U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell addressed the island’s business leaders at a special conference this afternoon about what they can expect.
Jewell says, “We need to work together and that’s what we’re here for today: finding creative solutions and to listen to many of you in the room. I just want to reassure you that we appreciate your work. We want to be your partners to strengthen and improve the quality of life for the people of Guam and to recognize your importance to the United States of America.”
Jewell says Guam has served as a great partner for over a hundred years and is a critical hub for strengthening the presence in the Asia-Pacific region. In fact, she gives an update on the military build up.
“There’s no doubt that this military build up will bring great opportunities to Guam, expected to generate about $8 billion dollars over 10 years in economic contributions. As business communities on Guam, we’ll work with you to make sure your businesses thrive,” she says.
Jewell says with the U.S. investing 2 billion dollars on our island each year, they want to make sure Guam has the resources we need to build strong communities. She then goes on about what she calls one of the more difficult topics, which is Compact Impact.
She says, “We know that Guam has many unmet obligations under the Compact agreements with the Freely Associated States of Micronesia. It has real impact on Guam’s operations especially on health, education, housing and correctional facilities.”
Jewell says the US provides Guam about $17 million dollars a year in Compact Impact Aid funding but…
“but that’s far below what Guam is incurring as a result of migration and that’s not likely to get better in times of changing climate and economic refugees as well,” she explains.
Jewell says she wants to work together with Guam to get more funding and coming up with a federal approach to keep these issues on the radar. She says Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia’aina is working with the White House to establish a federal inter-agency working group on Compact Impact Aid.
She says, “What is most important is keeping these issues on the radar and all the jobs are big and complex and require prioritization but unless you have a steady voice which we have with Kia’aina and we will have with this inter-agency group, it’s too easy for it to drop off the radar and too easy for things to occur that have an unattended consequences on places like Guam.”
Jewell also announced that they will be establishing one-stop centers in Hawaii and Guam. She says, “It’s hard to navigate going through the federal government. It’s hard to figure out where to go and what services are available so these centers are designed to coordinate and share governmental and nongovernmental job training, education, and health awareness opportunities for the Freely Associated States.”
Jewell ends her address to island leaders by commending Guam for its accomplishments and explains what they have to do. She says, “There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of work ahead when it comes to addressing the unique complex needs of Guam and your people, we want to make sure the military build up works for your island, we want to make sure that we provide critical, technical, and economic assistance that unlocks the potential of your people. We want to find solutions to alleviate the impact of the compact agreement with the FAS. We want to work with you to work on your tourism and adapating to the changing climate and other issues.”