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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Life in Wonderland: taken from The Marianas Variety

ben's Pen: A leader's voice

The recent news that the Joint Guam Program Office was looking at government and private land to support the needs of the Marines being relocated from Okinawa to Guam surprised many people in our community, to include the Governor of Guam.

There have been many community members who have voiced their concern. One of the most effective voices I have heard is that of Mayor Carol Tayama of Agat, which I would like to share with you:

"In 1948, a few years after the war and our Liberation, a little girl was born to a Chamorro couple. Of course, the parents of that little girl were ever so grateful to the United States of America and to the military for ensuring that this island and her people would live in peace and freedom and to perpetuate the customs, beliefs, and traditions of the Chamorro people.

The little Chamorro girl, her parents and family were soon to be made a part of the United States of America by giving them citizenship through the enactment of the Organic Act of Guam in 1950. That little girl grew up loving and accepting the fact that the members of the United States military were the ones responsible for our freedom. Her parents did not object to the fact that the United States military settled on Guam, took whatever prime land and beach area they needed because after all, they were our friends and protectors. The little girl did not question her parents either. As the years went by however, that same little girl began to wonder about some things ...

Why are the best locations on island encircled by fences that have signs saying U.S. Property? How did they get these lands? Who did they ask to take these lands? Where did the people go that used to own lands?

The girl grew up never getting an answer. All she was told was that the Chamorro people are a grateful people who gave what they had for the freedom they received. She accepted that because it seemed everyone else accepted it.

But now, in 2009, some 60 years later, the same United States of America and the military seem to want more Chamorro property, and again… the best properties that our island has.

That little girl whose parents freely gave what they had so that she and her brother and sisters may live in a peaceful Guam is now herself a parent. She is the proud mom of a son in the United States Air Force and she is proud to be under the American flag. She is patriotic and she supports the United States of America.

But unlike her parents and many others who gave freely without question to the needs and plans of the United States military in the 1950's, this time she wants the United States of America and its military to be up front with the people of Guam. She wants the military to tell our leaders what they need. She wants the military to tell our leaders what they have planned. She wants the United States military to respect the needs and plans of the people of Guam too.

That little girl born in 1948 and is now herself a parent is me. I support the United States and the military but I also support the need for them to be open and transparent with the people of Guam. This legislation should not be necessary, but unfortunately, we as leaders cannot continue to be taken down the road blindfolded. We must know of their plans. We must know what they want to do.

I owe it to my parents, to my people, and to my children to make sure that the Guam that was, will continue to be… a place where all Chamorros will continue to live with pride. We will continue to support… we will continue to give… we will continue to be patriotic."

We just need to be asked because, after all, the greatest effect of this military buildup is not what happens in other countries. The greatest effect is what will happen to the people of Guam."

Thank you Mayor for such a clear voice.

ben pangelinan is a Senator in the 30th Guam Legislature and a former Speaker now serving his eighth term in the Guam Legislature. E-mail comments or suggestions to or

The next great land grab

Guam is 209 square miles in size. At about 640 acres per square mile, that's 133,760 acres or about three-fourths of an acre for each of the 175,877 men, women and children that live here.

That's all the land there is, and the federal government already owns outright 33,500 acres, or about 26 percent, of our native island home. The feds own more of Guam than our own Government of Guam, which has a minuscule 23 percent, or just 31,032 acres. The other 51 percent of the island belongs to private owners.

And now the feds want more.

On the surface, it seems pretty appalling that our people will again be asked to provide dear old "Uncle Sam" with more property - especially given the historic land takings of yesteryear; and even more so because the feds already control so much of our tiny island.

But we can make this right so all of our people will benefit.

That is why I, along with Sen. Rory Respicio and Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz, introduced Bill 43, which tasks the Guam First Commission with inventorying all land administered by GovGuam that the federal government may intend to lease, sub-lease or acquire. The Legislature will decide if the deal is a good one for our island and people.

We need to protect our resources, especially our land, and there's no question that the military buildup will require land over and above what the federal government already has in its inventory.

Bill 43 will disallow the practice of subletting GovGuam land to the military for pure profit by entities other than the Government of Guam. The entire island community must benefit from any short or long-term land leases or acquisitions by the federal government, for the military buildup.

Without this measure, individuals are free to engage in speculative acts with the intent to profit from renewed need for land by the Feds. This profit will benefit the individuals, but it will not benefit the rest of the island. Some people already have leases from GovGuam, while others plan to obtain a lease for the sole purpose of sub-leasing to a federal government entity. These actions would allow a few to profit while our entire island community bears the brunt of the buildup.

The Guam Legislature is the policy making branch of our government, elected by the people to represent their best interests. Our small island has a finite amount of land, and in order for the people of Guam to obtain maximum benefit, the Legislature must be involved. Any and all needs for additional land by the military must come to the Legislature. When we take into consideration the injustices of past land takings by the feds, especially after World War II, this is our only recourse.

The intent of Bill 43 is to ensure that land leases benefit the entire island community and not just a few people seeking to gain a quick and potentially huge profit while the rest of us suffer. Let's not let history repeat itself.

In order for the military to function and maintain mission readiness, the acquisition of additional property, including land owned in the name of the Government of Guam, will be a necessity. At this point, our people have the upper hand. Let's seize this opportunity - and for a change - let's tell the Federal Government what Guam wants!

Speak out and be heard. A public hearing on Bill 43 is scheduled for tomorrow. We will begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Legislature's public hearing room. I hope to see you there.

Senator Judith Paulette Guthertz, DPA, in her second term as a lawmaker, chairs the legislative Committee in the Guam Military Buildup and Homeland Security. She is a longtime University of Guam Professor and a former Vice President of Academic Affairs. Please send feedback to

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