 landowners along the eastern coast of Guam can breathe a sigh of relief now that the feds will not be condemning their property. Property owners began complaining when they received letters from the Navy to conduct land surveys on their property.

Senator Judi Guthertz (D), who chairs the Committee on Guam's Military Buildup, says she's received assurances from the Joint Guam Program Office that the Navy's survey will strictly be used as a study to determine potential environmental impacts to future military activities on Guam. "I wanted them to reiterate in writing that they have no intention of condemning land and that this is strictly voluntary on the part of the landowners that will not be forced. If they don't want to do it, they don't have to do it. And if they do agree, the results of the survey will be made available to them," she told KUAM News.

Guthertz encourages landowners who do not wish to participate in the land surveys to make their intentions known, but reminds those that do, will have access to the data about their respective properties to include what cultural and natural resources they possess and other pertinent land information.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Patience Wearing Thin on JFK

Patience continues to wear thin for JFK High community
By Michele Catahay
Published Jun 22, 2009

Monday morning at the Guam Economic Development Authority a meeting was held between the agency, GPSS and International Bridge Corporation. While the dialogue from that meeting sounds good for the construction of a brand new Home of the Islanders, it doesn't look so good for some senators.

"This delay, I'm not sure why don't have a solution already," said Joanie Tomasiak. "We all now we're constituents. We are voters. We are taxpayers and we understand the game and we need to stop doing that. Why are we suffering?" The JFK social studies teacher and ESL coordinator is tired of the blame game and politics. A year since the Upper Tumon campus was shutdown and enduring a school year of double-session, it's no wonder her patience has worn thin. This morning at GEDA it was announced that negotiations with IBC to build the new JFK are 90% complete.

However, instead of using federal stimulus funding, it now turns out GEDA will use a portion of the recently-received bond revenues to go toward the construction of the new school. IBC president Robert Toelkes said the sooner the contract is signed, the better. Once it is signed, by law, the new school must be constructed in nine months. "Right now what it is that if we do an early august groundbreaking, we're expecting the facility to be completed by may and our hope and intent is to let the 51st anniversary graduating class graduate at the facility - that's our goal," he told KUAM News.

Meanwhile, GEDA administrator Tony Blaz expects for negotiations to be completed by next month. But while all this shows a significant step forward in the construction of a brand new JFK, it could potentially set back the contract discussions with Core Tech International for the interim campus in Tiyan.

Here's why: Bill 1 (4-S), which was passed by lawmakers requires that federal stimulus funds be used for the construction of the new JFK, the measure also sets other provisions in the tentative agreement which has already been signed by Core Tech. With news now that bond money instead will be used to fund the permanent JFK, GEDA administrator Tony Blaz said it's likely the governor will veto the bill.

"I'm sure they want a win-win," said Blaz. "For all of us, we want a new JFK. They're tired of double-sessions. We're all tired of double-sessions. The governor, I guess, gave the proposals and the Legislature gave a different version. I know the governor said he wants to continue with this JFK project. You can't cancel this. We're so close to making the touchdown."

According to Senator Matt Rector, however, using those funds could cost taxpayers a large chunk of change. Instead, GovGuam should use the money from USDOE. He said, "I think that's kind of crazy. I mean we've already the burden our children with $500 million in debt, why would we want to burden them some more if we have the cash right now and we can pay it. It's somebody else's cash and we can build them a good, state of the art school instead of slapping together the first cheap thing we can. That just doesn't make any sense to me."

While we wait to see the outcome of this latest issue to arise surrounding the JFK situation. Students like Eileen Calleja just want to see a resolution to a problem that government leaders knew a year ago. "There are so many decisions that need to be made. How many rallies do we need to do in order for the leaders to listen to us," she said. "We've been out there voicing our concerns. We've been through meetings and so much. I mean, when are they going to listen?"

Core Tech's Josh Tenorio says the government needs to make a decision soon on how it plans to carry out both the interim and permanent JFK campuses. He says if the governor vetoes Bill 1 (4-S), it's likely they'll be back to square one, as they were last Monday.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

GovGuam Agencies Owe $800,000 in Back Rent

Agencies owe $800k in back rent
By Steve Limtiaco
Pacific Daily News
June 22, 2009

The Guam Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Public Health and Social Services owe more than $800,000 in back rent to the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission, according to the commission -- money that is supposed to be put into a trust to benefit ancestral landowners.

The two agencies use office space in former military buildings on Tiyan that now are part of the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission inventory. The property licensed to the agencies is former Spanish crown land, which means there are no original owners to claim it.

The commission, which admittedly has little experience leasing property, last month turned the matter over to the Guam Economic Development Authority for collection. At least one of the agencies is disputing the amount owed.

GEDA, which has experience leasing government land, since 2007 has been helping the commission lease Spanish crown land to generate money for the landowner's trust. It did not negotiate the licenses with Public Health and Guam EPA.

At the end of last year, the landowner's trust held $397,657, according to a financial statement prepared by the commission. That money is supposed to compensate ancestral landowners or their heirs if their property was returned by the federal government but still is being held by the local government.

Public Health, which uses the Tiyan building for its Women, Infants and Children program, owes the commission much more than that, according to an invoice prepared by GEDA -- $432,000.

And Guam EPA owes the commission $371,278, according to a GEDA invoice.

The two agencies each are using 8,000 square feet of space, which requires them to pay $8,000 per month, according to their licensing agreements -- payments that started in late 2004.

That means each agency should have paid $480,000 by now, according to the GEDA invoices, but Public Health has paid only $48,000 and Guam EPA has paid only $108,721.10.

Guam EPA Administrator Lorilee Crisostomo said her agency disputes the amount owed.

She said rental payments were withheld years ago because of disparities in the way different agencies were being charged for the use of Ancestral Lands property.

According to a 2006 audit by the Office of the Public Auditor, Guam EPA and Public Health were being asked to pay thousands of dollars a month to use the land while the Guam Police Department and Guam Fire Department, which were using more land, were not being charged at all.

"They are only pushing us because we are federally funded," Crisostomo said.

She said Guam EPA already has paid what it owes for past years and it only owes money for the current year.

Crisostomo said Guam EPA cannot legally pay any other past amounts without permission from lawmakers.

Guam EPA also uses an airport-owned building on Tiyan for its administrative offices, but Crisostomo said the airport does not charge any rent. Guam EPA is required to maintain the property in lieu of rent, she said.

In contrast, she said the Ancestral Lands Commission is charging Guam EPA thousands of dollars a month for a building Ancestral Lands does not maintain.

Public Health Director J. Peter Roberto did not return a call for comment.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Bond Sale Closed by June 17

Bond sale closed by June 17
Tuesday, 09 June 2009
by Therese Hart
Marianas Variety News Staff

THE sale of government of Guam bonds will be finalized by June 17 and the money will be in the government account the next day, according to Tony Blaz, administrator of the Guam Economic Development Authority, who just returned from New York after successfully marketing the landfill and general obligation bonds.

“I’m happy that the landfill bond sold, but I’m also happy that our manamko will finally receive their COLA money. They’ve waited so long for this and when they pass on without seeing that money, it’s a sad day. We have to remember that they built this government through their hard work and dedication,” said Blaz.

The government of Guam successfully sold $473.5 million of triple tax-exempt bonds in the municipal market last week in New York—historic bond sales—which marked two of the first large high-yield transactions since the global financial fallout of the municipal market in fall of last year.

The two bond issues included $270 million of general obligation bonds, rated “B+,” and $202.4 million limited obligation Section 30-backed bonds, rated “BBB-.”

The successful issuance of the $270 million debt service bonds will pay for overdue tax refunds, a court-ordered cost of living allowance and other government debts.

The $202.4 million Section 30 bonds will pay for the construction of the new landfill as well as the closure of the Ordot dump.

“These people did their part. I know many people have said, hey, we don’t need to take care of them. But these people helped build the government of Guam and we have to be grateful,” Blaz said, referring to the government retirees who are owed their COLA.

Blaz acknowledged that it was a long standing obligation that should have been addressed decades ago. “But we didn’t. And today, we delivered for the people of Guam. This governor made it happen,” he said.

Overwhelming investor interest led to adjusted bond yields downward on both transactions, saving over $100 million in debt service on the general obligation bonds and over $56 million in debt service on the Section 30 bonds, compared to estimates a few weeks, according to a Guam Economic Development Authority press release.

The final yields ranged from 6.20 percent to 7.18 percent for the general obligation bonds and 3.95 percent to 6 percent for the Section 30 bonds.

“This was well below the interest rates that the government anticipated even a few weeks ago, and below the interest rate caps set by the authorizing legislation,” said Blaz.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Navy Raises Water Rate

Navy raises water rate
Sunday, 07 June 2009
Marianas Variety News Staff

(Navy) – The Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marianas has notified the Consolidated Commission on Utilities that the Navy will charge $4.06 per 1,000 gallons of water supplied to the Guam Waterworks and Power Authorities beginning Oct. 1.

This rate is consistent with the Navy’s promise toward graduated rate adjustments designed to minimize financial impact to GWA and GPA, and to bring the previously reduced water rate in line with the rate charged to Navy and other Department of Defense customers, according to a press release from the Navy.

The fiscal year 2009 rate of $3.80 for GWA and GPA was less than the rate paid by Navy and other DoD customers.

According to the Navy, the adjustment is based on the current cost of operations and maintenance to continue to produce reliable and safe drinking water to the Naval Base and other customers in the southern villages of Agat, Santa Rita, Piti, Nimitz Hill, parts of Asan and Maina, and the Apra Harbor area.

“The Navy operates, maintains and repairs its water production and distribution system through the Navy Working Capital Fund (NWCF) and not direct appropriated funds,” said Capt. Paul Fuligni, NAVFAC Marianas commanding officer. “As such, our rates are developed to cover the operation and maintenance of our water system,” he added.

In a letter to CCU chairman Simon Sanchez, Fuligini said the Navy’s current projection is for a water rate of approximately $4.12 per 1,000 gallons. “However,” he added, “this rate is subject to further review and adjustment.”

US Commander Indicates Change in Japan Realignment

U.S. commander indicates change to planned force realignment in Japan
Jun 5 08:54 AM US/Eastern

WASHINGTON, June 5 (AP) - (Kyodo)—U.S. Marine Corps Commander Gen. James Conway on Thursday indicated a need to modify the plan to transfer U.S. Marines from Japan's Okinawa Prefecture to Guam by 2014.

"We have some modifications we think are worthy of consideration," he said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, citing concerns about the concomitant relocation of facilities at the Marines' Futemma Air Station in the same prefecture.

"This Futemma replacement facility has to be indeed a fully capable replacement for what we're giving up on Okinawa," Conway said, adding, "We are concerned about training opportunities on Guam, in the nearby islands as well as the rest of the Asia-Pacific basin."

"So there are some things like that that we certainly want to see considered and negotiated as need be with the Japanese before we slap the table," he said.

The plan to move 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam is part of an agreement struck between the United States and Japan in May 2006 to realign the U.S. military presence in Japan by 2014.

Relocating the Marines to Guam is closely tied to another key element of the agreement -- transferring the U.S. Marine Corps Futemma Air Station's heliport functions from downtown Ginowan to Nago, both in Okinawa.


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Guam Senator Seeks Apology from Japan

Guam senator seeks apology from Japan
By David Allen, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Friday, June 5, 2009

Now that Japan has officially apologized for atrocities during the Bataan Death March in the Philippines during World War II, Guam wants an apology, too.

On Saturday, Japan’s ambassador to the United States, Ichiro Fujisaki, attended the 64th annual meeting of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor and formally apologized for the atrocities committed on the prisoners of war who were forced to walk 65 miles after the Philippines fell to the Japanese.

It is estimated that 11,000 prisoners died during the brutal trek to prisoner of war camps.

Guam Sen. Frank Blas Jr. says a similar apology to the people of Guam would help grease the skids for passage in the U.S. Senate of a bill that would allocate $126 million to the survivors of the Japanese occupation and their families.

"An apology would help, but it’s more important to compensate the victims," Blas said during a telephone interview Wednesday.

The Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in February and is now before the Senate, which has voted against it in the past. It recognizes the suffering Guamanians endured during the occupation by the Imperial Japanese Army "by being subjected to death, rape, severe personal injury, personal injury, forced labor, forced march, or internment."

"I firmly believe an official apology from Japan would greatly assist in our effort to have this bill passed," Blas said, pointing out that Japan also has made formal apologies for atrocities committed against the people of China and Korea during the war.

"Almost everyone who has family members who lived on Guam during the war has tales of horror perpetrated by the Japanese soldiers," Blas said. "My mother-in-law was brutally raped, her husband was beheaded, my grandmother was subjected to torture, starvation and flogging."

Seisuke Shimizu, Japan’s deputy consul general on Guam, told Stars and Stripes on Wednesday that Japanese officials "have repeatedly expressed their heartfelt apologies to the people who suffered during the war."

"The apologies were directed to all the victims, not just the people of Guam," he said.

He said he was not aware of any move by the Japanese government to issue such a formal apology to the people of Guam.

After World War II, the U.S. and its allies waived all wartime reparation claims against Japan in a peace treaty signed in 1951. That’s why Blas is looking toward Congress to pass the reparations bill.

At the time, Japan was struggling to rebuild and it was believed payment of reparations would be impossible, Blas said.

That left a traumatized community, said Patricia Cruz, a Guam psychologist who treats occupation victims for post-traumatic stress disorder.

"A formal apology could help heal some of the wounds," she said in a telephone interview Wednesday from Guam. "By not requiring Japan to make reparations — and Japan not apologizing — it robbed us of the process of healing, atonement and acknowledgment.

"It’s as if nothing happened," she said. "The horror of the occupation — where people could be beaten and killed for not bowing correctly — is something not many people outside of Guam know about."


Thursday, June 04, 2009

Proud Taotaomo'na

Proud taotaomo’na
Thursday, 04 June 2009
Letter to the Editor
Marianas Variety

IT SEEMS amazing how many proud Chamorros there are in the Mariana Islands. But when the word “independence” or the phrase “Yankee Go Home” are mentioned, attitudes change. You see, I am used to hearing bragging rights on the word “proud” from people who come from independent nations except from America, for the white race are not from America. As a matter of fact, they all emigrated from Europe since the late 1400s. Instead of saying proud Italian, Scottish, Irish, German, etc., they used the word American. For example, proud Irish-American, African American, and just plain “proud American.” Who is the true American though? I was taught that the Indians (Apache, Sioux, Cheyenne, etc.) and Mexican, Columbian, Brazilians are the true Americans.

Now let’s return to these islands. These islands, called the Mariana Islands, are inhabited by the oldest society on earth and are known throughout our planet by the old civilization as the Mountain Range of the Crescent Moon, in which the old civilizations claim as their origins.

Today, these islands are owned by the United States of America through wars: the Spanish American War of 1898 and World War II. Not as an independent country, but a property.

Between “Chamorro” and “Chamoru,” which spelling is correct? Actually, the word Chamorro/ru is not indigenous to these islands. It is indigenous to Spain. If a person were to consult a Spanish/English dictionary, one will find out that the word “Chamorro” is defined as the hind leg of a cow. So my question is how we, the aboriginals, can call ourselves “Chamorro” when it is not indigenous to our own language.

The next question should be, “What is our true name?” The answer is taotanomo’na. Then again, a proud Chamorro/ru will say that taotaomo’na means spirit. In reality, the true word for spirit is Aniti. It was actually the Catholic Church that made us believe that taotaomo’na and Chamorro are our true names.

The reason why the indigenous succumbed to their lies in such a short time is due to the ordered punishment and abuse both mentally and physically.

To the foreigners, the Spanish, even God believed our ancestors to be savages, who needed to be civilized. So guess what happened? Since 1521, when Magellan arrived until 1696, record of the size of the native population has been estimated to be over 200,000 throughout the islands. But in 1695, when all natives were assembled on Guam, the population count was under 4,000.

I would love to say to all the indigenous of these islands: Let’s come together and reclaim being a “Proud Taotaomo’na,” and reclaim our lands back and become and independent nation.

Howard A. Hemsing
a.k.a. Maga’lahi Maga’ Aniti