GUAM LEGISLATORS MIFFED AT PENTAGON DELEGATION

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By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

HAGATNA, Guam (Marianas Variety, Jan. 22) - Speaker Mark Forbes, R-Sinajana, expressed disappointment yesterday that visiting Pentagon officials did not include the Legislature in their itinerary on Guam, saying it was "unfortunate" that policymakers were left out in the cold.

B.J. Penn, assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy for Installations and Environment, and retired Marine Corps Major General David Bice, executive director of the Joint Guam Program Office, met with the Guam Chamber of Commerce on Friday and with the Civilian/Military Task Force hosted by the governor’s office at the Guam National Guard Headquarter yesterday.

It is not clear how long Bice and Penn will be staying on island. The Navy and the governor’s office did not make a public disclosure of the defense officials’ itinerary.

"They met with the business group but the Legislature is not on their agenda. It’s unfortunate that they sometimes take the Legislature for granted," Forbes told Variety.

Senator Rory Respicio, D-Agana Heights, wrote to Forbes yesterday, wondering if the defense officials were scheduled to meet with members of the Legislature, as did other military officials who visited Guam in the past.

"It seems improbable to me that Mr. Penn would not also be amenable to meeting with Guam’s lawmaking body," Respicio wrote. "The military expansion in Guam is of tremendous significance for our people, our economy and our future. The Legislature and the entire civilian population of our island have a stake in what happens over the next few years."

Respicio, along with some other senators, showed up yesterday at the task force’s meeting with Bice and Penn and took the opportunity to ask questions.

Being the policymakers for the government of Guam, Respicio said, it is just proper that senators are briefed on military expansion updates and given the opportunity to discuss matters with representatives of the Department of Defense.

"I totally agree with Senator Respicio. It appears that we are being ignored," Forbes said.

He said in the past, the Department of Defense communicated with the Legislature to arrange a meeting with senators.

"I’m surprised that we didn’t receive anything at all from the Department of Defense. I can only assume that it’s either an oversight on the part of somebody or that they are too busy to do it," Forbes said.

Forbes said it might not be possible to squeeze the Legislature into the defense officials’ schedule at this point.

"Meetings are normally initiated by the Department of Defense. They contact us before their arrival. By the time they get here, their schedule is fully booked," Forbes said.

Respicio, meanwhile, said he would reintroduce a bill that proposes the creation of a military commission represented by all sectors in the community, and that would unify Guam’s preparations for the arrival of 8,000 Marines from Okinawa, Japan.

He said the Civilian Military Task Force created by Governor Felix P. Camacho has vague functions and an unclear leadership structure.

Respicio also noted the presence of various groups doing individual preparation for military expansion.

"While the governor has his own task force, his former lieutenant governor, Kaleo Moylan, created his own team that met with people in Okinawa. There’s also a women’s group taking its own initiatives," Respicio said. "You have all these different groups with a fragmented approach, which dilutes the Guam community’s message."

Respicio first introduced the military commission bill in the 27th and 28th Legislatures but the proposal was not passed.

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