Delegation spreads Guam's message in DC - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Delegation spreads Guam's message in DC

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Taking Guam's buildup concerns to the nation's capitol, a bi-partisan delegation of island leaders continued meetings with high level federal officials today. They spread their message to ensure island residents' concerns are addressed before the massive military buildup.

A delegation of island leaders has spent the week in Washington, DC presenting Guam's case. Their message - the military buildup cannot happen until the federal government first addresses the people of Guam's concerns.  Armed with Resolution 275, the delegation of senators went from meeting to meeting spreading their concerns about the buildup.

Speaker Judi Won Pat said, "This is definitely one resolution that they're interested in reading to the point that even members of their staff are asking for copies of it."

The resolution outlines six areas the feds must first address - land, dredging, physical and mental healthcare, infrastructure upgrades, pollution control and socio-cultural impacts of the buildup.  Senator Rory Respicio says the delegation also presented the past historical injustices done to the people of Guam that have yet to be rectified such as war reparations.

He told KUAM News, "We're actually engaging the Department of Defense; you need to say that Guam war reparations is essential to your military mission on Guam and you need to tell members of Congress both in the House and Senate, on top of appropriating the necessary funding, you need to tell members of Congress that giving the people of Guam war reparations will go along way in providing a smooth transition of marines from Okinawa to Guam."

Senator Jim Espaldon says during the presentations the group also presented testimonials of survivors of the Japanese occupation who are waiting for war reparations.  "We've been pushing the fact that if this is going to be a smooth transition we definitely have to address the issues from the past much like this and political status and even as far as the RICA issue," he said.

As they present Guam's case, Senator Tina Muna Barnes says it's clear that their message is getting through.  She said, "They are listening. And they continue to listen and it's bi-partisan support from this body from the congresswoman and the Governor's Office and their inclusion and the mere fact of synergizing this Guam First Commission so that we continue to have a united front."

Speaker Won Pat says their optimistic that Guam's concerns will no longer fall on deaf ears, as Obama Administration officials committed to communicating.  "They realize there's been a lot of miscommunication, missteps and now they want to start opening up the dialogue with us finding a way, a mechanism of how they can get the information out to Guam. What's happening on the military side? They said they would iron out how that would be done," the speaker said.  Won Pat added, "The congresswoman did ask him if he still intends to come to Guam and he said yes and that they're working on it and they'll give u other specifics at a later time."

And with assurances that President Barack Obama will still be coming to Guam in June, lawmakers will return to the island next week and formulate their game plan and ensure dialogue on the buildup and residents' concerns aren't forgotten.

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