OKINAWAN LAWMAKERS TOUR GUAM

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HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, ) – A delegation of lawmakers from Okinawa toured the island of Guam yesterday -- the first of several planned fact-finding missions in connection with the transfer of 8,000 U.S. Marines from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to Guam

The group, which supports the idea of reducing U.S. military presence in the Okinawa prefecture, is interested in finding out about Guam's ability to host Marines.

From what they've seen, Guam is able to accommodate the 8,000 Marines, and probably more, group leader Isamu Hamahiga said through an interpreter in Piti yesterday morning. [PIR editor’s note: Piti is a district of Guam on the western shore. It is the site of Guam’s main commercial port, Apra Harbor.]

Hamahiga holds a leadership position similar to legislative speaker.

"Of course we are hoping Guam will be accepting more," he said, noting that there are about 25,000 U.S. Marines in Okinawa.

Okinawa doesn't have the space or facilities to host Marines, he said, and they would like to see more base reductions there. Guam's economy could benefit as a result, he said.

Lt. Gov. Kaleo Moylan, who visited Okinawa last month and who hosted the visiting lawmakers, said, "They shared information with us in regards to the social and economic impact that the military has had on the Okinawan economy. We wanted to share with them what we've experienced over the years."

Moylan said the goal is to facilitate a smooth transition of assets from Okinawa to Guam.

While many on Guam are anticipating the economic boost from military spending here, Moylan said the people of Okinawa are interested in moving in a different direction.

He compared the return of military land there to the return of excess military land on Guam during the past decade.

"Much like our issues with (the former Naval Air Station Agana), the housing and economic development was encroaching on the military bases. They need those bases now to continue to grow their economy," Moylan said.

"Okinawa is now going to see a transformation of their economy. ... So they'll have heavy industry and tourism supplementing their economic engine, and they'll continue to have military as a revenue. But now they have a second-tier economy as a result of this realignment effort. They're going to start growing, so they're benefiting as a result of (the transfer)."

Guam's population is expected to grow by 19,000 when Marines and their families move here. The move, which is expected to be complete by 2014, is dependent on base realignment and construction within Japan and the ability of the Japanese and U.S. governments to pay for it.

The Guam move is expected to cost Japan and the United States more than $10 billion to build infrastructure here, and U.S. military officials have said Guam could see another $5 billion in military spending, aside from the Marine relocation.

June 7, 2006

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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