In remarks to the Guam Chamber of Commerce today, Joint Region Commander John Menoni responded to the ongoing concerns about the impact of the military buildup, saying that his command is committed to preserving and protecting the natural environment and the cultural resources of Guam.
“I believe that the Marines coming here, I truly believe it will be a benefit to this island,” Menoni said.
Menoni told chamber members today that he recently asked his staff to estimate the amount of money the Department of Defense has invested in the environment and culture stewardship on island.
The answer he was got was about $100 million dollars over the past five years.
“So when people say that we’re just going out there bulldozing trees or kicking over latte stones that’s not the case. That may have been in the past, and I’m talking fifty, sixty, seventy years ago in the past, that’s not the way we do business today,” Menoni said.
Referring to recent calls from Guam lawmakers about pausing construction on the Marine firing range complex, Menoni said “we’re always pausing” whenever we find something.
“Whether it’s a pottery shard, whether it’s a fragment of a bone, whether it’s something we just don’t understand … work stops and work doesn’t start again until we go through a series of steps that are outlined in the programmatic agreement,” Menoni said.
Menoni also reassured chamber members that the Marine relocation from Okinawa to Guam is on track despite talk in Washington about diverting buildup funds to build a wall along the Mexican border.
“There is a lot of talk about deferred military projects because of the border wall. From everything that I’m being briefed on, I see the Marine relocation projects are on schedule and on cost,” Menoni said.
Menoni also appealed for a continued partnership between the military and the island community. With the arrival of over 5,0000 Marines and their families by the mid-2020s, he said its important to maintain that partnership if we are to move forward.
“I’m sure there is an economic benefit to them coming here. But there is the bigger benefit of having another diverse group of people who we know stand up for what’s right coming to our island and being our partners, friends and neighbors,” Menoni said.