BORDALLO SAYS U.S. TO SUPPORT GUAM PORT

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UPGRADE
Poor communication blamed for earlier rejection of loan

By Steve Limtiaco HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, April 6, 2010) - The U.S. military has agreed to spend US$50 million for buildup-related upgrades at the Port Authority of Guam, according to Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, who talked to the Rotary Club of Northern Guam yesterday about a wide range of issues.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit the island in June, Bordallo said, and "it looks very good" to get US$127 million in war claims for Guam approved this year.

The port has identified US$156.9 million in improvement projects to meet the needs of the pending military buildup, and it had applied for about US$100 million in federal grants and loans to begin that work.

But the U.S. Department of Transportation in February denied the port's request for US$50 million in discretionary national recovery grants. As a result, the port cannot qualify for a US$49.1 million low-interest loan it wants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The port's request was one of 1,400 nationwide, and only 51 projects were approved.

Bordallo yesterday blamed the failed grant request on poor communication within the federal government.

"The federal agencies were not sharing with Department of Defense (DOD)," she said "Because of this, we found that the port was left out of this grant."

Bordallo said she and Gov. Felix Camacho met at the White House with military and Interior department officials.

"I became quite strong in my comments, in requesting the DOD use its funding to cover the US$50 million needed by the port ... to support the military buildup," she said. "They have said yes, they would do this."

More details about that funding with hope will be available during the next several weeks, Bordallo said.

And the military also agreed with her request to become "buildup czar" and to take the lead on the buildup process from now on, Bordallo said.

Bordallo said she also is working with the White House on President Obama's planned visit to Guam -- a visit scheduled for March but postponed because of ongoing work related to national health-care reform.

Bordallo said the general details of the trip remain the same -- the president will land at Andersen Air Force Base on an afternoon in June, stay overnight, then leave for Indonesia the next day before flying to Australia.

She said she wants as many people as possible to see and meet the president.

"We're going to continue to talk about it," she said.

During last year's military budget process, Bordallo rejected a compromise war claims provision for Guam that would have paid only those who suffered during the Japanese occupation of World War II and still are living.

As originally written, the bill called for payment to surviving family members.

"I was given 30 minutes to make my decision," she said yesterday, "And I think it was the right decision."

The Senate has been the obstacle in getting the entire war claims measure approved, Bordallo said, adding she is "confident that now we've made more friends in the Senate and hopefully we'll be able to get it through."

She said the House plans to include the US$127 million war claims measure in the military's fiscal 2011 budget.

"I will come up with something before the end of this term," she said.

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