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By Gene Park

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 1) – The government of Guam's first attempt to obtain relief from millions of dollars in federal debt won't be granted, according to a representative from the White House.

President Bush had until yesterday to forgive the debt relief, a notion which came after the local government claimed the island has been shortchanged about $269.3 million since 1986.

Part of the federal debt includes about $100 million to the Rural Utilities Service for helping to establish additional infrastructure for the Guam Telephone Authority.

"In relation to Guam's proposal for debt relief under (public law), it is important to note that the legislation does not provide the necessary funding to offset the requested relief," said Ruben Barrales, deputy assistant to President Bush and director of intergovernmental affairs, in a letter sent Thursday to Gov. Felix Camacho.

Barrales said the president's Office of Management and Budget concluded it would not be appropriate to release, reduce or waive any debts.

"However, certain items in the request are related to unresolved audit questions that may be resolved in Guam's favor through the normal process of follow-up and closure of these audits," Barrales said. "This decision should not overshadow our commitment to work with you to improve the quality of life in Guam."

However the governor announced yesterday that at his request, the U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed to extend the payoff of GTA's remaining debt balance to 90 days.

"With the extension, it allows additional time for us to seek congressional appropriation to offset the debt," said governor's spokeswoman Erica Perez.

To find alternate appropriation to offset the debt, Perez said, the governor will be working closely with Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, who wrote the federal law passed in 2003 that gave the option for the debt relief.

Barrales also commended Bordallo and Lt. Gov. Kaleo Moylan for their continued communication with the White House in support of the debt relief request.

"Though distant from our nation's capital, Guam's importance to our nation remains strong," Barrales said.

January 3, 2005

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com


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