Tonight, there is a hearing at the legislature on a resolution in support of the military Build-Up on Guam. I thought long and hard about whether or not I would go and read it in person, but can I be honest? I’m tired of showing up to formal hearings and scoping sessions and saying the same thing over and over again only to be ignored by our leaders and have the military politely nod, knowing they are going to do what they want anyway (because they can). I cannot count how many times I have rescheduled things with my family on special days to accommodate these dog and pony shows. Many of the mothers I am friends with have also experienced this struggle. Between picking up our children, working our full-time jobs, trying to learn our language, and maintain family traditions at home… we also need to do this; and we need to be ready to do it within a moment’s notice. It means testifying between funeral viewings and family parties. It means planning your kids birthday and grading papers, then rushing to the legislature to BEG your elected officials to please not destroy our island. I mean, it’s important; and it has to be done… but tonight I want to go to Mass with my children. This is what I want to do. I want to go to mass. I have committed to going to mass with my family tonight and I’m not going to cancel on them. I have submitted the testimony I planned to read to the legislature and am asking a friend to read it on my behalf. I am pasting it below because I wanted to share it. Please excuse any technical errors within it. I typed it during the 30 minute breaks between each of the classes I teach. I did not have time to review it or edit it, because I have children to pick up and papers to grade. It is the best I could do right now. I have so much more to say, but I’m going to be with my family.
I’m wishing you all a beautiful long weekend spent in thanks for all our families and island has to offer.
22 November 2017
Senator Michael San Nicolas
I Mina’trentai Kuåttro na Liheslaturan Guåhan
34th Guam Legislature
Guam Legislature Building
RE: Non-support of Resolution 294-34
Håfa Adai Senator San Nicolas,
My name is Desiree Taimanglo Ventura and I am submitting written testimony in opposition to Resolution 294-34. Since the release of the DEIS in 2009, I have made it a point to study, read, and participate in as many formal processes as possible between my full-time job and raising a family in order to learn more about the ways in which the Military Build-Up will impact our home. I have attended public hearings in multiple villages, attended scoping sessions, worked with my students to submit formal comments in response to requests for public feedback, and followed build-up conversations closely. I have taken many hours out of my day, even, at times, told my family that things had to be postponed, because advocating for our home and learning how our home will be impacted is important; and it is. It’s extremely important. This endless dance is something you simply have to do if you care about Guam, even when it feels you are not being heard, even when your legislators ignore you while you are testifying, even when it’s just being done for the military to check off another box in the NEPA process and say that they did it.
But today, I resent being here. I resent having to come here and repeat what has been said so many times: that the Military Build-Up on Guam jeopardizes and destroys our island’s resources and further marginalizes the Chamoru people. I am, quite frankly, tired of having to respond to the only argument those in support of the build-up have to offer, which is that for a short period of time there will be extra jobs available on island, jobs that will vanish when the build-up is over, after our lime stone forests have been destroyed, after we have lost access to our sacred spaces, after we have further threatened endangered species, after we’ve exposed our water systems to contaminants, and after we further destabilize our infrastructure and make it harder for our own people to rent and own homes on their own island.
These are not things that I have made up, as some of our Pro Build- Up Activists would have you believe. These are all things the United States Department of Defense has said themselves, in their own documents released to the public. To be told, in plain language, that these things will happen, and have some of our local leaders stand up here and say the opposite is deeply lacking in integrity. I challenge you to look beyond your political agendas and personal dreams of attaining future office and listen to the many lawyers, economists, biologists, social workers, archeologists, students, professors, mothers, farmers, elders, and fishermen, who have contributed to this conversations. Surely we can’t all be wrong?
The first few pages of the resolution outline the NEPA process as if it somehow changes the fact that NEPA and NHO legislation are actively being reworked because of their many deficiencies that too easily allow the destruction of the environment. So much so that one of the attorneys who helped to author those NEPA laws (Yost) defended Pagat Pro Bono because it was so flawed. . DoD has violated federal laws over and over again and on several occasions, they have lost cases for not adhering to NEPA. Citing NEPA does nothing to support an argument in defense of the military build-up. The DoD has shown over and over again that NEPA means very little to them.
Our brothers and sisters in the NMI are truly blessed to have leaders that have been actively working to hold DoD accountable for its poor ability to comply with NEPA processes. Why can’t leaders on Guam do the same? Why do some of ours, instead, do everything possible to say they want the build-up at ANY cost? No matter what is destroyed in the process? Why do some of ours say that nothing is more important than some jobs over a short period of time? Not our land, not our political rights, not our culture, not our sacred spaces, not our water, not our endangered species…nothing.
We are ALREADY an unfortunate part of the Department of Defense’s legacy of contamination in the Pacific. We stand beside the Marshalls, Okinawa, Hawaii, and many other places that have suffered the long term impacts of military activity on their lands. There are Superfund sites and Formerly Used Defense Sites throughout our island that have been toxic for decades, and have yet to be cleaned up. We continue to find PCBs in the waters surround Cocos Island, where the ships that monitored the nuclear testing in the Marshalls were washed down. Veterans, who were stationed at Andersen and exposed to Agent Orange while there continue to report cancers and other illnesses that they not only suffer from, but have passed on to their decedents. Enough is enough.
What purpose does this resolution serve? The US Military clearly does not need a resolution from our local legislature to do as they please. Congress doesn’t need it. It surely does not help our local people. So why are we here today? Resolutions from our leaders become official statements on behalf of the people of Guam. The people of Guam have never been given the opportunity to consent to this build-up, and yet it has proceeded. It is irresponsible for our leaders to speak on behalf of the entire island, when thousands of informed people have spoken against this build-up for nearly a decade. There were 10,323 comments written by our people in response to the DEIS that was release in 2009. Nearly a thousand more left comments on the SEIS in 2010. A majority of these comments expressed valid and informed concerns that as leaders you have a responsibility to take seriously.
So I have come here, again, to say once more that the Build Up is not good for Guam and that this resolution is a huge insult to the thousands of people, both young and old, who have gone out of their way to express concern about these plans.
Desiree Taimanglo Ventura