Group tries to reveal buildup's hidden truths - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Group tries to reveal buildup's hidden truths

by Nick Delgado

Guam - The island will see an increase in hundreds of jobs during the construction phase of the Marines' relocation from Okinawa to Guam. But many residents are unaware of the negative hindering truths that would accompany the economic boom.

The rise and fall of employment opportunities has become the latest concern when it comes to the military buildup and the draft environmental impact statement.  "In the document itself it addresses that issue, an economic boom in the beginning and then there will be a drop-off when all these people leave. It actually addresses the issue as pushing the lower-class of society to an even lower class and into a deeper state of poverty," proclaimed Melvin Won Pat Borja.

Borja is an educator and one of the organizers for a group called We Are Guahan, and said, "We basically assembled a team or people to help read the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, translate the findings and disseminate them to the public...it's really difficult for members of the community to comment on it if we don't understand what is in the document itself. Our major goal is to get that information out to the people when they do decide to comment."

The DEIS states a needed increase of 307 law enforcement personnel for Guam Police, Guam Fire, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Youth Affairs combined by 2014. A number, which is predicted to be cut by half once the buildup, is complete. It's an even bigger issue for the island's public health services as the DEIS calls for an additional 245 medical personnel, also dropping once the relocation settles.

Said Borja, "They propose about nine new doctors when it comes to the increase of healthcare facilities and personnel. Nine doctors for 80,000 people."

The DEIS also states that during the construction phase of the relocation, the proposed number of education staff would be just above six hundred workers, then greatly reducing to just a hundred and forty-eight staff members when the buildup is finished.  "In the DEIS it does talk about the impact on our school system it's something that I'm definitely concerned about there's about a 20% increase in public school population," he said.

While Borja says the DEIS admits to an increase in cost of living before an actual increase in living wages, he says that he along with the We Are Guahan team, he will continue to work to ensure that local residents are able to make the decisions that affect Guam's future.  "We want to be able to be in the conversation. We want to be able to represent ourselves, our people, as part of the decision making process. We should have a voice," he said.

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