by Speaker Judi Won Pat
31st Guam Legislature
We are people of the Pacific, the Blue Continent, a region that is growing economically, politically and socially at an unprecedented rate. Throughout our island histories, we have been closely tied to our Brothers and Sisters of the Pacific-- through our social values of cherishing our families, children and environment, and through helping each other.
This past week I was privileged once again to participate in the General Assembly of the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures, where I serve as Vice President. The Guam delegation—consisting of myself, Senator Rory Respicio and Senator Chris Duenas-- heard presentations on major health issues facing our region such diabetes, obesity, cancer and mental health, and developing technology infrastructure to improve communications for underserved communities.
Our delegation introduced and passed resolutions asking our Pacific counterparts to adopt legislation to ban shark finning in their waters, to focus on the health and welfare of our people, and to encourage our Pacific counterparts with a seat at the United Nations to support our efforts in Guam's quest for self-determination. We are at a critical moment in our political history. I join our Governor in the call to make major strides in our collective efforts towards our self-determination, and the help of other Pacific countries in the United Nations will help our cause greatly.
Right now, the U.S. faces its own economic challenges. This year, by Presidential order, the Department of Defense was forced to cut over 80 billion dollars from their budget. Over the next 10 years they must cut 400 billion. Many programs have already been cut—as we have seen with the funds for our military buildup. A report by the World Bank shows that East Asia Gross Domestic Product is growing at a rate of approximately 8 percent. The U.S. GDP is crawling along at 3 percent, and the predictions for economic recovery are not good. We've always said, "Never put your eggs in any one basket." Because of what is happening in the national and international economy, we should not put all of our hopes and energies for our economic future solely in this military build-up.
We must build our economic potential with East Asia and the Pacific—countries that are growing at almost 3 times the rate of the United States. Our economy is severely limited by restrictive policies that we did not create. We are unable to trade freely within our region and East Asia, we are unable to take advantage of financial partnerships and economic development programs with other countries and we are unable to further develop our fragile tourist economy with foreign markets because of policies made for us—not by us. I want our children to enjoy the freedom and economic prosperity that regional growth is offering.
We are, due to our location and infrastructure, uniquely capable of realizing economic prosperity that the region and the natural markets offer—but we must first examine and change our political status in order to take advantage of these opportunities.
I am in agreement with Governor Calvo in the need to fully educate ourselves about the different options availed to us as we proceed to determine a political status that serves the best interest of Guam First! I am excited and remain committed to engaging in this process together as members of our pacific island community and as citizens of one Pacific community—our great Blue Continent.
Si yu'us ma'ase.