Guam – At the 2011 Plenary Session of the President’s Interagency Group on Insular Areas (IGIA), Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo reiterated her position for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to extend parole authority for Chinese and Russian tourists to enter Guam.
[Caption: Congresswoman Bordallo and Governor Calvo look on as Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta signs the Regional Assistance Development Grant]
The IGIA is comprised of senior administration officials from various federal agencies and its purpose is to discuss and help iron out the various issues affecting the U.S. territories.
Congresswoman Bordallo also expressed a desire to have DHS provide a more concrete timeline for the implementation of a final rule that is consistent with Congressional intent. She also expressed her concern that a trend of awarding federal contracts to off-island firms may inhibit the civilian community from fully realizing the benefits of the build-up. The Congresswoman asked that the Small Business Administration consider hiring additional staff to meet increased demands for its services and that more studies be conducted to identify feasible renewable energy alternatives for Guam.
During the meeting, the General Services Administration (GSA) returned 450 acres in excess federal property on Guam back to the Government of Guam. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Roger Natsuhara and GSA Chief of Staff Michael Robertson presented Governor Eddie Calvo with the deed to 450 acres in the South Finegayan property, which constitutes the remaining available properties identified in Public Law 103-339, the Guam Excess Lands Act.
The Department of the Interior Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) also awarded more than $271,000 in federal education grant assistance to GovGuam. $229,000 was awarded to the University of Guam for Regional Assistance Development. Of this, $194,000 will be used for a Regional Workforce for Sustainability project and $35,000 was awarded for a Sustainability of Regional Aquaculture project. These projects will go toward a regional workforce development program at UOG to train individuals to install and maintain renewable equipment. OIA also awarded $42,727 for the 2nd Annual Forensic Science Symposium, which will focus on the development of a regional workforce, technical laboratory enhancements and accreditation, and certification of laboratory professionals.
“Today’s meeting underscored the continued importance the Obama Administration places on addressing issues important to Guam and the other U.S. Territories,” said Congresswoman Bordallo. “I reiterated the necessity of extending parole authority to Guam for Chinese and Russian tourists which is consistent with Congressional intent. It is important that the Department of Homeland Security, in coordination with the Department of the Interior and other relevant federal agencies, work with Congress to fulfill the intent of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 and ensure that we take all necessary steps to strengthen our visitor industry. I also raised concern over the awarding of recent federal contracts to off-island firms as well as the need for the Small Business Administration to ensure that they have a more robust staffing pattern on island to meet the needs of local firms competing for contracts during the build-up. These issues must be addressed to ensure that Guam is able to grow our economy independent of the military and that our civilian community will benefit from the build-up. I will continue to work with members of the IGIA as well as my colleagues in Congress on these and other issues important to our people.”
“I also commend the return of 450 acres in South Finegayan, which fulfills the requirements of the Guam Excess Lands Act. I thank Assistant Secretary Babauta for his leadership in seeing this return through. Further, the grant funding received today will go toward developing workforce development programs at UOG as well as provide funding for the 2nd Annual Forensic Science Symposium. I look forward to these lands and grant funding benefiting our community.”