Speaker Judi Won Pat's Address - April 27, 2011
Hafa Adai yan Minagof na Oggan taotao Guam:
The last two years have brought challenges that required us to respond, solidify our positions, and come together as a people. Your legislature has had countless meetings with Federal officials, from the Navy to the Officials from the U.S. Department of Interior, about the impending military realignment, unpaid Compact Impact reimbursements, war reparations- issues that are important to our People but remain unresolved.
After a disappointing snub last week by a group of U.S. senators who simply used our island as a pit-stop and summarily dismissing the importance and loyalty of our People, our island was again host to two U.S. senators this week- Senators Jim Webb and Carl Levin. The difference is that these two gentlemen were courteous enough to meet with your island's representatives. The Guam Legislature met with the two senators this past Monday evening and I am most appreciative of this.
However, after so many meetings with federal officials, after so many visits to the nation's capitol, and after participating in so many DEIS hearings and NEPA processes on Guam, with no clear return on investment of the People of Guam's trust, time, and resources to show for it…
I was very candid and direct in posing my questions to them:
"What is your mission?"
"What is the intent of your visit?" and
"What is it you hope to accomplish?"
Their responses were surprising. Senator Levin, who Chairs the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, shared that he came to Guam to hear first-hand and understand our concerns about the build-up, whether military presence was welcome here and whether the US-Japan realignment was feasible. Alarmingly, he also voiced his concerns that he too has not seen a master plan, nor heard of a completion date.
My colleagues and I were honest. In response to the question of whether or not Guam still wanted a build-up, my esteemed colleague Senator Pangelinan responded with a "Yes, But" caveat in echoing the sentiments of many of us at the table.
- "Yes, BUT…" we require adequate medical and education facilities for those currently on Guam and for the countless thousands who will come with this buildup.
- "Yes, BUT…" we require that war reparations finally be paid for our
-"Yes, BUT…" we want our self-determination.
Consistent with our collective position, Senator Webb stated that he supports the One Guam concept. He even referred to his book published in 1973 that referenced the "forgotten Americans," referring to those living on Guam at the time. He went on further to say that the issues outside the gate are just as important as those inside the gate and I couldn't agree with him more! His second point was that there is a need for more dialogue between the military and Congress because this build up is not set in stone. His third point noted the apparent shift in the local attitudes when comparing the generation of those who venerated America's liberation of Guam to those who are now critical of the US/Guam relationship. His fourth point was that self-determination should be on the table.
Senators Carl Levin and Jim Webb listened. Our expectation, our Hope is that they will take the concerns of our people back to Washington D.C. and tell their colleagues in Congress and in the administration that the People of Guam are not content, nor have they been for quite some time, with the status quo.
The message is clear: with the additional burden of providing a home for those whose mission it is to advance America's defense posture in the Pacific theatre comes additional responsibility to mitigate any adverse impact upon the local resident population.
Before we move forward in anticipating the challenges of the future, we must bring resolution to the injustices of the past. The conversation with the U.S. senators was encouraging. But this much I've learned: there is no better sponsor in our prospect for a brighter future, one that provides opportunities for our individual and collective prosperity, security for our families, and proliferation of our island way of life than ourselves. We are our greatest advocates and defenders. This requires informed action on each of our part.