Volume 8 Issue 2
August 25, 2010
There hasn’t been an issue of Minagahet for a few months, because I, like so many people on Guam have been waiting to see what will happen next in terms of the planned military buildup. Now, at last the time has come, and the FEIS (Uttimo na EIS) is out, but in this issue of Minagahet, I want to take a look back at some of the comments that were made about the DEIS (Draf na tinige’).
The DEIS (Draft Environmental Impact Statement) comment period was an incredible three months. The public engagement and critique was far beyond anyone could have expected. 9,000 – 10,000 comments were submitted to the Joint Guam Program Office, thousands and thousands more than they most likely anticipated. The public comment meetings were dominated by people who were either against the buildup or at least suspicious about how this sort of massive movement of people and rapid haphazard period of development could be beneficial for Guam long-term. Throughout the DEIS comment period, I was trying my best to keep up with what was going on, and wrote a series of blog posts about how we could see the buildup as a process “breaking down.” The idea of it “breaking down” wasn’t meant to convey that it wasn’t going to happen or that it had been valiantly stopped, but more to discuss how opinions of it, representations of it, and even political decisions about it were changing and moving. The buildup was always a massive, complicated, kaduku and impossible thing, but this aspect was something most people on Guam did not take seriously. Deeply embedded colonizing thoughts that whatever is good for the US is good for Guam, or that Uncle Sam is always looking out for Guam created a gigantic bubble, which made this ridiculously large project seem more like a dream than reality. The buildup was for years a golden ticket, something which would make dreams come true. Another way in which Guam reinvents its dependency upon the United States, through emotional nationalism and deluding optimism. People didn’t know a lot of details, but didn’t really have to, since those details would be taken care of by others who we can be certain are much better at their jobs than anyone on Guam and only have Guam’s interests at heart.
The DEIS comment period (thankfully) did a lot to change this. The DEIS document and those people who did the difficult work of translating it and interpreting it for the public, laid bare the scope and the damage the buildup entails. The news media, started to reach beyond the official DOD line that comes from JGPO and look at what the murmurs were in Japan and Washington D.C. and suddenly things seemed less certain, less inevitable. Not only was there a very real possibility that this buildup would not make Guam’s dreams come true, but in fact it could do far more damage than anyone had imagined, to the environment, society and the economy. Even the promises which were made that Guam would swim in more money than it could ever hope to spend, were clearly not enough to cover the costs of increasing Guam’s social capacity enough to handle the population increases or the damage that would be caused at Apra Harbor. Today, the perceptions of the buildup are far closer to where they should be than ever before. People see the buildup as both positive and negative, and by this I don’t mean they see it has something bubula’ ni positives, with unu pat dos na negatives. They see it as something which could improve some things, but could also damage others. And the positives in no clear way outweigh the negatives. This is the point which Guam should have been at 4 years ago, in the first days of this buildup, because then it could have adequately prepared for either handling or challenging this buildup.
As a researcher, I loved the DEIS comment period because it created so much discourse, so many different statements and ways of articulating a critique or a resistance to the military buildup. It provided the space for so many people who don’t normally speak out, or wouldn’t usually speak publicly on any of these issues. A lot of detractors claimed that only the activists showed up to the public comment hearings and so that created a skewed impression that many people were against the buildup, when it fact it was just a handful of manatmario na taotao siha, or as Robert Underwood called them “the maladjusted.” But in truth, while the voices of those who showed up may have been “activist” in content, they were not all longstanding activists. They were literally everybody on island, they came from all sectors, ethnicities, political affiliations, educational background, income levels. The moment helped turn them into activists, and as a result, the island moved. It’s unclear what will happen next in terms of both the buildup and the kinalamten pulitikat yan linahayan taotao which appeared over the past few months. Puede’ ha’ mångge i tinekcha’-ña.
This issue of Minagahet gathers together a number of different comments and statements which were made as part of the DEIS comment period.
For those of you looking for updates on what’s going on, there are still plenty of websites to choose from. There is Guam-Guam-Guam Blog, Decolonize Guam Blog, and Mil-Marianas. Another fantastic aspect of the DEIS comment period was that it helped create the group We Are Guahan, which has a website full of information on the buildup, but also recently began releasing The Grey Papers, or a series of informational factsheets on what sort of impacts the buildup will cause on the economy, the environment and education. Finally, Famoksaiyan has officially started a West Coast chapter and have begun a new blog, to check it out head to Famoksaiyan West Coast.
Sahuma Minagahet yan Na'suha Dinagi
Organized by Dr. Anne Perez Hattori, Simeon Palomo and Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua
A response to the DEIS sponsored by more than 30 different Chamorro cultural and political groups.
“In conclusion, the DEIS statements highlighted above reflect JGPO’s explicit awareness that the proposed build-up will have a significant, negative impact on the Chamorro people’s continued existence as an indigenous group. As such the Department of Defense is required by law to seek reasonable forms of mitigation or seek appropriate alternatives, including a genuine “NO ACTION” alternative.”
by Julian Aguon, International Human Rights Attorney
“The final EIS must address the international legal points made herein. It must articulate with specificity the international legal authority for this buildup and, in particular, address how this buildup 1) does not violate the international law(s) on decolonization, 2) is not contrary to the U.N. Charter and the more specific rules that have crystallized around the right to self-determination, and 3) does not constitute denial of the right to external self-determination of the people of Guam arising out of both the colonial context and the foreign military occupation context.”
by Senator Ben Pangelinan, Mina’trenta na Lehislaturan Guahan
Statement from the Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Taxation, Banking, Insurance and Land
“The DEIS contains numerous deficiencies and fails to meet the requirements of the NEP A process in that is does not provide adequate and verifiable information needed to formulate informed and substantive comments. The Department of the Navy has failed to provide a legally adequate document; therefore, this document shall not be used to proceed to the final EIS and presentation for a Record of Decision.”
by Dr. Rita Sharma Gopinath, University of Guam
“After numerous conversations with members of the island community, students, researchers and mental health service providers, I have compiled a response to the DEIS and its implications for the psychological health and general well being of the people of Guam. It is my professional opinion that if some of the issues outlined in this letter in response to the DEIS are not addressed immediately, the repercussions to the island and its people may be longstanding and irreversible.”
by Dr. Christine Delisle and Dr. Vicente Diaz, University of Michigan
“From this perspective, it is telling that the simplistic, trivializing, erroneous, and problematic mitigation plan for the first half of the passage, coupled with the absence of a mitigation plan for the second half, points to the overall problem with the DEIS’s understanding of the so-called “Chamorro Issues”: the overall problem appears to us to be that in fact there is no real mitigation plan at all for the impact of the large population increase on Chamorro political and cultural self-determination beyond either asking Gov Guam agencies to teach non-Chamorros or beyond just waiting for the non-Chamorro demographics to inevitably alter the Chamorro make-up of the local governance structure and process, and skew any future political status plebiscite.”
By Dr. Jason Biggs, University of Guam
“I would like to commend the Navy for a comprehensive, well-organized and well-researched document. However, I feel it is my professional and civic duty to challenge the validity of Volume 4: Section 11.1.1: Navy Coral Assessment Methodology, which could possibly be plagiarizing (p. 11-3) the conclusion section of Veihman et al. (2009) as a means to support the creation of a new Habitat Equivalency quantification method, which grossly underestimates the rugosity of the Inner Apra Harbor Shoal system and the age classes of corals within them, and does not account for rare and endangered animals that are not directly observed at the time of assessment (Minton et al. 2009: Volume 9, Appendix J, Comparison of a Photographic and an In Situ Method to Assess the Coral Reef Benthic Community in Apra Harbor, Guam).”
By Dr. Katherine Trisolini, Loyola Law School
“Based on my experience and review of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the EIS suffers from major defects that warrant a wholesale revision of the document. Because it fails to address entire categories of impacts, the document should be rewritten and made available for public comments in draft form. Simply responding to these lacunae with formal comments in a Final EIS will fail to give the public adequate time to consider types of impacts not addressed in the current EIS. Moreover, because the public will not have the opportunity to fully address impacts, decisionmakers will not be fully informed.”
Statement from the Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice
“The proposition of a “consideration” on whether the DoD will “assist” the Chamorus is inadequate in addressing the real issues of the overburdening of our public and mental health systems due to an increase in population. In addition, the DEIS is inadequate in addressing the real problems associated with these institutions, like the lack of funding and resources, and likely receivership of the DMHSA and how this will be impacted by the military buildup. The DEIS provides essentially NO mitigations for the overburdening of the DPHSS and DMHSA.”
Statement from Sabina Perez, a Native of Guam
“The sustainable yield of 80.5 million gallons per day, referred to in Chapter 2 of the DEIS, is based on a study that is 19 years old. How can we be assured that the sustainable yield in Northern Guam Lens Aquifer (NGLA) that is based on the old methodology is still accurate today? In specific terms, how is the sustainable yield defined and determined?“
Prepared by Dr. Anne Perez Hattori, Richard Olmo, Michael Clement, Peter Onedera and Dr. Michael Lujan Bevacqua
“This report, written by a coalition of University of Guam Faculty, expresses our unified opposition to the use of Pågat Village as a firing range in the proposed military build-up on Guam. We, furthermore, reject the proposed mitigations as grossly insufficient means of ameliorating the loss of this culturally and historically irreplaceable site.”
Hita Guåhan is a compilation of testimonies presented by Chamorus from Guåhan to the United Nations in New York in 2008. These testimonies carry on the legacy of more than 20 years of Chamorus who’ve appealed to the United Nations on behalf of Guam and Chamoru human rights. It can be downloaded free of charge by clicking the above link.
MINAGAHET is published by the Chamorro Information Activists, a non-profit, poorly funded, poorly staffed yan machalapon activist organization, created for the benefit of the people and the futures of Guam. Non-profit doesn't imply "non-profit status or anything" just that taya' suetdon-mami nu este. Pues an kala'u este, ti isao n-mami. Mismo i isaon i tinaigefsagan-mami. Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 - MINAGAHET. All rights reserved. We aren't sure what that means, but we see it put at the bottom of other things, and the last thing we want to do is get in trouble for not telling people that all our rights are reserved as well. EMAIL firstname.lastname@example.org PARA UN TUNGO' MAS