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Okinawan officials gather buildup concerns

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - Officials with the Okinawa Peace Assistance Center are on island, exchanging their experience with the concerns residents have with the military buildup. Although Japan is hoping that Guam can lift the burden of accommodating the U.S. Marines, Governor Felix Camacho says he has yet to receive anything concrete that the buildup can move forward.

Center Vice-Director Yuji Uesugi says he has already heard some major concerns from the community, telling KUAM News, "So far we have been seeing Guam as hope as only chance to reduce our burden, but when I talk to people and listen to the concerns of people living here on this island, we need to take into consideration how you are going to perceive and except, live with these things."

Uesugi says OPAC's mission is to reduce tension between the U.S. and Okinawa. While he is here to find out if Guam is ready to handle the Marines, he does say they have several concerns through their experience such as noise, military aircraft's crashing, and an increase in crime. "Of course, local people commit crimes, too; but the extra presence of the U.S. forces creates more concerns."

Also visiting is Toku Sakai, who says he is studying the impacts of the civilian population when it comes to the buildup. "It seems like a lot of the experiences the Okinawan civilians and a lot of the experiences that the Guam civilians are having are very similar in the nature of the military affairs, so there's something can be done in terms of learning from each others experiences and mistakes.

Despite the many visits from officials from both Japan and the United States, the island's chief executive himself says he will continue to push for the feds to provide funds for projects off base even if it means pushing the efforts into the next administration.  Governor Camacho says although the many visits show hope for Guam, he says there's still no concrete answer as to how this buildup will be funded.

"The difference between the revenues expected to come and the true cost to the community is so great, and the United States has not found a way to fund this yet. There are no appropriations, there are no earmarks and so it certainly puts the territory in a position where we should not and cannot be expected to pay this," he said.

Camacho speaks of a huge gap and lack of funding as something he has continuously explained to many visitors and delegations from the nation's capitol. He feels that the Department of Defense needs to take charge and have a final plan in place that benefits both those inside and outside the gate.  He said, "Whoever succeeds me is going to have to continue to make the press or the case that Guahan and our people should not be expected to carry the cost and the burden of this buildup and the impact to the community."

The governor meanwhile stands firm on his position to extend the 2014 deadline for the military buildup.

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