Monday, June 28, 2010

We Are Guåhan at UN Special Committee on Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries & Peoples




Before the


June 22, 2010


This testimony is being presented on behalf of We are Guåhan, an organization dedicated to advocating for the political, social, environmental, and human rights of the people of Guam.

We are Guåhan was formed in November of 2009, shortly after the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, an 11,000 page document detailing U.S plans for the future of Guam. Our organization formed in order to read and critique the massive document on behalf of the local community, which is largely unfamiliar or unable to engage in the kind of critical analysis and formal response required to participate in the draft’s formal commenting process.

Our goal is to keep Guam’s residents informed and active in all discussions involving the future of our home island, as we have been excluded from most discussions entirely and decisions have been made unilaterally. Our organization is comprised of residents from all sectors of society; and we are deeply alarmed by the injustices that will be perpetrated upon the people of Guam by the plans within the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Since our formation, the every-day residents and individuals within We are Guåhan have been forced to quickly digest and understand the complex issues of decolonization, environmental sustainability, cultural preservation, and political self-determination in order to respond to the U.S. government. Needless to say, we are overwhelmed, alarmed, and outraged by the lack of power we have in determining our futures.

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) has triggered an outpouring of concern by Guam’s residents. The Guam Environmental Protection Agency (a Federal entity) gave the DEIS its lowest possible rating, calling it the most poorly constructed Impact Statement they have evaluated. U.S plans within the DEIS have shown the people of Guam, yet again, that they are powerless in controlling their destinies. The political freedom, environmental safety, and cultural legacy we leave to future generations is one that is ultimately decided by those who view their home as nothing more than a gas station or military training ground in the Pacific.

Decolonization for the Chamorro people is needed now, more than ever, not just for the Chamorro people of Guam, but for all who consider the island their home and have now been forced to face the reality of being a resident within an United States Colony. The Chamorro people must be granted their inherent and inalienable to right to exercise self-determination.

The basic necessities for maintaining or creating a self-sustaining, empowered, healthy population of residents have been threatened by U.S. plans. We are Guåhan, which is dedicated to representing the concerns of the diverse population that calls Guam its home, is here to report the findings of local residents and organizations within the DEIS, in order to highlight why self-determination must be granted to the Chamorro people of Guam.


Water Supply

Water, our most basic necessity to live, is greatly endangered by plans within the DEIS. In addition to a 2.3 million gallon per day shortfall of water for residents who do not live on Department of Defense controlled properties. This shortfall will force residents to live with low water pressures and could result in microbiological and other contaminants entering the water distribution system, which will result in illness. The basic sanitary needs of our island will be degraded an yet, the DEIS has not identified a funding source for the improvements that are required to sustain the population increase they propose.


An educated community is an empowered community and our island’s educational system is already grossly underfunded. The military build up projects an increase in up to 8,000 more students at the build up’s peak, requiring 532 more teachers to a Department of Education that already struggles to fill up to 300 vacancies per year.

We’ll need to build new schools; and the estimated cost of building these new schools is $134 million dollars, which exceeds our Department of Education’s budget by 70%.


DEIS projections for our economy have been greatly misrepresented. Local economists have pointed out that the direct and indirect impacts have been inflated by over 118%. The DEIS failed to acknowledge that the projected tax revenues will not be enough for the Government of Guam to support the 80,000 new residents that will arrive in 2014. Even more outrageous has been the Department of Defense’s admission that the standard of living on Guam will most likely decrease within the DEIS.


The predicted shortage of housing through 2014 will drive housing prices up, increasing homelessness, overcrowding and illegal housing units. The predicted over-supply of housing after 2014 will also likely result in many more abandoned buildings over the once scenic landscapes of our beautiful island. The DEIS is “deafeningly silent” on how DoD will mitigate the impact on Guam’s housing market.


The reefs which protect our island from storms and earth quakes will be greatly impacted, and the Environmental Protection Agency explained that “Impacts to coral reefs on the scale proposed in the DEIS are unprecedented in recent CWA 404 permit history.


Our residents will be forced to navigate through noise and pollution daily and our disadvantaged, under served, and overburdened communities are likely to have pre-existing deficits of both a physical and social nature that make the effects of environmental pollution more, and in some cases, unacceptably, burdensome.


Unfortunately, this brief outline is just the tip of the iceberg when articulating our concerns regarding further military expansion. Despite the overwhelming amount of damage to our island and its future as a sustainable, safe home for our future generations, the U.S. Government continues with its plans to increase its United States military presence on the island.

We have repeatedly sought political rights; and the actions in response to those requests over the years have moved at a pace we no longer have the luxury of accommodating.

Chamorro self-determination must be granted. As stewards of our island and environment, the indigenous people of Guam require these basic human and political rights to secure the future of our island for all who love it and are invested in preserving its integrity. It is no longer satisfactory (or realistic) to expect that self-determination be an issue addressed with the influence of the administering power. As we have seen so clearly within the DEIS, the administering power cares very little about the ways in which our home, its economy, the education of our children, and our environment is jeopardized by plans in their interest.

Our organization advocates for the process of decolonization to take place without the administering power and with the cooperation of the United Nations. We recommend that actions be taken before any more damage occurs through the increased militarization of our island.

It is imperative that an investigation be conducted regarding the compliance of our the administering power to uphold its obligations under the UN Charter to promote and preserve the integrity of our home island and our human and political rights.

We thank you for this opportunity to share our concerns. These issues are complex and we continue to learn and try to understand how we are negatively affected by the administering power’s military plans on a daily basis. These lessons are those that require time and assistance, but unfortunately, our people and island have run out of time. We are standing immediately before plans that rush toward us at an alarming pace, plans that will forever change (and even erase) the island that so many of us have come to love and call home.

Si Yu’os ma’ase,

We Are Guåhan

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