GUAM CHAMORROS QUESTION MILITARY PRESENCE

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By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

HAGATNA, Guam (Marianas Variety, July 12) – Amid the Guam government’s and the business sector’s heightened efforts to lobby for increased military presence on Guam, Chamorro activists for their part stepped up their anti-bases campaign, assailing government leaders for making a "unilateral decision" without consulting the people.

"It’s a shameful act on the part of our government officials to give away our lands when we have a growing number of homeless on Guam," said Debbie Quinata, tribunal council member of I Nasion Chamorro, on the eve of the Guam delegates’ departure for Los Angeles to attend the Base Realignment and Closure hearing on July 14.

At Friday’s press conference, Gov. Felix P. Camacho said the lobby team, of which he is the head, represents Guam’s "united front" that will deliver a "united message" in favor of more military buildup on island.

But apparently, Guam is not united on the issue.

"We were disappointed that the governor and the speaker would unilaterally make a decision on behalf of the people, who were cut off from the process. They did not ask anybody if we want this. They are using our lands as a bargaining chip, and for whom?" Quinata told Variety.

Quinata said various activist groups on Guam have written to the BRAC committee, expressing deep concerns about the increased military presence on Guam and the elected leaders’ "lack of concern about excess lands" being given away.

Sen. Tony Unpingco, chairman of the legislative committee on military and veterans affairs, agreed that "it is important for people to be informed because it affects the entire island" and it involves ancestral lands that "the military will or will not be using."

Reacting to the governor’s statement that this is "not the right time" to address the ancestral lands issue, Patty Garrido, president of the Ancestral Landowners Coalition, said, "I struggle between being heartbroken and enraged at the governor’s latest turnabout."

"We are well aware that the United States will do what they will, irrespective of what we think and do here, such is our political status, or rather, non-status. And to add salt to our wounds, the governor is ‘not going to mention excess lands’... these lands that belong to families long awaiting their return... after 50 to 60 years, when will be the right time?" Garrido stated in a letter mass emailed to executive officials and senators.

Describing the lobby trip to Los Angeles as "not necessary," Garrido said the government’s raving over the dollars that are supposedly coming to Guam as a result of increased military investments are not even justified.

"They should stop being joyful in announcing more dollars for military construction. Our own Rev and Tax director finally admitted what we have long known; they don’t report nor disclose nor pay GRT to Guam for military construction. So see, it adds no value to our economic enhancement," Garrido wrote.

She lamented the lack of public consultation on the issue. "And the delegation is going to make it clear we all want this? I didn’t see a ballot being passed around on this one! And no, I did not participate in the latest survey by the Chamber of Commerce on this issue! Nor do I know anyone who did," she added.

July 12, 2005

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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