Concerns raised, questions linger on Guam Marines plan
Air Force Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf left Guam residents thirsting for more details last week on plans to build the infrastructure to accommodate 8,000 Marines plus their families and support civilians to be relocated from Okinawa starting in 2008.
Leaf, deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Command, was on the U.S. territorial island for several days to meet with officials and local groups to discuss the buildup. People at the meetings expressed concerns ranging from the effect of the buildup on the community’s infrastructure and social institutions to the origin of plants used to landscape housing areas.
Leaf’s PowerPoint presentation, however, matched information that Guam Gov. Felix Camacho had disclosed to local media in late July.
“I was hoping for more details,” Camacho said of his Tuesday morning meeting with Leaf.
Camacho, who faces re-election in November, said he plans to request more specific information from PACOM officials.
“The sooner we know what they’re going to do, the quicker we can make our case and seek money,” he said.
Sen. Antonio Unpingco, chairman of the Guam legislature’s Committee on Tourism, Maritime, Military and Veterans Affairs, expressed similar disappointment after Leaf met with the legislature. He was, however, encouraged by the general’s announcement that the Navy recently has activated a joint program office to oversee the buildup.
“They’re saying … they’ll bring in experts from the various agencies and private individuals to assist the community in the expansion,” Unpingco said. “The indication is that they will give us voice in the planning — not just to accept what their plans are. I will definitely not accept just a one-way street on this thing.”
On Wednesday, Leaf met with the Chamorro Nation indigenous rights group, environmental officials and a women’s focus group and held an open town hall meeting attended by about 60 members of the community. They included local business people, candidates for political office, students and indigenous rights activists — one of whom held a sign reading “Yankee Go Home.”
Among concerns expressed at the meeting were that the buildup not decrease access to beaches and other areas, that the military assist in work force training, that the military and civilian populations not be segregated and that local businesses have the opportunity to benefit from the buildup.
Indigenous rights activists cited a number of grievances against the federal government, including reparations for World War II damages and the effect of immigration to the island.
Leaf said he was there to hear all points of view.
During a lunch meeting Friday with the Guam Contractors Association and the Society of American Military Engineers, Leaf encouraged local business owners concerned about being crowded out of large contracts to make their thoughts and ideas for solutions known as soon as possible in writing to the Navy Joint Program Office and Navy Undersecretary B.J. Penn.
He also said the estimated $14 billion to fund the move “includes infrastructure for military needs only,” though he added there would be some shared benefit.