Thursday, July 21, 2016

Håfa na Klasen Liberasion? #22: Tinituhon Ta'lo

Its that time of year on Guam, where perceived Chamorro debts to the United States balloon out of control and Chamorro attempts to prove their understanding and love for their debts and subordination appear to reach such maddeningly levels that what they owe to the United States seems to become infinite and eternal. Sina ta sangan na unu ha’ na dibin taotao diptosi taiguihi. Lao para i Chamorro siha, guaha dos. Unu para Si Yu’us, i otro para Si Uncle Sam. What else could I be referring to save for Liberation Day. A day that we could argue colonizes annually the month of July, but in truth, the notion that it was a liberation is something that has played a huge role in colonizing most every aspect of Chamorro time and space. I ma’pos, i pa’go yan i mamaila.

Around the world, “liberation days” or commemorations of a liberation are very common, but Guam’s version of it can often seem like a strange bewildering experience. In most contexts elsewhere, a liberation day is a memorial, a day of remembering, but it scarcely holds any political meanings or implications. It is a “thank you” but it is one that remains attached to history in its political power/weight and doesn’t seep into the present. For Guam, and a few other places within the Pacific, their liberation days carry monumental significance today, not just in terms of mapping out the world with friendly relations or historical allies, but rather in making the people feel intimately indebted to a foreign country.

For those who don’t know much about Liberation Day in Guam, it is by far the most obtrusive contemporary and historical presence on the island and for the island’s indigenous people the Chamorros. It is an annual public holiday celebrated each July 21st, and comprises a festivities packed day of parades, carnivals, beauty pageants, and political events all meant to memorialize the return of American troops to Guam that begins on July 21st, 1944 and eventually leads to the expulsion of the Japanese forces who had brutally occupied the island for more than 2 ½ years.
Lao kao magahet na “liberation” hafa masusedi guihi na tiempo? Nowhere in American military planning documents from World War II is the “invasion of Guam” ever referred to as the “liberation of Guam.” Its important to remember that the majority of the soldiers who did invade Guam and retook it, had no idea what Guam was, or that there was anyone else on the island other than dreaded Japanese. War survivors up until today remark on how strange it was when American soldiers invading the island seemed surprised when they encountered Chamorros and more interestingly when they realized they spoke English. The people of Guam, as explained in the recent documentary “War for Guam” made clear, “were expendable” before and during the war, so what sense does it make to imagine this act as a liberation and pretend as if they and not the land were the precious commodity at stake in the war?

Since 1944, that day, that event has somehow become transformed into a benevolent and loving liberation of a helpless island people, and the United States transformed into the magical and necessary means of life itself on Guam. The United States since 1944, in so many different everyday ways has come to signify and be perceived as the all purpose source of liberation. Almost any problem on Guam is understood to be best fixed and those of us suffering “liberated” through a simple equation of adding more of the United States, or simply being more like the United States. Gi otro tininge’-hu hu fa’na’an ayu na memento “the scene of liberation.” Achokka’ maloloffan yan matulailaika i tiempo, manggaigaige ha’ i Chamorro gi ayu na momento, gi me’nan i sindalun Amerikanu, dumidimu pat uma’asson komo taisetbe.

Although the invasion of Guam saved the Chamorro people from Japanese occupation/oppression, to term it a liberation and give it the centrality in Chamorro consciousness it has held since World War II, means that we should analyze and critique this more astutely. What sort of liberation is this, if the giving back or giving of one’s freedom and independence results in an eternal entanglement with the liberator? What sort of liberation is this, if we never release ourselves from our perceived debts, and simply exist to enjoy and love our subordinate position and defend and protect our dependency on the “liberator.” How can we call it a liberation when the liberator stays, takes over 2/3 of the island and then refuses for 60 years to even weakly entertain the idea of the island’s decolonization?

For years I posted my own writings and the thoughts of others on this blog No Rest for the Awake – Minagahet Chamorro that interrogated the question of what kind of liberation is Liberation Day? I’ve collected there writings, poems, videos and songs from a wide range of Chamorro voices, such as Tony Artero, Kisha Borja-Kichocho, Ben Blaz, Eddie Baza Calvo, Vicente Garrido, Cecelia Taitano Perez, all of whom provide another way of analyzing this things that has become so foundational for our lives today. I'm hoping to start up this conversation on my blog again this year (mainly with this very post).
This Friday, July 22, 2016 at 3 pm in HSS 106 at the University of Guam, I'm organizing a teach-in on Liberation Day, with my friend Ken Gofigan Kuper. It is important to keep this discussion going, especially after the celebrations are over. Because if we don't, the same limiting and inaccurate ideas rise from their graves like zombies again, carrying American flags and shambling in the drizzle down Marine Drive again. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ancestral Lands in Chamorro Hands

At the funeral for Maga'låhi Ed Benavente today, I got a chance to talk to former Governor of Guam Felix Camacho. When Felix Camacho was first elected the group Nasion Chamoru was in decline in terms of its political power. Angel Santos had been elected into the Guam Legislature years earlier and formally left the group. Nasion itself had continued to fight and gotten a number of reforms implemented around land for the landless and for families that had lost land after World War II to the US military. Felix Camacho, seeking to make a sort of peace with Nasion Chamoru, which had been a notorious thorn in the side of the previous administration, reached out to Ed Benavente and offered him a position in his cabinet. I remember that time well, as I had already started hanging out with members of the Colonized Chamoru Coalition and so I got to listen in while members of Nasion Chamoru discussed whether or not Ed should join with Camacho. I won't describe the deliberations in detail, but most agreed that since it would give Ed possible control over issues related to the return of lands to Chamorros, that it would be an important inroad. I remember leaning against his pick up truck, while he was mulling over the issue and how another activist had challenged his reasons for joining the administration. He said something along the lines of, "Forget the politics. If it gets lands back to our people, I'll dance with anyone." From 2013 to 2010, Ed served as the director for the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission.

Almost everyone on island has heard of the Chamorro Land Trust, even if they know almost nothing about it. They at least know something of it, even if their knowledge is a ridiculous caricature of what it is or represents. But fewer people know about the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission. In the press release in honor of Ed's passing that I helped write, we included this paragraph:
Maga’låhi Benavente also served as the director for both the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission and the Commission on Decolonization. The GALC was first created in order to facilitate the return of excess U.S. federal lands to their original landowners, some of whom waited decades for their lands to be returned. Through Maga’låhi Benavente’s efforts, hundreds of acres were deeded back to their original owners, despite pressure from the U.S. Federal government not to return them.
That was the conversation I shared with former Governor Camacho earlier today, discussing Ed's passion for getting the lands back to the original landowners, even if it meant defying the wishes of the US Federal Government. I know that there is much more to that issue, and I know that Ed was often at odds with his own boss during those years. But still, amidst a day where the memories seemed to teem like water splashing atop the sea in a rainstorm, it was still a touching testament.

Here are some articles below related to the Ancestral Land Commission and in particular those in the Tiyan area around the airport.


Lease payments collected, not distributed to landowners
By Steve Limtiaco
Pacific Daily News
June 22, 2009

The Guam Ancestral Lands Commission so far has collected about $400,000 from leases and licenses to compensate original landowners who never will get their land back, but it is unclear when that money will be paid out or to how many people.

The commission still hasn't created rules or regulations for the landowners trust, despite a law that requires it and despite the findings in a 2006 report by the Office of the Public Auditor. There are no rules for leases or licenses and no process for determining who should be paid or how much.

Land has been leased or licensed by the commission without any adopted rules, and several large parcels of Ancestral Lands Commission property in Dededo and Mangilao are in the process of being leased to the highest and best bidder. The target date for those leases is October and December of this year.

Benny Crawford, who is chairman and spokesman for a local landowner's task force, said he believes the process of leasing land to pay ancestral owners is problematic and should be scrapped.
"I don't think government can represent my best interest," Crawford said about the leases.
Land is better than cash, he said, and the government of Guam should instead identify land that can be transferred to the ancestral owners or their heirs.

The Guam Ancestral Lands Commission was created in 1999 to administer the transfer of excess federal land to its original owners. The military on Guam had downsized, leaving behind large tracts of excess land, and GovGuam's policy was to return it to its original owners, who had not been properly compensated during the condemnation process.

But GovGuam still is using some excess federal land, so the commission has been leasing or licensing some of the returned federal land --"Spanish crown land" --to earn money to eventually compensate those landowners. Spanish crown land is property that belonged to the former Spanish government on Guam and which therefore has no ancestral owners to claim it.

Crawford is chairman of a task force recently created by law to identify land, including crown land that can be transferred to the ancestral owners of property at Tiyan.

The Tiyan land -- about 1,400 acres -- was returned to Guam by the federal government as part of the former Naval Air Station Agana, but it was not returned to its original owners because the airport still is using it.

Guam law currently is setting up a land exchange only for Tiyan families, but Crawford said he believes the same process should be expanded to include all ancestral landowners whose land is being used by GovGuam.

As an example, he said, ancestral land along the back road to Andersen Air Force Base still is being held by GovGuam for future school construction.

If any ancestral land remains with GovGuam after land is distributed to ancestral owners, it can be leased to benefit those whose property still is being held by the federal government, such as the families who owned land at Naval Station, Crawford said.

Crawford's task force completed its work this month, and submitted a report to the Legislature June 9, recommending that 976.92 acres of Spanish crown land in Dededo and Mangilao be moved into a new "Tiyan Trust" so it can be given to the Tiyan families. The report states 37 heirs to Tiyan property have been identified.

Crawford said Gov. Felix Camacho now has until July 9 to submit a bill to lawmakers, which would transfer that property from the Ancestral Lands inventory to the new Tiyan Trust.

In the meantime, the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission continues to collect thousands of dollars each month from businesses or government agencies that use ancestral land. The money is deposited into a trust account at First Hawaiian Bank, with no plan for what to do with it. According to the 1999 Guam law that created the commission, the commission needs to adopt rules for the trust through the government's administrative adjudication process.

The commission has not adopted rules and it currently is not working on any, said commission board Chairwoman Anita Orlino, who said the commission is focusing its efforts on returning land to its original owners and generating as much money as possible for the trust.

She said the commission could draft rules and regulations "very soon," but she declined to say when that might happen.

"Right now, their (the board's) biggest concern is to build up the trust account," said commission Executive Director Ed Benavente.

The public auditor, in a 2006 report, was critical of the commission's decision to lease property without first adopting rules, and noted that licenses for property were issued "arbitrarily and inconsistently" with some licensees receiving "relatively favorable terms and conditions."

The year after the audit was released, the Ancestral Lands Commission entered into an agreement with the Guam Economic Development Authority, which has taken over the leasing process for crown land. Under the agreement, the ancestral lands board must give final approval to any lease.
Director Benavente said the commission has no expertise in leasing property, which is why it has been working with GEDA.

"They're expected to know what it is to lease," he said.

Leases for the use of ancestral land now are bid competitively by GEDA, which requires a minimum annual payment of at least 8 percent of the property's appraised value, among other compensation.
That's the standard lease amount in the real estate industry, said Mike Cruz, GEDA's real property division manager. Other standard lease requirements for ancestral land are: the payment of at least 2.5 percent of the gross annual business income from use of the property; and an 11 percent share of the gross rent paid by anyone who subleases the property. Those who offer to pay more get a higher score during GEDA's selection process, according to requests for proposals issued earlier this year by GEDA.


Tiyan landowners storm Adelup
by Janjeera Hail
September 21, 2009

A protest was held at Adelup this morning as Tiyan landowners are upset about the governor's decision to appoint his assistant legal counsel as the acting administrator at the Ancestral Lands Commission.  Tiyan Land Exchange Task Force members made sure their message was heard loud and clear this morning at the Governor's Complex.

Benny Crawford, Task Force chairman, proclaimed, "It's not the right kind of person to be down there!"  He would also say, "We would like for him to rescind that appointment to Ray Haddock and appoint it to someone else."

Task Force members held a peaceful protest at Adelup this morning, calling for the removal of Haddock, who has been appointed by the governor to head up the Ancestral Lands Commission while director Ed Benavente is out on medical leave.  Task Force members maintain Haddock isn't the right person for the job.

The governor's assistant legal counsel is the son-in-law of Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Torres, who is the governor's brother-in-law.

Crawford says the acting director's relationship with his in-laws raises a serious conflict of interest.  You see, the Ancestral Lands Commission contends they are entitled to profits from land the Torres family sold.  "The attorney general realized that the family's attorney didn't follow the instruction to have the court determine the legality of the sale of the property, so they came back to Ancestral Lands months ago and the attorney general says, 'Let me represent the Ancestral Lands against the Torres family,'" said Crawford.  "Maybe we can recoup some of those funds, which I think are about $15 million."

Haddock, however, says the concerns are unfounded, stressing that none of the work he'll be doing as acting director relates to the Torres case.  "If there was some type of action, then I would naturally recuse myself from that particular matter. But I think it was very important and I think the governor recognized I had some service that I could provide to the Ancestral Lands Commission."

But landowners say that there is an appearance of impropriety, with Haddock even leading the agency.  "Ray Haddock being down at Ancestral Lands might really jeopardize some of the paperwork, and it's just not a good thing.  We really don't think he's the right person, it's really a conflict of interest," continued Crawford in opposition of the chief executive's decision.

Despite the concerns raised this morning, Governor Felix Camacho maintains the concerns of a conflict are "ridiculous".  "Absolutely not," he responded.  "[Haddock] is a professional, he must adhere to certain standards and the like, and in his capacity as legal counsel here for the Governor's Office he upholds those standards.  And so their claims against him are totally absurd and I will not pay attention to it."


Original landowners ready for fight over Tiyan
by Mindy Fothergill,
Wednesday, February 08, 2006

It's a controversy that's been brewing for months now. As KUAM News has been reporting, the federal government is pushing for the return of Tiyan lands designated for the construction of an access road. The problem is that same property has been returned to original landowners who have since renovated and moved into the homes.

The government has been put on notice and now has less than thirty days to respond to the feds who visited last month to assess the situation. What will happen to original landowners who have waited decades for the return of their property with a possibility of that land being taken back again?

Catherine McCollum is frustrated - primarily that the federal government wants to take back her family's property in Tiyan that was recently returned. After decades of waiting for her grandfather Bernardo Punzalan's property, McCollum isn't going to leave without a fight. "The people are here to stay. If they do get up and leave, my heart goes out to them because maybe they don't have the fight in them, but the ones I've spoken to are willing to put up a fight," she told KUAM News.

Now with the local government's looming deadline to explain why the land was returned, McCollum says she wanted to send a message to the government to protect the interests of original landowners. This morning the tamuning resident staged a one-person protest in Tiyan today parking her car in the middle of the road, a Guam flag prominently raised.

She was arrested on charges of obstructing a public highway, assault on a police officer, and resisting arrest."

This is the first of many fights...a knee on my rib is not going to stop me from going out there and making my statement again," McCollum says. She feels appalled that elected leaders have failed to fight for original landowners and property that she maintains is rightfully theirs, adding, "The elected officials should come up and start saying no enough is enough you guys leave these people alone. They're home now. You don't do this to my people. Don't tell me what to do on my land. He's got the power. They've all got the power but they're not doing anything about this power."

United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration division administrator Abraham Wong wrote a letter to Governor Felix Camacho, expressing concerns about the Government of Guam's "unauthorized actions".

In October 2000 a quitclaim deed conveyed Tiyan properties to Guam's public sector for the sole purpose of building a highway - specifically to develop the land for three parkways from Route 20, Route 16a, and an extension of Route 10. The deed prohibited the government from further transferring the property without the consent of the Federal Highway Administration. On May 31, 2005 the government, through the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission, conveyed the Tiyan property to original landowners like McCollum's family. A reversionary clause in the contract provides that in the event the government decides not to build the highway, the property would be given back to the feds.

Wong threatens that without correction, Guam's actions may result in reversion of the land, the withholding of federal funds or other legal action.

Governor Camacho says there's no easy answer to the predicament the government is in, but he was made clear that the feds are threatening to pull money if the property isn't taken back. "There's threats of losing federal dollars in grant money in the millions of dollars either way there's a high price to pay," he told KUAM News.

The Governor says his legal counsel is currently reviewing the feds' letter to draft a response. For now, Camacho says he's looking for a win-win situation. When lawmakers passed legislation to return excess lands to original landowners, the Governor says he was told by certain senators that he refused to identify that it was unlikely the federal government would take the land back."

I believe their bluff has been called and we're stuck with having to decide," said the Governor. "Either way there's going to be a loss one way or another, either to the landowners or to the government or to the highway. There's no easy answer here and not everyone's going to be satisfied in the end."

It's not an answer residents like Catherine McCollum are pleased to hear. "This is sad - it's really sad," she dejectedly expressed. "It's a stab in our back when our own people have to do this to our own people." 


Camacho pleads Tiyan case in D.C.
Governor seeks compromise solution to land dispute
By Oyaol Ngirairikl
Pacific Daily News 
March 2, 2006

Gov. Felix Camacho is pushing for a middle ground in the Tiyan land issue in Washington, D.C.
"Our people can have their land and we can build a road," Camacho said before the Interagency Group on Insular Affairs yesterday.

Leaders from U.S. territories, including Guam, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa attended the annual meeting with representatives from federal agencies, such as the Department of the Interior, Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense. The interagency group's task is to recommend policy to help territories address issues that require the approval of more than one federal agency. The property along the Tiyan cliff line was among many parcels that the U.S. military took after World War II for defense purposes. In 2000, the federal government returned the property to the local government, which in turn returned the parcels to heirs of the Chamorro people documented to have owned the property.

Last year, Federal Highway Administration Division Administrator Abraham Wong sent a letter to Camacho, saying the property was given to the local government in order to build a highway, and unless the property is used as a highway, it must be returned to the federal government.
Camacho has said federal officials fail to recognize the suffering and sacrifice of Guam's people.

"Our people allowed (the) U.S. military to use this land for defense purposes, but that is clearly not their need anymore, so it rightfully belongs in the hands of our people," he said in his plea for help.

Camacho and Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo expect to meet with U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta today.

Descendants of the previous landowners have either moved in to the Tiyan homes or have started working on plans to use the property in some other manner. Some of the descendants have said they want to retain their newly received properties.

Descendants have voiced their displeasure at the turn of events that threaten to remove them from Tiyan by staging peaceful demonstrations.

Land is an emotional issue throughout Micronesia because of its ties to the island cultures of the region, said Micronesian historian, author and University of Guam professor Dirk Ballendorf.

Ballendorf said the land issue goes deeper for the Chamorro people, who have been under American tutelage for more than a century.

"Guam, in essence, is a piece of real estate owned by the United States. It's difficult for many Chamorro people to accept that and you can understand why -- it's their homeland."


GIAA launches public relations blitz
'Project Airport Now' seeks to inform despite tensions with landowners
By Steve Limtiaco
Pacific Daily News

The island's airport is in the middle of a $95,000 public relations effort, including broadcast and print advertisements, brochures, and a press conference, to "elicit public support and participation" for airport issues, projects and activities that affect the community.

It's called "Project Airport Now," and the airport's board members approved its budget more than a year ago, according to the board's minutes.

The A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority has been distributing information about ongoing and planned capital improvement projects at Tiyan, and last week issued a report crediting the airport with contributing $1.7 billion to the island's economy last year.

It's no coincidence that the airport's message about its positive contribution to the island is being sent just as ground is being broken for the commercial development of former ancestral land at Tiyan -- land coveted by families who have been returned only a fraction of what was condemned by the federal government five decades ago.

"It's a proactive approach to tell the people of Guam, including the subsequent claimants of those (Tiyan) properties, that these are the ABC's and XYZ's of what we are doing right now," said airport Executive Director Jess Torres. "Development of the Tiyan Industrial Park is part and parcel to our development. It just happens to be on the first part of the old enlisted (housing) area."

The government of Guam's policy is to return, through the Ancestral Lands Commission, excess federal land to the families who owned it before it was condemned. In the case of the former military housing area at Tiyan, which is adjacent to the airport runway, only the strip of land between the road and cliffline was returned. Most of the land once owned by the families is on the other side of the street and was deeded by federal officials specifically to the airport for its use.

The airport erected a multimillion-dollar fence in June to separate its property, and last week Triple B Forwarders broke ground on a $2.5 million shipping facility on the land. The airport expects to collect $1.6 million in lease payments from Triple B over 10 years.

Torres said the airport's goal is to do, "What is best for our island. What is best for our people, instead of just a select few."

He said if the commercial projects envisioned at the Tiyan Industrial Park materialize, the children of the ancestral owners, "very likely would end up working for these companies."

"I'm against building more stuff. There's no jungle anymore. What's Guam without jungle?" said 27-year-old John Leon Guerrero, who lives with his cousin in one of the former military houses returned to its ancestral owners.

Asked what should happen to the fenced-in land across the street, Leon Guerrero said, "It should go back to the people who own it... Jobs are good, but where's Guam gonna go? It's gonna be one big industrial park."

Torres said, "We've taken a position that we don't have any excess lands to return to anybody." He said the former military property was not deeded to the government of Guam as a whole, but to the airport as a specific entity, and only for its use to benefit the public.

"I don't think it's fair. Why give partial (to the families), and claim the other side (of the road) to be theirs, when actually the whole lot belongs to my family," said 38-year-old Monica DeVera, who has lived in the former military housing along the cliffline for about 2 years.

Her family's ancestral lot is 91,000 square meters large -- most of it in the hands of the airport.

The approximate value of her family's entire ancestral property, including the majority portion held by the airport, is about $4.9 million, based on comparable property values in the area.

"Give it back to the landowners," she said about the land the airport has fenced in. "If not, then compensate them for it."

The airport stands to receive millions of dollars through the lease of the property, but Torres said the airport's bond agreements, as well as the deed to the property, prohibit the airport from using that money as compensation to the families.

"What more do they need to expand? For what?" DeVera asked. "It's not gonna benefit me. It's just going to cause more headaches."

Global economy
The airport terminal itself has about three times more passenger capacity than Guam currently needs, but airport officials said the development of the industrial park is intended to diversify the airport, beyond serving passengers. The revenue that's generated from the property will help the airport make its bond payments and will pay for any needed increases in airport operations, they said.

"The benefit would be that Guam would continue to be in a position to grow the economy," said airport board Chairman Frank Blas. "If we don't have these warehouses, these people who are transporting cargo from one place to another -- they'll probably go to another airport."

Blas said if Guam were to isolate itself, then the airport probably wouldn't need any further development.

"But we can't help but be part of this growing global economy," he said. "If you don't do what the airlines require, you're going to be left behind."

Sen. Jesse Lujan, R-Tamuning, chairman of the legislative aviation committee, said he supports continued development of the airport-held property.

"If we can become a cargo hub ... that's a great thing," he said. "It creates jobs, they become taxpayers, and there's more economic activity." 

Tales of Decolonization #18: 300,000 New Reasons

The United States has long ignored its obligation to Guam with regards to educating the people on their political status and enhancing their understanding of self-determination with the intent of pushing them towards a greater degree of self-government. For decades, activists and Government of Guam officials have called on the United States to fulfill this obligation, with little to no success. This past year however represented the first instance in recent memory of the United States accepting this obligation, as the Department of Interior has provided a grant of $300,000 to the Government of Guam to be used for political status education. Similar grants were also provided to other colonial possessions of the United States, with a similar educational purpose in mind.

This money is promising, however most likely unique. Previous attempts to get this type of funding were met with confused responses at multiple levels and didn't go anywhere. As of today it isn't clear what exactly happened to previous applications or requests. But all of that is beside the point. One thing that has to clear though is that this grant, is most likely unique. It comes at the very end of the Obama Administration's eight years, and is meant to show progress on an issue, namely the self-determination of the US insular areas, that is normally too complex for your average politician or bureaucrat to even comprehend, much less try to lead productively on. A sort of half conference was held earlier in the fiscal year on this topic, and this money is meant to show that a good faith, albeit perhaps late and last-minute effort was made to improve on a critical area for each possession of the United States. It remains to be seen whether or not whoever is president next will continue this type of support. Given the way in which US Federal Territorial bureaucrats tend to suffer from a constant mix of forgetfulness and ignorance, it is very unlikely.

As you can see from the press releases and articles below, when this money was first announced it was heavily praised locally. The Commission on Decolonization had sought this type of funding for year and it was exciting to finally have received it. News of the grant arrived just prior to Governor Calvo announcing his intend to circumvent Government of Guam law and hold a plebiscite this November. Although Calvo soon backed off his plan to hold a plebiscite using the public referendum law, the new energy that his push brought to the issue did not disappear. In fact, looking at recent months, through a combination of efforts from scholars at UOG, to community groups, to international media and even to the office of the Governor of Guam, this issue has been kept front and center. The Governor's proposal to hold a plebiscite this year has most likely disintegrated, although he has yet to state this officially. But what confuses me at this point is that despite the Governor still seeming to have a great passion for this issue, why hasn't any effort been made to spend this $300,000. If it belongs to the Commission on Decolonization, this hasn't been clarified as the Commission has been waiting for a sign from the Governor as to his intent. Even if the Governor's initial plans never saw fruit, that doesn't mean his passion or commitment to the issue should disappear, and in truth they should be funneled into determining the best use of this pot of money. The best option is most likely to give it to the University of Guam in order to create some sort of self-determination institute or working group, which can work on producing materials and programs in order to help the educational campaign. But this is just my suggestions, in truth it would be good for the Governor to take a more proactive position on this money, rather than have it sit for months without even a concrete thought or plan on how to spend it.


Guam’s quest to decide its political status will receive help with a $300,000 federal grant that will fund efforts to inform the public about a future plebiscite.

In a release issued Tuesday, the Department of Interior Office of Insular Affairs announced it awarded $300,000 to the island’s Commission on Decolonization for political status education.

The commission’s mission is to educate residents about Guam's political status options. The island could take three routes — statehood, free association or independence. Guam currently is an unincorporated territory of the United States.

The $300,000 grant is part of a $1.5 million sum of federal funds approved for Guam that will fund other island projects in fiscal 2016.

In a release, Gov. Eddie Calvo said the $300,000 grant would help fund the educational materials required before a self-determination vote. The federal funds are an addition to the $250,000 the local government has already set aside for educational efforts regarding the plebiscite, according to the governor’s release.

The commission was scheduled to meet Tuesday for a regular meeting, but the meeting was postponed because of the announcement of the funds.

“The governor, who is chairman of the commission, has ordered his staff to create a plan that will be presented to commission members at the next meeting,” the governor's office release states.
This is the second time this month a commission meeting has been postponed.

The governor postponed another meeting last week because of Guam Del. Madeleine Bordallo’s annual speech at the Guam Legislature. Calvo, in a release, stated he wanted commission members to hear her remarks concerning decolonization and consider any solutions she offered.

In her speech, Bordallo mentioned she was working closely with Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia’aina regarding the commission’s grant application.
“I hope that these funds will provide the initial investment needed to move this process along,” Bordallo stated in her address last week. “I will work to ensure that our island receives any additional federal support to promote our self-determination efforts.”

A political status plebiscite for native inhabitants was originally scheduled to take place in 1998, but has been postponed several times, primarily because of a lack of resources committed to the effort and a failure to register and educate eligible voters about the three options.

Guam's plebiscite would be a non-binding vote, intended to measure the preferred political status of Guam among native inhabitants.

The Calvo administration has made decolonization a priority and has previously stated it would try to have a plebiscite by 2017. A press release from the Department of Interior issued Tuesday stated the plebiscite is planned for 2018.

A spokesperson from the governor’s office wasn’t immediately available Tuesday to explain the change to the planned date.


Bordallo Statement on $300,000 Grant for Political Status Education
March 14, 2016
Press Release
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo today issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs’ award of $300,000 in technical assistance to the Commission on Decolonization for political status education. The grant will enable the Commission to begin outreach efforts to educate the public about legal status options for a future political status plebiscite. This award is part of the nearly $1.5 million in technical assistance funding that was recently awarded by the Office of Insular Affairs.

As Congresswoman Bordallo indicated in her Congressional address last week, she has been working closely with Assistant Secretary Kia’aina regarding the Commission’s grant application.
Congresswoman Bordallo underscored to Assistant Secretary Kia’aina the importance of this grant to moving forward with Guam’s efforts on self-determination. The grant follows a conference hosted by OIA last month to discuss the political statuses of Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa.

“I am pleased that the Office of Insular Affairs has approved Guam’s application for $300,000 for an education campaign on political status. This grant will be critical to informing the public about the self-determination process, the legal status options that will be available to them, and the ramifications a change in political status may have on their daily lives. This grant is consistent with the intent of Congress and the provision that I passed in 2010 to clarify that OIA can use technical assistance for political status education in the territories. I greatly appreciate that Assistant Secretary Kia’aina fulfilled a commitment that she made to me to provide federal resources for political status education in Guam.

“I believe these funds will provide an initial investment in the self-determination effort.  I thank Assistant Secretary Kia’aina for her leadership within the Obama Administration to support our self-determination efforts. I also commend the Commission on Decolonization for their diligent work in putting together this grant application and continuing their work to advance this issue. As I said in my Congressional address last week, self-determination is the ultimate legacy that we can leave for our children, and it is an issue that we have waited far too long to resolve. I will continue to work with our local leaders and federal partners to build off the progress we have made and finally give our people an opportunity to exercise their right to self-determination.”


BREAKING: Self-determination education outreach provided $300,00
Press Releases
Office of the Governor of Guam
March 15, 2016  

“This grant, in addition to the $250,000 provided by the local government, will help fund the educational materials to our people as required before a self-determination vote. The request for this support was made about a year ago, in light of the federal government’s support for the Puerto Rico plebiscite but more importantly because we need to press forward.”
Governor Eddie Baza Calvo
$1.5M in Interior funds includes climate change, cultural preservation

Guam received word this morning that $1.5 million in federal funds will help pay for the self-determination public outreach campaign as well as climate change projects, natural and cultural resource preservation, and other programs.

Governor Calvo pushed for a $250,000 in local funds for the Office of Decolonization to help fund education outreach, providing information on the three status options as required by law. Those options are: free association, independence and statehood.

Last year, the Governor also sent a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior requesting the courtesy extended to Puerto Rico be extended to Guam. The federal government has provided Puerto Rico with money for the U.S. territory’s plebiscite.

“It is essential that we, as a people, have the opportunity to determine for ourselves, and declare to the rest of the world, our political status,” Governor Calvo stated.

In a written statement, U.S. Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Assistant Secretary Kia’aina, noted her appreciation of the island’s leaders to move Guam’s self-determination vote forward.

“This year’s funding reflects the priorities and issues of importance to the people of Guam including self-determination, public safety, climate change, natural and cultural resources, and capacity building for non-governmental organizations,” said U.S. Department of the Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas  Assistant Secretary Kia’aina.

The various Technical Assistance Program grants, including one Maintenance Assistance Program grant awarded for 2016 follow:

Guam Self-Determination Community Education Outreach Program – $300,000 to the Commission on Decolonization to implement a comprehensive community educational outreach program in preparation for a planned 2018 plebiscite.

Tales of Decolonization #17: Life in Free Association

When discussing the future possibilities for Guam in terms of political status change and decolonization, the talk inevitably turns towards the other islands in Micronesia as examples. They are invoked sometimes as cautionary tales, meant to frighten those interested in learning more into accepting less in political terms, and just embracing one's colonial status in order to avoid becoming a place such as the Federated States of Micronesia or FSM. At the same time, a place such as Palau/Belau, which has become a darling of international media lately, is often pointed to as providing a example for Guam to follow. One things that makes this sort of exercise intriguing is the fact that the islands surrounding Guam can all help us understand more about the nature of Free Association, both its advantages, but also its potential dangers.

The CNMI to the north of Guam represents Free Association in the sense of intimately connecting oneself to their colonizer, perhaps in a way that reinvents or reinforces a colonial relationship. Although the CNMI was able to negotiate a number of rights as part of their agreement with the United States, the political intimacy with the United States left the CNMI without the ability to negotiate effectively. We saw this in the way in which certain powers that were part of their original agreement with the United States have been given up, through a process known as Federalization.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is another form of Free Association, but with more autonomy, based around a strategic value and a history of environmental exploitation and abuse. The Marshall Islands became their own political entity because of the base in their islands and also the terrible legacy from the nuclear testing conducted there. Those things gave them some power in terms of negotiating, but support or respect from the United States waxes and wanes with less consistency than the moon. Even if people on Guam may consider the United States the richest and most powerful and greatest country in the world, they should look at the way in which the United States routinely tries, in rather odious ways to escape their financial and moral obligations to the people of the Marshall Islands.

Palau is often pointed to as being the best example within the Micronesian area of a nation that is using its freely associated status in a way that is closest to political independence. Palau has gained international recognition, especially through its aggressive environmental policies aimed at protecting its aquatic resources. Palau experienced its own time of struggle in obtaining its free association status, when its desired constitution conflicted with the interests of the United States, and the US kept them in political limbo for years trying to force it to give up its nuclear free dreams.

The Federated States of Micronesia exists because of those who were left to negotiate with, and did not seek their own autonomous path. Out of the four island groups surrounding Guam, it seems to the have the least to offer the United States and the most negative associations, both in Guam and in Hawai'i. While the others mentioned have their own importance to the US in various ways, the true is not true for the FSM, and as such the United States routinely drops the pretense of treating them like an ally or fellow independent nation, and instead treats them like children who are always begging for money and causing problems. This came to a head last year when a group of leaders in the FSM proposed a bill calling for an early end to their compact agreement with the United States, because of the way the United States looks down on the FSM and acts like the agreement is charity on their behalf rather than something negotiated between two serious partners.

Each of these island groups offer lessons for Guam today. Offer ways of seeing the advantages of being freely associated and the potential disadvantages.


Palau's patience tested by U.S. Congress' funding delays
by Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno
Pacific Daily News
July 10, 2016

Congress’ years of failure to approve a $216 million, 15-year funding package for Palau has caused frustration with the island nation’s citizens, who have given the United States exclusive military access to Palau for decades.

Ambassador Hersey Kyota voiced Palau’s sentiment at the House Natural Resources Committee’s Insular Affairs Subcommittee hearing Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

“The resulting delay is not understood by, and is a matter of great frustration, among the people of Palau and its friends in the Pacific,” Kyota’s testified, on behalf of Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr.

Congress’ delays in approving another round of funding for Palau, comes at a time when China is courting the support of Pacific island nations.

Gregorio Sablan, the Northern Marianas congressional delegate, is the chief sponsor of legislation that seeks congressional funding approval for Palau. Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo and Hawaii lawmakers are supporting Sablan’s efforts, congressional records show.

Strategic area

Sablan testified at the congressional subcommittee hearing that Palau has become an “increasingly important and strategic area of the world.”

While Palau has given the U.S. military access to the island nation for defense purposes, the delay by the U.S. in approving the funding assistance for Palau makes “it seem as though the United States is not good for its word,” Sablan said.

The Defense Department has sent letters to Senate and House leadership, expressing support for inclusion of funding for Palau in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017, which is a good sign, Sablan said, “but we must reach the finish line.”

The United States runs the risk of losing Palau as a strategic partner if Congress fails to approve the renewal of the island nation’s Compact of Free Association agreement, Bordallo said Thursday. The agreement also allows Palau citizens to live and work in Guam and other U.S. jurisdictions, and has allowed Palauans to volunteer to serve in the U.S. military.

“Renewal of the Palau compact is crucial to our country’s continuing strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region,” Bordallo said.

China concerns

Beijing is concerned the redeployment of U.S. troops to Guam and the proposed development of a training range in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are directed against China, wrote Kristien Bergerson, a senior policy analyst at the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, in a March 2016 research report, “China’s Efforts to Counter U.S. Forward Presence in the Asia Pacific.”

“While Beijing is concerned about the U.S. military footprint, China’s tourism industry has been acquiring hotels and apartment buildings in Palau and hotel and casino development projects in Saipan, as well as establishing Chinese-operated tour organizations in the CNMI,” the report stated.
Congress created the commission in 2000 to submit an annual report on the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.

Palau’s Compact of Free Association agreement with the United States hasn’t been renewed since it expired in 2009, according to Bordallo. The U.S.-Palau agreement reached in 2010 awaits approval by Congress.

Federal funding

While waiting for congressional approval of U.S. funding for Palau, the federal government continues to provide about $13 million a year in funding assistance to Palau, according to a federal report.

Since 2011, the United States has provided $79 million in economic assistance to Palau through annual appropriations, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office in a recent report to Congress.

If Sablan’s H.R. 4531 were enacted, Palau would receive approximately $30 million more in U.S. assistance through fiscal 2024 than it would receive under the 2010 agreement, according to the GAO report.

This set of lawmakers in Congress have several months remaining in their terms, and many of them are busy trying to get re-elected, including Bordallo.

In April, a U.S. Senate subcommittee held hearings for the proposed Compact renewal.

High-power lobbyist

Palau has spent years waiting for Congress’ approval of a new round of funding assistance, even with the help of a former part-time federal government bureaucrat who also worked as a lobbyist for Palau and Puerto Rico.

In one of the State Department cables released by WikiLeaks last year, lobbyist Jeff Farrow directly emailed to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Palau was “offended by U.S. positions” during 2009 negotiations on the Compact funding.

Farrow described in his email to Clinton that, despite a statement by “very impressive Palau reps” at a June 2009 negotiation, “the Palau delegation was deeply disappointed with the response of the United States delegation.”

Two days later, Clinton forwarded the email to Jacob Sullivan, her deputy chief of staff, and wrote: “Jake --- Pls review, do some recon outreach and advise what, if anything, we should do. Thx. H.”
Clinton’s emails, including emails from Farrow on Palau, have received national media and watchdog groups’ scrutiny because Farrow, as a lobbyist for a foreign government, had direct email access to the State Department’s top boss.

Farrow’s emails to Clinton on Palau was listed as No. 4 out of the “Top 10 Most Ethically Challenged Hillary Emails,” published in March 2016 by the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust.

Compact migrants

While supporting funding for Palau, Bordallo also repeated her call for Congress to take action on her proposal to further help Guam, Hawaii and other U.S. jurisdictions afford public services provided to immigrants from Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

She said Guam and other host jurisdictions of these immigrants “spent hundreds of millions to support the compacts and migrants, and Congress must provide relief that would alleviate these costs.”

GovGuam reported to the federal government earlier this year that it spent $149 million to provide services to Compact migrants in 2015, raising GovGuam’s tally to close to $1 billion over a dozen years, a federal office’s report to a U.S. Senate committee states.

Before last year’s reported cost, GovGuam has sought reimbursement from the federal government for $825 million that the local government reported as the cost of services to regional migrants from 2003 to 2014.

The federal government has provided about $33 million a year in Compact funding assistance, which Guam shares, primarily with Hawaii.

However, the GAO has said in a report that GovGuam’s numbers, as well as the tab presented by other local governments which host of the regional migrants, are in doubt. GAO questions the accuracy and credibility of the numbers, in part because the host local governments “did not include federal funding that supplemented local expenditures, or include revenue received from Compact migrants,” the office stated in a report.

Impatient friend

While Palau has been a staunch ally of the United States, Bordallo said further congressional delays could strain the United States’ friendship with the island nation.

“The people of Palau are patient, but their patience is being seriously tested,” Kyota said. “Approval of the agreement is now critical — not just for Palau, but because of the dynamic changes occurring in the Western Pacific.”


 This dome in the Pacific house tons of radioactive waste - and its leaking

by Coleen Jose, and Jan Hendrik Hinzel
The Guardian
July 3, 2015

Black seabirds circle high above the giant concrete dome that rises from a tangle of green vines just a few paces from the lapping waves of the Pacific. Half buried in the sand, the vast structure looks like a downed UFO.

At the summit, figures carved into the weathered concrete state only the year of construction: 1979. Officially, this vast structure is known as the Runit Dome. Locals call it The Tomb.

Below the 18-inch concrete cap rests the United States’ cold war legacy to this remote corner of the Pacific Ocean: 111,000 cubic yards of radioactive debris left behind after 12 years of nuclear tests.
Brackish water pools around the edge of the dome, where sections of concrete have started to crack away. Underground, radioactive waste has already started to leach out of the crater: according to a 2013 report by the US Department of Energy, soil around the dome is already more contaminated than its contents.

Now locals, scientists and environmental activists fear that a storm surge, typhoon or other cataclysmic event brought on by climate change could tear the concrete mantel wide open, releasing its contents into the Pacific Ocean.

“Runit Dome represents a tragic confluence of nuclear testing and climate change,” said Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, who visited the dome in 2010.

“It resulted from US nuclear testing and the leaving behind of large quantities of plutonium,” he said. “Now it has been gradually submerged as result of sea level rise from greenhouse gas emissions by industrial countries led by the United States.”

Enewetak Atoll, and the much better-known Bikini Atoll, were the main sites of the United States Pacific Proving Grounds, the setting for dozens of atomic explosions during the early years of the cold war.

The remote islands – roughly halfway between Australia and Hawaii – were deemed sufficiently distant from major population centres and shipping lanes, and in 1948, the local population of Micronesian fishermen and subsistence farmers were evacuated to another atoll 200 km away.
In total, 67 nuclear and atmospheric bombs were detonated on Enewetak and Bikini between 1946 and 1958 – an explosive yield equivalent to 1.6 Hiroshima bombs detonated every day over the course of 12 years.

The detonations blanketed the islands with irradiated debris, including Plutonium-239, the fissile isotope used in nuclear warheads, which has a half-life of 24,000 years.

When the testing came to an end, the US Defence Nuclear Agency (DNA) carried out an eight-year cleanup, but Congress refused to fund a comprehensive decontamination programme to make the entire atoll fit for human settlement again.

The DNA’s preferred option – deep ocean dumping – was prohibited by international treaties and hazardous waste regulations, and there was little appetite for transporting the irradiated refuse back to the US.

In the end, US servicemen simply scraped off the islands’ contaminated topsoil and mixed it with radioactive debris. The resulting radioactive slurry was then dumped in an unlined 350-foot crater on Runit Island’s northern tip, and sealed under 358 concrete panels.

But the dome was never meant to last. According to the World Health Organization, the $218m plan was designed as temporary fix: a way to store contaminated material until a permanent decontamination plan was devised.

Meanwhile, only three of the atoll’s 40 islands were cleaned up, but not Enjebi, where half of Enewetak’s population had traditionally lived. And as costs spiralled, resettlement efforts of the northern part of the atoll stalled indefinitely.

Nevertheless, in 1980, as the Americans prepared their own departure, the dri-Enewetak (“people of Enewetak”) were allowed to return to the atoll after 33 years.

Three years later, the Marshall Islands signed a compact of free association with the US, granting its people certain privileges, but not full citizenship.

The deal also settled of “all claims, past, present and future” related to the US Nuclear Testing Program – and left the Runit Dome under the responsibility of the Marshallese government.

Today, the US government insists that it has honoured all its obligations, and that the jurisdiction for the dome and its toxic contents lies with the Marshall Islands.

The Marshallese, meanwhile, say that a country with a population of 53,000 people and a GDP of $190m – most of it from US aid programs – is simply incapable of dealing with the potential radioactive catastrophe left behind by the Americans.

“It’s clear as day that the local government will neither have the expertise or funds to fix the problem if it needs a particular fix,” said Riyad Mucadam, climate adviser to the office of the Marshallese president.

Today, Runit – the setting for JG Ballard’s short story Terminal Beach – is still uninhabited, but it receives regular stream of visitors heading from neighboring islands to its abundant fishing grounds or searching for scrap metal to salvage.

Approaching the island by boat across from the vast, shallow lagoon – the world’s second largest – the concrete structure is barely visible among the scrubby trees.

Three decades after the Americans’ departure, abandoned bunkers dot the shoreline, and electric cables encased in black rubber snake across the sand.

Nowhere on the beaches or the dome itself is there a warning to stay away – or even an indication of radioactivity.

Enewetak’s senator Jack Ading, who lives in Majuro 600 miles away, doesn’t believe his home atoll is safe: resettlement efforts in Rongelap and Bikini atolls, also affected by testing, had to be aborted in the 1970s due to lingering contamination, despite safety assurances by the US.

“Just close it off,” said Ading, who has called for armed guards to be stationed on the site – or at the very least the construction of a fence.

“If they |the US government] can spend billions of dollars on wars like Iraq, I’m sure they can spend $10,000 for a fence. It’s a small island. Make it permanent for people not to visit Runit Dome and the surrounding area, ever.”

Locals say they know there is “poison” on the island – there is no Marshallese word for contamination – but say that Runit offers one of the few sources of income on the impoverished atol.
The US has yet to fully compensate the dri-Enewetak for the irreversible damage to their homeland, a total amounting to roughly $244m as appraised by the Nuclear Claims Tribunal, which was established in 1988 to adjudicate claims for compensation for health effects from the testing.

Traditional livelihoods were destroyed by the testing: the US Department of Energy bans the export of fish and copra – dried coconut flesh used for its oil – on the grounds of lingering contamination.
Nowadays, the atoll’s growing population survives on a depleted trust fund from the Compact of Free Association with the US, but payouts come to just $100 per person, according to locals.

Many locals are deeply in debt, and dependent on a supplemental food program funded by the US Department of Agriculture, which delivers shipments of process foods such as Spam, flour and canned goods. The destruction a centuries-old lifestyle have lead to both a diabetes epidemic and regular bouts of starvation on the island.

Those who can afford it have taken advantage of the Compact’s visaless travel benefits and migrated to Hawaii.

“Enewetak has no money. What will people do to make money?” asked Rosemary Amitok, who lives with her husband Hemy on the atoll’s largest island.

The couple eke out a living by scavenging for scrap copper on Runit and other islands on the atoll. For weeks at a time, they camp out in a makeshift tent on the island while Hemy digs for cables and other metal debris.

The sell the salvage for a dollar or two per pound to a Chinese merchant who runs Enewetak’s only store and exports the metal, along with sea shells and sea cucumbers to Fujian in China.

Other – and more worrying – traces of Enewetak’s history have also reached China: according to a 2014 study published in Environmental Science & Technology, plutonium isotopes from the nuclear tests have been found as far a the Pearl River Estuary in Guangdong province.

Many people in Enewetak fear that one day the dome will break open, further spreading highly radioactive debris.

As catastrophic weather events become more frequent, recent studies – including 2013 study of the Runit Dome’s structural integrity carried out by the DoE – have warned that typhoons could destroy or damage the cement panels, or inundate the island.

A 2013 report commissioned by the US Department of Energy to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory acknowledged that radioactive materials are already leaching out of the dome, but downplays the possibility of serious environmental damage or health risks.

“The waste within the dome is at least contained. There aren’t too many concerns for the Runit Dome to pose a threat to local people,” said Terry Hamilton, the scientific director for the Marshall Islands Program of the DoE-commissioned Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Hamilton said that cracks in the concrete were merely the result of long-term drying and shrinkage, but said the DoE was planning to carry out cosmetic repairs in order to restore public confidence.
The DoE insists Enewetak is safe for human settlement today, and says it monitors local residents, groundwater, crops and marine life for radiation. Separate checkups are carried out on those suspected of digging for scrap metal.

Though Enewetak is not allowed to sell its copra and fish, Hamilton insists the produce would satisfy safety standards on the international market.

But locals complain that basic information – including results of their own tests for exposure to plutonium – is not readily accessible to them.

Independent scientists say that salvaging Runit’s scrap metal may expose locals to much higher risks.
“Those guys are digging in the dirt breathing in stuff in hot spots. That has to be hundreds of thousands times higher doses of potential health effects than swimming,” said Ken Buessler, a senior scientist and marine chemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who visited Runit and gathered samples of sediment in the lagoon earlier this year.

In 2012, Barack Obama signed legislation directing the DoE to monitor the groundwater beneath the dome, conduct a visual study of its exterior and submit reports determining whether contamination in the dome poses a health risk to the dri-Enewetak.

In an emailed response to questions, US ambassador to the Marshall Islands Thomas Armbruster said that a recent meeting between the US, the DoE and the Marshall Islands government was “one of the best ever”.

The minister himself remembers that encounter differently.

Tony De Brum was nine years old and living on the atoll of Likiep, when he witnessed the blinding flash, thunderous roar and blood-red skies of Castle Bravo, the most powerful hydrogen bomb ever detonated by the US, which was tested at Bikini Atoll on 1 March 1954.

Now the Marshall Islands minister of foreign affairs, he has since emerged as a voice for small island nations in international climate negotiations and leading advocate on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. De Brum is spearheading an ambitious lawsuit against the world’s nuclear powers, including the US, at the International Court of Justice.

“We asked the Americans, are you going to put a sign on the dome that says ‘Don’t come here because you might get exposed’?” he said.

“Our president asked: ‘Are you going to put a sign up so that the birds and turtles also understand?’”
The US has never formally apologized to the Marshall Islands for turning it into an atomic testing ground. When the UN special rapporteur on human rights and toxic waste, Calin Georgescu, visited the Marshall Islands in 2012 he criticized the US, remarking that the islanders feel like ‘nomads’ in their own country. Nuclear testing, he said, “left a legacy of distrust in the hearts and minds of the Marshallese”.

“Why Enewetak?” asked Ading, Enewetak’s exiled senator during an interview in the nation’s capital. “Every day, I have that same question. Why not go to some other atoll in the world? Or why not do it in Nevada, their backyard? I know why. Because they don’t want the burden of having nuclear waste in their backyard. They want the nuclear waste hundreds of thousands miles away. That’s why they picked the Marshall Islands.”

“The least they could’ve done is correct their mistakes.”

This article is part of a multimedia project produced by The GroundTruth Project
This article was amended on 13 July 2015. The original article stated that the Defense Nuclear Agency later became the Department of Energy. In fact, the DNA became the Defense Special Weapons Agency in 1996 before being combined with other agencies to form the current Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) in 1998. The amendment also corrects line stating that the the Nuclear Claims Tribunal was established by the US Congress.

In December 2015, in an oft overlooked corner of the globe, the Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia (F.S.M.) introduced a resolution* signifying the intent to end the Compact of Free Association with the United States of America in 2018. The two sides were in the process of discussing a potential renewal of the Compact when it expires in 2023.

While the rest of the world watches events in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, the People’s Republic of China is positioning itself to be in the driver’s seat in an area of key strategic interest to the United States. If Washington fails to act in a timely manner to renew the sometimes troubled Compact relationship, it will inadvertently drive the Micronesians into the arms of China and simultaneously leave a gaping hole in strategic access.

The Compact of Free Association is a little known element of the complex web of relationships that spans the global interests of the United States of America. At the end of World War II, the United Nations established relationships between recently liberated Japanese Imperial holdings and the winning parties. As a result, the Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) were established by UN mandate (Security Council Resolution 21 signed July 18, 1947) and United States assumed responsibility for oversight. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the U.S. developed and implemented the current civil code and mechanisms that are the basis of governance in the F.S.M. today. Beginning in the mid-1960s, moves towards autonomy in the region led to the establishment of the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas, Republic of Marshall Islands, Republic of Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia.

The Federated States of Micronesia consists of four districts: Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk, and Yap. All the districts consists of multiple islands and atoll groupings that represent in excess of 2,600,000 square kilometers of land and territorial waters with a population slightly more than 100,000 citizens located strategically in the western portion of the North Pacific Ocean east of the Republic of the Philippines and north of Papua New Guinea. Historically, these islands were called the Caroline Islands and they experienced some of the fiercest fighting of the Pacific Campaign during World War II.

As a key feature of the Compact, the United States provides for the defense of F.S.M. This allows F.S.M. to free up important resources while maintaining a small constabulary force consisting of a small paramilitary force in the Division of Maritime Surveillance. As members of the Compact, Micronesians can freely join the U.S. military without permanent residency or citizenship. The agreement allows the U.S. to maintain strategic access to Lines of Communication that extend into the East China and South China Sea and beyond, waters that account for a majority of the trade and energy commodities transiting through Asia. With approximately one-third of global trade and nearly 50 percent of energy commerce passing through the region, it’s understandable why U.S. security interests maintain visibility on F.S.M.

Administration of the islands has been a source of tension between the local Micronesian people and the U.S. government since the establishment of the TTPI in 1947. The U.S. military (as administered by the U.S. Navy from Guam from 1947-1951) used many of the atolls in the region for open nuclear weapons testing, resulting in many diseases (cancer, birth abnormalities, and diabetes). In addition to the long-term health implications, continued resentment in the local populace remains below the surface.

The Department of the Interior is the current U.S. government agency that manages the Compact relationship with F.S.M. through the mechanisms of the Joint Economic Management Committee (JEMCO). JEMCO’s purpose is to “strengthen management and accountability with regard to the assistance provided under the Compact, as amended, and to promote the effective use of funding provided thereunder.” The JEMCO relationship provides for joint oversight of the Compact, but is viewed as being overly favorable towards the U.S. side of the relationship. The Compact agreement allows free movement of F.S.M. citizens to the rest of the U.S. with legal non-immigrant status. The majority of Micronesians migrate to Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. The associated costs with the arrangement weigh heavily on already limited budgets in the destination states and countries. The U.S. Congress has authorized increased funding in the budget over the last few fiscal years to address these impacts.

Both sides of the Compact relationship agree that there are economic, education, and healthcare concerns in F.S.M. It is solving those concerns where disagreement takes place, with Micronesians accusing the U.S. government of mismanagement and being too slow with development aid. The Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs in Honolulu also recognizes the unique set of challenges to F.S.M. and its neighbors and recently provided recommendations to Congressional leaders on how to address the concerns: “1) Addressing Freely Associated States (FAS) Out Migration 2) Improved coordination of Current Federal Programs and Funds 3) Establishment of Micronesian One-Stop Service Centers and 4) Establishing a Federal Interagency Group on Compact Impact Aid.”

Ending the Compact: Say What?

Although the Compact of Free Association with the Federated States of Micronesia is scheduled to expire in 2023, the process for renegotiating the relationship with the United States has been ongoing throughout the agreement’s history. The most recent amendment to the agreement took place in 2003 with the passing of Public Law 108-188 by the 108th U.S. Congress. This highlights the ability to periodically go back and address policy and implementation concerns. The move to end the Compact in 2018 is not only five years early, it disrupts the funding of programs that are mandated through a 15-year provision cycle. In the current amended agreement, annual mandatory financial assistance is scheduled to end in 2023 and be replaced with a general trust fund. The Trust Fund was established and continues to report annually in accordance with the amended 2003 Compact.

Ending the Compact in 2018 impacts F.S.M. more than it does the U.S. For one thing, Micronesians currently living abroad will lose their immigration status and face a potential loss of federal benefits already being provided. In F.S.M.s view, the ending of the Compact provides an opportunity to redefine the relationship with the U.S. and set things on a more equal footing, replacing the existing junior-senior partner relationship with one between two independent sovereign nations. The most serious impact from the U.S. standpoint is in the provision of security and defense for F.S.M. If that is not provided by the United States, who then would be the guarantor of Micronesian security? This is where the People’s Republic of China enters the picture.

China’s Growing Influence and the Second Island Chain Strategy

At a time when news on the South China Sea disputes and the tensions in the East China Sea dominates the 24 hour news cycle, the growing Chinese influence in the Pacific islands seems to go generally unnoticed. However, Beijing’s growing presence has become of significant concern to many nations, including the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. The influence is generally low key, taking the form of a “soft power” approach that provides economic and developmental aid with “no strings attached.” As the investment and aid eclipses that provided by the U.S. and others in the region, Chinese influence carries more weight, including in foreign policy decisions, such as negotiations over the Compact of Free Association with F.S.M. Through numerous large-scale infrastructure investments (many of which are of questionable quality), small-scale programs and organizations, as well as the construction of Official Residences, the Chinese have demonstrated “a stark (difference) as the U.S. clearly and openly begun a process of decreased funding…leading to the end of the major bilateral agreement between it and the FSM.” Although concerns such as these were highlighted almost 10 years ago, Chinese investment is more noticeable now than ever. Overseas Developmental Assistance (ODA) from China has increased steadily since 2003, from minimal amounts to an officially reported total of $28 million. Anecdotal information estimates that the actual figure could be as much as three to four times higher. Reports of numerous trips by F.S.M. Congressional leaders to China only exacerbate the perceptions of influence and a reluctance to engage the U.S.

Despite the relatively benign view of investment by the Chinese in F.S.M., the issues of maritime security and strategic access provide more cause for concern. With the ending of the Compact, the U.S. could potentially lose free access to the strategic lines of communication that connect the Pacific Ocean to the vital traffic of the East and South China Seas. Yet, there’s more in the context of China’s grand strategy involving the Second Island Chain and methods to stop intervention (called “counter-intervention” in Chinese military literature) in defending China’s maritime periphery. The Second Island Chain refers to a element of China’s strategy that involves maintaining its maritime security interests in a tiered perspective.

Possession of portions of the Second Island Chain allows China to become “springboards against foreign force projection.” Restricting access to these regions, such as F.S.M., supports Chinese military and national strategy goals. In the regional view of security, when tied to the Island Chain concepts, F.S.M. fits neatly into a number of jigsaw puzzle pieces that are falling into place for China in securing its national interests.

Security Implications: Why the US and Others Should Care…

While the time and attention of policymakers is focused rightly on the events taking shape in the East China Sea and South China Sea, there is another significant security issue that requires a focused effort from U.S. national decision makers. If F.S.M. were to gracefully fall into the long-term sphere of Chinese influence, the ramifications would be tremendous. Some will look at this issue as if the Micronesians are artfully coercing the United States into a sweeter long-term deal. However, if we understate the implications, then the U.S. will face a shift in regional security that leaves nearby Guam at risk and other key allies in the region with much more to think about regarding the relationships with the U.S.

In the case of other national interests in the region, just as China views itself being encircled, imagine the Philippines’ perception with strategic access potentially being cut off to its immediate west, eventual reintegration of Taiwan into mainland China to its north, and strategic access restricted to a newly changed situation directly to its east. Encircled? Yes.

The same dilemma will face other actors in the region such as the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Japan, South Korea, and all the way to India and Europe. Limited strategic access for trade, resources, and military response will be made even more difficult by forcing interested countries to use longer lines of communication that add days and weeks that will be reflected in higher costs for material goods.

The Compact of Free Association needs more time and attention before the agreement terminates in 2018. The U.S. needs to prioritize efforts to ensure that security interests long term are not adversely impacted.

Lieutenant Colonel Tom Matelski is a U.S. Army War College Fellow at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Army War College, the U.S. Army, the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

*Corrected. The resolution has only been introduced, and has not yet passed.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Protecting Paradise

Protecting Paradise on Pagan Island
by Jerome Kaipat Aldan
June 14, 2016

I was eight years old when Mt. Pagan, one of two volcanoes that created Pagan Island, erupted. I have many precious childhood memories of that beautiful island. I remember going for swims in the ocean. Small houses made of wood and tin blended in with the natural beauty.

To this day, Pagan remains a paradise, a place to go and be close to nature. The water is clean and uncorrupted. It is a pristine place, a natural wonder.

The U.S. military wants to destroy that paradise, turning it into a live-fire training ground for sailors, pilots and Marines. In 2013, the Navy and Marines proposed expanding training activities in the Mariana Islands. In addition to expanding existing facilities on the island of Tinian, the Marines have set their sights on taking over the entirety of Pagan, displacing those who still call it home.

The beaches I swam off as a child would be turned into battlegrounds 16 weeks out of the year. Hundreds of Marines would storm these beaches in landing craft, with helicopters, fighter jets and drones screaming overhead, firing real bullets and dropping real bombs.

The military’s plans would destroy Pagan. The island would become a wasteland. That is unacceptable to me, and to many others.

I have vowed to fight this to the end to ensure this horrific vision does not become reality.
Pagan is not uninhabited. The people who live there now are the children of the people who were there when the volcano erupted. They have deep memories and carry the beautiful stories from their parents of living there. Pagan is what feels like home to many of us.

I live in Saipan, but I go back to Pagan when I can, sometimes staying for a few months. Getting to that remote island isn’t easy. It is a 200-mile boat ride from Saipan, but it is a beautiful trip passing by many of the Northern Mariana Islands—Anatahan, Sarigan, Guguan, Alamagan and others—until you can finally see Pagan’s distinctive profile rising from the ocean waves.

We have plans for Pagan. We want to resettle it. We want to revitalize its economy, and make it a destination for ecotourists and others.

But none of this will happen if the military gets its way, and bombs and bullets fly as Marines practice storming its beaches time after time. The people of the Marianas deserve better than this.

The military’s plans would also be an ecological disaster. Pagan is a biologically and geologically diverse island that is home to many threatened and endangered species.

This high-intensity military training would destroy these irreplaceable plant and animal species. Extensive degradation of the surrounding waters and reefs would also be unavoidable.

Pagan and all the Northern Islands are irreplaceable and incredibly special places. But they are so vulnerable and isolated. The military thinks their highest and best use is to be bombed and blown to oblivion to ready American soldiers for Pacific conflicts that may never come.

The military is wrong, and the people of these islands will fight to protect our homes and our way of life as hard as we must and for as long as we must.

We will prevail. We have to.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mensahi ginen i Gehilo' #16: Kao Siña ta Yamak i Chi-ta Siha?

I asunton decolonization gof takhilo' gi halacha na tiempo giya Guahan.

Magof yu' put este, sa' esta mas ki dies na sakkan hu kekechonnek este.

Lao, kada na manli'e' yu' kombetsaion pat diniskuti gi kumunidat put este, ha na'annok na ti manlisto hit.

Put hemplo, gi ma'pos na simana, humuyong na tinige' gi PDN put i salape' federat iya Guahan ha risisibi kada sakkan, ya put este na salape' siempre ti sina manindependente hit.

Esta manoppe ham yan si Victoria Leon Guerrero. In kattayi i editor para i PDN, ya esta mana'huyong i tinige'-mami.

Kada humalom yu' gi este na klasen diniskuti, hu huhungok i meggai na chinatkinemprende put decolonization yan i matulaika-ña i estao-ta pulitikat.

I mas takhilo' pat i mas atdet na prublema, ti i salape' federat, ti put taimanu na para ta difenden maisa hit, ti put taimanu na para ta na'ladangkolo i ekonomia-ta.

Todu enao siha, hunggan prublema, lao ti sen atdet. Guaha sina ta cho'gue put enao siha, meggai na chalan, meggai na sina na planu.

Lao i mas atdet na prublem gaige giya hita. Gaige gi hinasso-ta.

Kao sina ta yamak i chi-ta gi sanhalom-ta?

Kao sina ta fanmanimahina mo'na put este na lugat yan i lina'la'-ta?

Kao sina ta yamak i kadena gi tintanos-ta?

Kao sina ta sotta i guinife-ta ta'lo?

Estague un tinige' ginen as i difunta Chilang Bamba. Gi 1970s yan 1980s, macho'cho'cho' gui' para i Commission on Self-Determination ya ha representa i isla-ta gi konferensia taiguini giya Puerto Rico. Annok gi sinangan-ña i chi-ta komo taotao. Meggai na Chamorro manmanhahasso taiguini. Lao ti sina mangetu taiguini. Debi di ta atan mo'na yan hasso mo'na komo taotao.


Commonwealth and the Role of the Community
First International Sovereignty Conference, April 26 – May 2, 1980
San Juan, PR
Chilang Bamba

First of all, and speaking only for myself, although this perhaps may also represent the views of most Guamanians, I do not have the slightest interest in considering any program for Guam which would lead to independence from the great nation, the United States of America. On the contrary we in Guam are proud of our American citizenship, and have demonstrated on many occasions in the past, that we are willing to fight for it, and for the United States, when it is necessary to do so. However the fact that the people of Guam are proud to be Americans, does not mean that we agree with everything that the huge bureaus and agencies of the United States do…

I have found that it is very easy to become angry and upset because of these frustrations with federal officials, but then, I begin to analyze some of the things that our own local government does, which likewise causes frustrations and distress in our population. The conclusion I have reached, therefore is that dealing with government is always going to be a somewhat frustrating, but necessary experience.

---Nevertheless, it is our government, and I believe that it is our responsibility to present well-reasoned, well-documented, plans and petitions for change, as we believe it is necessary, and then persist in gaining recognition for these plans.

---Further, if independence is under consideration, we must carefully consider how lonesome we are going to be without the protection and the benefits of one of the few major powers in the world that really cares about our welfare. Further, I believe that it is also imperative that we consider, at every step of our studies, the economic impact of whatever it is we may wish to do… We, who are elected to lead them, should not take the slightest chance of depriving them of any of these necessities by some adventure, or experience, in the government process.


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