Not a very diverse panel in terms of ideas.
Panel: Determining political status a lengthy process
Wednesday, 21 September 2011 01:02
by Geraldine Castillo
Marianas Variety News Staff
AN EDUCATIONAL roundtable discussion was held yesterday, exploring the various political status options for Guam and their respective effects on the island's economy, commerce and trade.
The symposium, “Guam’s Quest for Economic Stability: How Our Economy is Affected by Our Political Status,” was held at the Hyatt Regency Guam and organized by the Guam Young Professionals (GYP), a committee of the Guam Chamber of Commerce.
A four-man panel comprised of experts on political status and economy was led by moderator Jay Rojas, chairman of GYP.
Among the panelists were Neal Weare, Litigation and Policy Council for the Constitutional Accountability Center in Washington D.C.; Joseph Bradley, Chief Economist, Bank of Guam; Juan-Carlos Benitez, President, Washington Pacific Economic Development Group; and Joe Arnett, Partner in charge of tax services for Deloitte & Touche LLP.
The educational symposium provided different analyses of political status options and how they affect issues such as economy, tax, commerce, immigration and more.
“I think it's important when talking about the different statuses to really recognize that they each have equal dignity,”
Weare pointed out. “The opportunities they each present certainly are different. But in terms of what they offer for Guam, I think that they all offer [an] advantage over the status quo, primarily because they put Guam back in the driver's seat.”
Weare spoke about how Guam has been “content” in letting authority rest in Washington and how Guam hasn't had any say in decisions that would affect the island.
“Whether we pursue integration, where we have a meaningful voice in participation in that process, or we pursue a separate relationship where we're able to control our destiny and negotiate in an equal playing field in the federal government ... I think either of those options would put us far ahead where we are now.”
Each of the panelists agreed that serious discussions on yesterday’s topic pose a lengthy process before a decision could be made.
“As far as Congress is concerned, we are an unincorporated territory, we're part of the United States and they're the ones that have the ultimate decision,” said Benitez. “So, the idea of one plebiscite granted independence or statehood or anything in between is probably not gonna occur with Washington's blessing ... it's gonna be a step process.”
Meanwhile, Bradley pointed out that indeed, a process has to take place. In that regard, there must be a selection of status, and preceding that selection, there has to be an education campaign that identifies the different statuses. As soon as that status is selected, Bradley suggested, a constitution must be formulated in order to tell Congress what we want.
“Once that constitution is drafted, it becomes a matter of selling it to the Congress,” he said.
Lots of Work
When it came to discussing how to bring up what would be determined as Guam's political status, Benitez stated there is a lot of work to be done on Guam's behalf.
“Washington really wants to help the territories,” stressed Benitez. “It's not their number one priority. We need to do the legwork for them. Unless we come in and provide them with the answer on how to help us, they're not gonna do it on their own. ... We need to know what to ask for and what is doable.”
Arnett, on the other hand, added that the process of deciding Guam's political status needs to continue, though it is a timely process.
“I think the military buildup gives us more leverage ... more opportunity to put our thoughts together to express our needs to Washington,” he said.
“We're all pretty much on the same page as far as where we want to be,” said Rojas in concluding the symposium. “We do have the power to control our future, and a lot of what we want, we can actually take to the table – in the form of negotiation, so long as that plan is actually concrete and stable. ... We have that opportunity to become that catalyst for change.”