By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, July 11) - While Guam slept last night, Gov. Felix Camacho and Speaker Ben Pangelinan were scheduled to ask for a reduction or write-off of government of Guam debts owed to the federal government, including a $105 million Guam Telephone Authority loan.

The island officials were scheduled to testify at a committee hearing in the U.S. Congress around midnight Guam time on legislation that would give the federal government power to waive or reduce certain GovGuam debts.

In exchange, GovGuam would offset costs associated with the migration of citizens from island nations who can live in Guam under their governments' compact agreements with the United States.

Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo introduced the bill, which is called the "Compact Impact Reconciliation Act.''

Estimates on the cost to GovGuam from immigration by islanders vary.

According to a copy of testimony Pangelinan was to read before the congressional committee, it's been estimated the federal government has yet to reimburse Guam for more than $150 million in "compact impact'' expenses through fiscal 2003. According to Pangelinan, the amount is only 80 percent of the total impact costs.

Joaquin Perez, district director in Bordallo's Guam office, said U.S. government estimates of compact migration costs for Guam ranged from $160 million to $180 million as of a few years ago, but those amounts do not include impact money already paid to Guam.

Pangelinan was expected to argue Guam is seeking an equitable repayment plan for the compact costs.

"We appear here today, without shame, not seeking charity but seeking the grace of Congress and its honorable members,'' according to testimony Pangelinan was to read at the hearing.

According to a copy of testimony the governor was scheduled to make at the hearing, he would characterize the proposal as "a balancing of the books,'' and "a reconciliation of debt.''

The immigrants will continue to be welcome in Guam and Guam will provide, for as long as the local government is capable, the full extent of social services to them, according to Camacho's written testimony.

"We simply ask for your support in providing a mechanism for our people to bring about equity and balance to the process,'' states the governor's testimony.

Pangelinan was expected to argue that offsetting debts and obligations between the federal and local governments makes sense in a time of budget strains for both sides.

"From our cash-strapped standpoint, this indirect approach is more attractive than receiving a partial reimbursement or no reimbursement at all,'' according to the Speaker's scheduled testimony.

Guam Telephone Authority board Chairman Carl Peterson sent written testimony which states that relieving the phone agency of its $105 million debt would help increase the amount GovGuam will receive when the phone agency is sold to a private entity.

"Proceeds of the sale could then be used directly to help mitigate the impact of migration to Guam because of the compact,'' he wrote.

The Guam Chamber of Commerce sent written testimony to Congress as well, expressing support for the legislation.

"It will address long overdue compact-impact cost burden the people of Guam can no longer afford to bear,'' the island's largest business organization wrote.

The Mayors' Council of Guam and Guam Sen. Rory Respicio also sent written comments that called for passage of the legislation.

July 11, 2003

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