Guam – The “We Are Guahan” group spoke Thursday to the Rotary Club of Guam about their concerns with the military buildup, the programmatic agreement and the use of Pagat as a firing range complex. The Rotary Club is primarily made up of businessmen many of whom are in full support of the buildup.
Attorney Leevin Camacho and small business owner Cara Flores Mays spoke on behalf of “We Are Guahan” beginning with a summary of their concerns with the military buildup. Their concerns focused on the impact the increase on population would have on Guam’s educational system, healthcare system, and housing market. However, their focus was on the programmatic agreement and the use of Pagat as a firing range complex. For the most part the Rotarians sat and listened but once the floor was opened for questions the questions abounded. One Rotarian asked “You know in the movie when the guys diving in the water and they’re shooting in the water and guy dives down in the water and the bullets are going shwoo like that and then they stop, how deep do you have to be before it’s safe?” This question resulted in jeers and chuckling from the audience. However Camacho showed poise and replied “I’m not sure.”
The rest of the questions however were more serious. Phil Flores asked if “We Are Guahan” was against the military buildup as a whole or just against the use of Pagat as a firing range complex. Camacho replied saying, “We’re against the buildup as it has been proposed. This idea that they are going to spend billions of dollars to make life comfortable for those behind the fence we understand that’s how it is, but to know that there are going to be huge impacts to people of Guam who live outside the fence and to try to toss your hands up in the air and say sorry we cannot provide you any assistance because we’re prohibited from doing that by law.”
Member Jay Merril also asked what We Are Guahan’s end game was and asked what was the point of their protest to the buildup.”In all of the things you brought up in the beginning of your speech are all of the things we’re gonna have to contend with if our economy grows. And right now we set out guam businesses and don’t really see anything quite as immediate as the military buildup to help grow our economy. We’re gonna be proud to build more schools it’s gonna be good to have more people in our schools and we’re trying to figure out what’s the point?” asked Merril. Camacho responded saying, “No one’s done a cost benefit analysis now I’m not an economist but I know it’s not right to look only at the benefit without looking at any cost I’ve never seen a proponent of the buildup say sure these are the costs that the buildup’s gonna create and this is the burden that it’s gonna create on the Government of Guam but look at all the money we’re gonna receive $15 billion dollars and even that figure alone I’m not sure quite where that’s gonna come from. Because again, everything I’ve seen produced by DOD 15 billion dollars that’s not gonna go to GovGuam.”
Another Rotarian asked a question specifically pertaining to Pagat saying, “I’ve lived on Guam for 20 years and I’ve been to Pagat caves and I’ve been to Pagat with my kids more times than I can remember you know I’ve never seen anybody there I’ve never seen anybody who gave a tinkers damn about Pagat until this EIS came out and for the first time and somebody saw a way to start running away with being against this buildup. If the buildup wasn’t happening Pagat and Pagat caves would be a non-issue it would still be an empty vacant litter strewn piece of property and I think that’s a shame.”
Camacho replied saying, “Unless you care about something for the entire time at no point can you realize how important something is and that’s incorrect I think it’s awesome it’s awesome and incredible that people now are looking at cultures being valuable outside of being strictly monetary. People want to learn about Pagat now. That’s unfortunate that it’s taken DOD’s plans to acquire it and build a grenade launcher and machine gun range over it but that doesn’t mean that it’s any less valid to argue that DOD should stay within it’s footprint and leave Pagat alone.”
Today was the first time that “We Are Guahan” has spoken before the Rotary Club of Guam.