Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'd Rather Be Activating

Sigh, there is so much going on right now, that could possibly dictate the future of Guam in terms of the military buildup. I should be out organizing right now, or working with other like minded people who are either trying to halt, stall or re-negotiate this buildup. I should at least be paying very close attention to what's going on so I can help disseminate the information which the media on Guam is ignoring or which the military doesn't want people to know or think very much about.

Sadly, I am not doing much of that right now, since I have a stack of papers to grade.

Puede ha' ti taiguihi para todu i lina'la'-hu gi kolehu. Puede ha', para bai hu espiha empenu put taimanu sina hu na'dana' maolek i lina'la' i fafana'gue yan i lina'la' activist.

Debi di bei hasso na este i fine'nina na semester giya UOG, yan siempre lumafa'set este gi tiempo.

But regardless, here are some current events in Guam that both myself and all of you should be paying close attention to:


Team to hear buildup concerns
By Amritha Alladi
Pacific Daily News
October 28, 2009

Culture clash and the availability of resources were two primary concerns expressed by members of local government agencies, nonprofits and the general public on the Guam Compatibility Sustainability Study yesterday.

At a workshop sponsored by the governor's office, members of the governor's Advisory Consulting Team told the public that the study hinges on their voicing of concerns dealing with the compatibility issues caused by the impending military buildup.

"This is your opportunity to provide direction in the development of our roadmap for our children and future generations," Gov. Felix Camacho said. "Your participation at the public workshop is vital."

The compatibility study addresses the public's concern with regard to how to protect existing communities, and provide opportunities for economic development.

The Advisory Consulting Team primarily consists of members from the Matrix Design Group Inc., an interdisciplinary planning and engineering firm specializing in professional engineering consulting for the public and private sectors. The team will hear about issues the public has identified as areas of concern, and will provide a set of recommendations to the military and GovGuam on possible actions to take to ease the transition, the team's project manager and Matrix Design Group Vice President Celeste Werner said.

Dawn Cruz, a residential supervisor at Sanctuary Inc., said members of her nonprofit organization were interested in problems that may arise socially, such as new forms of bullying among youths. Additionally, she wanted to find out how the shift of 8,000 Marines and their families to the island would affect the number of youths that Sanctuary Inc. sees at its shelter.

"Are we going to have a long waiting list?" she asked. "We need to prepare ourselves for the demand."

She added that programs such as those for substance abuse prevention or family counseling may have to be altered to meet the needs of a new group.

Aside from social issues that may arise as a result of cultural differences, Guam residents said that establishing the infrastructure to support the influx of people on the island would be the biggest challenge.

"A lot of the infrastructure is a big problem. Having enough water to provide the number of people living on the island as well as power," Dededo resident Joann Fontenot said. "If we can have all that structured, then, of course, everyone will be living comfortably."

Meanwhile, Tamuning Vice Mayor Louise Rivera added that land use is of concern to her because she has seen several projects approved by the Land Use Commission, but very few that have been enforced in a timely manner.

The team also explained the process of drafting an environmental impact statement, in preparation for the release of a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) projected for Nov. 20.

The EIS is a detailed study of the potential consequences a federal action -- in this case, the buildup -- might have on people or the environment, and potential alternatives that would avoid or reduce those impacts, the One Guam Web site states. Once the draft is released, the public has 45 days to review it before the final EIS is published in the Federal Register.

But on Friday, Sens. Judy Guthertz and Rory Respicio, in a letter to Maj Gen. David Bice of the U.S. Marine Corps, requested an extension of the time needed for the public to review the draft after its release.

Following U.S. Ambassador John Roos' indication that Washington may give the new Japanese leadership more time to review the U.S.-Japan agreement on the realignment of forces, the two senators said that the people of Guam should similarly be granted an extension to review the EIS.

"Japan has announced that their decision may not be forthcoming until next summer," the letter reads. "From our perspective, the extremely restrictive 45-day review period is simply a matter of bureaucratic convenience, unrelated to the broader public purpose that it should serve, and certainly no longer sensible, based on the extension given to Japan."


‘Guam can’t expect DoD aid for buildup’
Tuesday, 27 October 2009 04:35
by Therese Hart
Marianas Variety News Staff

(Second of a series)

IT IS a policy of the Department of Defense not to provide funding for any buildup areas in a community, according to Celeste Werner, AICP president of Matrix Design Group, which is part of the governor’s Advisory and Consulting Team.

“There are a number of communities that are struggling with the exact same issues that Guam is experiencing as far as not having the funds to provide or get ready for the buildup,” Werner told Variety.

These communities, she added, are doing exactly what the government of Guam is trying to do, which is identify requirements.

“Identify them even though they don’t know what the real mission is because it’s changing. The draft environmental impact study is not out yet. They’re pulling their information together and in most cases, they’re in the same position,” said Werner.

While the consulting group can only provide input to the military, Werner foresees issues that need to be negotiated. “The military can say these are our projections and it may not be the same as ours, so there may be issues that need to be negotiated out,” she said.

Japan’s money

Werner noted that the funding that the government of Japan is providing is earmarked just for military construction projects.

“GovGuam has no control over that so we’re just focusing on what GovGuam can provide for revenues. We represent GovGuam. We worry about what GovGuam’s position is and make sure that it is fair and balanced across the board,” she said.

“Our documents will provide a third party objective, technical, professional review and opinion and recommendation that is not just coming from GovGuam. You can use those in plans and then go forward and identify more funds from different federal agencies,” said Werner.

Creative funding

Werner said the rush for federal funds is very competitive.

“Guam isn’t the only one vying for federal dollars for its own buildup. Some communities are being creative about how they are going to fund it,” Weerner said.

Some communities are doing public private partnership. Others are partnering with different nongovernment organizations involved with environmental issues that may have the same mission or goal as Guam in some specific areas that would require some additional funding.

“This is pulling both public and private in a partnering opportunity,” said Werner.

Werner said her group will be able to provide solid factual data with a third party objective and show the justifiable need for whatever Guam needs to meet and sustain the challenges of the buildup.

A series of workshops will be held to address the socio-economic impact of the buildup as well as an orientation of the national environmental policy act process related to the buildup.


Top U.S. military officer warns Japan against reneging on Futemma plan

Oct 23 09:38 AM US/Eastern

(AP) - TOKYO, Oct. 23 (Kyodo) — Visiting U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen on Friday warned Japan against reneging on a 2006 Japan-U.S. accord concerning the relocation of a U.S. military airfield within Okinawa, saying not honoring the pact would "diminish the security support for Japan."

Navy Adm. Mullen told reporters at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo that he sees the planned transfer of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station in downtown Ginowan to the northern Okinawa city of Nago as "an absolute requirement in terms of whole realignment pieces."

"I don't believe, from the military standpoint, it is possible to provide the kind of security and defense support to Japan and to the region without it," Mullen said, referring to the current bilateral accord on moving the Futemma facility by 2014.

"Moving it (the Futemma base) somewhere else diminishes the security support for Japan and the region," he said.

Mullen's remarks are in line with the tough stance shown earlier this week by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates toward Japan's new government, which has been reviewing the bilateral negotiations leading to the 2006 accord in its attempt to seek more "equal" Japan- U.S. ties.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has said his government will seek to move the heliport functions of the Futemma facility outside Okinawa, or even outside Japan -- a proposal that would contravene the bilateral pact that took years to reach.

Mullen also expressed hope that the Hatoyama Cabinet will reach a conclusion on whether to alter the realignment accord by the time U.S. President Barack Obama visits Japan on Nov. 12 and 13.

The top U.S. uniformed military officer met Friday with Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and confirmed the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance, according to Japanese government officials.

In their meeting, Okada told Mullen that Tokyo will try to reach a conclusion on the Futemma issue as soon as possible, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Okada also told the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff that Japan has been considering new support measures for Afghanistan, such as vocational training, following the scheduled end in January of the Japan's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean in support of U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in and around the war-torn country.

At the embassy, Mullen cast doubt on the idea of a no-first-use nuclear doctrine advocated by Okada, saying it would "dramatically reduce our flexibility."

He called for careful discussions on the doctrine as the U.S. nuclear deterrence extended to Japan has been serving well and the matter concerns the security of Japanese people.


Guam takes $17M, Palau rejects $156M .
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 00:51
by Mar-Vic Cagurangan and Bernadette Carreon Variety News Staff/Palau Horizon

GUAM has received $16.8 million in Compact Impact grant, accounting for over 50 percent of the $30 million allocation for U.S. jurisdictions affected by Micronesian migration, Washington officials announced yesterday.

Hawaii has received an additional $11.2 million, while the Compact Impact grant payments for the CNMI and American Samoa are still pending, according to a press release from the Department of Interior.

According to DOI assistant secretary for insular areas Tony Babauta and Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo the funds are allocated based on a formula derived from the latest enumeration of Compact migrants, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Although Guam has been receiving the lion’s share of the annual Compact grant, local officials insist that the territory should be getting way more than what it receives each year.

Sen. Frank Blas maintains that the U.S. owes Guam about $400 million for services provides to Compact migrants since 2003.

But just the same, Bordallo sees the grant as a welcome treat for Guam. “These funds may be used for education, healthcare and social services for FAS citizens,” she said.

U.S. jurisdictions stand to receive Compact grants until 2023 to aid them in defraying costs incurred as a result of increased demands placed on health, educational, social, or public sector services, or infrastructure related to such services, due to the residence of qualified non-immigrants from the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or Palau.

But while Guam is happy to take what it can get, Palau is not.

Palau has turned down the United States’offer of $156 million in direct economic assistance to its former trust territory, which celebrated its 15th Independence Day last month.

The amount is “nothing more than an arbitrary determination made without due consideration of the facts of the ground here with respect to the funding Palau needs to continue to thrive,” according to the island nation’s chief Compact representative Joshua Koshiba.

“We will not agree to accept a package that we do not believe is responsive to the requirements of the review, is adequate and in our best interest,” Koshiba stated in a letter to Alcy Frelick, director of the U.S. State Department’s Office of Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Islands Affairs.

The United States’ annual financial assistance to Palau ended last Sept. 30, but the U.S. promised to extend it for a year while the two nations review their Compact’s funding provisions.

Koshiba said Palau will not be pressured by a timetable set by U.S. which wanted the review concluded during the Oct. 19 meeting, which he called a “charade.”

He said the U.S. team did not consider the financial analysis presented by Palau.

The U.S. offered a financial package of $178.5 million but this included over $22 million to support the U.S. Postal Service for Palau and the two other

Freely Associated States — the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Palau wants the U.S. to continue the level of financial assistance originally set by their Compact — at least $15 million in direct assistance, which amounts to $225 million for the next 15 years.

Koshiba said the U.S. proposal minus the postal service money will total $156 million.

This, he added, is inadequate and will reduce the per capita income of Palau by 23 percent in the next six years and 14 percent in the next 15 years.

The proposal, he said, will also mean a 26.4 percent cut in Palau’s budget — or 12.9 percent of the island nation’s gross domestic product.

Moreover, he added, this will mean that Palau’s Trust Fund will be depleted by 2028, well before the 50th anniversary of the Compact in 2044.

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