Hafa Adai, tonight I once again have the honor of addressing the People of Guam on issues important to all of us and to report on progress on these issues in Congress. I thank the Speaker and the Members of I Liheslaturan Guahan for inviting me to present this Congressional Address.
Let me first acknowledge that Governor Camacho delivered his last State of The Island Address. I join all of our people in congratulating him and thanking him for his service—and of course, we also thank First Lady Joann and their family for all the sacrifices they have made in the past seven years.
I have had the pleasure of working with the Governor for the past seven years and while we have had our share of policy disagreements, we have never let that affect our personal relationship and our respect for each other. We have always tried to find the common ground on issues.
I hope that we can continue to find common ground on the many challenges that confront our island. I hope that we can work together as a community, with the Governor, the Legislature, and the Mayors to build a better future for our island.
We have made significant progress on our most important issue, Guam war claims. In the 110th Congress, the House passed H.R. 1595, the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act. Senate Democrats then took up the measure on the floor which was objected to by Senator Jim DeMint representing a group of conservative Republican Senators.
In the 111th Congress, I re-introduced Guam war claims as H.R. 44, the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act, and the House again passed it on a recorded vote of 299 to 99. We also attached H.R. 44 as an amendment to the 2010 National Defense bill. We are closer than ever to passing this bill and we will continue to build on our progress. The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on December 2nd of last year on this issue. Mr. Thomas Barcinas testified on behalf of war survivors, Senators Ben Pangelinan and Frank Blas, Jr. also testified. I want to recognize the Guam Chamber of Commerce for providing the airfare for Mr. Barcinas. Assistant Secretary Tony Babuata testified, marking his first testimony to Congress in his newly appointed position as the Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas of which we are very proud. Tony's parents are in the audience and we want to recognize them.
Chairman Mauricio Tamargo of the Guam War Claims Review Commission also testified to make the case for H.R. 44 and Chairman Skelton reaffirmed his commitment to include H.R. 44 in this year's National Defense bill. We are working to have a successful outcome and I thank the Governor, the Legislature, the Mayors, and the survivors for your support for H.R. 44.
As we look to the future, our destiny ultimately must be defined by a true act of self-determination for our island. I believe we must refocus on a process to achieve decolonization, and to improve our political status. I believe that the Department of the Interior, which is the federal agency responsible for promoting self-governance in the insular areas, should provide federal funds to Guam for political status education. I have introduced legislation to authorize this federal funding, and I am urging the Senate to follow the House's lead and pass H.R. 3940. Governor Camacho testified in favor of the bill and it received support from others, including a coalition of ten indigenous rights groups. The delegates from American Samoa and the Virgin Islands supported the bill, and we amended it to include all three insular areas that are non-self-governing and we are working to pass this bill in the Senate.
As we work together to build a better future for our island, we must continue to grow our economy. We are weathering a recession much like the recession of the 1990s. Unlike the 1990s, President Obama proposed, and Congress passed, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Recovery Act has provided Guam with $236 million in federal financial assistance to date. These funds saved or created over 300 jobs by repairing our schools, investing in public safety, improving roads and promoting energy efficiency.
Our visitor industry is the foundation of our economy. Due to the weak global economy, tourism has declined. To help the visitor industry, in the 110th Congress, I worked with Chairwoman Donna Christensen to create a regional visa waiver program for Guam and the Northern Marianas. The regional visa waiver program tripled the length of stay from 15 to 45 days and added Hong Kong to the list of eligible countries.
The Bush Administration in its waning days issued regulations for the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program that would have discontinued admitting visitors from China and Russia. We worked with visitor industry stakeholders in Guam and the Northern Marianas on this issue. We urged Secretary Janet Napolitano to reconsider the regulations to avoid the collapse of the Northern Marianas economy.
In response, special rules were issued for Chinese and Russian visitors. I commend Jim Beighley, Dave Tydingco, Bruce Kloppenberg and Gerry Perez for their work on this issue. They continue to work with me to include Guam in the visa waiver for China and Russia, as Congress intended.
Growth and development will also occur with the military build-up on Guam. Two years ago, I spoke about the opportunities and challenges presented by the military build-up and the absolute need to get the build-up done right. Now, we are moving from the planning to the implementation phase of the military build-up.
Over the past few years, we have been successful in including a number of different provisions to ensure accountability in the military build-up. In last year's defense authorization bill, we applied Davis-Bacon wages to all military construction projects on Guam. We worked with the Obama Administration, the Senate, House leadership and stakeholders on Guam to require that contractors hire local workers and qualified stateside workers first. Guest workers cannot be hired unless these procedural steps to hire local and stateside workers are followed. Further, the Governor retains the authority to certify the need for H-2 workers. Here is an example of local control where we can apply the brakes through the H-2 certifications.
Additionally, I sponsored a provision that creates an interagency coordination group of Inspectors General to oversee the military build-up in every phase. This provision is important to ensuring that the build-up is done right.
The National Defense bill also includes a provision that requires the Department of Defense to coordinate with other federal agencies to help Guam address infrastructure needs outside the gate. This provision makes the Deputy Secretary of Defense the point person for all military build-up activities. In addition, Secretary Babauta is working closely with the Department of Defense and the White House to address Guam's needs. This increased attention has resulted in $104 million for the new landfill, $116 million for roads, and we expect a favorable response for federal assistance for the port. Next week Secretary Babauta will co-chair the Interagency Group on Insular Areas and the subgroup on the Guam military build-up and I have great confidence that his efforts will result in greater focus by the Obama Administration on our infrastructure needs.
There are significant concerns about the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and I share many of these concerns. I believe that there are deficiencies in the Draft E-I-S analysis and I have been working with the Governor, the Legislature and other stakeholders to develop common ground positions that we can all present to the Navy. I appreciated hearing from many people in our community when I held five town hall meetings. During the course of these meetings and in my conversations it seems clear that we are forming a consensus on how to respond to the Draft E-I-S. And, I also appreciate the Legislature's action adopting Resolution 275 which articulates their concerns and issues they want addressed. I agree with the sentiment that we should use the high-level attention we are receiving due to the military build-up to address long-standing issues with national leaders like President Obama, Majority Leader Hoyer, Secretary Gates, Secretary Salazar and others. Over the years, I have brought many Congressional leaders and members to Guam to better understand our concerns and our issues. The military build-up is an important vehicle for us to raise Guam's issues with federal policymakers and we will use the build-up and every other means we have to try to resolve these issues.
The first common ground position concerns the overall military footprint on Guam and the Navy's desire to acquire additional private and public lands. We will challenge the Navy to conduct the military build-up on their existing land. The Navy should better utilize its land and consider moving housing and some support facilities for the Marine aviation unit to Andersen Air Force Base. The Navy wants to move 8,600 Marines to Guam and their question is how much land will that take? Our question is the Navy only has so much land on Guam and how many Marines will that land accommodate?
The second area of concern is the proposed firing range at Pagat and Sasayan. Many private landowners have voiced their concern over this proposal. Any private landowner has a right to lease or sell their land to anybody including the Department of Defense. If they choose not to lease or sell their land I will support them and oppose any effort by the Department of Defense to use eminent domain to acquire that land. The Governor and Legislature are stewards of public property on Guam. If the Governor chooses to negotiate an agreement that is ratified by the Guam Legislature, that is their authority under the Organic Act. If they choose not to lease or sell Government of Guam land I will support their position, and again, I will oppose any effort by the Department of Defense to use eminent domain to acquire that land. I recognize the input of private landowners and the organization "We Are Guahan" on this issue. If the Department of Defense is not able to acquire lands voluntarily at Pagat and Sasayan then the alternative I will propose is for the Navy to re-evaluate the Naval Magazine as well as the Andersen training range and ranges at Tinian for training requirements.
A third area of concern is the proposed alternative for an aircraft carrier transient berth in Apra Harbor. The plans for the carrier berth in Apra Harbor will result in a significant loss of coral. I will challenge the Navy to identify other alternatives that will minimize coral damage and that will take advantage of currently dredged areas such as Kilo or Delta wharves among others. I thank Senator Guthertz for her input.
There is no ideal solution to the transient berth proposal at Apra Harbor but I would urge a solution that requires the least damage to our coral and the least dredging. Further, any testing for possible dredge sites must include drilling samples to an adequate depth to ensure that no harmful substances will be released that have been buried under decades of sediment and I thank Senator Cruz for raising this issue.
Further, concerns have been raised about what to do with the dredge material. This has not been adequately addressed by the Draft E-I-S. This could have a significant impact on local fishermen and I thank Manny Duenas and the Guam Fisherman's Co-op for this input.
A fourth area of concern in the Draft E-I-S is the need for federal assistance for improving civilian infrastructure on Guam to support the military build-up. We recognize the need for significant improvements to our water, wastewater, roads, port and schools. While the Draft E-I-S recognizes the need to improve civilian infrastructure it does not provide a clear strategy that details how the federal government will assist Guam. I am calling on the Navy to address this issue in a serious manner. Further, the Draft E-I-S refers to drilling 22 new wells in the north. I object to the drilling of any new wells to accommodate the Marine relocation until an independent assessment is made about the capacity of the northern aquifer and I thank Senators Espaldon, Pangelinan and Ada for their input.
A fifth area of concern is the lack of a comprehensive plan for the housing of guest workers and providing for their health care needs in a manner that does not further overwhelm our local infrastructure and health care system. Let me be clear about this issue—we must do all that we can to train our local workforce and hire them before we utilize guest workers. I commend the efforts of Dr. Mary Okada at the Guam Community College, Ms. Maria Connelley at Guam Department of Labor, Dr. Burt Johnson of the Guam Trades Academy and Mr. Mathews Pothen of the Guam Shipyard for their efforts to develop a local skilled workforce. The defense bill stipulates that local workers and other US workers will have priority over H-2 guest workers. However, let us be realistic. We will need to use H-2 workers to meet construction requirements. It is far wiser for us to have a plan before the build-up begins in earnest to ensure that our local infrastructure is not overburdened. To the extent that our local business community can provide local solutions to the workforce housing issue this would be a preferable alternative. However, any proposal to house guest workers outside the gates must address their impact on civilian infrastructure such as water, wastewater and power. We cannot allow guest worker housing off-base to cause the faucets to run dry or power outages in our homes. Therefore, it is imperative that the Draft E-I-S address the issue of local capacity. The issue of local capacity both for the guest worker population and induced population in the Draft E-I-S is answered by calling for joint coordination and management of our utility systems by the Navy and the Government of Guam. I agree with the Draft E-I-S on this point but I would further add that the only way to accomplish this goal is for the Navy to recognize that they must start planning for the day when they will get out of the utility business once and for all and I am working to make that day come sooner rather than later. And I thank the Consolidated Commission on Utilities for their input on this issue.
A sixth area of concern in the Draft E-I-S is the socioeconomic study. We will make it clear to the Navy that this section must be completely rewritten in order to truly address the socioeconomic impacts of the military build-up. One statement that playing Chamorro music at the airport as a way to mitigate against cultural impacts is insulting and stunningly ignorant. Moreover, to suggest that an influx of the military and other civilian employees could impact a Chamorro self-determination vote ignores Guam law on this issue. I will encourage the Navy to work closely with the University of Guam, the Guam Community College and the Department of Chamorro Affairs to develop a better understanding of the cultural issues and to formulate a comprehensive plan to support programs which preserve and promote Chamorro culture and language and I thank Fuetsan Famaloan for this input.
One of the most troubling aspects of the Draft E-I-S is that all assumptions are based on projects being completed by 2014. This flawed assumption has drawn consequences and conclusions that are not sustainable and not supported by anyone. Nobody wants 80,000 additional people on Guam in 2014. We will do everything that we can, federally and locally, to stop that from happening. As I said before, we have our foot on the brakes. I will not support appropriations and authorizations that will result in a construction pace that brings 80,000 people to Guam in 2014. I hope that the Governor will not sign H-2 certifications that will permit 80,000 people in 2014. I hope that the Guam Legislature will exercise appropriate oversight during the construction phase of the military build-up so that we avoid all those negative outcomes identified in the Draft E-I-S. The Draft E-I-S points to what will happen if we don't do anything; therefore it is our job to do what we can to manage and extend the pace of construction. I support the Governor's call to extend the construction timeline. In fact, my comments on the Draft E-I-S will request that the Navy provide a more realistic timeline and adjust the E-I-S analysis to reflect a realistic construction phase of 8 to 10 years and I thank the people of Guam for this input.
We will meet these challenges if we continue to stand together and send a clear message to the Navy that this Draft E-I-S is insufficient and more work is needed to make this document realistic. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this Draft E-I-S has done more harm than good. The Draft E-I-S has not accurately identified the impacts on Guam and it has exaggerated some impacts based on a false assumption that all projects will be completed by 2014. I see great opportunities in this build-up and we must not let these challenges overcome the greater goal of creating a better life and more opportunities for our people. I remain committed to working with the people of Guam, the Governor, the Legislature and the Mayors in making sure we get this build-up done right. While we are being asked to carry this burden for our nation's security, it is our responsibility to raise our concerns and ensure that our needs are also met.
Before I speak to other issues, let me first commend our men and women in uniform, in the active service, the Reserves and the National Guard. I also commend General Goldhorn for his leadership and his vision. I share his vision of newer roles and capabilities for the Guam Guard including a flying mission. Our men and women in uniform deserve our gratitude and our prayers as they serve in harms way around the globe and I have been honored to visit with them around the world. We are proud of all of them and I ask that we take a moment now to pause in honor of the seventeen men from Guam who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today we also recognize and take special pride in the promotion of the first Chamorro as a Rear Admiral in the United States Navy—Rear Admiral Pete Gumataotao, the Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea. We congratulate Admiral Gumataotao and his family.
To build a better future, we must continue to encourage partnerships that will take advantage of new opportunities. The initiatives being proposed by the University of Guam show that they are an institution ready to take on the challenges posed by the build-up. Dr. Robert Underwood has proposed a new Center for Island Sustainability which will address environmental issues not just for the build-up but also for the challenges such as climate change and renewable energy that affect our region. Another great idea for UOG that Dr. Underwood has proposed is to establish a School of Engineering. I support these proposals that are meaningful ways to respond to the challenges of the future.
Last summer we initiated the first UOG internship program, in which we selected a UOG student to work with us in our District Office and in Washington. Alexandra Kerr did a great job, and I want to recognize her. She joins nearly fifty interns from Guam who have worked with us in the past summers. We also had another House page, Liesl Flores. Liesl joins Breanna Lai and Jon Junior Calvo as alumni of the House page program.
We have made progress on health care issues. The House passed a health reform bill, which phases-out the Medicaid caps. The House bill also made FAS citizens eligible for Medicaid, thus alleviating a major portion of the Compact-Impact burden. Although, the Senate bill does not mirror these provisions, we are working to protect the gains we have made in health care reform. We have also provided federal funds over the last two years to expand and improve the Northern and Southern Health Centers and a new Veterans Clinic for our veterans which will open in May. I supported legislation that would increase the number of veteran benefit counselors to reduce the long wait for claims processing.
Congress provided tax credits in the Recovery Act for taxpayers and we were successful in having the U.S. Treasury reimburse the Government of Guam over $50 million for these payments.
My subcommittee is working with Secretary Babauta to address ways to increase Compact-Impact funding in the future as well as exploring other means to address the issue caused by insufficient appropriations in the past. It is important to note that we share this issue with Hawaii, whose senior Senator chairs the Senate Committee on Appropriations, and they are having the same difficulty with these Compact-impact reimbursements. We have, however, passed a House proposal to shift Compact health care costs to Medicaid with increased funding in the health reform bill, and it is these types of new ideas that may be successful.
The Guam Department of Education has had financial difficulties in the past that are being addressed aggressively by Superintendent Nerissa Underwood. I am very concerned that these financial difficulties have caused the Superintendent to issue furlough notices to over 500 employees. I am actively working with Dr. Underwood to get a timely response from USDOE to her request to use Fiscal Year 2008 carryover funds as interim funding until the 2009 consolidated grant is released. I will do everything I can to help Guam DOE through this crisis.
President Obama will be visiting Guam next month and we have an opportunity to inform him of our concerns as well as show him what makes Guam special. I look forward to joining the Governor, the Legislature, the Mayors and our community in extending our warmest Hafa Adai to the first family.
To the leaders here this evening and to all of our people, we are working together for a better future for our people. The military build-up presents a significant challenge for our community and our dialogue has helped to define our community's concerns and our responses to the challenges. We may have disagreements, but we do not have to be disagreeable. We have shown that we can have an open dialogue with each other, and that we will respect each other. I believe that our people want to see us work together for good solutions to these challenges, and they want us to take advantage of the opportunities to build a better future. We are not embarking on this buildup solely for economic reasons; we are doing this because we appreciate more than any other American community our liberation and our freedom and the sacrifices it will take to preserve that freedom for generations to come.
It has been my honor to serve you as your voice in Congress and I thank you for this opportunity to report to you tonight. God bless our beautiful island of Guahan and God Bless the United States of America. Thank you, Si Yu'os Ma'ase and Maraming Salamat Po.
Speech taken from http://bordallo.house.gov/congressional-address-2010