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Mainland senator has close ties to Guam

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - Virginia senator Jim Webb is on island speaking with government officials about the military buildup.  Asked if he thinks that Guam can handle the 8,000 U.S. Marines that are expected to come, Senator Webb said, "We're going to have good meetings over the next two of days and I'm reserving all sorts of conclusions until after I've finished this six-day trip."

Webb met with Governor Felix Camacho, the Civilian Military Task Force and members of the 30th Guam Legislature this morning to hear their thoughts on the military buildup.  "This is an issue that I've had a long involvement in, but I want to come here and listen to the leadership on Guam and to go out and actually see these sites again," he said.

Webb says his passion for Guam dates back to the 1970's. He also says he did a military land aide study for the present governor's father, and has been able to examine all military areas here and in the CNMI. Webb says he plans to bring back his findings to his colleagues in Washington, DC and see what they can do to have a fair evaluation on the situation Guam is currently facing, such as land issues.

"We have a lot of lands and military retention areas that people of Guam has always been very strongly supportive of their relationship with the United States, and we owe them the same level of respect," adding that, "The fact that he's here during break, I think, is going to be a boom to us in getting greater tension to it."

Governor Camacho says along with Lieutenant Governor Mike Cruz they are pleased that Webb is aware of the lack of understanding that the federal government has when it comes to Guam, and what Webb plans to bring to the table to ensure that changes.  "Clearly understanding that the issues we were faced with then are many of the issues that we are faced with now. But it's more focused because of the buildup," he said.

Meanwhile, Speaker Judi Won Pat says she's hopeful his visit will bring more appropriations, as senators discussed issues such as war reparations, federal mandates, and compact impact. "Whether he understands it or not I know he got a lot of it and we presented several documents with him. Some of the senators were really right to the point and sometime it might disrespectful but it a very emotional thing," she said.

As for any plans on the relocation of the Futenma air base, and the possibility of relocating the unit to Guam or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.  "We're waiting to see what the conclusion will be from the Government of Japan, so we don't really want to get ahead of the process until the Government of Japan makes it own determination about the basing systems there," Webb said.

Senator Webb is also scheduled to meet with officials in Tinian and Saipan.

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