Guam – Over a hundred island residents turned out at Okkodo High School Saturday, most, expressing opposition to what is proposed in the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the military buildup.
It was the first of 3 planned public hearings on the Draft SEIS. And it was the firing range proposal north of Northwest Field and its impact on the Ritidian Refuge that drew the most opposition.
“I am for the buildup up” declared one elderly Chamorro man who said he was 82 years old. “You never know the value of freedom until you lose it”, he said.
Someone from the audience then yelled out “How much land do we have to give up for freedom?”
The man went on to say 7-thousand Marines gave up their lives for Guam. “Sure they used the bases. Sure, they probably exploited us. But our people then were so glad the Marines gave their lives to liberate us, now we gotta reciprocate.”
Philip Santos, Vice-Chair of the Guam Chamber’s Armed Forces Committee said “Members of the Guam Chamber of Commerce Armed Forces Committee support the relocation to Guam of certian U.S. Mrine Corps units.”
He too was yelled at by someone in the audience. Prompting an admonition from moderator Clifford Guzman to allow the speakers to voice their opinions without any disruption.
Guam Chamber of Commerce Presdient David Leddy declared the Chamber’s support. “We strongely support the military buildup and H.R. 4402” and “we hope that the Legislature will find bi-partisan support to help move this process forward without any further delay.”
“We are being treated as slaves”, said activist Trini Torres.” Because we are a colony of the U.S.”
Christopher Bejado said his family strongly opposes locating the firing range complex at Northwest Field, as well as opposing the creation of a “Surface Danger Zone” over part of the Refuge below. He is a second generation decedent of an original Ritidian Landowner. His family, and others, lay claim to a parcel of land within the Refuge that was taken away by the U.S. Military in 1962.
“In 1991 the area known as Ritidian was deemed excess by the U.S. Military … and based on the Federal Government protocol the land was snatched up by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and turned into a wildlife refuge”, said Bejado. “At the time our local government did nothing to assist the Ritidian families to fight to regain these lands.”
“The critical habitat and the endangered species are the original landowners and the people of Guam”, he said.
Later, one young veteran asked “Were is this respect? … Your going to put this firing range in our back yards. What about those who’ve seen combat? What about providing social workers and facility services for those?”
Military realignment Buildup Chair, Senator Frank Aguon Jr. said there is no provision in the Draft SEIS “to provide alternative public access to the areas that are not restricted when the live fire training range is in operation.” He said he would like to see an alternative access route to the unrestricted areas.
Tamuning resident John Robertson spoke in favor of the buildup and in favor of putting of the firing range at Northwest Field. “We live in a dangerous world”, he said. “Some moderate restrictions on access to a small portion of Ritidian is, in my opinion, a small sacrifice for us in exchange for our local security and in fulfilling our responsibility towards national defense.”
“I’m hear today to say very clearly that I do not support the military, quote, unquote ‘buildup'”, said “We Are Guahan’s ” Victoria Leon Guerrero. “First and foremost I really don’t believe increasing the military presence on our islands … is the future I want to leave for my children.”
“I also don’t believe that it is being carried out in the way that our Governor and all of his press releases in respect of his quote unquote ‘4 Pillars'”, said Leon Guerrero. “First of all, Pagat is not off the table. It remains one of the 5 alternatives for the firing range” and “4 of those 5 options do require the takings of our lands” she said.
Guam Boonie Stompers’ Dave Lotts again raised the point that it is misleading to say that the proposed firing range complex would be located on Northwest Field. “This is not going to be on Northwest Field. Its in an area north of Northwest Field in an area called Talela which is limestone forest.”
Lotts also questioned the logic for bringing the Marines to Guam without providing air or sea transport for them. “I really have a fundamental question about the Marines actually coming to Guam,” he said. “Because if their deployment here is to respond to crises in the region, there is no companion in this proposal for amphibious ships and transport aircraft on Guam. So I don’t see why they’re coming here” he said.
Financial Adviser Carl Peterson said “Expanding our economy is absolutely essential if we’re going to raise ourselves up financially. And this is going to help us.”
Department of Public Works Director Carl Pangelinan spoke about the millions of dollars in funding that the Department of Defense has provided to pay for road improvement projects on Guam.
The next Public Hearing is scheduled for Monday May 19 at Father Duenas Memorial High School in Chalan Pago. The Open House begins at 5pm. The Public hearing starts at 7pm and will last until 9pm.