18 May 2010

Anxiety on Guam while Japan delays Okinawa plans

9:05 pm on 18 May 2010

There's further uncertainty over the US military's planned build-up on Guam after Japan's Prime Minister again delayed a decision over a plan to relocate troops currently on Okinawa island for at least another six months.

Part of the plan is the transferral of 8,000 Marines and 9,000 dependents from Okinawa to Guam by 2014.

Johnny Blades looks at how the planning is affecting Guam:

The US Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently said he doesn't see the transferral happening if the US and Japan don't reach agreement on the Okinawa relocation.

Yet the US military's Joint Guam Programme public affairs officer Captain Neil Ruggiero says Japan's delay has no bearing on their extensive preparations on Guam.

"Still on track. No plans have changed at all. Our mission is to make sure that the planning is done correctly for the marines to move from okinawa to Guam and that is what we're going to continue to do, to oversee the building of the construction of the base, the planning and construction."

The military is also pushing on with its plans to finalise the Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, for the buildup by July in order to secure approved federal funding.

However it received almost ten thousand submissions from Guam people on the draft EIS, many of which detailed deep concern over the lack of planning to address problems such as the projected strain on water and waste services.

Captain Ruggiero says they are reviewing the submissions...

Then the next step in the process is to have a final Environmental Impact Statement and that'll be the next step in the process and that'll be this Summer.


Do you have back-up plans?


Well as we've got feedback from the comments from the local community, we've adjusted our plan accordingly and we'll make those changes and incorporate them into the final Environmental Impact Statement.

Senator James Espaldon admits there is trepidation over the speed with which the military is moving on the EIS.

Bottom line it seems like they've just moving ahead and shoving this down our throat without coming back to us and asking is this satisfactory or are you more comfortable with this, in terms of the impact that we're going to have on your island. We're not gong to have that opportunity again, I don't think.

But the military's push for access to more land is causing great concern in Guam.

The chair of Guam's committee on the build-up, Senator Judith Guthertz, has suggested the military won't need more land.

Her chief of staff Dr Richard Wyttenbac-Santos says a proposed dock for nuclear aircraft carriers is also meeting opposition because it is expected to destroy a large amount of coral.

The whole island is upset about two things, my friend: land and coral. We don't mind the nuclear carrier but we do mind the destruction of the coral. Then the other thing is they want to ake more land. They already own a third of the island. Senator Guthertz has proposed an alternative land-use plan that they do not need any extra land. They can fit on the land that they already have.

Senator Espaldon says Guam has not been guaranteed proper funding to ensure that its infrastructure and social programmes will cope with the buildup.

He says Japan's delay has a good side and a bad side for Guam.

The good side would be that if there is a delay, then it gives us more time to miplement some of the programmes and build out the infrastructure that we need. However the flip side of that would be that if there is a movement in Japan to get all the bases out, then that would have a negative impact in maybe even growing the military to a larger presence than what we're already faced with.

He says although it has no real say in the matter, Guam is anxious to know what the scope of the transferral will be.