Pay raises could impact future general fund

Wednesday, 26 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Under the salary increase included in Bill 1 (8-S), Gov. Eddie Calvo would receive a $130,000 salary and upon his retirement his pension would amount to $65,000 annually. Bill 1(8-S) was signed into law yesterday by Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio, above, in his capacity as acting governor. Variety file photo

THE new law that gives top government officials hefty, retroactive pay raises could cost the general fund an additional $32,500 a year for the governor and lieutenant governor’s pensions when they retire from the government.

According to Guam Code Annotated Chapter 8, Section 8172, the governor and lieutenant governor are to be paid pension benefits from the Government of Guam Retirement Fund by appropriations made by the legislature.

The annual pension is to be paid for the remainder of the governor and lieutenant governor’s lives after retirement and the amount paid is not to exceed 50 percent of his annual salary at the time he retires.

Under the salary increase included in Bill 1 (8-S), Gov. Eddie Calvo would receive a $130,000 salary and upon his retirement his pension would amount to $65,000 annually. Bill 1(8-S) was signed into law yesterday by Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio in his capacity as acting governor.

Tenorio would likewise receive an annual pension benefit of $55,000 annually, when he retires.

Combined, the amount paid for both pension benefits would be $32,500 – more than if the bill had not been enacted, and the government officials kept their pre-Jan. 15 salaries.

The bill was passed by the legislature on Friday after Tenorio submitted the bill to the legislature and called lawmakers into special session.

The legislative vote on the bill was 10-1. Only Sen. Michael Limtiaco voted against the measure; Sens. Tom Ada, Michael San Nicolas and Dennis Rodriguez were absent from Friday’s session.

Not affect

Government of Guam Retirement Fund Director Paula Blas said the salary increase for the governor and lieutenant governor would not affect the retirement fund because pension is paid from the general fund.

“Their pensions are not funded by the (retirement) fund. These are general fund appropriations,” she said.

Blas said she could not see how the retirement fund would be affected financially since the pension is not paid by the retirement fund.

Blas said because the pension benefits for the governor and lieutenant governor do not affect the retirement fund, the unfunded liability is also not affected.

The law provides substantial pay raises for the governor, the lieutenant governor, members of the Guam Legislature, the attorney general, the public auditor and more than 80 directors, deputy directors and other Cabinet members. The raises are retroactive to Jan. 15 of this year.

Agriculture department opposes quarantine bill amendment

Wednesday, 26 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Department of Agriculture yesterday expressed opposition to a measure introduced by Sen. Rory Respicio which amends current animal quarantine regulations related to fencing.

Respicio is chairman of the legislature’s committee on rules, and held a public hearing yesterday on Bill 424, which proposes to allow concrete and solid metal walls to be considered acceptable perimeter fencing for commercial quarantine facilities in addition to mesh wire that is currently allowed.

The legislation was co-sponsored by Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes.

Mariquita Taitague, Agriculture director, expressed opposition to the measure. "It weakens current quarantine regulations," she said. “One cannot see through walls, so it is impossible to know what is going on there.”

However, Respicio said the bill strengthens the animal quarantine facility laws because no one should argue that a mesh fence is more secure than a concrete wall.

Dr. Joel Joseph, owner of Wise Owl Animal Hospital, testified in favor of the measure, noting the change would open other options for the community.

“Competition would result in better choices for the people of Guam ... and could possibly lower the quarantine costs for those bringing their animals to island," Joseph said.

Current law requires that the premises of commercial quarantine facilities be surrounded by a perimeter fence no less than 8 feet in height and topped with barbed wire tilted inward. Fencing wire is to have a mesh size of 2 inches by 2 inches or less, and be of no less than 9 gauge in thickness.

Amended

The measure proposes the law be amended to read: "Unless a solid roof covers the entire facility, the premises of a CQF shall be surrounded by a perimeter fence no less than 8 feet in height and topped with barbed wire tilted inward. Fencing shall be composed of concrete, solid metal, or wire. All wire shall be of a mesh size of 2 inches by 2 inches or less and of no less than 9 gauge.”

The measure further states that if a quarantine facility has a perimeter wire fence with mesh size greater than 2 inches by 2 inches, it will have a six-month grace period from the enactment of the legislation to comply with the 2-inch by 2-inch specification.

Wise Owl has applied to open an indoor quarantine and has been repeatedly denied because of the wire-fence requirement. Joseph has contended the concrete walls at his facility should be more than sufficient to keep the animals quarantined.

The topic has been repeatedly raised by agriculture in prior legislative status hearings convened by the committee on rules.

 

   

A good day to be a politician

Monday, 24 Nov 2014 03:00am

VARIETY NEWS STAFF

ON FRIDAY, two and a half weeks after Election Day, the Guam Legislature voted itself and other top government officials hefty pay raises. The legislation was introduced by the governor who will receive a 44 percent increase in salary to $130,000. The legislature was called into special session by the lieutenant governor in his capacity as acting governor; the legislation provides a 29 percent raise to the lieutenant governor who now receives $110,000.

All members of the legislature who were present Friday voted for the pay increase except Sen. Michael Limtiaco, the only senator who did not run for re-election. The senators received a $20,000 or 31 percent increase in salary to $85,000. The increase will make them the second highest paid state or territorial legislators under the United States flag, behind only the California lawmakers who are paid $91,525.

Also to receive substantial increases with the enactment of Bill 1(8-S) are the governor’s appointed Cabinet members – more than 80 directors, deputy directors and others with similar titles. The public auditor, her staff and the attorney general of Guam will also be paid more as a result of the legislation.

The raises were among the Hay pay salary adjustments contained in the Competitive Wage Act of 2014 that was transmitted to the legislature by the governor on Jan. 15, about 11 months before the election. That bill also contained Hay pay salary adjustments for almost all classified line employees. After much legislative maneuvering, the majority members of this legislature passed legislation granting the salary increases for the classified employees, but set the salaries for the top officials – those impacted by the current legislation – at the level they were on Oct. 1, 2013.

At the time, we agreed with that action. We opined that the classified rank-and-file workers should be paid well enough to provide for themselves and their families as they provide needed government services. But the unclassified management-level government employees are paid well enough, some are more qualified for their positions than others and, in general, political public service should not be too lucrative.

In a statement announcing that he had called the legislature into special session last week to consider the bill, the lieutenant governor noted that Bill 1(8-S) contained the same proposed raises that had been rescinded earlier in the year and wrote, “This issue was politicized before the election ... .”

We assume he meant, correctly, that raises for top officials would not have been popular among voters and so the legislators acted in accordance with what they perceived the view of the people. But the election is over and they are the victors.


GWA receives full certification for drinking water laboratory


Tuesday, 25 Nov 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


THE Guam Environmental Protection Agency has given full certification to Guam Waterworks Authority's drinking water laboratory after the water utility completed requirements to reinstate its certification.


In a letter addressed to Tom Cruz, GWA acting manager, Eric Palacios, GEPA administrator, said agency certification officers have reviewed documentation from GWA's laboratory management that supports completion of the requirements to reinstate certification.

According to Palacios, the certification is valid retroactively to Nov. 4 this year and will expire Nov. 4, 2017.

However, to maintain certification, GWA must maintain its laboratory quality management system and must submit to GEPA an annual set of proficiency test samples covering the methods and parameters covered in the certification.

Moreover, the GWA laboratory must inform the agency of any changes in major personnel and equipment within 30 days of the change. Meanwhile, the environmental agency will implement unannounced audits during the certification period.

GEPA noted that GWA has implemented corrective actions made and submitted acceptable proficiency test samples from two separate providers.

Passed

Paul J. Kemp, GWA assistant general manager, said GWA successfully completed three performance verification tests from at least two different certifying agencies.

GWA obtained a 100 percent score on all three test sets.

In addition, GEPA certification staff conducted a routine inspection of the laboratory as well as a follow-up inspection to verify if recommendations were completed.

According to Kemp, the GEPA administrator signed the certificate on Nov. 12.

However, he said notification was not given to GWA until the waterworks authority approached and requested it from the GEPA board of directors on Nov. 20.

Test

GEPA issued a notice of intention to revoke GWA's lab certification on Sept. 5 after the waterworks authority laboratory failed to identify a sample as positive for E. coli bacteria during a proficiency test.

GWA was given 30 days (until Oct. 3) to appeal the decision or pass a third-party performance test.

Aside from the first retest, the two other requirements to acquire the certification include laboratory site inspection and retests by two independent entities.

But to address all requirements, the waterworks authority was given until Nov. 4 or 60 days after the notice was issued.

Kemp said requirements were completed by Oct. 28.

According to GEPA, the third-party proficiency test has to be administered by an off-island laboratory that is USEPA-approved and completely separate from Guam to ensure impartiality in the testing process.

GWA’s laboratory certification expired in July and has been under provisional status while GWA was working on its renewal process


Archdiocese Guam’s largest user of renewable energy


Tuesday, 25 Nov 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


IN 2013, the Archdiocese of Agana became the largest private user of renewable energy on Guam and with the commissioning of a 522-panel array at San Vicente Catholic School in Barrigada, the church continues to demonstrate its commitment to the environment, said Bill Hagen, of Pacific Solar & Photovoltaics.


With the addition of San Vicente Catholic School, Hagen said the Archdiocese of Agana now has more than 500 kilowatts (0.5 megawatts) of production in place capable of producing 784 megawatt-hours per year, saving the various entities of the church more than $50,000 per year in utility bills.

Using a power purchase agreement, the systems have been installed on different roofs within the Archdiocese by different system owners who contracted with Pacific Solar & Photovoltaics to do the design, installation and long-term maintenance and monitoring.

The owner of the systems, or power providers, who are environmentally conscious investors, install and maintain the renewable energy system for up to 25 years and sell the power produced to the power purchaser, such as a school, parish or Archdiocesan facility.

Savings

According to Hagen, the church made no investment in the project but receives an initial 20 to 25 percent savings on the power produced and sold to the facility. Over time, Hagen said this savings increases as utility rates rise.

The power producer, or owner of the installed photovoltaics, receives an initial 30 percent tax credit on their green power investment and qualifies for accelerated depreciation. They also receive the revenue coming from the sale of the less expensive power to the customer. The power producer keeps the system running efficiently, provides proper liability insurance and reports regularly to the power purchaser on the status of the system and its production.

Currently, Hagen said there are several projects on Archdiocesan schools and churches being proposed for installation in 2015 which will bring their total participation in environmentally safe energy to about 1,000 kilowatts or 1 megawatt of distributive solar power.  Distributive solar generation, different from large solar farms, means its production is usually spread over a broad geographical area and much of the energy produced is actually consumed on-site where it is produced. Hagen said this type of generation usually has very little impact on utility grids.


Conference to address wellness through indigenous knowledge


Tuesday, 25 Nov 2014 03:00am


PRESS RELEASE


GBHWC) – The Guam Psychological Association along with its partners will host the Behavioral Health in Micronesia Conference for Guam’s behavioral health professionals, cultural leaders and traditional healers.


The conference will be held at the Westin Resort on Dec. 4 and 5 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. A day of experiential learning will follow on Dec. 6 at Artero’s Beach in Urunao. The goal of the event is to recognize and encourage a modern application of Micronesia’s indigenous practices so as to move beyond adaptation of Western medical science, to effect behavioral health treatment and prevention in local communities.

In Micronesian indigenous communities today, there are alarmingly disproportionate rates of teen suicide, substance abuse, violence and incarceration.

Western medical science, although remarkable for major breakthroughs in the treatment of mental disorders, does not necessarily hold all the answers to health and wellbeing, especially as it applies to indigenous people.

The Guam Psychological Association recognizes that local cultures are rich in knowledge and practices that have valuable impact on reducing the behavioral health disparities throughout Micronesia, leading to health equity in the region.

To host the much-needed dialogue, education and collaboration of these culturally competent behavioral services that are embedded in local communities, the Guam Psychological Association presents this first Behavioral Health in Micronesia Conference: Indigenous Perspectives on Wellness and Health in our Communities.

“Although successful at adapting to social changes in the past, our indigenous Micronesian people now suffer from the rapid and drastic pressure of enveloping globalization within our indigenous spaces,” said Guam Psychological Association President Hope Cristobal.

Close the gap

The conference aims to close the gap in health disparities by addressing the effects of social and environmental factors on indigenous health, and by promoting culturally and linguistically competent prevention, treatment, research and education. “Ultimately, the mission of this conference is to introduce a contemporary application of our indigenous knowledge so as to move us beyond adaptation, to influence behavioral health treatment and prevention practices in our communities,” Cristobal said.

Keynote speakers

Two consultants with expertise on community and historical trauma were invited to provide keynote presentations at the conference: Dr. Eduardo Duran and Vanessa Jackson.

Duran brings with him experience and expertise in indigenous healing from community trauma from his 30 years’ worth of work in the Indian country. He has been instrumental in developing clinical theory and methods that integrate ancient traditional approaches with modern western strategies in an effort to make healing relevant to Native peoples, whose stories are essentially parallel to the stories of Micronesia’s indigenous communities. In his presentation, Duran will focus on the concept of Soul Wounding, and his research on the development of a hybrid approach that inspires a new vision for healing.

Jackson, a nationally recognized speaker on mental health issues with a focus on culturally conscious therapy and therapy with marginalized populations, will center her presentation on the roles on traditional healers in addressing domestic violence. Jackson specializes in Power Work – the concept of finding a collective and inner power as indigenous people in order to heal the community from trauma.

Admission for the two-day conference is free, and was limited to the first 200 registered participants. The Guam Psychological Association expects to meet 200 community members at the two-day conference, 100 of which will continue to the third day of experiential learning.

Some attendees are given the opportunity to join a supplemental day of experiential learning, where they will implement the new skills and knowledge they gained from the conference in a unique, collaborative experience of methodology building. This Day of Learning will be hosted at Artero’s Beach from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For more information regarding the Behavioral Health in Micronesia Conference, contact the planning committee at micronesianhealth[at]gmail.com or Dr. Hope Cristobal at 488-4673 or hope.cristobal[at]gmail.com.

 

Cartoon characters top write-in choices during last election

Tuesday, 25 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

POPULAR cartoon characters and superheroes were among the vote-getters in this year’s general election.

From Mickey Mouse, to Daisy Duck, to Superman and Optimus Prime, more popular cartoon personalities grabbed votes as the people’s alternative choices for various positions in the government.

During the Nov. 4 general election, voters had the option to vote for write-in candidates. Like candidates who filed for candidacy and formally launched campaigns, write-in candidates could also win a position if they garnered the needed votes.

In this year’s election, the Guam Election Commission recorded a total of 902 write-in votes across all positions.

In the governor and lieutenant governor race, besides the likes of Bugs Bunny and Pinocchio, also receiving write-in votes were Sarah Palin, John McCain, Archbishop Anthony Apuron and Rev. James Benavente.

Other notable local write-ins for governor included University of Guam President Robert Underwood, Judge Robert Torres Jr., James Espaldon and Frank Blas.

In the U.S. congressional delegate race, some voters reserved their write-in spaces for Paul McCartney and Bruno Mars, while a few voters chose the late Sen. Ben Pangelinan. Other voters wrote in Matthew Artero, Julian Aguon, Kaleo Moylan, Frank Blas Jr. and Tony Babauta.

Legislative votes for Romeo Carlos

If some people were not serious in voting for alternative candidates, the case was different for many voters in the legislative race in which Romeo Carlos emerged with the highest number of votes for the position.

Carlos campaigned as a write-in candidate for senator. GEC records indicate he received support on both the Democrat and Republican sides of the ballot.

Also in the legislative race, Apuron, Underwood and legislative staffer Jermaine Alerta were also among those named on some ballots.

Other write-in candidates for seats in the legislature were the Blue Power Ranger and Mars.

The Guam Election Commission is mandated to count and keep records of all write-in candidates for various positions.

Credibility and priorities

Tuesday, 25 Nov 2014 03:00am

VARIETY NEWS STAFF

WE REMAIN dismayed by the introduction and passage of Bill 1(8-S), which when enacted will make the members of the Guam Legislature the second highest paid state or territorial legislators under the U.S. flag. The vote came less than three weeks after the general election which returned all but three of the current senators to the 33rd Guam Legislature.

It also came less than 11 months after legislators, Democrats and Republicans heading into an election season, announced that they opposed senatorial salary increases as had been proposed by the governor at that time. Legislators at the time said they would not feel right about accepting such a substantial raise in light of the financial struggles faced by many families on Guam and that salary should not be an attraction to public service.

There were, no doubt, many who believed that that position was taken because the legislators believed they would be seen in a more favorable light, that they would be seen as selfless public servants. We took legislators at their word and lauded them for rescinding the pay raises at the top government levels that included not only lawmakers, but also the governor, the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the public auditor and more than 80 directors, deputy directors and other Cabinet members.

When enacted, Bill 1(8-S) will not only reinstate the salary increases; it will also make them retroactive to Jan. 15 of this year – covering the same time period the raises were being decried by those who voted for them on Friday.

Most who oppose the raises do so because they believe government funds can be put to better use elsewhere.

Bill 1 (8-S) was passed about a week after the Guam Regional Transit Authority announced it is canceling its new pilot program that featured an expanded route system and schedule – despite a significant increase in ridership – because it is too expensive.

It was passed a day after the Variety reported that island child care centers were not receiving block grant payments in a timely manner.

During yesterday’s roundtable discussion on school violence, officials from both the Guam Department of Education and the Department of Youth Affairs said they were understaffed due to a lack of funds.

In the words of a commenter on the Marianas Variety website, “GPD is understaffed, GMH is underfunded, DOE is underachieving and Rev/Tax is undercollecting.” All of which result from a lack of funding.

While we would support such an action, it is too much to expect the legislators to reverse their votes on the pay raise bill. Perhaps the members of the 33rd Guam Legislature will prove to the community that the new salaries is money well spent.

 

  • Mathew 8 hours ago

    Elected officials have high expenditure patterns even with their perks and benefit packages. They tend not to be savers, I don't think. So, some, if not most of that money that they will receive in short order will find its way back into the community in some way or shape. (What would VS-Cruz, for instance, be saving his money for when he does not have a nuclear family?) Of course, that same argument could be made for the thousands of hard-working private sector workers who could have used that $10.10 pay hike per hour, which was both economically sound and morally justified. That is that money would have found its way back into the community because those folks are spenders, not savers, as well.

                 

Residents object to salary hikes for top government officials

Monday, 24 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

ELECTED officials passed Bill 1(8-S) on Friday. The bill proposes to increase the salaries of the governor, lieutenant governor, senators, attorney general and Cabinet members, a move of which some local residents disapprove.

“It’s not fair. We have a lot of priorities first before they give themselves a raise,” said 74-year-old Julie Miller. “Take care of the people first, the homeless, the people on welfare. “

Miller’s husband, Joe Miller, agreed with his wife’s perspective. “We shouldn’t worry about the people with the money, we should worry about the people without the money,” he said.

The salary increase proposed in the measure is in accordance with the Competitive Wage Act of 2014, which increased salaries for all government workers based on the study conducted by Hay Group Inc. in 2010.

If Bill 1(8-S) becomes law, the governor’s pay would go from $90,000 to $130,000 a year. The lieutenant governor’s salary would increase from 85,000 to $110,000. Each senator would receive $85,000 instead of their current salary of $65,000 a year and the attorney general’s pay would increase from $109,497 to about $128,497.

Like the Millers, 22-year-old Gregory Bognoc is opposed to the raises. “If they were helpful about everything else, it’d be fair. There’s a lot of problems on Guam. There are some problems they fixed, but other than that, the way I see it, nothing changed,” Bognoc said.

Tamuning resident Tamika Castro, 22, said government officials should work to increase the minimum wage before dealing with their own salary increases. Castro suggested that the government focus on fixing roadways around the island and building affordable housing like the Summer Green apartments in Tamuning.

Miller suggested the government aid residents on welfare and invest in a day care center specifically for low-income families to help parents break the poverty cycle and get a job. “Give them an opportunity,” Miller said. “Give them an opportunity to do something – go flip burgers or sell newspapers, just get out – and they get a different perspective.”

When the Competitive Wage Act of 2014 was implemented in February, the governor and lieutenant governor said they would not take the pay hike.

Senators also initially objected to the increases for top government officials in February in the original Competitive Wage Act and passed Bill 278, which rolled back Hay pay salaries of the governor, lieutenant governor, senators, attorney general, the public auditor and the appointed heads of government agencies and departments of the executive branch. Bill 278 lapsed into law and top officials, except for village mayors, did not receive a wage increase.

Last week, acting Gov. Ray Tenorio called a special session to discuss a new measure addressing pay increases for top officials. The bill, if signed or if it lapses into law, would repeal current law and allow for higher pay for the upper-level officials in the government.

The Competitive Wage Act of 2014 was implemented for rank and file employees in February, through a phased in approach. Nurses and teachers received 100 percent of their pay increases in February and other employees received 50 percent of their increases.

On Oct. 31, about 80 percent of Guam Memorial Hospital employees received their salary increases and last week Guam Department of Education employees under the General Pay Plan also received their retroactive wage increases, despite ongoing grievances filed by teachers who felt the wage increases were insufficient.

In February, some senators raised concerns regarding the less-than-expected raises received by GovGuam employees, with some employees reportedly receiving as little as a 40-cent raise in their paycheck.

On Friday, the bill passed with a 10-1 vote. Only Sen. Michael Limtiaco voted against the measure. Sens. Tom Ada, Dennis Rodriguez and Michael San Nicolas were absent during the session.

  • Mathew 3 hours ago

    The salaries for policymakers are getting close to -- or are -- ridiculously high, compared to other jurisdictions, which have a whole lot more folks residing in it. Of course, if the argument is that Guam is unique, and Guam lawmakers and other elected officials do a myriad of tasks, and that therefore, they deserve it, that same argument should hold for the hard-working folks in the private sector whose dollar does not go as far as it used to. In other words, the Legislature and the administration cannot in good conscience reject the $10.10 minimum wage hike proposal, but they did, even if the economic evidence was there to support that raise. So, what gives? Well, these politicians are elitists, pretending to be populists, who are looking out for #1 (and their cronies). Nothing more, nothing less. This is the crux of the misdirection the late Sen. Pangelinan alluded to during his final days, and hours.

Speaker disappointed after meeting with military

Posted: Nov 21, 2014  by Sabrina Salas Matanane  kuam

Guam - 
Speaker Judith Won Pat attended a meeting today with the Department of Chamorro Affairs and officials from Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marianas' (NAVFAC).

According to the Speaker,  NAVFAC officials announced that healers would only have one day to collect clippings of plants on a 25-acre property they intend to level early next year. Healers will not be allowed to dig or pull tress at the root.

 “The military is disrespecting our suruhånas and suruhånus by only allowing them one day to get only clippings of åmot. Some of these plants don't grow well in other parts of the island. Not being able to transplant them limits their chances of survival outside of their native habitat,” says Speaker Won Pat. “Efforts to protect our åmot must be genuine and must be guided by the knowledge and needs of our healers themselves, not by the Navy's construction timeline.”

 Speaker Won Pat will be writing a letter to the Department of the Navy and Guam's State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) expressing her disappointment in this limited process and encouraging them to allow more time and freedom for our healers to save our åmot. 


Board certifies results of general election

Monday, 24 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

After scrutiny of votes discrepancy, machines operation, ballot inventory

IT'S official: Eddie Calvo was re-elected to be Guam governor for four more years, Madeleine Bordallo was accorded another term as congressional delegate, and Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson will be the new attorney general of Guam.

This was the determination made by the Guam Election Commission on Saturday morning after it certified the results of the Nov. 4 general election.

Along with the above positions, other winners in the Nov. 4 election include:

33rd Guam Legislature: Frank Aguon Jr., Dennis Rodriguez Jr., Vicente “Tony” Ada, James Espaldon, Tommy Morrison, Tom Ada, Mary Camacho Torres, Nerissa Bretania Underwood, Judith Won Pat, Michael San Nicolas, Tina Muña-Barnes, Frank Blas Jr., Benjamin Cruz, Rory Respicio and Brant McCreadie.

Guam Education Board: Peter Alecxis Ada, Jose Cruz, Lourdes Benavente, Lourdes San Nicolas, Albert San Agustin and Maria Gutierrez.

Consolidated Commission on Utilities: Simon Sanchez II, Francis Santos and Joseph “George” Bamba.

Robert Torres and Michael Bordallo were both retained as judges for the Supreme Court of Guam and the Superior Court of Guam, respectively.

The passage of the medical marijuana referendum is now also official.

The last ballots that were tabulated for the general election were the provisional and absentee ballots. There were a total of 56 provisional ballots and 146 absentee ballots. These did not affect a significant change in the results reported as early as Nov. 5, including the No. 15 and 16 spots in the legislative race.

Before the certification

The certification of results was adopted by the commission after it conducted a thorough scrutiny of a vote discrepancy uncovered in the initial tabulation and the ballot recount, the reconciliation of ballot inventory, and the operation of the tabulating machines.

On Friday, a manual “reconciliation” of votes for the gubernatorial race in four precincts was ordered by the commission in response to a demand by the Democratic team of Gutierrez-Gumataotao that 10 precincts be manually audited. The result of the recount of four precincts selected by the Democrats indicated no big difference in the outcome.

Prior to the certification, election commission chairman Joseph Mesa indicated his dissatisfaction on the seven-vote discrepancy uncovered in Dededo precinct 18F. He asked Maria Pangelinan, GEC executive director, about the cause of the discrepancy in a precinct and how this could be verified.

Pangelinan explained that the discrepancy might be a result of the “stray ballots” that could be in other precincts’ boxes. Also mentioned was the exclusion, during the manual recount, of the opening of “resolution” envelopes. These envelopes contained ballots that were not tabulated by the machine because of some ballot deficiency or if the coloring was not appropriate, for example.

In the presence of Joaquin Perez, Democratic Party campaign chairman, and Thomas Fisher, Calvo-Tenorio campaign attorney, the commission ordered the opening of resolution envelopes Saturday morning.

After this reconciliation, the vote discrepancy has lowered from seven to two votes – which satisfied the commission.

According to Alice Taijeron, commission vice chairwoman, there was also a need to reconcile the number of ballots that went out to the precincts against the GEC inventory.

Pangelinan said that as always, the commission had enough ballots in its inventory during the election. A record of the inventory was handed to Taijeron during the meeting who verified the document.

Seemingly satisfied with her findings, Taijeron said checking the number of ballots against the inventory is vital in balancing out all the ballots that were disseminated and used during the election.

GEC director, staff commended

In acknowledging the huge task performed by the election commission, the commission on Saturday commended Pangelinan and her staff for a “job well done” for this year’s election.

Pangelinan, for her part, lauded the “great work of staff” and the commitment they demonstrated in fulfilling their responsibility. During and after the Nov. 4 election, GEC was bombarded by complaints – totaling 30 – including allegations of possible ballot tampering at the GEC office which authorities later ruled unfounded.

On Friday, Taijeron pointed out that the board is doing its job to protect the people’s vote and assured that – regardless of party affiliation – the commission will keep the highest integrity of the Guam election system.

  

‘Marked ballot claim unfounded’

Monday, 24 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Election board refers case to OAG

THE Guam Election Commission said it has resolved all election-related complaints filed with the agency, including a notarized affidavit filed by a precinct official alleging the presence of pre-marked ballots on Election Day.

The board, due to the magnitude of the complaint, also decided to refer the affidavit to the Office of the Attorney General for investigation.

On Nov. 17, Catherine Peredo filed the notarized affidavit with the commission alleging that she saw pre-marked ballots for the Calvo-Tenorio gubernatorial team in a cooler at the voting site. Peredo was one of the 10 precinct officials assigned to the Dededo precincts on Election Day.

Upon receipt of Peredo’s complaint, Maria Pangelinan, GEC executive director, launched an internal investigation including interviews with the nine other precinct officials of which written testimony was provided to the commission.

According to commission attorney Jeffrey Cook, after reviewing the materials and information the commission collected in its investigation, there was no basis for the complaint.

On Saturday, Pangelinan reported to the commission meeting that Peredo had recanted her story and withdrew her complaint on Friday evening.

In the disclosure Peredo signed before Pangelinan, the precinct official said she was not the one who prepared the affidavit and was only instructed to pick up the document and have it notarized.

“But because we were in a hurry and tired, I just signed it and didn’t read it (the affidavit). I only wanted to let the GEC director know that I want to correct the matter regarding the ballots in the cooler,” Peredo stated in her signed disclosure on Friday.

Peredo said that on Election Day, “I did see only one ballot and not too sure if that’s an official ballot or sample ballot.”

Peredo, in her disclosure, said Bernadette Meno is the one who prepared the affidavit for her.

Meno, in a statement, yesterday explained her involvement in the matter.

“Mr. John Peredo brought his wife Catherine Peredo forward to our campaign a short while ago with her allegations regarding the cooler with what she said were pre-marked ballots for CT and some senators. She had prepared a hand-written statement about this and provided it to several individuals. Eventually, a meeting was called to inquire with her about what she saw. I was present along with attorney Vanessa Williams, Mr. Bob Kelley and Catherine Peredo. After hearing her allegations we were all obviously very concerned because they alleged a potential criminal activity,” Meno said in her statement. She said it was decided that Peredo should memorialize what she told them in an affidavit as well as speak to the FBI about her allegations.

According to Meno, the Peredo couple has agreed to do both.

“I drafted the affidavit based on what she told attorney Williams, myself and Mr. Kelley and told her to make any changes necessary prior to signing it. The FBI agreed to interview her based on the seriousness of her allegations and they did so on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2014,” Meno stated.

Early last week, Meno said, John Peredo personally delivered copies of the affidavit to the Guam Election Commission.

“Following the release of her name attached to the affidavit, Catherine Peredo and her husband were very upset that her name was released to the media. She was worried because she claims she is in line for a promotion at her government of Guam agency and she doesn't want the publicity over her allegations to hurt her chances of a promotion. Mr. and Mrs. Peredo were also very upset that the election commission was calling them down for her to give an interview as they claimed the other precinct officials from her area were there and it was very intimidating,” Meno stated.

On Tuesday evening, John Peredo called Meno and was upset that his wife was allegedly getting threatening and harassing phone calls over her name being in the news, Meno said.

“I advised him that if they were in fact receiving threatening phone calls, then they needed to report it to law enforcement authorities. I am unsure why she is now recanting her story considering she shared it with numerous persons including the FBI. I certainly hope the fear of speaking up and endangering her government job as well as her allegations of receiving threatening phone calls did not play a role in this. I wish her and her husband well,” Meno said.

‘Kelley’s reaction’

In a separate statement, Bob Kelley said on Nov. 12 he was asked to go the campaign headquarters of the Gutierrez-Gumataotao campaign to hear an allegation of election misconduct being made by Catherine Peredo who served as an election precinct official in Dededo 18F.

“I discussed the matter with her. She told me that she went to the back to get a drink and opened up a cooler and saw pre-marked ballots in the cooler. She only glanced in the cooler because another precinct official approached her and asked if she needed help. Cathy told me this scared her. I asked if she reported the finding of the ballots to anyone at the precinct, calling the GEC or the Democratic legal team standing by to assist if there were reported irregularities. She told me she was too scared. However, she did call her husband John Peredo and told him what she saw,” Kelley stated.

On Nov. 14, Kelley said he was asked to contact Catherine Peredo and ask her to come in and prepare an affidavit. “I sent her a text asking her and she agreed to come to the headquarters on her lunch hour," he said. "At that time, Cathy discussed the allegation with Bernadette Meno and Vanesa Williams. Both ladies asked Cathy questions and took notes. I was present with them for part of the interview. However, I also was dealing with business functions needing attention at the time.

“I noted that the allegations being made were serious and needed to be properly investigated. I contacted Cathy and told her that I wanted to forward her accusation to a contact I had in the FBI and asked her if she would agree to be interviewed. She told me she was afraid, but I told her it would be very discreet and a private meeting. She agreed and voluntarily appeared for a private interview with an FBI special agent conducted last weekend. I provided an unsigned copy of the affidavit to the FBI special agent."

'No involvement'

Also yesterday, Democratic Party chairman Sen. Rory Respicio issued a statement denying involvement with Catherine Peredo’s issue.

“I did not think it was necessary for me to issue a statement because this alleged incident and its aftermath are not connected to my senatorial office, the Democratic Party of Guam or to me personally. It seems, however, that I am now compelled to issue my own statement after receiving an email this evening asking me to explain if I am involved in this matter,” he stated.

Respicio added that he had no prior knowledge whatsoever of the alleged incident, or any efforts of the Gutierrez-Gumataotao volunteer campaign staff to bring this complaint to the proper authorities.

“I take my job as your senator very seriously and have worked very hard with the Guam Election Commission over the past eight years to provide for the much-needed election reform measures. I am saddened by this chain of events, and how my name is being dragged into this election controversy. I, too, pray that the attorney general and the FBI conduct an investigation into this matter, and that the truth surrounding these allegations is determined and their findings be disclosed to the public,” he said.

Meno is employed as Respicio’s legislative assistant.

30 total complaints

Pangelinan reported to the commission on Saturday that from eight administrative complaints as of last reporting, the commission recorded 30 total complaints about the general election. This included Catherine Peredo’s affidavit.

Commission chairman Joseph Mesa, after discussing each complaint, instructed the management to respond to all the complaints within 30 days.

During the commission discussion, it was said that among these complaints was one about harassment which the commissioners said should have been directed to the police.

The commission will respond to the harassment complaint and will indicate its recommendation to forward the matter to police since it alleges a criminal act.

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    •  

      SaySomethingAdai 5 hours ago

      Anything involving Bernadette Meno has Carl Guiterrez tactics written all over it! M.O.get other people to do your dirty work so when things go to #%€# you can deny you had any involvement and they take the fall.

      So when C. Peredo and her husband realized they were heading in this direction they decided to change their story before they took the fall! Too late!

      The whole thing seems too absurd. A half way concocted plan to discredit the election results any way they can! She saw election ballots pre-marked in a cooler, because if someone really wanted to rig results they would have left evidence out in the open. The one person who also tried to sabotage Calvo Tenorio's first bid by circulating false secret documents was also a precinct official at the site of this claim and was the first person C. Peredo brought it to (How was Bernadette even assigned to this?).

      C. Peredo now claims she was tired at the time and may have falsely seen what she thought she saw. They call this phenomenon an hallucination or in this case a plot by idiots to do the bidding of Carl Gui-terrorist to try and win anyway they can and then realize oh %#^#!!
      I cant believe I am doing this till its too late I may go to jail type of phenomenon.

Land Management sets up government maps on mayors' computers

 Monday, 24 Nov 2014 03:00am   BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF                

DEPARTMENT of Land Management Director Michael Borja showcased a government map system available for mayors at last week’s Mayors’ Council of Guam meeting.

The new software was installed by Land Management onto all of the mayors’ computer systems and they show village boundary lines, zoning information, municipality borders and lot numbers so mayors may help resolve land concerns raised by their respective residents.

The software also shows the names of lot owners within the villages. The information displayed by the software is information Land Management received from the Department of Revenue and Taxation.

Borja said Rev and Tax is looking to update its database to include land that belongs to the Chamorro Land Trust Commission so the information will be updated on the mayors’ software next year.

Although the land map software cannot be used for legal services, it provides a decent representation of the land lots for other uses. The software also doesn’t provide information about the value of any property.

Mayors often encounter problems between neighbors about property lines, and this information can be helpful with some of those disputes.

For example, there are privately owned lots adjacent to government land that sometimes residents ask the mayors to clear. However, Borja said those lots are not the government’s property and it’s not the government’s job to clear those areas.

The map software can also help buyers beware of the land they could be purchasing, Borja said.

In addition to the mayors’ software, there is also a map website maintained by the government found online that shows basic boundaries and areas where public schools, streets, land parcels, emergency response agencies and medical facilities are located throughout the island. The information is on www.maps.guam.gov. Although it does not provide lot numbers and land owner information, it does provide an environmental assessment tool.

The tool shows areas on Guam that have been identified as wetlands, sinkholes, Federal Emergency Management Agency flood zones, zoning information, landslide hazards and major faults within 1,000 feet for interested property owners or developers.


Mobile health clinic to start offering services in January

Thursday, 20 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

BARRIGADA resident and longtime health professional Chuck Tanner said he hopes his latest project, a mobile health clinic, will bring simple health care services to people who otherwise might not have access to such services.

Tanner has refitted an old military trailer with exam rooms to serve as a moving health center to serve Guam’s needier communities with health screenings, immunizations, assessments and referrals for low or no cost to the patient.

“I think what I would love to do is get it to the mayors’ offices on a return schedule. That would be my ultimate dream and people will start to remember,” Tanner said of the mobile clinic. The clinic is not solely for low-income individuals, but Tanner said he sees the clinic serving that population more than others and nearly everyone knows where the mayors’ offices are located so that would be a good location. However, the clinic can really be stationed almost anywhere on island, he said.

The clinic is 35 feet long with two examination rooms, two examination chairs, an exam table, a small waiting area, a sink, microwave, refrigerator and air conditioning. Tanner said it operates on a generator but it can also be plugged into a 230-volt outlet.

Tanner expects the clinic, called Guam Mobile Care, will largely be used for health screenings and referrals. However, he also said it’s possible that pap smears, clinical breast exams and minor dental work could be done in the trailer.

Debut

The clinic will make its debut at the Government of Guam Worksite Wellness Program kickoff event two months from now in January and will be used as the screening area for blood pressure, BMI, glucose levels and cholesterol levels.

Tanner is the general manager at The Doctors’ Clinic and has been working in the health care field for 30 years. He said he’s received positive feedback about the clinic from Department of Public Health and Social Services personnel and others about the capabilities the mobile clinic can offer.

This is likely to be the first mobile health clinic to be operated on Guam, although Tanner noted that at one point, there was a mobile dental clinic on island. As for health standards, Tanner was positive the clinic will meet the health standards and pass inspections.

“In general, I see it helping the homeless and the Micronesian community but we could also roll it up to a 5K race,” Tanner said. “This is all about collaboration.”

Tanner also mentioned Guam Cancer Care, another organization he is active in, using it for health screenings or DPHSS using it for immunization outreach.

The clinic will operate as a nonprofit organization and Tanner is working on finalizing the paperwork so that Guam Mobile Care will be recognized as such. He is also working on finishing the electrical wiring and will then get it weighed in order to get a license plate for it.

As a health care professional and Guam resident for 30 years, Tanner said he saw the need for a mobile care clinic from his work on island. “A major catalyst was a story of a Micronesian woman, seen by an EMT, with Stage 4 breast cancer,” he said. “(It was her) first touch with health care and I find that unacceptable.” Tanner said the woman’s breast was black and she knew to see a professional, but was unable to do so.

“I envision going out into the community and enabling eligible people to sign up for Medicaid and MIP,” Tanner said.

Tanner said he won the trailer in an auction and refurbished the flooring and suspension, including buying new wheels and refitting a sink inside. He expects the clinic to be supported through grants, benefactors, donations and fundraisers, since it is a nonprofit organization.

The clinic is also a member of the Mobile Health Clinics Association.

Chamber elects board of directors

Thursday, 20 Nov 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

(GCC) – The Guam Chamber of Commerce elected eight board members for the 2015 chamber year during its annual membership meeting yesterday at Westin Resort Guam. The six voting directors elected to serve a three-year term are:

  • Joe Arnett, partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP;

  • Ernie Galito, director of business & development, Baldyga Group LLC;

  • Bartley Jackson, chief operating officer, B&G Pacific LLC;

  • Jonathan Kriegel, president and CEO, Docomo Pacific Inc.;

  • Lorraine Okada, president, Okada Managing Consulting Services; and

  • Bobby Shringi, sales and marketing manager, Moylan’s Insurance Underwriters.

    The two alternate directors elected to serve a one-year term are: Gerald S.A. Perez, proprietor and vice president of MicroMed Suppliers; and Logan Reyes, marketing director of Market Wholesale Distributors Inc.

    Arnett received the most votes and will automatically serve on the chamber's executive committee in 2015.

    The eight directors elected yesterday will join 12 board members who were not up for election this year. The group will comprise the 2015 chamber board. The other board members are:

  • Frank J. Campillo, health plan administrator, Calvo’s Insurance Underwriters Inc.;

  • Ron Cannoles, executive vice president of Pacific Islands Division, Bank of Hawaii;

  • Rindraty Celes-Limtiaco, president and publisher, Pacific Daily News;

  • Donald Clark, vice president, ASC Trust Corp.;

  • Laura-Lynn Dacanay, senior vice president and region manager, First Hawaiian Bank;

  • Jeffrey Jones, president and chief operations officer, Triple J Enterprises Inc.;

  • Jim Herbert, general manager, Triple J Five Star Wholesale;

  • Maureen Maratita, publisher, Glimpses Publications, Glimpses of Guam;

  • Mark J. Sablan, vice president for business development, South Pacific Petroleum Corp.;

  • Peter R. Sgro Jr., president and chairman, International Group Inc.;

  • Bernadette Valencia, general manager, Matson Navigation Co.; and

  • Ron Young, secretary/treasurer, Security Title Inc.

Hearing on charter school

Thursday, 20 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE committee on appropriations will hold a public hearing this afternoon on several bills, including Bill 419, the proposed legislation that seeks to authorize funding for new charter schools.

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz introduced the measure, which amends a section authorizing funding for charter schools as set in P.L. 32-181, the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Act.

Bill 419 reiterates the funding provision allocating a $5,500 per enrollee budget for the schools chartered by the Guam Academy Charter School Council during the 2014-2015 school year. It also caps the enrollment for Guahan Academy Charter School at 520 and other schools chartered by the council, at 250 students.

The Guam Academy Charter School Council recently approved its second charter school, the iLearn Academy, and has transmitted a fiscal 2014-2015 budget to the Guam Department of Education for the new school.

In a memorandum addressed to GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez, the council said it recommends the approval of iLearn Academy's budget of $1,969,000 calculated at 358 students at $5,500 per student, prorated over the balance of the 2014-2015 school year, from January to September 2015, at $164,083 times nine months, totaling $1,476,750.

iLearn officials said they are eyeing a January 2015 opening for the new school.

The charter school is being prepared to begin operations at the beginning of the second semester with the "curricular foci of the school focusing on science, reading and technology, an innovative curricula program not yet implemented on Guam."

The school plans to offer programs for kindergarten through fifth grade. A maximum of 358 students will be accommodated by the facility.

Aside from a curriculum with a strong emphasis on science, technology and math, the new charter school also plans to implement a robotics program for its students.


Governor’s Imagine Guam steering committee named

Wednesday, 19 Nov 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

(ADELUP) – Gov. Eddie Calvo yesterday appointed five of his key advisors and cabinet members to plan and facilitate the Imagine Guam program.

Imagine Guam is a program initiated by Calvo to bring the community together to envision what Guam will be in 50 years. Guam’s 50-year strategic vision will include the growth and birth of industries, population and resource management, cultural advancement, infrastructure development and everything that can dictate the growth of the community.

Once the vision is made, Imagine Guam will ask educators what must be done to begin educating students in today’s classrooms so they lead the implementation of this vision as globally-competitive workers, entrepreneurs, and creators.

Calvo created the program by Executive Order 2014-13 on Sept. 19. The order establishes a steering committee, which will coordinate the planning phases of Imagine Guam. Calvo also named the Guam Economic Development Authority to facilitate planning.

The following were named to comprise the steering committee: Bernadette Artero, governor’s chief fiscal advisor; Troy Torres, former director of communication;
Edward J. Calvo, GEDA board of directors chairman; John Rios, GEDA administrator; Mana Silva Taijeron, GEDA deputy administrator.

Calvo appointed Torres chairman of the steering committee, and has named him senior advisor to the governor for Planning and Strategic Vision. Calvo will name Torres’ replacement in the Communication Office at a later date.

The first order of business for the steering committee will be to recommend to the governor who he may name to the Imagine Guam policy team which he will chair. The steering committee also will oversee the overlay of existing master plans and modernization efforts. These include Transportation 2030, the water and wastewater plans, the energy resource plan, and the redevelopment of Hagåtña. Engagement also will begin with military buildup planners, so Guam makes the best use of the buildup opportunities.

Imagine Guam committee formed

Posted: Nov 18, 2014  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

Guam - Governor Eddie Calvo's Imagine Guam initiative is on its way to becoming a reality. Today he appointed five of his key advisors and cabinet members to plan and facilitate Guam's 50-year strategic vision. Calvo created the program by executive order in September which established a steering committee.  On the committee are the governor's chief fiscal advisor Bernadette Artero,  his former director of communications Troy Torres,  GEDA board chairman E.J. Calvo, GEDA administrator John Rios and deputy administrator Mana Silva Taijeron.  Torres was appointed the chairman of the committee and was also named senior advisor to the governor on planning and strategic vision.  Torres' replacement as communications director will be announced at a later date.

 

GDOL website may also have been hacked

Wednesday, 19 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE government’s Office of Technology is aware of three GovGuam websites that have been compromised within the past week, according to Wil Castro, special assistant to the governor.

In addition to the defacement of the lieutenant governor’s website, the Office of Technology discovered the Bureau of Statistics and Plan’s website was defaced and Center for Internet Security officials notified the Office of Technology yesterday that the Department of Labor’s website might have also been compromised.

“(The Center for Internet Security) reported to the government of Guam Office of Technology that the Department of Labor’s website – not their databases, this is strictly just a public information website – may have been compromised or was defaced,” Castro said. “However, the Office of Technology has not been able to validate that on our end, so we’re working on that right now.”

The DOL website was operational yesterday, which was why the technology office sought to verify if it had been defaced, based on information from the nonprofit Center for Internet Security.

Castro said it’s also possible hackers made an unsuccessful attempt to deface the DOL website, and the Office of Technology is looking into the details of the DOL hack.

The Center for Internet Security told the Office of Technology that DOL’s website had been compromised on Nov. 13. Castro said he was alerted to the lieutenant governor’s defaced website on Nov. 16.

Aware

The federal government is aware of the groups that are suspected to have hacked the GovGuam websites. Castro said according to the Center for Internet Security, authorities believe the Islamic hacker groups’ main goal is to spread their political message and not to retrieve private data.

The lieutenant governor’s website, www.lt.guam.gov, was disabled after the “hacktivist” computer hacker group AnonGhost gained unauthorized access into the website’s system and removed all of the information on the webpage, save for a short message calling the lieutenant governor and governor of Guam “cowards.”

Yesterday, the lieutenant governor’s website and the Statistics and Plans website were still disabled. Castro said the two websites are expected to be up and running within the next day.

Separate servers

All information on government websites are public and stored on a separate server from private government data, Castro said. “The hack was simply a defacement of the website. We have no evidence that the hack or those activities have gone beyond just that,” Castro said. “We have no reason to believe that any of what could be deemed sensitive or private information has been compromised at any time.”

Castro said the servers that host sensitive information contain firewalls that act as security gates and would alert the Office of Technology if a hacker were to try to gain access to private data on their computer system.

Yesterday, the Office of Technology spoke with the FBI and the Center for Internet Security about the hacked websites. The federal authorities agreed to assist the Office of Technology by replacing GovGuam’s network with an intrusion detection sensor for added security. The center will install and maintain the sensor and will not charge the government of Guam for the service.

Guam will join about 30 other states that have this intrusion detection sensor on their computer systems as well, Castro said.

Further, the center has offered to run the government’s computer system through a vulnerability test to identify weak areas to improve and bolster the system. Once GovGuam and the center finalize a memorandum of understanding, the center will run the test.



Russian visitor arrivals to Guam wane without charter flights


Wednesday, 19 Nov 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


SINCE Russian charter services through Orenair airline ceased in August, the number of Russian tourists who have traveled to Guam has decreased, according to September and October arrival summaries from the Guam Visitors Bureau.

Orenair’s last day of operation was Aug. 27. It had been flying to Guam since November 2013. According to Variety files, Orenair provided the first direct flight from Russia to Guam on Nov. 7, 2013 with 183 passengers aboard.

Since the beginning of this year, the number of Russian visitors to Guam increased every month about 200 or 300 percent for much of the year, compared to the same time period in 2013.

In the past two months, however, arrival summaries showed a 27.7 percent decline in Russian visitors, compared to September and October of last year.

In September, 196 visitors from Russia visited Guam – a 17.6 percent drop from the 238 visitors recorded in September 2013. For the month of October, 374 visitors from Russia flew to Guam, a decrease of 10.1 percent compared to October 2013, when 416 Russian visitors came to the island.

Russian visitors are still able to visit Guam with a connecting flight in Korea, even though the Orenair direct flights have stopped.

Even with the decline in September and October, the Russian market has shown sizable growth over the past fiscal year. “Compared to fiscal year 2013, FY2014 arrivals grew by a whopping 198.2 percent,” said Nate Denight, acting GVB general manager. “We exceeded our FY14 projection of 9,733 visitors by nearly doubling that amount to 18,291 Russian visitors.”

Closer

Denight said GVB is already closer to its Tourism 2020 goal of welcoming 20,000 Russian visitors by the year 2020 and said at this rate, the bureau will reach 20,000 Russian visitors by next year.

“Although having no scheduled charters has impacted Russian arrivals, Guam has already made great strides in the growing Russia market,” Denight said.

Next February, charter flight services will resume through tour company HIS Guam Inc. which will provide service with Yukutia Airlines. The airline will use a Boeing 737 three times a month from eastern Russia cities of Vladivostok and Khabarovsk. Denight said the Yukutia Airlines plane is configured for up to 128 passengers.

Russian visitors stay longer and spend more than visitors from other markets. “Their average length of stay is about two weeks and their average local spend is about $1,600 per person per trip,” Denight said. “Since they tend to stay longer than the average tourist, Russian visitors explore more of our island and are likely to visit non-tourist areas frequently.”

Additionally, Russian shoppers tend to patronize the same establishments a number of times during their stay.

“GVB is optimistic we will see record increases in this fairly new market through the end of the year and beyond,” Denight said.



Drug-resistant strain of TB harder to treat


Posted: Nov 18, 2014  by Jolene Toves  KUAM

Guam - Tuberculosis is a common disease and is the number one cause of death amongst infectious diseases. On Guam according to Public Health director James Gillan there is a suspected case of a multi-drug-resistant strain TB.

Dr. Vince Akimoto says many TB patients have been exposed to this bacteria, noting, "Its in their body and it something that is usually if it start to be active usually we have several medicines to kill it unfortunately more and more throughout Asia and the world tuberculosis is now resistant to the most common drugs that we use."

Akimoto says when it comes to a suspected case it is very important that the individual is put in isolation so that the disease is not spread, adding, "Knowing that we have to then put patients into isolation so that it doesn't spread and then we have to treat them with drugs that we don't normally have access to or don't normally use."

Akimoto says the multi-drug-resistant strain of TB could become an epidemic at any time and is now emerging in the us as a disease that they are going to have to learn to kill in a different way. "The real problem is the drugs that we are using now are starting not to work against the disease that historically has been a major killer," he said.

In the past patients suspected to have TB would quickly be prescribed a pill but unfortunately that pill has become in short supply and the more common medicines for treatment are now harder to get, saying, "We know that there is a lot of TB in our area we know that Guam has a higher instance than in the states so our ability to diagnosis and treat prophylacticaly or ahead of time needs to be re-evaluated regularly to make sure we are doing it at a high enough level,"

Akimoto says that if tuberculosis is suspected to immediately see a doctor to minimize the risk of infecting other individuals. He adds that TB testing can take some time but it is important to ensure that a TB outbreak does not occur on island. 


Russian travelers apply for asylum on Guam

Wednesday, 19 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

RUSSIAN travelers have applied for asylum while on Guam although officials are unable to disclose how many have done so recently, according to Marie Therese Sebrechts, supervisory public affairs officer for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for the West Coast.

During fiscal year 2013, about 347 Russians were granted affirmative asylum in the United States, according to data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Although Russia is one of the top 10 countries of nationality of applicants seeking asylum, the number of affirmative asylees is smaller than most of the other countries. Russian asylees make up only 2.3 percent of total affirmative asylees, Department of Homeland Security data shows. Last fiscal year, 15,266 people were granted asylum in the United States.

Affirmative asylum cases do not go through U.S. Department of Justice Immigration Court and are cases in which an individual files for asylum through Citizenship and Immigration office.

“While the Russian applicants for asylum throughout the United States are among the top nationality, numbers are such that if we break it down by locale and type of visa, it may lead to being able to identify individuals,” Sebrechts said. “In this case, privacy laws may prevent us from releasing numbers.”

In order for individuals to apply for asylum on Guam, the applicant would need to obtain the I-589 Application for Asylum and Withholding of Removal form found on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website and fill out the required information. The applicant would mail the application, along with the necessary additional documents, to the California Service Center for processing, since Guam is under the USCIS California jurisdiction.

Afterward, USCIS would inform the applicant of receipt of the application in writing. Asylum interviews on Guam are handled by officers from the California Service Center, who fly to the island as the need arises, Sebrechts said.

Applicants are considered eligible for asylum if he or she is a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution, specifically due to either race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

There is no cost for the application. There is also no free litigation service recognized by the Department of Justice for asylum seekers on Guam or in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

 

Officials confident about buildup despite Okinawa election

Wednesday, 19 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Madeleine Bordallo

ALTHOUGH speculation arose that the successful gubernatorial election of anti-U.S. base candidate Takeshi Onaga in Okinawa could throw a monkey wrench into U.S. realignment plans in Japan, local Guam officials said that the Guam military buildup will not be affected because the plans have already been put in motion.

Mark Calvo, Guam Military Buildup Office director, told Variety that there is no change as far as the buildup goes for Guam, despite the result of the Okinawa election.

“Primarily because the Futenma relocation is no longer a part of the agreement between the United States and the government of Japan to move Marines to Guam,” he said. “It is not one of the issues that makes or breaks the Guam buildup. It is no longer a required piece for the Guam buildup to happen. We are fairly sure that the relocation of Marines to Guam is still on track.”

According to Calvo, the record of decision on the 2012 roadmap adjustments is expected to be signed in April 2015, which is just a few months away.

Onaga defeated incumbent Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, who had approved a U.S.-Japan plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to a less populous part of the island.

The new governor-elect has staunchly opposed building a replacement facility though he once supported the base move to coastal northern Okinawa.

Bordallo

In a statement sent to the Variety, Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo said: "I congratulate Governor-elect Takeshi Onaga on his recent election. While he may be opposed to the Henoko location for the Futenma replacement facility, his predecessor put in motion the technical and legal steps needed to develop this replacement airfield.”

Bordallo went on to say: “It is my understanding from talking to legal and political experts that Governor-elect Onaga can do little to stop the construction of the new Futenma facility.”

However, Bordallo said Onaga’s election should be a reminder to all who have an interest in the Marine realignment to be vigilant and to continue efforts to educate officials on the importance of this endeavor.

“He could certainly complicate efforts to build the replacement facility, and that could certainly impact Sen. McCain and the (Senate Armed Services Committee's) view on realignment funding,” Bordallo said.

iLearn charter school transmits budget

Tuesday, 18 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Guam Academy Charter School Council has transmitted the fiscal year 2014-2015 budget of the newly approved iLearn Academy charter school to the Guam Legislature.

In a memorandum addressed to Guam Department of Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez, the council said it recommends the approval of iLearn Academy's budget of $1,969,000 calculated at 358 students at $5,500 per student, prorated over the balance of the 2014-2015 school year, from January to September 2015, at $164,083.33 times nine months, totaling $1,476,750.

The council approved iLearn Academy's application this month. During a press conference at the school site in Yigo, board officials announced that they are eyeing a January 2015 opening for the new school.

According to the council memorandum, the charter school is ready to begin operations in January 2015 at the beginning of the second semester. It noted that the "curricular foci of the school are science, reading and technology, an innovative curricula program not yet implemented on Guam."

Francis Santos, iLearn Academy board chairman, said the school will offer programs for kindergarten through fifth grade. A maximum of 358 students will be accommodated by the facility.

After the approval of the charter, the next step, according to Santos, is to develop and present a budget to the council. "We have already met with the leadership at the legislature. Most recently, Vice Speaker (Benjamin) Cruz has introduced legislation to provide the necessary funding for iLearn Academy Charter School," he said.

Funding

Cruz introduced Bill 419 in the Guam Legislature, which amends a section authorizing funding for charter schools as set in Public Law 32-181, the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Act.

Bill 419 reiterates the funding provision allocating a $5,500 per enrollee budget for the schools chartered by the Guam Academy Charter School Council during school year 2014-2015. It also caps the enrollment for Guahan Academy Charter School at 520 and other schools chartered by the council, at 250 students.

Santos said he will work with the legislature to address the provision which placed a maximum cap for enrollees at the new charter school.

Aside from a curriculum with a strong emphasis on science, technology and math, the new charter school also plans to implement a robotics program for its students.

iLearn Academy is the second school to be given a charter by the council, after Guahan Academy Charter School.


 


  • Yigo76 4 hours ago

    Another charter school destined for failure. The purpose of a charter school is to provide better, publicly funded education at a lesser cost to the taxpayers. Guam's charter school system will not allow this to happen because the charter schools must follow DOE procurement regulations. Forcing the charter schools to follow a broken, wasteful system will not allow taxpayer savings to be realized. Furthermore, DOE has shifted students from public schools to charter schools and has not reduced their staffing. It seems to me, if 600 students left public schools for charter schools, then a minimum of 30 (20 students per teacher) DOE teachers should have been let go as well. If they haven't been let go, then the taxpayers lose


  • Dwiggins responds about salary

    Posted: Nov 17, 2014  by Jolene Toves  KUAM
    Guam - Former founding member and CEO-principal of Guahan Academy Charter School Donna Dwiggins has responded to the report submitted to the Charter School Council in her response she addressed various issues raised against her to include salary raises stating, "Since the beginning, the school has used the Government of Guam pay scale (the old Hay Study) to determine how teachers and staff would be compensated.  The GACS Board of Trustees has never proposed a different pay scale or raised any concerns regarding the current pay scale prior to the release of the CEO/Principal."
    She further stated that when DOE was given four million dollars to implement the new hay study pay scale GACS was not included in the appropriations therefore they remained on the old hay study pay and even under this pay scale increments are owed based on years of experience. Adding that that are no GACS board regulations prohibiting increments, hiring or merit raises. 


    Real property revaluation to be completed by year's end


    Posted: Nov 17, 2014  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

    Guam - It's been over two decades in the making, and by the end of this year, the Department of Revenue & Taxation is set to be complete with its real property revaluation. According to director John Camacho, while the original completion date was in August, Cornerstone Valuation Guam, who was awarded the contract for the project, is expected to complete project by December 31.

    "What is happening now because we want basically impose the new values to be affect for 2014, there's a bill that's going to be heard, Bill 413 to extend the assessment of the 2014 as well as other benefits that would extend the exemptions, it also gives us the benefit have the owners submit their social security numbers as well as identification numbers in order for us to do offsets that is ongoing and hopefully this bill will pass because it would extend the date for 2014," he said.

    Bill 413 that Camacho referenced was introduced by Senator Michael Limtiaco. It goes up for a public hearing Tuesday morning.


    Guam Museum about 35% into construction

    Posted: Nov 17, 2014  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

    Guam - The Guam Educational and Chamorro Facility across the street from the Old Congress Building is progressing. According to GEDA deputy administrator Mana Silva Taijeron, the project is about 35% into construction.

    "We've recently poured some of the foundation in the main structure the weather has held us back just a little bit with all the rain, but we've already poured the concrete into the starter walls and once those are formed and we put the form into place, and some steel structures, we'll be able to see some of the walls going up," she explained.

    She adds GEDA recently signed a notice to proceed for archeologists to proceed with the removal of remains found on the site. She adds as part of the assessment, the archeologists will pursue the reburial of the remains that were found. Completion is still set between May and June of next year.

    again.

          

State memorial for Torres

Tuesday, 18 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

TODAY, Speaker Judith T. Won Pat will be calling the Guam Legislature into session followed by a State Memorial Service honoring the late Jesus Quinene Torres, who was a former senator.

The session will start at 7 a.m. followed by the state memorial service. Gov. Eddie Calvo has declared the island in a state of mourning in honor of Torres.

Torres was a member of the 16th Guam Legislature and served as Republican Party chairman from 2008 to 2012.

Torres also served as executive manager of the airport for years before resigning in 2008, according to Variety files. More recently, he was vice chairman of the airport board of directors.

When Torres resigned as executive manager of the airport, the office of then-Gov. Felix Camacho commended Torres for his hard work and dedication and said he was instrumental in the airport’s current success and his hard work had transformed the airport into a world-class facility.

Japan ruling party candidate loses in Okinawa election

Tuesday, 18 Nov 2014 03:00am

REUTERS

  • Setback for US base move seen

    TOKYO (Reuters) – A candidate backed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's party was soundly defeated in a key local election on Sunday, a blow to plans to relocate a controversial U.S. air base on Okinawa island, home to the bulk of U.S. military forces in Japan.

    Delays in relocating the U.S. Marines' Futenma air base have long been an irritant in U.S.-Japan relations. Abe is keen to make progress on the project as he seeks tighter security ties with Washington in the face of an assertive China.

    Kyodo news agency said after the polls closed that its projections showed a former mayor, Takeshi Onaga, was certain to defeat incumbent Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima.

    Nakaima, who ran with the backing of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, had approved a U.S.-Japan plan to relocate Futenma to a less populous part of the island.

    Onaga, a conservative who once supported the base move to coastal northern Okinawa, later changed his mind to say he wanted it out of the prefecture. His platform was also critical of other Abe policies, such as the use of nuclear power.

    Describing his victory as "a new page in history," Onaga told reporters: "I am determined to work toward cancelling and withdrawing it (the relocation plan)," Kyodo reported.

    Abe's government has insisted the plan will go ahead regardless of the outcome of the local election, but the results add new uncertainty to the outlook for the long-stalled project.

    Last year, when Nakaima approved the plan, Washington welcomed it as an important step in efforts to bolster U.S.-Japan ties and rebalance Washington's foreign policy toward Asia.

    Stalled

    Tokyo and Washington first agreed to relocate Futenma to another site on the island in 1996, but the plan has stalled in the face of opposition by many residents, who associate the U.S. bases with crime, noise pollution and accidents.

    Opponents want the U.S. military to leave Okinawa altogether. The southern island, which accounts for less than one percent of Japan's land mass, hosts more than half of the 47,000 U.S. service personnel stationed in the country.

    Futenma, located in a densely populated area, has been a lightning rod for local opposition.

    Nakaima's loss is a headache for Abe, but was unlikely to affect his expected decision to postpone an unpopular sales tax hike and call a snap election to try to secure his grip on power while his voter support is still relatively robust.

    Ruling party politicians have said Abe could announce as early as Tuesday that he will delay a planned rise in the sales tax to 10 percent from next October and call a general election for Dec. 14.

    Abe returned to power in December 2012 pledging to revive the economy with a mix of hyper-easy monetary policy, spending and reforms. Opposition politicians say delaying the tax hike would show that his "Abenomics" growth strategy has failed.

                                                  

Guam booth represents island pride at China trade show

Posted: Nov 15, 2014 by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

Guam - Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio joins the Guam Visitors Bureau in officially opening the Guam booth at the 2014 China International Mart (CITM) in Shanghai. CITM is the largest professional travel mart in Asia. Pictured from left is GVB Deputy General Manager Nathan Denight, Lt. Governor of Nevada Brian K. Krolicki, Guam Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio, Commercial Officer Eric Crowley from Consulate General of the United

Direct flights from Russia resuming in February

Posted: Nov 16, 2014

 by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Direct charter flights from Russia will resume in February. According to a release from the Governor's Office, H.I.S. Guam will provide direct service from Russia through Yukitia Airlines. The direct charter flights will operate three times a month out of Vladivostok and Khabarovsk. 

It was in September when the Guam International Airport Authority announced that direct charter flights from Russia through Avia Charter and Orenair had ceased.


WestCare explains new program to help Guam’s homeless veterans

Friday, 14 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • WESTCARE Pacific Islands presented a new program to help homeless veterans to stakeholders at its Tamuning office yesterday morning and explained who is eligible, how they will be helped and introduced new staff that will help veterans who are homeless and those at-risk of homelessness when the program begins Dec. 1.

    WestCare Pacific Islands Vice President Sarah Thomas-Nededog said the program aims to serve 150 veterans and their families during the one year that they have the federal grant.

    Through the U.S. Department of Veterans Benefits Administration’s Supportive Service for Veterans and Families (SSVF) grant, WestCare will be able to refer, counsel and provide some monetary aid for local veterans.

    The minimal number of homeless veterans on Guam is only a fraction of those whom the program aims to serve.

    The focus needs to be on helping veterans and their family members before they are without a home, said Maurice Lee, WestCare Foundation chief operating officer.  “Let’s not wait until the point that they’re out on the street,” he said.

    Sens. Tina Muña-Barnes, Tommy Morrison and Aline Yamashita, and Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares were among the stakeholders at yesterday’s presentation.

    Savares asked how WestCare would verify if homeless individuals are, in fact, veterans as some of them claim. Thomas-Nededog said there is a provision with the grant that allows the organization to entertain those individuals pending verification of their military service.

    Eligible

    Additionally, people who served just one day in the military are considered eligible for the program. Heads of households, a member of a head of household or a spouse of the head of household who has served in the military is also qualified for the program.

    Most of their services will be referrals and case management, and providing some temporary funding relief for at-risk veterans.

    The type of temporary financial assistance that WestCare can give veterans and their families is limited to a certain amount over a specific length of time and will be given based on the needs of the individual.

    Thomas-Nededog said yesterday that the two common hindrances to veterans that she discovered are lack of child care and lack of transportation, which WestCare will provide for program participants. Another roadblock veterans said they had run into is the time it takes to receive benefits, Lee said.

    This SSVF grant is a “rapid deployment” in that it is designed to help the veterans who are homeless or might be homeless in a timely manner, Lee said.

    The group plans to operate out of its Tamuning office on the third floor of the building where Hornet Sports is also located until they are able to relocate to another facility, possibly in Hagåtña.

    Almost 600 more local jobs since last year

    Posted: Nov 13, 2014  by Ken Quintanilla  kuam

    Guam - If you're looking for a job, according to the latest numbers released by the Department of Labor there's a lot out there. Matter of fact the latest employment report for September 2014, shows the total number of jobs in Guam has increased by almost 600 in the latest quarter. The numbers are up for industries in the private sector just as retail and hotel positions. Construction jobs however were down slightly for this quarter, but overall up by 160 over the year. 

    For more information about the program and to find out how to apply call 482-9001 or 488-9001.

Charter school parents concerned after losing second principal

Posted: Nov 13, 2014  by Jolene Toves  KUAM

Guam - In less than two months the Guahan Academy Charter School has seen two principals. Donna Dwiggins was removed by the board, and Arlene Sayco tendered her resignation last Friday.

Parents like Joanne Messia aren't quite sure of what to make of all that's happened, telling KUAM News, "I am very saddened by it she was great just like I am saddened by Dr. Dwiggins' contract not being renewed but it was a choice Ms. Sayco made personally she did send a letter home to us on Wednesday letting us parents know that the only reason she did it is because on Friday she received a letter."

Both Dwiggins and Sayco are founding members of the Guahan Academy Charter School. Although KUAM has not heard from Dwiggins since her ouster, we have received the resignation letter submitted by Sayco, who said it was with a heavy heart that step down but the board of trustees had rescinded their decision to issue her a contract and reinstated her at will employment status.

Sayco further wrote about the hard work she, Dwiggins and other founding members did over the last four years to make the dream of the Guahan Academy Charter School become a reality.

She added how extremely sad it is to accept what the school will become under the board's direction because it not the vision of the founding members, noting, "I sincerely hope that this school will survive the upheaval, but I know that it will not resemble the environment that we intended."

Messia is also concerned about the future of GACS, saying, "I highly doubt they will live the life that we worked so hard for last year I think the school will change and will become a totally different charter school if it stays open."

But while parents may be confused, GACS chairman Roger Cooper says the reason Sayco's contract was not renewed is because she failed to turn in her renewal documents within the ten-day period allotted.



New Russian charter flight to Guam will begin by February


Friday, 14 Nov 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


YAKUTS Air will be the newest airline to operate charter flights from Vladivostok and Khabarovsk in Russia to Guam come early February 2015, according to Bart Jackson, Guam Visitors Bureau chairman of the Committee on Russia and New Markets Development.


Jackson said the airline will fly once every 10 days from the two cities. This is expected to bring in favored Russian travelers to the island after Oren Air charter flights were canceled after Aug. 27.

The Russian tourist market grew considerably, with more visitors from Eastern Russia visiting the island when the Oren Air flights were in service.

Between January and August this year, 14,792 Russians traveled to Guam, compared to just 4,543 Russians in the same time period for 2013. According to GVB’s arrival summary for August 2014, this is an increase in Russian visitors of about 225 percent.

On average, the Russian visitor stays on Guam for about 15 days and pays for travel expenses in advance. Aside from hotel rooms, Russian visitors usually spend about $1,600 on the island and many of them – about 80 percent – bring their families on vacation.

When Jackson spoke to the Rotary Club of Guam in September, he said Russian visitors like Guam in part because they are not hassled as much as in places like Thailand. They are able to lay on the beach and enjoy their time on vacation.

Russian travelers still have the means to get to Guam. Many fly through Seoul, Korea where they catch a connecting flight to Guam. On Oct. 27 United Airlines launched direct flights between Seoul and Guam, joining Korean Air, Jin Air and Jeju Air on the route.

The Russian tourist market for Guam is relatively small and Jackson said he believes it will remain small, compared to other source markets. At its peak, he estimates 40,000 to 50,000 visitors from eastern Russia will seek Guam as a travel destination.

Negative feeling

During his address to Rotarians last September, Jackson said Russian travelers were left with a “negative feeling” after Oren Air’s direct flights to Guam were terminated.

He said the recent termination of direct flights between Russia and Guam was due in part to increased hostilities between Russia and Ukraine. Jackson also said that because of the abrupt end to flight services, many Russians who booked trips to Guam after August had to pay cancellation fees for hotel rooms and some may not get refunds for expenses they paid in advance.

“So there’s a bit of a negative feeling,” Jackson said. “Not about Guam, specifically, but about the whole idea of flying charters to Guam because so many folks have gotten burned.”

Oren Air was contracted through Avia Charter, which paid Oren Air through an intermediary company and because of increased conflict in western Russia with Ukraine, the intermediary company shut down and payments between Avia Charter and Oren Air ceased.

“There’s a lot of pressure on Russian tour agencies that were doing business in Europe. U.S. sanctions aside, Europe imposed a number of different sanctions on travel and they began to run into some financial difficulties on the European side,” Jackson said.

Went bust

As a result, the intermediary company handling payments between Oren Air and Avia Charter “went bust,” Jackson said. Oren Air sought payment from Avia, but the charter company maintained that they did not owe anything to Oren Air and in August direct flights between Russia and Guam on Oren Air aircraft were terminated likely through the end of the year.

Jackson said there is no indication that flights will begin again in November, but he said he is hoping for better connection opportunities because of United’s partnership with Russian airline S7, which is not a charter airline company.

“Giving (travelers) the opportunity to connect easily is important,” he said. “The only way to really secure the market is to generate direct seats and we’re just not there yet.”



Guam Shipyard awarded Coast Guard contract


Friday, 14 Nov 2014 03:00am


VARIETY NEWS STAFF


THE U.S. Department of Homeland Security yesterday announced that it has awarded a $320,899 contract to Guam Shipyard for dockside repair of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Assateague. The Assateague is assigned to Coast Guard Sector Guam at Apra Harbor. Work is to be performed at Victor Wharf Pier on Naval Base Guam.

Work under the contract is to include structural repairs of aluminum plating, piping gland packing renewal, the application of nonskid grit to exterior decks, deck lights renewal, application of deck covering seal, renewal of deck drains and life line stanchions, and fuel tank cleaning and inspection.

The 110-foot, 168-ton Assateague was launched Nov. 10, 1989 and commissioned June 15, 1990.

The contract is set aside for certified Historically Underutilized Business Zone small businesses. U.S. Coast Guard Surface Forces Logistics Center is the contracting unit.



Leon Guerrero talks about Nauru tragedies


Friday, 14 Nov 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


FORMER Sen. Carlotta Leon Guerrero shared stories about ongoing tragedies in Nauru with members of the Rotary Club of Guam yesterday at the club’s weekly luncheon meeting.


Leon Guerrero has been traveling the Pacific region for the past four years including trips to Nauru, formerly known as Pleasant Island, located in the South Pacific. The nation’s valuable natural phosphate supply had been decreasing over the years, Leon Guerrero said, and went from being one of the richest small countries to now one of the poorest countries in the world.

In order to help their economic plight, Nauru began accepting refugees from Australia; however, conditions in the refugee camps have caused international dispute and led to the United Nations trying Australia in front of the UN’s torture committee for human rights violations.

“They have all kinds of things going on. They’re rioting, they’re starving themselves and when they starve themselves they’re force-fed,” Leon Guerrero said. “And in order to stop being force-fed, many of them are stitching their lips shut and they’re stitching the lips of their children.”

The Nauru judicial system has been “dismantled” and members of the parliament who wish to speak up about the grisly “industry” will have their salary wiped out, Leon Guerrero said. “That’s the kind of heavy-handed stuff that is happening over there right now.”

More recently, Australian officials have looked to send refugees to Cambodia and pay Cambodia $34 million, which might even lead to Nauru losing the $27 million they get for housing Australia’s refugees now. “They might lose even this,” Leon Guerrero said.

No strong tourism

The nation does not have a strong tourism industry or a military base and they aren’t near Japan like Guam is, so they have to think of something else for revenue.

Leon Guerrero said she hoped her accounts of the situation in Nauru would appeal to the humanitarian side of Rotary Club of Guam members.

Through her travels, Leon Guerrero added, she’s learned that many nations in the Pacific region are concerned with climate change which could become a fruitful endeavor for local businesspeople.

The UN has about $200 billion earmarked for climate change and $500 million of that is allocated for use over five years for solar and votive development in small islands, Leon Guerrero said.




Charter school loses second administrator

Posted: Nov 12, 2014  by Jolene Toves  KUAM

Guam - Last month Donna Dwiggins was removed as principal last month and now KUAM has confirmed with Guahan Academy Charter School board chair Roger Cooper that the school's acting principal Arlene Sayco has resigned from her position for personal reasons.  Cooper says at this time GACS does not have a principal or assistant principal but they are conducting interviews and have a likely candidate for the principal position which he anticipates to be filled within a few days.

He adds that GACS board members Victor Perez and Peggy Denny will be present at the school in a supervisory role until the positions are filled. 



Feds OK China visa extension


Wednesday, 12 Nov 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


GVB: ‘This is great news for Guam’

THE Guam Visitors Bureau is looking forward to the potential growth of the island’s largest industry thanks to an agreement between the U.S. and China, which will allow Chinese tourist and businesspeople to renew their visas every 10 years.

The White House announced the visa extension yesterday, in a statement issued by the U.S. Department of State.

Beginning today, the U.S. and China will reciprocally increase the validity of short-term business and tourist visa from one year up to 10 years, the State Department announcement said.

This extension includes student visas and exchange visitor program visas.

GVB General Manager Karl Pangelinan yesterday said the visa extension was great news for the island.

“While we will still push for a visa waiver, this visa extension will definitely help ease the travel process for visitors and provide more jobs and opportunities for our people,” Pangelinan said in a statement.

Last month, United Airlines launched the first scheduled direct flights between Shanghai and Guam, which opened the doors for a potential 150 Chinese tourists to visit Guam every Tuesday and Saturday.

Between January and August of this year, just over 10,000 Chinese tourists visited Guam – a 33 percent increase the same period in 2013.

GVB officials have pushed for an increase in visitors from China as a way to diversify and grow the tourism industry as part of their Tourism 2020 plan.

Commended

The bureau commended the U.S. federal government and the Chinese government for the agreement, saying this will further strengthen and diversify both countries’ economies, Pangelinan said.

The new agreement makes it more convenient and less costly for travelers, the White House said. The U.S. hopes the visa extension will meet visitor projections for 2021, when an expected 7.3 million Chinese visitors will travel to the U.S. and contribute about $85 billion a year to the economy.

Chinese students were previously required to apply for new visas annually to pursue education in the United States, but with the visa extension, Chinese students will no longer have to apply for new visas every year.

According to U.S. Homeland Security, 235,597 students from China studied in America last school year, a 21 percent increase from the previous year. In fiscal year 2014, more than 316,000 student and exchange visitor visa applications were processed.

Last year, according to the University of Guam fact book, just over 1,500 Asian students attended UOG, but it is unclear how many of those are from which Asian countries.

With the new visa extension, federal officials expect the increased travel and exchange between the two countries will positively benefit the economies through trade and investment.


 

Joint Region Marianas commander helps welcome new citizens

Wednesday, 12 Nov 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

 (JRM) – Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar, commander of Joint Region Marianas, and the District Court of Guam recognized the newest American citizens during a Veterans Day naturalization ceremony at the court in Hagåtña on Nov. 10.

Bolivar was the event’s keynote speaker and addressed the 39 men and women who were granted citizenship during the ceremony. 

“As we prepare to celebrate Veterans Day, one of the things I think makes (today) even more special is the link that you share with the men and women of our armed forces,” Bolivar said. “Not many are granted the opportunity to recite the oath of allegiance to the United States.”

As a second-generation Filipino-American, Bolivar also recounted her grandfather and father’s stories of becoming Americans after joining the armed forces in the Philippines.

“Like you, they worked hard and dedicated themselves to ensure the best possible life for my family,” she said. “I cannot express how grateful I am that the United States gave my family the opportunity to live in this great country.”

District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood presided over the ceremony and said these types of events mean the most to her as they display the value of American citizenship.

“I don’t think people realize the significance and the value of our U.S. citizenship until they are out in the field fighting for our freedoms or they come to these ceremonies and they see the significance and the importance, and the value of our citizenship,” she said. 

Tydingco-Gatewood also expressed her gratitude for Bolivar’s willingness to speak at the ceremony and thanked her for her service to our nation.

Mary Alba was naturalized during the ceremony and said she was proud to become a citizen in order to provide a better quality of life for her and her family.

“I’m very honored and I’m very privileged to be a United States of America citizen,” she said. “Being an American citizen gives me a better opportunity, it gives me a better life.”

In her closing remarks, Bolivar encouraged the new citizens to become active members of society in order to help the U.S. continue to prosper.

“I’d like to present your first challenge as Americans: make a difference in our community, our island and our nation,” she said. “Make a difference and live the dream.”


New charter school planning to open by January 2015

Thursday, 13 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

AFTER the Guam Academy Charter School Council approved iLearn Academy Charter School's application this month, school board officials announced yesterday that they are eyeing a January 2015 opening for the new school.

During a press conference yesterday morning at their facility in Yigo, school board chairman Francis Santos said the school plans to start offering its programs for grades K to 5 by January. A maximum of 358 students will be accommodated by the facility.

Guam Academy Charter School Council chairwoman Rosa Palomo said the council approved the school's charter on Nov. 6. "We'd like to get them running as soon as possible," she said.

After the approval of the school’s charter, the next step, according to Santos, is to develop and present a budget to the council. "We have already met with the leadership at the legislature. Most recently, Vice Speaker (Benjamin) Cruz introduced legislation to provide the necessary funding for iLearn Academy Charter School," he said.

Just recently, Cruz introduced Bill 419, a measure which amends a section authorizing funding for charter schools as set in P.L. 32-181, the fiscal 2015 budget act.

Bill 419 reiterates the funding provision allocating a $5,500-per-enrollee budget for the schools chartered by the Guam Academy Charter School Council during school year 2014-2015. It also caps the enrollment for Guahan Academy Charter School at 520 students, and other schools chartered by the council at 250 students.

Santos said he will work with the legislature to address the provision which placed a maximum cap for enrollees at the new charter school.

Robotics

iLearn Academy Charter School plans to introduce a curriculum with a strong emphasis on science, technology and math.

The new charter school also plans to integrate a robotics program into its curriculum.

"We are excited to be given this opportunity which is a big thing for our island to see a different type of system come forward and more importantly, to give our kids the opportunity to use new media as a new way to learn," Santos said.

Rachel Alquero, board of trustee member, said although emphasis will be given to science, technology and math, the curriculum will be covering all subject areas.

"We are also in the process of working with Lego Robotics to train and figure out how we can really use that program to help the students," she said.

Moreover, Alquero said the school will be using the Achieve 3000 program to supplement their curriculum. The program offers differentiated, online instruction for each student.

"What it does is meet each individual student at their specific level. It continues to progress with them throughout the year," she said.

After Guahan Academy Charter School, the iLearn Academy is the second school to be given a charter by the council.

Guam Charter School Council member Jamie Mason said: "Two schools have been chartered. The other one deals with Direct Instruction while the iLearn program is very technical in nature. We are going to get the chance to see how both of them work to improve the quality of education for our youth and that is really what the bottom line is."



GCA holds annual awards ceremony


Wednesday, 12 Nov 2014 03:00am


PRESS RELEASE


Black wins Excellence in Construction, ICC named GCA Contractor of the Year

(GCA) – The Guam Contractors Association held its annual Excellence in Construction Awards and Contractor of the Year event on Friday at the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa.

Black Construction Corp. won the 2014 Excellence in Construction First Place Overall Project Award for its construction of the North Ramp Parking at Andersen Air Force Base.

International Consolidated Contracting was awarded the 2014 GCA Contractor of the Year for its overall achievement in safety, environment, workforce development and community service.

Other winners from the event include:


  • 1st place overall – Federal government/military $10 to $100 million: Black Construction Corp. for North Ramp Parking, Andersen Air Force Base.

  • 2nd place overall – Renovations less than $4 million: dck pacific guam for BankPacific’s phase two main headquarters renovation.

  • 3rd place overall – Historical restoration/renovation less than $25 million: Reliable Builders Inc. for the design and construction of improvements and renovation of Plaza De Espana.




‘Unused agricultural products can become value-added items’

Friday, 07 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

A RECENTLY released report by the University of Guam-Pacific Center for Economic Initiatives shows there are a lot of unused or unsold fruits and vegetables produced by the local farming industry which could be turned into value-added agricultural products.

The report – entitled "Guam Farmer Survey: February-April 2014," by Fred Schumann, Gena Rojas and Maria Claret Ruane – is part of a larger project known as the Guam Enterprise Initiative, or GEI.

The initiative aims to use the One Village One Product (OVOP) model as an economic development strategy that will integrate heritage tourism, food and agriculture economic clusters on Guam.

According to the report, when farmers were asked what they did with their unused produce, about 65 percent indicated that the produce was just given away to friends and families.

Only a small percentage of farmers – about 3 percent – said they threw away products they were unable to sell, while 29.23 percent indicated using the produce for personal consumption, as feed for pigs and other animals, donated to churches, public agencies and civic organizations, invested in repotting and sizing, or used as fertilizer or “reconditioned to be sold.”

The report said entrepreneurs looking to use agricultural products in new and innovative ways will find that there is a great supply in unused or unsold fruits and vegetables since 64 percent was unused.

Moreover, value-added products tied to cultural foods such as coconut eggplant can be canned and made available to local and visiting consumers at various outlets. For instance, marmalades and jams using sweet lemons such as calamansi have the potential to be marketed.

"The possibilities of value-added agricultural products are significant," the report said.

Reduce imports

The report also discussed a study conducted by the center, which was designed to create a profile of Guam farmers and an inventory of agricultural production on Guam at both the island and village levels.

The report stressed the importance of reducing Guam’s importation of certain agricultural products, even by as little as 10 percent, and supporting local production to generate multiple benefits to businesses, farmers, new entrepreneurs, individuals and the community as a whole.

This was also emphasized in another study, "A Survey of Current and Past Village-Level Production on Guam," also by Schumann, Rojas and Ruane.

According to the Guam Farmer Study, an increase in agricultural production will also provide more healthy food choices and contribute to a healthier diet for local residents.

The study used 2007 statistics from the Department of Public Health and Social Services, which says 27 percent of adults on Guam suffer high rates of obesity while 34.2 percent are overweight. Meanwhile, 34.2 percent also have poor lifestyle habits.

"The inter-connectedness among agriculture, food, health and economic benefits is well established. By understanding the relational aspects of agriculture to these areas, it is clear that concerted and integrated approaches are needed to harness the benefits from the complementariness of such efforts," the study states.



Senators look forward to next legislature


Thursday, 06 Nov 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


THE 2014 senatorial elections culminated with the Democratic Party retaining the majority in the incoming 33rd Guam Legislature.


After the last vote count, the party won nine out of 15 seats, maintaining the status quo of the 32nd Guam Legislature.

The top two positions were snagged by two incumbent Democrats – Sens. Frank Aguon Jr. and Dennis Rodriguez.

Senatorial newbie and former Guam Department of Education Superintendent Nerissa Underwood also landed in the top 10.

The six Republican senators who made it onto the legislative roster include James Espaldon, who last served in the 30th Guam Legislature, and Mary Camacho Torres, who has been involved in public service in various capacities prior to her senatorial bid.

Both Democrat topnotchers Aguon and Rodriguez shared their post-election thoughts with Variety as well as their priorities for the new legislative cycle.

Aguon said his immediate post-election work is all about extending gratitude and appreciation to the community for its tremendous and overwhelming support during the election.

"I am honored by their vote. I am deeply moved that they continue to recognize my service to them, and most especially, I am humbled that even after all my offenses, they continue to believe in what I could do for the people of Guam," he said.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez said the election results are humbling for him and his family.

"We are so grateful for our supporters, family, friends and our Todu Guam team for all the blessings. This morning felt like the day before the election. I spent some time waving my ‘thank you’ sign to our residents to expressing my sincerest appreciation for their continued faith and trust in me. Now that the election is over, I look forward to rolling my sleeves back up and working for our people," he said.

Rodriguez said he is pleased that the 33rd Guam Legislature will be led by a Democratic majority. "I will work hard to ensure that we strengthen the collaboration between my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as well as our relationship with the administration so that we can make certain we remain focused on working toward a better Guam and stronger, healthier and happier families," he said.

Legislative priorities

In terms of priorities, Aguon said he will continue to remain focused on his current committee, which has purview over the Guam Veterans Affairs Office, Department of Homeland Security, Guam Customs & Quarantine Agency, and the Judiciary.

"Although my committee has come so far in oversight work, there is still much work that needs to be done," he said.

Rodriguez said there are a number of bills that he would like to pass before his current term ends in December.

"These initiatives include expanding use of existing Cancer Trust Funds for outreach and education, providing equitable power rates for residents who live in condominiums, providing hazardous pay to certain employees at the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, the overhaul of our Qualifying Certificate program, as well as other legislation that already had public hearings and are awaiting committee reports," he said.



GEC pegs voter turnout at 71 percent, higher than 2012

Thursday, 06 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

were brought to the field house which served as the election return center. Photo by Justin Green / For Variety

THE Guam Election Commission yesterday said that this year’s general election recorded a voter turnout of 71.44 percent. According to the commission, 37,131 voters – out of the 51,975 registered voters – cast their ballots on Tuesday.

The level of voter participation is a significant increase from the 2012 general election which recorded only a 67 percent voter turnout. During that year, GEC had registered 50,701 voters, of which 34,124 cast their ballots.

This year’s turnout, though, was lower than the 2010 general election when the commission recorded 77 percent voter participation. In that year, there were 40,616 voters who trooped to the polling places.

GEC Executive Director Maria Pangelinan told Variety that she was elated at the “good turnout” for this year’s election and attributed the satisfying result to the commitment shown by many voters who opted to exercise their right. Additionally, the lineup of good candidates for both partisan and nonpartisan positions is an important factor in the higher turnout.

Precincts

According to GEC records, a high voter turnout was recorded in the majority of precincts.

The precincts with the highest voter participation were Hagåtña and Chalan Pågo/Ordot which each saw a 79 percent turnout.

Sinajaña, in the meantime, recorded a 78 percent voter turnout; Santa Rita and Yoña each saw 77 percent voter participation.

Also notable was the turnout in Asan/Maina and Barrigada which each recorded a 76 percent turnout.

The biggest of all of Guam’s 58 precincts is Dededo which recorded 64 percent to 71 percent voter participation in its polling sites.

Another large precinct, Yigo, saw 68 percent voter participation. The rest of the precincts recorded turnouts ranging from 60 percent to 64 percent.

Over-votes

Meanwhile, Pangelinan said yesterday that in this year’s general election, the number of over-votes in the gubernatorial race was noticeably high at 1,502.

Over-votes are invalid and not counted by the commission.

For example: In the gubernatorial race, a voter may choose no more than one candidate team. If a voter marks more than one candidate for the position, the vote for the position is considered an over-vote.

In the congressional race, Pangelinan said over-votes totaled 161, while for the legislature, there were a total of 356 over-votes. For the attorney general race, over-votes totaled 62.

Pangelinan said there was a minimal number of spoiled ballots recorded by the commission. She said a ballot is spoiled when a voter makes a mistake on the ballot and asks for a replacement ballot.

Tabulation completed within timeline

Meanwhile, the ballot tabulation for all 58 precincts on Guam was completed within the allotted timeline, recording a little more than five hours from the moment the Guam Election Commission reconvened its meeting at 9:40 p.m. at the election return center at the University of Guam Calvo Field House.

After the meeting opened, the results of the first batch of election returns checked and tabulated by the commission were handed out to parties at around 10:42 p.m. The last batch of election results was completed by 3 a.m.

Polling sites closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday and ballots were brought to the field house which served as the election return center.

Pangelinan told Variety yesterday that there remains one confirmed administrative complaint filed at the agency. Pangelinan said they have yet to determine if there are additional complaints.

As a rule, the commission has to resolve the administrative complaint before the results of the election are certified. By law, GEC has 10 days to certify the results after the election.

FSM leaders unveil post-Compact action plan

Thursday, 06 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

$50M shortfall by 2024

TAKING a proactive approach, leaders from the Federated States of Micronesia unveiled an action plan that they hope will alleviate the ramifications of an expected $50 million shortfall 10 years from now.

The plan was announced to FSM citizens Sunday night at the Astumbo Gymnasium.

FSM President Manny Mori, Yap Gov. Sebastian Anefal, Pohnpei Gov. John Ehsa and Kosrae Gov. Lyndon Jackson attended the meeting along with Evelyn Adolph, secretariat of the 2023 Action Plan Committee.

The meeting was called by the FSM leaders to present the action plan to FSM citizens on Guam and allowed for FSM citizens to share their concerns.

The leaders proposed growing tourism and agriculture within the islands to help offset the $50 million they will no longer have access to in 2024. Authorities hope to capitalize on tourism, focus on branding the islands, and selling to different classes of tourists.

As for agriculture, officials said one plan is to pay cash for produce grown by residents in the villages of the outer islands.

At Sunday’s meeting, authorities stressed that another good part of the plan is to grow the private sector because governments worldwide are known to be inefficient.

Mori said there are other plans in place and other plans that will be brought up, but this plan is an action plan that the governments intend to follow.

“As we are approaching 2023, going into 2024, we must have a plan to avert or prevent the huge problems that we are anticipating in 2024,” Mori said. “2024 is the year after which all the assistance from the United States will be terminated. Let me make that very clear because there have been so many outstanding rumors that in 2023, the Compact of Free Association is going to terminate.”

Financial aspect

Mori said it is not the agreement itself that will terminate, but instead, the financial aspect of the COFA will cease. The U.S. government will no longer supply the FSM with funding for much more than health care and education. Adolph said health care and education funding coming from the U.S. government will be cut in half after 2023.

In 2023, the FSM government anticipates $83.4 million in federal grants to help the island governments. However, the next year they will only receive funding from trust fund interest, which is considerably less. Between 2023 and 2024, funding from the U.S. government unrelated to health care or education will go from $83.4 million to $38.2 million, a decrease of nearly $50 million.

“We have no choice but to grow our economy,” Adolph said, adding that the FSM economy has performed dismally over the last 10 years. “It’s going to be challenging.”

Mori said if the FSM does not start doing something now, there is a “very scary future” ahead.

Part of the plan includes the FSM Congress investing in the businesses of the island nations to grow the private sector, Mori said, adding Congress will invest $15 million a year into the private sector until 2023. “If we just concentrate on developing the private sector businesses, I think we have a good chance of surviving the 2024 disaster,” Mori said.



Marijuana vote puts Guam on the map


Thursday, 06 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY MAR-VIC CAGURANGAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


But local doctors remain cautious

ADVOCATES across the United States cheered Guam’s vote for the legalization of medical marijuana, calling it a “resounding victory” and “the beginning of a very big day.” 
Unofficial results from Tuesday’s referendum showed 56.4 percent of voters in favor of Proposal 14A, which would allow doctors to prescribe cannabis for patients with “debilitating conditions” without threat of prosecution.

“That’s great news, and a positive omen, for marijuana reform efforts across the country,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, in a statement Tuesday. “Guam is quite conservative politically, and home to a significant U.S. military presence, so this resounding victory is a confirmation of medical marijuana’s broad support across the political spectrum.”

In a separate statement, Tom Angell, chairman of industry group Marijuana Majority, said the growing number of states that have cleared impediments to pot use is likely to pave the way for “other important marijuana reforms.”

“People all across the world are ready to move beyond failed prohibition laws, especially when seriously ill patients are criminalized just for following their doctors’ recommendations,” Angell said.

“With these election results, U.S. territories stretching from Guam – where America’s day begins near the International Date Line – to Hawaii and Alaska have sensible laws that let patients use marijuana without fear of arrest. And this is just the beginning of a very big day,” he said.

Guam, the first U.S. territory to legalize the medical use of marijuana, joins 24 other states that have relaxed laws on pot use. The thumbs-up on the initiative quickly hit international news and national blogsites.

Not too fast

Leaders of the local medical community, however, are not exactly thrilled, saying physicians cannot proceed without caution.

“I do not think that Guam doctors will be more comfortable prescribing marijuana due to the fact that even if it is legalized locally, it will still be illegal at the federal level and I do not think that the doctors want to jeopardize their license and DEA certificate until this matter is resolved at the federal level,” said Dr. John Ray Taitano, president of the Guam Medical Society.

At this point, however, Taitano said it is too early to say if legalizing medical marijuana would have any impact on medical practice on Guam. “Physicians are already too busy seeing patients for medical diseases and will have little time to discuss the implications of prescribing a drug that is still illegal by federal statute,” he said.

Marijuana remains on the federal list of controlled substances. But in August 2013, the Justice Department said it would not attempt to challenge state laws that allow for the medical and recreational use of marijuana as long as the drug sales do not conflict with eight new federal enforcement priorities.

“I am sure there are doctors who are apprehensive about this but at the same time, there may be doctors who may be very eager to provide marijuana patient certification,” said Dr. Thomas Shieh, president of the Guam Medical Association. “At this point, I do not know which doctor on Guam will feel comfortable certifying a patient as qualified.”

Shieh said there are other technical issues that need to be sorted out. “The question here is, Will insurance companies cover patient visits for marijuana certification or purchase of this plant? If not, these patients will all have to be (on a) cash-paying basis.”

Natural medicine

Guam activist Michael Bevacqua said allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes is consistent with the island’s tradition of healing ailments with natural remedies.

“It is encouraging to see that the people of Guam have recognized the value of cannabis for its medicinal purposes,” said Bevacqua, a professor at the University of Guam. “Changes to our diet, our lifestyle have also brought in new terrible health problems. Do you want to be fighting for this type of relief when you are older? Or do we, as an island community, have the foresight to recognize the potential value of cannabis in terms of helping the terminally ill?”

Taitano, however, warned of “a great opportunity for abuse and misuse” and said “the danger of someone driving or operating heavy equipment or working with mechanical equipment such as chain saws conjures up horror stories of what can happen and has happened in the U.S.”

‘Debilitating’

With the passage of the pot initiative, Shieh said GMA will have to step up to the plate and share the task of dealing with the many questions that will confront the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

Shieh said the department, which is mandated to determine what “debilitating medical conditions” warrant a legitimate medical marijuana prescription, is facing a host of headache-causing issues in making such determinations.

“The impact will depend on how Public Health expands this usage. If the conditions become so broad that even those with headaches can use marijuana, then they may as well legalize it altogether, because everyone has headaches,” Shieh said.

“But I don’t think the Department of Public Health, as Jim Gillan said, is ready and qualified to make these regulatory rules. We’ll have to see how this transpires and hopefully they will consult with us with regards to certifying patient protection.”

  • Next step for legal medical marijuana use: convening of advisory board

    Thursday, 06 Nov 2014 03:00am

    BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    GUAM voters have spoken, but before they can get to legal toking therapy, government officials must convene an advisory board that will consist of nine members from various government agencies, the public and medical specialists, and create the rules and regulations that will guide medicinal marijuana use.

    Department of Public Health and Social Services Director James Gillan is one of the nine members in the advisory board. The chairperson of the Guam Board of Medical Examiners or his designee, the director of the Department of Agriculture, and the chairperson of the Legislative Committee on Health and Human Services will join Gillan as representatives of the government sector. Four medical specialists are also to be on the board including a doctor who specializes in oncology, neurology, psychiatry and pain management. The specialists should be board-certified in their area of practice and be knowledgeable about cannabis, according to Bill 215-32.

    The last member of the advisory board is a member of the public.

    Although it is not required by the law to have the attorney general sit on the advisory board, Gillan said he plans to use a lot of input from other agencies during the process.

    The advisory board is expected to meet as soon as possible, Gillan said, but he also said he is concentrating on the threat of Ebola at the moment.

    Right now, Gillan said he sees several challenges in place including legal action from attorney Howard Trapp as well as a change in federal administration or a change in the federal attorney general’s office. “Another challenge will be the cost to run the program,” Gillan said.

    Law

    The law appropriates $100,000 from the Healthy Future Funds to assist DPHSS with timely publication of rules and regulations.

    According to the law, prior to the finalization and implementation of rules and regulations related to medicinal marijuana use, the advisory board must hold a consultative meeting first. DPHSS has nine months after the enactment of the law to consult with the advisory board and develop rules and regulations and publish those regulations.

    The department is tasked with developing a supply system for local growers to distribute medicine to qualified patients, setting application fees, and issuing registry photo identification cards for patients.

    The law also specifies nine medical conditions that, for now, are the only conditions for which a patient may receive medical marijuana once the law is enacted and DPHSS develops regulations. These conditions are cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, damage to nervous tissue of spinal cord, epilepsy, HIV or AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder, rheumatoid arthritis or similar chronic autoimmune inflammatory disorders and for patients admitted to hospice care.

    Gillan said he has colleagues in the U.S. mainland that have implemented medical marijuana programs. “We will look at as many regulations as possible to make sure they make sense for Guam,” Gillan said.

    Concepcion: ‘Voters made big shift, change for Guam’

    Thursday, 06 Nov 2014 03:00am

    BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    THE nonprofit group and prime advocate of the legalization of medicinal marijuana on Guam was pleased by the outcome of the vote on the controversial pot referendum on Tuesday when a solid majority of voters approved the measure.

    Kin  Concepcion, founder of Live Life Alive, said although he was confident about the chances of the proposal before the election, he said he never expected it would garner an overwhelming number of votes.

    Unofficial results of the election from the Guam Election Commission indicated that the referendum, Proposal 14A, was passed by 56 percent – 19,544 affirmative votes over the 15,096 who voted against the proposal.

    The referendum was passed despite Archbishop Anthony Apuron's stance opposing the referendum due to the adverse negative impact he said it may bring to the island people.

    Yesterday Concepcion said that all efforts of the group and other individuals and organizations that pushed for the referendum paid off.

    “We accomplished what we set up to do. But this is not totally over yet because the work has now been shifted to our lawmakers who need to put altogether the policies for the law’s implementation within nine months,” he told Variety yesterday.

    Concepcion said he plans to visit the referendum’s author, Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes, to start discussions on the next steps to take after the referendum’s passage.

    As a private citizen, Concepcion said it remains his responsibility to continue the efforts that began when his family first advocated the legalization of medical marijuana.

    Remind

    He said he will remind lawmakers about their responsibility to develop policies for the Joaquin "KC" Concepcion Cannabis Use Act of 2013.

    According to Concepcion, Tuesday’s passage of the medical marijuana referendum was historic for the island.

    He couldn't help but share how his son, 32-year-old KC, who was then battling cancer, cheated his early death because of cannabis.

    KC was diagnosed with stomach cancer in October 2011 and was predicted to live for only a month. “I remember in December 2012, my son wanted to come back to Guam and see the family. But as much as he wanted to be home, it didn’t happen because marijuana is illegal here ... and that’s the only thing that helped him to get better,” he said yesterday.

    He said because of cannabis, KC’s life was extended from one month to 21 months. He died in Washington state in October 2013.

    According to the older Concepcion, before KC passed away, his son appealed to Muña-Barnes and other lawmakers to consider legalizing medical marijuana to help those who are suffering from illness like KC.

    Concepcion said Live Life Alive, after the referendum’s passage, will continue to work on its mission which is to educate more people about the benefits of medicinal cannabis.



Calvo triumphs


Thursday, 06 Nov 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


Bordallo, Barrett-Anderson win

GOV. Eddie Calvo secured more than enough votes on Election Day to remain governor of Guam for the next four years, garnering 64 percent of total votes cast, according to the Guam Election Commission’s unofficial results.


Soon after 51 of the votes from the 58 precincts had been accounted for, Calvo posted a prayer on his public Facebook page thanking his supporters. Early yesterday morning, Calvo also released an official statement thanking the electorate for voting, regardless of who they chose, and thanking his supporters for their assistance.

“Now that this election is over, let us all come together to elevate Guam to heights we know it can reach,” Calvo said in his statement.

Calvo’s challenger, former Gov. Carl Gutierrez and running mate Gary Gumataotao, received 12,632 of the votes cast for the gubernatorial office. Around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday night, University of Guam students published exit polls taken earlier in the day which predicted a 60 percent to 40 percent win in Calvo’s favor. After the GEC completed counting ballots early yesterday morning, it was clear the GEC count was near identical to UOG’s exit polls.

Based on unofficial results from GEC, Calvo and Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio will continue to serve in the executive branch with a Democratic majority in the legislature, while Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo will continue to be the island’s delegate to the U.S. Congress.

Barrett-Anderson

This time around, however, Calvo and Tenorio will have the chance to work alongside former Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson who swept incumbent Leonardo Rapadas in the nonpartisan race for attorney general.

Barrett-Anderson, like Calvo, took to her Facebook page to thank her supporters. “We must recognize the enormity of the task presented by this election and the responsibility to honor each vote through hard work and intelligent leadership in the coming years,” Barrett-Anderson posted. “Thank you to all the 23,000-plus voters who gave me their personal approval.”

Barrett-Anderson also acknowledged Rapadas’ supporters and said she looks forward to working with Rapadas and the Office of the Attorney General to make for a smooth transition.

Bordallo surpassed Republican candidate Margaret Metcalfe in the delegate race and will serve her seventh two-year term as Guam’s representative in Congress. GEC results showed Bordallo received 5,684 more votes than Metcalfe, with Bordallo getting 20,550 votes and Metcalfe receiving 14,866.

Mathew 6 hours ago

  • Don't be a rubber-stamp to the Calvo administration, AG-elect EBA. Winning elections is one thing. Running an independent, non-partisan office is another. (Republicans are good at winning elections because they have access to lots of money from wealthy folks and corporations, courtesy of a right-wing Judiciary. However, they are not as good at governing, the record shows. In fact, national Republicans have not even helped clean up the mess, given their out-sized role in helping create that mess, that led up to the 2008 financial meltdown.)

For the good of the island

Thursday, 06 Nov 2014 03:00am

VARIETY NEWS STAFF

CONGRATULATIONS to the winners in Tuesday’s election. Gov. Eddie Calvo, Delegate Madeleine Bordallo and Attorney General-elect Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson all won by stunning margins, leaving little doubt about the will of Guam voters.

The gubernatorial race was between candidates with experience in the governor’s office, and voters determined that Calvo’s record compared favorably to his opponent’s – as shown with the nearly two-thirds of the vote he garnered Tuesday.

However, the same body of voters that gave Calvo 64 percent of its votes also selected another nine-Democrat legislature. We see it as healthy that the governor belongs to a different political party from the majority of legislators – that laws can only be enacted with the mutual consent of the governor and a majority of the members of the legislature (except in the case of a veto override) serves as something of a safeguard for the citizen-taxpayers that the parties will be holding each other accountable. Without a 10th Democratic member making the legislature veto-proof, the officials will have to work together to pass legislation.

That has been the arrangement for the past four years, and while it has at times been more contentious than we thought necessary, the voters have opted to keep it in place and we see it as good for Guam. We note that all incumbent Democratic senators were re-elected along with strong first-time candidate Nerissa Underwood. Another first-time candidate, Mary Torres, had a strong showing and was the No. 7 vote-getter. She had an open split with Calvo and it is expected that she will not toe the Republican legislative line, at least not as drawn by the governor.

The Democrats in the legislature will likely conduct legislative business with an eye toward the 2018 gubernatorial election. We hope that means working in the best interest of the people of Guam – continuing to scrutinize the actions of the executive branch, hold it accountable and advancing a well-thought out agenda.

The governor has justification to see his margin of victory as a mandate and we similarly expect that he will engage the legislature to advance his initiatives, as he has done and should do. But the legislature has a mandate as well and we note that the top vote-getter, Democrat Frank Aguon, actually received more votes than Calvo.

We see the checks and balances of the government with branches controlled by different parties as ultimately good for the island. It could turn into government gridlock and nothing is accomplished, but that is only if the parties refuse to compromise for the greater good – and no one was elected to do that.

 

Grow farming

Monday, 03 Nov 2014 03:00am

VARIETY NEWS STAFF

WE SUPPORT local farming and the consumption of locally grown food. It is a proverbial no-brainer. The products are healthier and tastier. The money spent on locally grown and produced food stays on Guam and strengthens the local economy. It is in keeping with the current popularity of environmentally friendly consumerism and culinary offerings based on local tastes (as well as traditional local dishes) and local ingredients.

Earlier this year, the University of Guam Pacific Center for Economic Initiatives released “A Survey of Current and Past Village-Level Production on Guam.” It indicated that Guam imports $8.25 million worth of fruits and vegetables a year, $41 million worth of meat and $14 million in fish and seafood. Those numbers alone would indicate that there is a market for local farm products.

The study points out the benefits of replacing 10 percent of imported food with locally produced food. They are obvious.

It seems reasonable to assume that many purchasers of the tens of millions of dollars worth of imported food would purchase locally if, all else being the same, it were available. Certainly, shifting 10 percent of the purchases from the imported to locally produced food would not only be quite feasible, but would probably happen without much effort. But it is not happening.

If farming is to meet the needs of a significant segment of the community, farmers must be encouraged to cultivate larger plots – the UOG study found that 80 percent of the farmers it surveyed had land that was 4 acres or smaller and a third had less than an acre.

Two recent developments seem likely to make farming more financially attractive – the new farmers market in Dededo will provide a location for famers to prepare their produce for sale, and for buyers to find farmers with products to sell. Hopefully, it will also provide a way to disseminate information to farmers about market conditions – what is needed, what will command the best price and so on.

We also see promise in Farm to Table Guam which recently began its goal of helping local farmers sell their products, often as such “value-added” products as papaya chips or jellies.

If local farming is going to significantly replace imported food, it must be lucrative enough for farmers to make a living at the same time the products are affordable enough to be considered by consumers. This will likely require farms larger than 4 acres.

Farming is often romanticized – it has many benefits and can be rewarding. But it is also hard, risky, often dirty work, especially on a scale to make one’s livelihood. We are hopeful that those involved in Guam agriculture are successful in identifying and promulgating a sustainable, profitable source of local sustenance.

A case for producing local

Saturday, 01 Nov 2014 03:00am

VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE local economy would benefit in many ways by cutting Guam's importation of certain agricultural products by as little as 10 percent and producing them locally instead, according to a recently released study by the University of Guam-Pacific Center for Economic Initiatives.

We figured that much, but we, the lay men, don’t know exactly how to translate this in economic figures.

According to the study, annual data on Guam’s imports taken from a three-year period between 2011 and 2013 show that the island imports $8.25 million worth of vegetables and fruits per year, $41 million in chicken, pork and beef meat, and $14 million in fish and seafood.

Data shows the island imports $14 million worth of coffee, rice, nuts and spices and $46 million of food and non-alcoholic value-added products that might be able to be produced locally.

The study suggests that by replacing just 10 percent of the imported vegetables, fruits, meats and seafood, local producers would generate an additional income of $6.4 million. The local spending multiplier would increase from 1.2987 to 1.3063.

The study, which was part of a larger project known as the Guam Enterprise Initiative, also determined that nominal Gross Island Product would increase by $8.8 million, creating 127 additional jobs, $351,000 in additional Gross Receipts Tax and $1.3 million in additional income taxes.

The study listed a number of agricultural products that may be produced on Guam such as coffee, rice, nuts and spices, which could bring additional income of $6 million for local business.

The study makes a case for Guam to further pursue its initiative to produce locally.

Guam is off to a good start with the revival of the Guam Product Seal Program, coupled with a series of production, packaging and marketing trainings conducted by the Guam Small Business Development Center and partner agencies and private organizations.

The center has been working with its clients and the Guam Product Seal Task Force, and is trying to work with local agencies to create a Manufacturers Cooperative, a Commodities Council, and then a strategic plan for a small to medium manufacturing business incubator program.

Guam may not be able to achieve complete self-sufficiency given its geographical limitations, but producing what we can obviously has economic value.



Farmers still waiting for typhoon crop damage compensation


Friday, 31 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


DURING yesterday's legislative status hearing, farmers lamented the delays in the release of funds from the crop damage compensation program of the Department of Agriculture.

Excess rain and damaging winds brought on by Tropical Storm Halong in July caused damage to Guam’s farming and agriculture sector.

Sen. Rory Respicio, chairman of the committee on human and natural resources of the Guam Legislature, convened the status hearing to gather an update on the status of crop damage compensation to local farmers and as an overview of animal quarantine procedures pursuant to local laws.

Although Department of Agriculture officials were a no-show at the hearing, local farmers were present to air their concerns regarding the program.

According to Respicio, Mariquita Taitague, the agriculture director, sent a letter yesterday requesting that the hearing be rescheduled since she was not feeling well.

Taitague also attached documents pertaining to the Crop Damage Compensation program which showed agriculture's standard operating procedures accessing claims from Typhoon Halong.

The director said the department has currently identified almost $400,000 in claims.

According to Taitague, the next step is to seek legislation that authorizes the governor to identify funding to compensate farmers.

First time

Respicio said this was the first time the agriculture department had responded by stating there is no money for the crop damage compensation program.

"As you know, the legislature provided for appropriation to this program," he said.

As mandated by law, the program would provide crop damage compensation of up to $20,000 to bona fide farmers.

Victor Duenas, a farmer from Inarajan, said during the hearing that he is "fed up." After filling out and submitting an assessment form and following up at the agriculture department, he was told that they cannot pay the farmers since there is no money.

Former Sen. Hope Cristobal, who is also a culinary herb farmer and a candidate for the 33rd Guam Legislature, said there should be a provision in the law which sets a firm time frame for the release of the farmers' compensation.

"This is a potential third leg of our economy, which we should be building up," she said.

"The farmers of Guam are hurting," said a frustrated Ernie Wusstig, another farmer.

Late last year, farmers were compensated for lost crops by Gov. Eddie Calvo and the agriculture department.

A series of storms damaged crops during the last quarter of 2013, which prompted the governor to appropriate funds for farmers to claim up to $20,000 for damaged crops under the program.

Bill 417

During the legislative session held yesterday afternoon, Respicio introduced an amendment to Bill 417, the law enforcement overtime compensation measure, which provides $400,000 in funding for farmers' crop damage compensation.

“This funding is very much needed by our local farmers so they can get the seeds and other materials necessary to replant their crops,” Respicio said. “I am pleased that my colleagues recognized this need and joined me in acting decisively to help our farmers.”


 

Legislation providing funding for police overtime passed

Friday, 31 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Guam Legislature yesterday unanimously passed Bill 417-32 which provides funding for the unpaid overtime pay due law enforcement personnel.

The bill, as amended on the floor, was introduced by Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, which appropriates funds from the supplemental appropriations revenue (SAR) fund for the payment of government of Guam employee and law enforcement personnel unpaid overtime costs and for other purposes.

The measure mirrors Bill 415, legislation passed by the body on Oct. 24, which is now awaiting action from Gov. Eddie Calvo.

The vice speaker said the legislation removed a line in Bill 415 which excludes the Guam Police Department employees assigned to the governor's executive security detail from the supplemental appropriations revenue fund appropriations for GPD overtime costs in fiscal 2014.

Bill 417 removes the exclusion, which had been a concern for the vice speaker, who said he believes that Bill 415 may be vetoed because of the provision which prevents overtime payments to the governor’s security detail.

During session, Sen. Brant McCreadie introduced an amendment authorizing the Guam Fire Department to pay prior year outstanding overtime.

Sen. Rory Respicio also introduced an amendment providing $400,000 in funding for farmers' crop damage compensation.

Respicio introduced the amendment following a hearing yesterday morning with the Department of Agriculture on the status of the compensation for crop damage due to recent storms.

“This funding is very much needed by our local farmers so they can get the seeds and other materials necessary to replant their crops,” Respicio said. “I am pleased that my colleagues recognized this need and joined me in acting decisively to help our farmers.”

Overtime

The legislature passed the substitute version of Bill 415 last week.

Cruz, acting chairman of the committee on appropriations, proffered the substitute version of the bill, which would not directly appropriate money but instead would make the agencies draw down funds from supplemental appropriations revenue fund revenues to address unpaid overtime as well as other costs.

As proposed by Cruz, funds will be transferred into the supplemental appropriations revenue account and the agencies will be authorized to draw down from it, “so that we’ll know where the money is at.”

The new version of the bill also has a provision in place that would prevent the transfer of money out of the account to pay for other expenses.

The Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2011 established the SAR fund. Surplus money from other funding sources have been placed under the supplemental appropriations revenue fund and appropriated in the past to ensure various GovGuam agencies “deemed vital” would be funded, despite limited resources available.



17 families receive Chamorro Land Trust land leases


Friday, 31 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


Meal program for elderly expanded

THE Calvo administration announced yesterday that 17 families were issued land on which they can start building their houses and livelihood. It also announced the island’s senior citizens will benefit from an expanded meal program.

Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio issued 17 Chamorro Land Trust Commission residential and agricultural leases on Wednesday. “I know some of you have waited over 20 years to get to this point,” Tenorio said in a statement.

“We’re cleaning up the system and making it more efficient so we can process applications faster. We still have a ways to go, but every day we move closer to helping more Guamanians and their families receive their piece of paradise. I want to thank the Department of Land Management and the Chamorro Land Trust Commission for all the hard work they’ve done to assist these families,” Tenorio said.

Gov. Eddie Calvo said land has been a vital piece of the culture of the Chamorro people. “For generations, land has been passed down as an inheritance for their children to live off of and develop. When the federal government took it, lives were disrupted. Yesterday, 17 more families received lands they will build houses on or use for crops to feed their families. These leases are more than just pieces of paper. This is where families will begin to lay foundations for their families to thrive,” Calvo said in a statement.

Calvo added his administration will not stop working until they return all land to their rightful landowners, and help more families start building their dreams.

Expansion

Besides the awarding of 17 pieces of land to local families, the governor also announced the expansion of the manåmko’ meals program.

Starting on Sunday, Calvo guaranteed that all senior citizens will receive at least one hot meal every day of the year.

The expansion, Calvo said, was in consideration that there are hundreds of elderly who are alone and can’t afford, or don’t have the ability, to feed themselves.

Under the existing program, senior citizens get delivery of hot nutritional meals in their homes from Monday to Friday. The service was outsourced to the best qualified bidder and is federally funded.

Using local funds, Calvo said the program will be expanded – which will now include Saturday and Sunday meal service. The Saturday meal was initiated last year.

The administration, in a statement, said the Sunday meal expansion was made possible by the $500,000 earmarked by the governor in his fiscal 2015 budget submission.

The Division of Senior Citizens, which administers the hot meal program, is under the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

According to the administration, the provision of hot meals on weekends will continue so long as the governor and the legislature annually budget $1 million to pay for it.

The program is for seniors age 60 years and older who have been determined eligible. More than 1,000 eligible seniors are being served Monday through Sunday, with the exception of recognized government of Guam holidays.


 

Final face off at Great Debate

Friday, 31 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Gutierrez, Calvo shake up UOG

IN THEIR final matchup before the general election, Gov. Eddie Calvo and former Gov. Carl Gutierrez took to the University of Guam Calvo Field House stage to speak about education, homelessness and the new private hospital in the first round of the debate.

Supporters could hardly contain their outbursts of “Biba” even during the singing of the National Anthem and the Guam Hymn, erupting into deafening cheers at every chance they got.

Calvo was first to speak and opened by addressing allegations of tax write-offs favoring a family business, and said Gutierrez’s claims were false. Calvo said he would focus on his record during the debate.

Gutierrez started off his three-minute introduction in Chamorro and said he was selected because of a Democratic movement. With about one minute left in his introduction, Gutierrez handed the microphone off to his running mate, Gary Gumataotao, who walked across the stage and addressed Calvo directly.

Gumataotao said the alleged $3.6 million in tax write-offs belonged to the people and not to his friends.

Calvo spoke of the past four years and said he stabilized the economy. Gutierrez said in the last four months, the Democratic team’s campaign gained momentum. Where Calvo said his administration gave confidence, Gutierrez said Calvo’s administration borrowed to the limit and the people face a future of unimaginable debt.

Homelessness

Calvo said during his administration, homelessness is still too high but lower than when he first started. Calvo also said the number of homeless people during the Gutierrez administration went from 0 to 1,264, but Gutierrez said Calvo’s numbers were without merit.

Calvo said his administration has begun to build affordable homes and will continue to do so, but Gutierrez accused the governor of evicting a family with seven children from one of those emergency homes. “That is not the islander way,” Gutierrez said.

When the candidates were asked about self-determination, Calvo said he preferred statehood but added that anything is better than an unincorporated territory. Gutierrez said he would continue talks of decolonization in the spirit of the late Sen. Ben Pangelinan, a vocal proponent for decolonization.

Calvo said under his administration he was able to keep UOG tuition rates stable by working with the legislature and the UOG administration. Gutierrez said one way he would help keep tuition rates low is by finding a funding source and dedicating a certain percentage of it to a “lock box” for the university.

The candidates for lieutenant governor went head-to-head in the second round and spoke about tourism and the number of law enforcement officers. Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio said there are enough police officers on the streets and there are more, while Gumataotao said Guam needs 464 uniformed officers according to a federal report and Guam does not have enough.

In the third round, Calvo and Gutierrez were asked what agency they would give $1 million to if they had the funding. Gutierrez said he would give it to Guam Memorial Hospital and use the money to help the hospital’s finances.

Calvo said he would look at several agencies, including the Department of Public Health and Social Services or the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, but not one agency; instead, he said he would focus on the most needy.

Each candidate had three minutes to open the debate and had two minutes to answer each question posed by the UOG student panel, followed by two minutes for the opposing candidate to rebut.

The debate was organized by the 14 UOG students studying to earn their master’s degree in public administration. UOG professor John Rivera said he was impressed by the students’ ability to organize the large event in about two months and said he hoped voters walked away more informed about the gubernatorial candidates.

The proceeds from the ticket sales will benefit the UOG School of Business and Public Administration, the students, and will be used for future debates.



Candidates for utilities commission lay out their platforms


Thursday, 30 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY MONETH DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


SEVEN of the 11 candidates for the only three seats up for election on the Consolidated Commission on Utilities yesterday laid out their plans if they make it to the commission in next week’s general election.

Hosted by the Association of Government Accountants, yesterday’s meet and greet with the CCU candidates was held at the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort.

On the panel were two incumbent commissioners, Simon Sanchez and Eloy Hara, and hopeful newcomers Fred Tupaz, Bill Hagen, George Bamba, William Payne and Jose Servino.

Four contenders were not at the forum – incumbent commissioner Benigno Palomo, Francis Santos, Andrew Leon Guerrero and Earl Garrido.

Prior to the forum, each candidate was given the opportunity to respond in writing to three questions from the association members:


  • Why they think they are qualified to be a CCU member;

  • What they will do to ensure ratepayers are provided efficient power and water utility service; and

  • What areas they see need improvement at Guam Power Authority and Guam Waterworks Authority.

    Sanchez

    In introducing himself, Sanchez said that among the 11 candidates he sees himself as the most qualified for the position, citing his many years of service at the utilities commission as well as the progress and development instituted under his leadership.

    Twelve years ago, he recalled, Guam’s water agency was threatened to be placed under receivership as a result of serious deficiencies in its operation. Because of the leadership’s commitment to rectify the problems, receivership was avoided, he said.

    “With 18 years of combined experience in utility regulation and operations, I understand well the challenges of balancing the needs of the ratepayer with the needs of the ratepayer-owned utility,” according to Sanchez’s written response.

    Sanchez said there is a need to find ways to reduce utility rates and this can be done by reducing the amount of oil used, maximizing renewable energy, and reducing operating costs. For the area where improvement is needed, he cited the need for more consistent and customer-focused service.

    Bamba

    Bamba said once elected, he “would bring a separate mindset in how to move forward without further burdening the ratepayers and to effectively reduce current power costs substantially.”

    He said he will advocate for investment in alternative/renewable sources greater than what is currently proposed. Bamba will also advocate for more independent power producers to ensure efficiency of generators. Transparency, he said, should be improved at GPA and GWA.

    Hagan

    Hagen said, “I do not believe that the rates will ever come down, sorry. Rates can be stabilized by focusing on what these two organizations do best – production and delivery.”
    Renewable energy is the future, he said. “I believe that GPA should begin forming partnerships with their customer base for the installation of what is known as ‘distributive renewable generation,’” he said.

    Hara

    Hara said he is qualified for the CCU post based on his experience at the utility commission, training and education. Most of the major areas of improvement are contained in both GWA and GPA master plans which could be realized by cutting overtime and labor costs through attrition and downsizing.

    Payne

    Payne said that research and comparison with other alternative energy producing systems and producers to include costs must be undertaken to ensure the right direction is taken prior to committing expensive investments.

    “We, the ratepayers, continue to pay for the high fuel costs. As of Oct. 24, 2014, oil costs are down. Oil is at $80 per barrel and projected to drop even lower. We need to have liquid fuel procurement professionals involved in negotiating fuel procurement contracts to ensure we get the bang for the bucks,” said Payne in his response, adding that improvements for GWA are still highly desirable in field operations.

    Servino

    Servino said his capability as a professional engineer, coupled with his experience and training, will be an asset to the commission.

    “I will be very vigilant in reviewing all plans and actions to ensure that the utilities will use the management and objective system approach to be more efficient, effective, and reliable to keep rates down,” he said.

    Like other candidates, he said he sees the need for better customer service at GPA and GWA, as well as reliability and transparency.

    Tupaz

    As a ratepayer, candidate Tupaz said he understands the struggles of residents who are going through the rising costs of utilities. With his educational background and work experiences, he’s convinced he can help CCU in its mission.

    If he is elected, Tupaz promised: “I would focus on improving the way we communicate with our customers, align and communicate the CCU’s strategic plans with our customers, control our two largest expenses – personnel and fuel – without sacrificing delivery of services to our customers. I will also focus on next generation leadership and succession planning to ensure we have locals, capable leaders to take our utilities into the next millennium.”



Investigation launched on leaked tax documents

Thursday, 30 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

 

Rev & Tax taps U.S. attorney, AG, IRS

THE Department of Revenue and Taxation has launched a criminal investigation to find out who leaked private tax documents that were recently published on the Guamblog website, according to Arthur Clark, chief policy advisor for Gov. Eddie Calvo.

DRT has also involved the federal authorities to include the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI, Clark said. DRT will also likely include the attorney general in the investigation.

Clark said yesterday that while neither he nor DRT could authenticate the documents posted online, “we can assume that if there’s an investigation, it’s an investigation into criminal activity.”

Tax documents are confidential information and not available for public access, according to Clark, which is why an investigation has been launched to find out who distributed the confidential information.

“We expect that there will be full repercussions for the breaking of the law here,” he said. The individuals who released the information and any individual that copied it and posted online may have broken the law, Clark added.

While former Gov. Carl Gutierrez may not have had the documents in his possession, Clark said Gutierrez did know about the documents because he acknowledged Ernst & Young as working with Calvo companies. Ernst & Young is one of the companies whose documents had been uploaded online.

‘Has Gutierrez broken the law?’

“Has Gov. Gutierrez – by talking about it – broken the law? I wouldn’t go as far as saying by talking about it, but I think the serious question that needs to be asked is ...  how long has he known about that Ernst & Young letter? Obviously he knew about it when he was saying on Monday, ‘We’re going to have to disqualify Ernst & Young,’” Clark said. “How long has he known all the facts?”

Gutierrez is not some outsider viewing these tax documents online like everyone else, Clark said. “He is aware of all of these documents.”

The documents, posted online allegedly by Guamblog author Romeo Carlos, allege that Calvo’s Insurance received over $3 million in tax write-offs. Gubernatorial candidate Carl Gutierrez has publicly questioned Gov. Calvo whether this alleged write-off is true since the candidates’ first debate at the Rotary Club of Guam on Oct. 9.

Calvo has said in a press release and at the Guam Medical Association debate that he did not authorize any write-offs and said the claims Gutierrez is making are false.

Gutierrez has said Calvo’s answers are “lawyerly” and “doublespeak” and went so far as to imply that Calvo’s canceled appearances at two recent debates are tactics to avoid answering the question again.

On Oct 27, Guamblog allegedly posted documents that appear to be private tax information from a national insurance company that apparently request that $3 million in interest and penalty assessments be waived for tax periods ending in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012.

Clark also said the businesses for whom the waiver was requested is “not owned by the Calvos. They just do business with the Calvos.” Calvo’s Insurance Underwriters represents the companies named on the document. Further, the form posted on Guamblog is just a request and is not evidence that DRT director authorized any waivers, Clark also said.

‘No write-off’

“Gov. Calvo said from the beginning there was no write-off given to any family business,” Clark said.

Clark said he spoke on behalf of the governor because “Gov. Calvo has a government to run. I understand how his opponent has a lot of free time on his hands but the governor needs to devote himself not to these distractions. He needs to devote himself to doing the people’s business.”

Clark said the purported Ernst &Young letter is not an indication of tax write-offs but instead shows a company that had been underpaying taxes for seven years and of its own initiative, paid the overdue taxes.

DRT had not been asking the company, AIG, to correct its mistake and instead the company filed an amendment to their tax returns and paid more than $5 million in owed taxes, which is stated in the Ernst & Young letter.

As for the documents posted on his blog, Guamblog author Romeo Carlos said he does not have a reaction to the investigation. “If I have to say something, then, two words: Edward. Snowden.”

Fernandez outlines education department accomplishments

Thursday, 30 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

LAST night’s 2014 State of Public Education address by Guam Department of Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez drew a standing ovation from the audience but Fernandez, who has been in office for 28 months, attributed GDOE’s achievements to all the people behind the department.

"The state of education is really an opportunity to tell the public what we are doing as a department. So I think it just reflects full support, not for me personally, but for all the work that we are all doing at the Guam Department of Education. That means, our administrators, teachers, and staffers ... we have all been working hard this year to get things done," he said, adding, "The standing ovation, that was for them."

For two years in a row, Fernandez has delivered the State of Public Education address. This time, the event coincided with election season but the superintendent kept it light and humorous, saying that although some may want to know whether he'll say anything political tonight, he had made a firm commitment to keep politics out of education.

"Before I get too far into my speech, I just want to address something right off the bat: we’re in the middle of an election season. Election Day is just around the corner. The candidates are out there beating the pavement for votes," he said.

"Well, when I took on this role as superintendent, I made a firm commitment to keep politics out of education. And I’m going to stick to it. So let me take this opportunity to make an announcement up front: I will not be endorsing any of the candidates for Student Council president at Tamuning Elementary School. My daughter is going to be mad – she’s running for president," he said to the amusement of the audience.

Looking back

With 41 schools – 26 elementary schools, eight middle schools, now six high schools and an alternative program, staffed by 1,950 teachers and 3,800 employees – Fernandez stressed that what GDOE does impacts Guam’s future. That includes the 30,500 students enrolled in the public school system.

"One year ago, I was here on this stage and I said I had the best job in the world – being superintendent of the Guam Department of Education. I still believe that. As I visit schools, I see hard work. I see teamwork. I see leadership and focus. Not everywhere yet, but in steady and growing abundance. As I go around our system, I see progress. Parents, who may have doubted our school system, now have hope. Partners and staffers who have supported our schools over the years now see growth. Administrators and teachers are partnering to improve teaching and learning. And all of this is for our students. It’s exciting and it’s positive. And it makes me so proud to be a part of this team," he said.

Fernandez outlined some of GDOE's accomplishments over the past year, including the $22 million Okkodo High School expansion; the $12 million Untalan Middle School renovation; the opening of the new Tiyan High School; and the relocation of the GDOE central office.

During the past months, Fernandez said GDOE was also able to start several sports facility projects, including upgrades to the gym at Jose Rios Middle School and renovations to the George Washington High School track. GDOE also anticipates breaking ground on a new gym for Tiyan High School.

Fernandez also mentioned collaborative efforts between the Guam Legislature and Gov. Eddie Calvo to move forward with legislation to finance $100 million in school modernization projects, beginning with a renovation of Simon Sanchez High School and a master facilities plan to guide future improvements across the school system.

GDOE also expects to finalize a renewable energy program agreement soon, which will allow the department to install ground-mounted solar panels this school year at four leased schools – Okkodo High School, Astumbo Middle School, Adacao Elementary, and Liguan Elementary.

Over time, GDOE also plans to expand its ability to tap renewable energy across more schools via legislation. Fernandez also mentioned that GDOE installed more than 2,200 energy-efficient air conditioners across the school system, including the cafeterias at Juan M. Guerrero and Maria Ulloa Elementary Schools, which have never had air-conditioning.

"As we go forward, we need to think about how we are going to help our students map out their path to success. But as we do so, let’s take off our hats as elected officials, directors, educators, academics, business leaders. Let’s look at our work as parents wanting our children to get the best education that can be provided. Let’s look at these issues from the perspective of a student, looking for affirmation, for relevance, for inspiration, and for the opportunity to prove that he or she can succeed in life," Fernandez said.



United begins daily nonstop flights between Guam and Seoul


Tuesday, 28 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY FRANK WHITMAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


UNITED Airlines yesterday inaugurated daily nonstop service between Guam and Seoul, Korea. The first flight arrived in Guam from Seoul’s Incheon International Airport at 3:33 a.m. – about a half hour ahead of schedule – and the return flight departed about four hours later.

According to airline officials, the service is a reflection of changing conditions in Guam tourism as the number of Korean visitors to the island continues to show strong growth, more than doubling over the last four years.

“We think Korea provides an attractive place for us to deploy assets because of the fact that it is growing,” said Jake Cefolia, vice president for Atlantic and Pacific sales for United. “There are people who are taking more vacations now and there are some niche markets from Korea that Guam serves very, very well. One example of that is the honeymoon market.”

Preliminary arrival numbers for fiscal 2014 indicate 293,437 arrivals – a 26 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Guam Visitors Bureau. In fiscal 2011, Korean arrivals to Guam were 144,844.

The new service is operated on a Boeing 737-800 aircraft with 155 seats, 14 of which are United business class. Under the new schedule, Flight UA163 is scheduled to depart the A.B. Won Pat International Airport daily at 8:05 a.m. and to arrive at Incheon at 12:10 p.m. Flight UA164 is to depart Incheon daily at 10:25 p.m. and arrive at Guam at 4 a.m. the following day, according to the airline.

Presence

United has a well-established presence in Korea as it began nonstop service to the country in 1986 and currently flies daily nonstop between Incheon and San Francisco and Incheon and Tokyo.

United’s presence in Seoul facilitated the new Guam flights, Cefolia told Variety last week. “One of the things that makes that an attractive market for us is that we already have significant infrastructure on the ground there,” he said. “We already have a sales organization there. We already have relationships with distributors, with tour operators. So it’s much easier for us to turn on business in Korea than it would in Russia, for example, where we don’t have that same infrastructure.”

United plans to compete with the low-cost carriers that serve much of the Korean travel to Guam. Jin Air, a subsidiary of Korean Air, began its Guam service in April 2010 and doubled its Guam flight frequency to twice daily in October 2013. Jeju Air began its Guam service in September 2012 and similarly doubled its service in November 2013.

“We’ll compete on every basis – fare, schedule,” Cefolia said. “One of the things that we do that’s distinct from low-cost carriers is we have a sales and service infrastructure which they generally don’t.”

Other carriers rely heavily on Internet sales, and customers may find it difficult to talk to someone to resolve problems that may arise after the sale is made. While United also sells on the Internet, most of its Korea sales are through third-party distributors including tour operators, travel agencies and similar entities. “We provide a lot of service to those guys,” he said. “So they have a dedicated sales support organization that they can call for help. That makes a difference. A lot of times, they have the confidence to sell United because they know that if something goes wrong, they’ve got a safety net there.”

The new Korea service comes two days before the airline begins twice weekly service between Guam and Shanghai, China.

Power bills being reduced by 10%

Posted: Oct 28, 2014  by Sabrina Salas Matanane  KUAM

Guam - The Consolidated Commission on Utilities has authorized the Guam Power Authority to lower the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause or LEAC. The lower fuel recovery rate will reduce an overall residential power bill by approximately 10 percent. This means that an average household using 1000 kWh will have their power bills lowered by $27.61. The decrease goes in to effect on November 1st. According to CCU Chairperson Simon Sanchez "Although the Guam Power Authority will still officially file a petition with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), we are confident that the PUC will not object to lowering power bills." He added "This is the right thing to do for ratepayers." Interim GPA General Manager John Benavente says "High baseload availability, continued collections on electricity accounts coupled with the drop in fuel oil prices have contributed to this overall decrease in residential bills.



Assisted living care on Guam critically needed

Monday, 27 Oct 2014 03:00am

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

TIME is of the essence.

I’ll be 80 years old next year, and while I feel in good enough health to get around independently, I know every year really, really counts at this stage of my life. Mine is the last generation of World War II children. My hope and prayer for this generation of man'åmko', and the others that follow, is an assisted living complex at Oka Point in Tamuning. It would be a distinct symbol of respect for Guam’s senior community.

Don’t be deceived. When you look at an elderly person and they don’t quickly engage in a conversation with you, we’re probably just assessing the situation. One thing is for sure, we’re observing. We know what’s going on around us. We see that our children, who in some cases, are struggling to balance their own lives because of work, family and personal needs are sacrificing their resources and a very rare commodity these days – their time – to drive us around, to take us to see our doctor, get our prescription medication from the pharmacy, to take us to church, or even shopping and to ensure that we sleep well at night. We are also aware that this can sometimes be a very frustrating responsibility. Establishing an assisted living center, with temporary residential units and programs designed to help heal elderly patients could really help to solve all that.

Assisted living patient care is an extension of hospital patient care, in that Medicaid/Medicare patients who have exhausted their stay at Guam Memorial Hospital (because Medicare/Medicaid places a limit on the patient’s length of stay) could then be covered at the assisted living facility, which will have round-the-clock care until the elderly patients have fully recovered. This would offer patients the regular and frequent observation and treatment they would need from health care professionals.

I congratulate and say, “God bless you,” to Dr. Vince Akimoto for his work on this project. As part of his dream for an assisted living center on Guam, he also hopes the assisted care facility could be a satellite location for the University of Guam and Guam Community College’s nursing programs. The hope is that student nurses could complete their practicum and receive hands-on training as they care for the elderly patients at the facility.

There are tens of thousands of assisted living care facilities in the United States. Different governments there have seen a clear need for them. It’s not just about caring for the elderly on Guam. You don’t have to think too deeply about it to know that it’s really about caring for one another. We’re all getting older. Let’s begin proper and affordable health care with the first assisted living complex on Guam.

Ta gof necesita este na setbisio i “Ayudan Lina’la.” Si Yu’os ma’åse.

Carmen Artero Kasperbauer,
Former Guam Legislature Senator,
Dededo

Eight more days!

Monday, 27 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY RON MCNINCH

AS WE enter the last week, a lot of things are still going on. But several of the races now are fairly set. I think that the attorney general race is virtually over. The legislative races are still very active and no one really cares about the utilities or education boards. Of course, that finally leaves the race for governor and most people are keenly interested in this race.

Since the AG race is nonpartisan, I will openly talk about it before the election. A number of factors really tend to favor Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson in this race including the points that she was a former AG, senator and judge. She is a strong female candidate and she has a very good foundation for this particular job. Unfortunately, the AG position has never really actualized its potential in our community and it is likely Judge Barrett-Anderson will work to mend quite a number of political fences. As a last point, it is a tough job being AG and it is a very difficult job to politically maintain.

In the legislative races, first there is a huge amount of power in incumbency. All else equal, there are 13 incumbents running in this race and there are two open slots. Certain incumbents tend to do very well from year to year and this group includes Sens. Aguon, Tom Ada, Tony Ada, Barnes, Won Pat, Respicio, B.J. Cruz, Morrison, Rodriguez and Yamashita. This group of 10 should be re-elected. If we include the two consolation candidates, former Sens. Jim Espaldon and Frank Blas Jr., there are three remaining seats. These last seats will likely be strongly vied for by a number of candidates or current senators including Mike San Nicolas, Brant McCreadie, Judi Guthertz, Nerissa Underwood, Adolpho Palacios and Chris Duenas. Other candidates on the margin may also drop, including Glenn Leon Guerrero and Derick Hills. Of course anything can happen, but in a 15-person group setting, it is a fairly difficult task to get the group averages right for final placement. So a person in the top 12 could finish in the bottom five. Or not get elected at all. Also, someone not on this list could drop in and win.

The education policy board and utility board elections are a bit boring. Most of the current members will be re-elected and there are a number of good reasons we can discuss in the future why this is the case. The delegate race may be the closest race in a long time.

Unlike off-year elections, on-year elections are more turbulent and fun to watch. As I have said before, the governor’s races always inject a lot of energy into elections and off-year elections are just not the same. In this current year, the Democrats are playing a strong party unity card and this is largely due to the selfless and low-key work of Sen. Rory Respicio. The Republicans are having cohesion problems, but this is the problem of every party that holds the governor’s position. We have not had a Democratic governor in nearly 12 years and this has made the Republicans dominant in the executive branch. It has also forced the Democrats to be very political in the trenches of legislative work.

On a final note, Wednesday will be the Great Debate for candidates for attorney general and delegate to Congress sponsored by the University of Guam School of Business and Public Administration. Thursday, Oct. 30 will be the Great Debate for the gubernatorial teams. The greatest debate will happen between Friday and Tuesday – the day of the elections. Good luck to all candidates!

CCU okays cut in GPA fuel charge

Tuesday, 28 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Power bills may go down by 10.2 percent by Nov. 1

EFFECTIVE Nov. 1, residents using 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) may have their power bills lowered by $27.61, should the Public Utilities Commission approve the resolution submitted by the Guam Power Authority.

Last night, the Consolidated Commission on Utilities authorized GPA management to file a resolution petitioning the PUC to approve the lowering of the power authority’s Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause – the fuel surcharge that GPA adjusts periodically in line with world oil prices.

According to the power authority, the impact of lower fuel prices in the world market in addition to other factors has led to an unanticipated decrease in the LEAC factor for the remaining three months, starting Nov. 1 up to Jan. 31, 2015.

GPA has determined that the LEAC for secondary voltage service customers can be decreased from $.176441 per kWh to $.148767 per kWh for the three-month period.

The change in the LEAC factor to $.148767 per kWh would result in a decrease of 10.21 percent in the total bill or $27.67 per month for a residential customer utilizing an average of 1,000 kilowatt hours per month.

“Although the Guam Power Authority will still officially file a petition with the Public Utilities Commission, we are confident that the PUC will not object to lowering power bills,” stated CCU chairman Simon Sanchez. “This is the right thing to do for ratepayers.”

Other factors

Meanwhile, GPA interim General Manager John Benavente said high baseload availability and continued collections on electricity accounts coupled with the drop in fuel oil prices have contributed to this overall decrease in residential bills.

"We are happy to make this announcement to our ratepayers," Benavente said.

GPA is allowed to recover its fuel costs and fuel-related costs under a factor which is reset every six months through the LEAC.

The deadline for the next filing is Dec. 15.

According to GPA, the worldwide cost of fuel has dropped significantly since the last LEAC adjustment from approximately $91 per oil barrel (bbl) at the beginning of this LEAC period to a low of $71/bbl in October and this will cause GPA to significantly over-recover its fuel costs.

GPA’s forecast for this unadjusted over-recovery of fuel costs will be approximately $10 million.

The market price of fuel at the initial time of filing for this LEAC period was projected to be $103.24/bbl for the six-month period ending Jan. 31, 2015. The current projection for the same period including three months of actual purchase data is $86.699/bbl.

Power bills being reduced by 10%

Posted: Oct 28, 2014  by Sabrina Salas Matanane  KUAM

Guam - The Consolidated Commission on Utilities has authorized the Guam Power Authority to lower the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause or LEAC. The lower fuel recovery rate will reduce an overall residential power bill by approximately 10 percent. This means that an average household using 1000 kWh will have their power bills lowered by $27.61. The decrease goes in to effect on November 1st. According to CCU Chairperson Simon Sanchez "Although the Guam Power Authority will still officially file a petition with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), we are confident that the PUC will not object to lowering power bills." He added "This is the right thing to do for ratepayers." Interim GPA General Manager John Benavente says "High baseload availability, continued collections on electricity accounts coupled with the drop in fuel oil prices have contributed to this overall decrease in residential bills.



Luna Festival keeps Guam’s art alive

Monday, 27 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY TOM MAXEDON | FOR VARIETY

DO NOT ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive because what the world needs is people who come alive.”

That quote from African-American author, philosopher and theologian Howard Thurber is featured prominently on Michelle Pier’s Creative Indeed website.

For those who attended or exhibited at the 6th Annual Luna Festival at Jeff’s Pirates Cove yesterday, those words definitely rang true.

“We had over a thousand people come through to visit the 42 vendors this year, said Pier, who created the event in 2009 “as a platform to showcase Guam’s diverse array of local talent and bring together the different creative disciplines of our island.”

According to Pier this was the most successful turnout she’s experienced both in the number of people who exhibited their work and those who attended.

Donning a pixie costume, Pier, who encouraged exhibitors and visitors to come dressed up so close to Halloween, was not alone in her choice of attire.

Amber Word of Blue Amber Trio also got into the spirit as the pixie dust was evidently powerful. “At first, I thought about going as a pirate but the wings won out.”

Word is a multi-talented artist and musician and a recent transplant to Guam from Thailand. Her work now bears the official Guam product seal under the moniker Blue Amber Trio and is available at AAFB, Big Navy as well as the Wednesday Night Market at Chamorro Village.

Jewelers, face painters, musicians, carvers, cartoonists, weavers, fashion enthusiasts and even bartenders juggling spirits entertained the throngs of people who attended.

Whether inspired by the opportunity to sell their arts and crafts, or something deeper such as keeping traditional Chamorro practices like weaving alive, the range in offerings was dynamic.

Exhibitor Thomas Torres learned weaving from his master weaver grandmother, Lucia, and his father. He is intent on keeping the art alive. “Most people my age would rather check their Facebook than pick up a coconut leaf and practice weaving.”

Torres holds frequent seminars at Sagan Kotturan Chamoru and is especially interested in teaching children. “It’s all about the kids when it comes to keeping this important piece of our culture alive.”

 



Guam hosting World Health Conference in 2015


Posted: Oct 24, 2014    by Jolene Toves    KUAM

Guam - For the first time in history Guam will host the World Health Organization Conference, set for next year.

It was last week Public Health director James Gillan visited Manila for the 65th WHO Regional Committee Meeting it was there that Guam was chosen to host the world health organization conference set for next year.  "We advertised us as 'Where America's Day Begins', and the last two years it has been in manila so they are looking for a change really a lot of very pleased people it came as a result of almost three years worth of working with doctor shin who is the regional director of the Western Pacific Office."

37 countries will be sending about 350 delegates to our island to discuss a variety of world health issues. According to Gillan hosting a conference of this magnitude is not going to be cheap. "We managed to get the federal government to assist us with some of the costs because this is not going to be cheap when you relocate almost all of the Western Pacific regional staff to come and support this meeting that's a big expense because we have to pay airfare per diem transporting about a thousand pounds of equipment," he continued.

He says the federal government through HHS Global Affairs has provided funding to pay for that part of the expenses. He adds that the Governor's Office is also committed to supporting the event and will be providing the venue. Gillan says an advance team from WHO is on island who are looking at different hotels for a possible venue, saying, "We are going to be in Tumon because it is an ideal location there is everything there for them to see it will be right now it is tentatively scheduled for October 12th through the 16th of 2015."

Gillan says this is an opportunity to bring all the South Pacific islands and countries together and join. He says what they are looking for is a policy change with the Office of Global Affairs so that the Northern and the Southern Pacific regions can share common health issues. According to Gillan while he will have a better sense of the conference agenda next month he says three issues he believes will be focused on are 2015 development goals for maternal and child health and reduction in infant mortality, strengthening international health regulations and non-communicable diseases. 



Lack of funding forces government to pull map website feature


Monday, 27 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


THE Guam map website’s parcel lot feature was removed because the maintenance contract is nearing expiration, according to Lorilee Crisostomo, director of the Bureau of Statistics and Plans.


The government of Guam map website used to allow users to access satellite images of properties on Guam with corresponding parcel lot numbers, viewable on their computers but in the last seven months the website was shut down, then restored but without the parcel lot numbers on the satellite images.

The feature had been a crucial tool for realtors, contractors and developers, said realtor Christopher Felix. He said he deals with many land parcels and it is too time-consuming to visit the Department of Land Management office regularly just to view satellite images of the land along with parcel lot numbers.

Crisostomo said BSP is working with Department of Administration and the Office of Technology and other government agencies that use the application to find funding to share the cost. The funding would be used for the license agreement to update information into the database as well as fund the maintenance contract.

The map website was initially funded two years ago through a technical assistance grant from the U.S. Department of Interior. The grant was seed money to develop the map website, Crisostomo said. Crisostomo did not say how much the maintenance contract would cost or how much it would cost to have the lot number feature back up and running.

While the lot number feature is still unavailable online, individuals who need such information can go through Land Management or BSP’s Guam Coastal Management Program office for information on a specific lot. Crisostomo said the office is at the Sinajaña complex building across the street from Pay-Less Supermarket in that village. It is between the Civil Service Commission office and the Guam Police Department’s Boating Safety office.

Felix said he had been using the website and the lot number feature for about a year and a half before the website was shut down.

Felix said without that feature, the website is much like using Google Maps to view satellite images of the island.



Draft range review open for comment


Saturday, 25 Oct 2014 03:00am


PRESS RELEASE


 (NAVFAC) – Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific announced on Oct. 22 the availability of the Draft Guam Training Range Review and Analysis for review and public comment through Dec. 9 (ChST).


The draft range review and analysis addresses historic properties and other cultural resources in alternative areas for the proposed Live Fire Training Range Complex evaluated in the Guam and Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands Military Relocation (2012 Roadmap Adjustments) Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

The 2011 Programmatic Agreement requires Department of Defense to consult with signatories, Invited signatories, concurring parties and the public regarding potential effects to historic properties associated with the proposed construction and operations of training ranges on Guam.

Information regarding the proposed project is available to the public for a 45-day public comment period. The information can be found on the NavFac Pacific Cultural Information website at http://go.usa.gov/kZWG. (The URL is case sensitive). Comments may be submitted via email at tocriwebcomment[at]navy.mil.

Those without Internet access can obtain a hard copy of the Draft Guam TRRA from the Guam Historic Resources Division, located in the Department of Parks and Recreation Office in Agana Heights.




Bordallo, Metcalfe face off


Friday, 24 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


THE two candidates running for the U.S. congressional delegate seat in the upcoming election squared off for the first time in front of an audience yesterday afternoon, with incumbent Delegate Madeleine Bordallo listing her accomplishments in contrast to challenger Margaret Metcalfe’s call for a change in leadership.


Bordallo was the first to speak and noted that she has years of experience in the delegate seat. “My opponent is new to this, so she won’t have a record to compare with mine. If we were playing golf, to be fair, you would have to add some strokes to my score – maybe a lot of strokes,” Bordallo said.

Bordallo and Metcalfe spoke yesterday at the Rotary Club of Guam lunch meeting at the Pacific Star Resort & Spa. Yesterday’s forum was the last of a series of election forums hosted by the club.

For every question asked by Rotarians, Bordallo listed the strategies or initiatives she formulated in the past in support of the topic. When the issue of the Compacts of Free Association (COFA) was introduced, Republican candidate Metcalfe urged that there be a limit of migrants allowed into the island.

Bordallo, in turn, said her opponent’s approach is impractical, and echoed statements from Esther Kia’aina, assistant secretary of the Department of Interior's Office of Insular Affairs, that Guam be realistic about the budget environment in Washington. Bordallo also told the audience that during her term, the amount of Compact-impact funding increased sevenfold, from $4 million to $30 million.

Pressure

Metcalfe called for pressure in the U.S. Congress and the need for quotas for freely associated state migrants. Bordallo said while the current situation is not sustainable, FAS citizens make important contributions to the island and she does not agree that Guam should limit the number of migrants, adding that such an idea would be opposed by the Obama administration.

When Metcalfe called for increased representation for the island’s military veterans, she also said all of Guam’s veterans should be registered.

Bordallo countered her opponent’s statements by saying she has been a strong advocate for veterans issues. She said she pushed for the construction of the community-based outreach clinic and started a veterans advisory council.

Both candidates said they support the military buildup under certain conditions. Metcalfe said she would support the least invasive plan. Bordallo said she supports the buildup if it is beneficial for everyone and the concerns of the community are taken into account.

One Rotarian asked if the women had traveled to the Federated States of Micronesia, one of the freely associated states in the COFA, and asked what they had planned to help the FSM to improve conditions in that area.

Metcalfe said she had not traveled extensively to the FSM and said they are receiving funds from the federal government for improvements and also said the Compact is not being enforced.

Bordallo said she has traveled extensively to all the Micronesian islands, and that while setting limits is difficult, she will continue to work on getting money for Compact-impact reimbursements.

Bordallo said she has built relationships during her 12 years as delegate that are crucial now that the military buildup is near. “We cannot afford to start from the beginning,” she said.

Metcalfe said she is not a politician but a successful businesswoman and a local girl who grew up on Guam. “I would like to seek your approval to serve you and bring your voices to Washington,” she said. “You just need to look around to see our friends, our families and our island are hurting.”


Final FY2014 tax refunds to be sent today


Friday, 24 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY FRANK WHITMAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


GOV. Eddie Calvo announced yesterday that income tax refunds will be mailed to those taxpayers owed refunds whose 2013 tax returns are error-free and were filed before Sept. 30.


About $6 million in tax refunds will be mailed today to about 2,400 taxpayers, according to Phil Blas, Department of Administration spokesman.

Refunds are also being sent to taxpayers who filed returns with errors or whose payments were otherwise suspended, but whose filings have been rectified.

With the mailing, all income tax refunds due for returns filed during fiscal 2014 have been paid, administration officials said.

“That’s the fastest we’ve paid out tax refunds in 20 years,” Calvo said in a statement. “Our fiscal team has worked really hard to make this a reality.”

Today’s payment is the second large payout of government funds this week. On Monday, Calvo announced that he had ordered the Department of Administration to release about $15 million for cost of living allowance (COLA) payments to government of Guam retirees. The funds for the $2,000-per-retiree payment were released Tuesday and retirees received the money this week.

“(The COLA payment) is a little bit early,” Calvo, who is a candidate for re-election, said. “By law it’s supposed to be paid by Nov. 1. In previous years, administrators waited until the last minute to pay because cash was a problem. We’ve managed the finances well. We didn’t have to wait for the last minute.”

Calvo also noted that he called the Guam Legislature into session this week to consider legislation to pay $4 million in overdue overtime wages to Guam Police Department, Department of Corrections and Guam Fire Department personnel.


Investors urged to take advantage of Guam opportunities


Friday, 24 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


GUAM’S potential for growth coupled with the federal government’s “commitment and confidence” in the island is why private investors should take advantage of the opportunities to put their money into the Guam market, said Department of Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Esther Kia’aina.


Kia’aina spoke at the second day of the Guam Economic Development Authority’s Economic Symposium at the Hyatt Regency Guam to a crowd of about 150 people yesterday morning. Kia’aina is on Guam after meeting with Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands officials last week as part of her first official visit to the CNMI and Guam since assuming her current post.

“Guam is uniquely situated for growth and investment, and that is why this conference couldn’t be timelier,” Kia’aina said. “Together with the commitment and confidence that the federal government has committed on behalf of Guam I invite and encourage private investors to take advantage of the opportunities that the federal relationship with the territory provides in this part of our world.”

Kia’aina spoke of the various federal funds that Guam has been granted that affect major industries on Guam as evidence of the commitment and confidence the federal government has in the local economy.

Further, Kia’aina said the federal government will continue to work closely with the local government along with the private sector to provide economic opportunities for local people.

Funded

The Interior department has funded improvements to the island that include new school buses and an updated radio system for the Guam Police Department that benefit the current population and businesses, and also lays the groundwork to attract new investors to Guam, Kia’aina said.

The island was also given funds to help reduce its reliance on fossil fuels by 20 percent by the year 2020 by the Office of Insular Affairs. “That is a laudable and significant goal and an opportunity for investment,” Kia’aina said.

As the newest assistant secretary for Insular Affairs, Kia’aina said she will support federal collaboration in such areas and she encouraged private investors to do the same.

“Investing in Guam also means investing in critical issues like climate change which can have a major impact on Guam’s economy,” she said. “President Obama has made climate change one of his administration’s highest priorities.”

Kia’aina announced that a climate change coordinator will be established within the Insular Affairs office to help identify and coordinate federal agencies’ climate-change programs. She said this will help Guam and other territories develop a robust response to climate change.

At the symposium yesterday, Kia’aina also commended GEDA and Gov. Eddie Calvo for seizing the opportunity to improve Guam’s economy and said “sometimes the problem is not that territories are overlooked, but that they have trouble leveraging what is currently available.” She also said she will be urging the other American territories to leverage what is available to them.

Kia’aina also spoke about Compact-impact funding and said Insular Affairs will develop a uniform Compact-impact reporting process. Additionally her office plans to develop adequate health services in the freely associated states to help mitigate the effect it has on territories affected under the Compacts of Free Association.

However, if federal funds are limited because of federal constraints, Kia’aina said she will recommend that FAS citizens become eligible for SNAP Benefits, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. FAS citizens are not considered eligible for these programs since the Welfare Reform Act was enacted in 1996.


Bordallo assures Guam military buildup moving forward


Friday, 24 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


GUAM Delegate Madeleine Bordallo on Tuesday said the military buildup will be complete in seven to 10 years.


But she said that once it is done, Guam will see the multiple benefits for its people and its economy.

Bordallo made this assurance during a luncheon meeting with about 50 officials of the various Filipino organizations on Guam.

In acknowledging the delays in the original timeline for the military buildup project, Bordallo pointed out that it’s important to note at this time that the project is moving forward.

“The good news is, it is moving and may take seven to 10 years before everything is completed,” she told the group at the Seafood Chef Restaurant in Tamuning.

According to Bordallo, Guam’s unemployment rate is anticipated to dramatically reduce once the buildup is fully realized. The promise of new jobs for the people, as a result of construction projects lined up for the buildup, will help families sustain and recover the cost of living.

Bordallo said that by 2015, Guam will see the start of the infusion of millions and millions of dollars into the economy based on the long list of construction projects that are up for implementation.

She said the “heart” of the military buildup on Guam is jobs.

Bordallo said the Department of Defense submitted the military buildup master plan a few months ago, which was the requirement of the U.S. Senate to lift the freeze on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of funding for the construction of the Marine facilities on island.

Ironed out

She also said that previous concerns such as the housing location for military families who will be relocated as a result of the buildup have already been ironed out. The issue of the proposed firing range has also been addressed, including the concerns of some on the security fences which, she pointed out, are designed to mark safety zones.

She said decisions on some of these issues will be decided by DoD in April.

Under the revised buildup plan, about 5,000 Marines and 1,300 dependents are to be relocated to Guam from Okinawa.

Besides updates on the military buildup, Bordallo also talked about Medicare and Obamacare and how Guam could benefit from the federal law.

She also reminded the leaders that “Medicare is more than just reimbursement.”

Organizations’ leaders affirm support

In the luncheon with the delegate, the attendees affirmed their continued support for Bordallo, who is seeking re-election in the general election on Nov. 4 and is running against Margaret Metcalfe.

One by one, during their introduction, each official shared how their individual families and loved ones were touched by Bordallo’s “helping hand.”

A majority in the crowd said that they’ve been loyal supporters of the delegate and her family for decades.

Touched by the compliments and stories shared by attendees, Bordallo assured them that she will continue to serve with their best interest at heart, at all times.


New ER doctor at GMH to lead Guam Ebola preparations


Friday, 24 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


DR. GEORGINA Calderon is a new physician in the Guam Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department and will lead an Ebola response team, which hospital administrators put in place in the event the disease makes its way to Guam.


Calderon is an experienced physician specializing in emergency medicine who was working in Liberia at the start of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa earlier this year. She has been working at GMH for about a month.

“I’ve asked Dr. Calderon to help improve our Ebola preparedness here at GMH and she’s kindly agreed,” said Joseph Verga, GMH administrator.

Verga said Calderon will be offering the insight she gained from her experience in Liberia. “The hospital is taking Ebola preparedness very seriously,” Calderon said. “We’re in the process of reassessing hospital preparedness as (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines change.”

A four-step plan has been proposed and Calderon said the plan will also include the input of some of her colleagues in California and Massachusetts.

Calderon said Guam is “thankfully remote” and the risk of an Ebola case occurring here is low. “With that comes the thought that if it does happen, it’s a very high-risk occurrence so we have to balance those things out,” she said.

The four-step plan that will be developed in the coming weeks will take into account Guam’s location, the doctor said.

Delighted

Verga said the hospital is “delighted” to have Calderon head the response team and that there is probably no one else on the island with her medical background.

While she was in Liberia, Calderon said the conditions she worked under included the absence of running water and the facility she worked in ran on a generator. “It served a large area including some patients from neighboring counties. We were incredibly ill-prepared, nonetheless, I brought some privately donated personal protective equipment ... we set up an isolation unit,” she said. “It all really comes down to preparation.”

During her stay at a Liberia rural hospital, there were a couple of patients who they suspected had Ebola and were transferred to a larger hospital in the country that could treat the illness.

As Verga announced that Calderon would be leading the Ebola preparedness efforts, the hospital was wrapping up its International Infection Prevention Week complete with an Infection Control Fair, which featured a display of facts about Ebola.

Calderon received her undergraduate degree in Massachusetts and moved on to get a degree at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health followed by a medical degree from the University of California San Francisco. Calderon has worked in several countries and has been academically published about 30 times and speaks at least three languages.




Two announce write-in candidacy

Thursday, 23 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Romeo Carlos has informed the Guam Election Commission of his intention to run as a write-in candidate. Photo by Matt Weiss / Variety

GUAM voters in the Nov. 4 general election can vote for the candidate of their choice even if the name does not appear on the ballot.

Maria Pangelinan, executive director of the Guam Election Commission, told Variety yesterday that write-in candidates in every election – primary and general – are permitted under the law.

Except for the Guam Education Board, all positions being contested on Nov. 4 are open to write-in candidates.

As of yesterday, two individuals have informed the commission that they are running as write-in candidates. Patrick Iriarte told the commission he is running for the seat of the Guam delegate to Congress against incumbent Delegate Madeleine Bordallo of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party’s nominee for the position, Margaret Metcalfe.

Romeo Carlos has informed the GEC of his intention to run as a write-in candidate. However, Carlos didn’t say what office he is running for. However, Carlos participated in a forum for candidates for the 33rd Guam Legislature at Guam Community College on Tuesday.

The positions up for grabs in the general election include the offices of governor and lieutenant governor, seats in the 33rd Guam Legislature; the office of delegate to Congress, attorney general; seats on the Consolidated Commission on Utilities and on the Guam Education Board.

Pangelinan said that 15 seats are open for the Guam Legislature so voters can write in up to 15 names for the positions.

The name of only one write-in candidate may be entered per ballot for the governor position, for congressional delegate and for attorney general. The same goes with other positions like CCU with three open seats.

Barred

Pangelinan said that under the law, only the Guam Education Board is barred from accepting write-in candidates.

Pangelinan said that all votes received by write-in candidates will be counted – the same as votes for any other candidate.

If they garner enough votes, “Then they will be proclaimed winner (for the position they’re running for),” Pangelinan said.

In the case of the 33rd Guam Legislature where 15 seats are open, in the event a write-in candidate got more votes than 16 candidates on the ballot, the write-in candidate will be placed among the top 15 and once results are certified by the election commissioners, they would be declared a winner.

Pangelinan said it is not a requirement that individuals running as write-in candidates inform the GEC about their intention.

She said she believes that in the past, some write-in candidates have actually won.

Referendum lawsuit

Pangelinan yesterday declined to comment on the recent dismissal of the lawsuit challenging the medicinal marijuana referendum in the District Court of Guam. Members of the GEC were named as respondents in the lawsuit.

She said she cannot make a comment on something that remains in litigation. However, she said the election commissioners were fully informed about the current status of the matter.

GEC was sued by veteran lawyer Howard Trapp in federal court for putting before the voters this general election the legislative submitted referendum on the medicinal marijuana. On Monday, the federal court dismissed Trapp’s lawsuit.

On Tuesday, Trapp said he is appealing that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Pangelinan said the commission is scheduled to discuss the matter in tonight’s continuation of their meeting and it will also discuss other preparations and updates for the election.

GEDA investor symposium kicks off

Thursday, 23 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

YESTERDAY was day one of the Guam Economic Development Authority’s Economic Symposium with the focus on the visitor industry. Today, attendees will have the chance to hear presentations focused on defense and the military buildup.

GEDA acting Administrator and event chairwoman Mana Silva Taijeron said Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Esther Kia’aina will speak today. Kia’aina will address President Obama’s view of Guam related to America’s role in Asia.

Other topics today include the island’s infrastructure, clean-water mandates, road construction, the island’s “strategic position” in Asia and the U.S. National Defense posture in the region.

Taijeron said presenters touched on at least two promising projects at the conference that can lead to opportunities for economic growth.

Yesterday, in addition to the expansion of the Guam International Airport Authority’s facilities, United Airlines spoke of increased direct flights between Guam and China. “(That) is big news for us because we are really trying to tap into that market and make that grow,” Taijeron said.

Another project that will occur in October next year is the Regional World Health Organization conference. “We got the approval. It’s very big, especially with some big news that’s affecting the entire world. They made the announcement in the Philippines about a week and a half ago and we’ll make the huge announcement at this conference,” Taijeron said.

In addition to three days of presentations, networking lunches and panels, symposium attendees will have the chance to tour Guam facilities so potential investors have the opportunity to visit the areas discussed during the event.

Tours

Taijeron said tours to the Port Authority of Guam, the airport and some commercial properties will be mixed in with other recreational tours for investors.

Potential investors from Australia, China, Singapore, the U.S. mainland and Japan along with local businesspeople attended the symposium which is being held at the Hyatt Regency Guam.

Yesterday, officials from the airport, the port and Guam Visitors Bureau presented about each respective agency’s status and potential.

Frank Chin, chairman of the Public Finance Group of Citigroup, and Jay Saakvitne, head of municipal credit division of Barclay’s PLC, spoke about Guam’s bond market rating to attendees in a plenary presentation, entitled “Guam’s Economy: An Investor’s Perspective.”

The symposium will end Friday with site visits and networking meetings.

Ulrich steps down as chief financial officer of hospital

Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Alan Ulrich

GUAM Memorial Hospital Chief Financial Officer Alan Ulrich has tendered his resignation and will step down from his position at the end of this month, citing personal reasons for his departure. Department of Administration Director Benita Manglona will step in as interim CFO.

Ulrich has been at GMH since December 2012, working alongside Joseph Verga, GMH administrator, to help the hospital’s fiscal matters improve. Ulrich replaced acting CFO Jun Infante when he started.

Prior to working at GMH, Ulrich worked as interim CFO at Gila River Health Care in Arizona.

Ulrich will return to Arizona with his new bride, Terri Ulrich, and the two will live in Scottsdale. Ulrich said he informed Verga when he married earlier this year that he promised his wife their marriage would take priority and he would not renew his contract as CFO at GMH.

“After I arrived, (Verga) told me that I should work as if I’m starting from scratch,” Ulrich said yesterday. “It’s really difficult to build a hospital’s fiscal infrastructure from scratch. Working with the managers and staff, GMH has made gains in the two years I’ve been here.”

Ulrich said he is proud of defining the hospital’s path for fiscal solvency, receiving unqualified reports for fiscal audits and reducing the number of compliance matters.

Before Ulrich’s last day as CFO, the hospital was able to convert part of its system to help automate the hospital’s finances. “We actually converted our revenue cycle software to a new operating system ... on Oct. 8 and we’re in the process of continuing that conversion,” Ulrich said. “It’s the revenue cycle software that deals with everything from patient registration, insurance demographics for patients and the billing and collecting.”

Paper chase

Verga said the hospital is essentially trying to eliminate the “paper chase” between departments.

It is the completion of this “system conversion” that Manglona hopes to tackle among many other tasks and she will also need to do an assessment of the finances as well.

With Manglona on board at the hospital, Verga said he hopes there will be better cooperation between DOA, GMH and the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

Verga said he has two plans to replace Ulrich as CFO; the first being that Manglona does stay longer than “a while.” His backup plan is to hire a new CFO, and he said he’s already announced the position online. GMH has not yet interviewed anyone for the CFO position.

Between now and the end of this month, Ulrich and Manglona will work together for a “smooth transition,” Verga said.

Verga said he is sure other rumors of Ulrich’s departure would come up even after he leaves, but he stressed Ulrich’s resignation was for personal reasons – to be with his wife. “This is the official reason, this is the real reason,” Verga said. Verga said Ulrich’s accomplishments would fill pages and he brought a level of competency to the CFO position that was unprecedented.

Core Tech wins $44M Navy project

Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo yesterday announced that Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific has awarded Core-Tech-AMEC a $44.53 million fixed-price contact for utilities infrastructure and site development of the North Ramp area on Andersen Air Force Base. The project is critical to supporting future North Ramp construction at Andersen, which is utilized by Marine Corps aviation elements on Guam.

The funding for this project was provided through funds contributed by the government of Japan, also referred to as mamizu money, in support of the Marine realignment from Okinawa to Guam. The contract is the first award of mamizu funds since 2011, and its release builds off of progress made in the fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that removed some restrictions on using mamizu funds for buildup-related projects.

Core-Tech-AMEC is a joint venture of Core Tech International of Guam and UK-based global engineering and construction firm AMEC.

“I am pleased the Navy is executing funds contributed by the government of Japan for the Marine realignment,” Bordallo said. “This award builds on the progress we made in last year’s defense bill to remove some of the restrictions on these funds imposed by the Senate, and it represents the significant progress we are making to move forward with the realignment. It also underscores the Obama and Abe administrations’ commitment to moving forward with the realignment. Further, this year’s defense bill contains my provision to remove the remaining restrictions on using mamizu funds for realignment projects. As a conferee on the NDAA, I continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to keep this provision in the bill. I remain confident that the submission of the master plan to Congress in July has given Senate leaders confidence in the overall cost of the realignment. I look forward to working with them to keep the buildup on track.”

GEDA hosts first-ever Guam Economic Symposium

Posted: Oct 22, 2014  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

Guam - The time is now, not only to invest in Guam but for the island to welcome regional and international business leaders to the first Guam Economic Symposium.

The event kicked-off today at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, with GEDA chairman E.J. Calvo saying, "So far, it's been a big success."

The three-day event hosted by the Guam Economic Development Authority and the Guam Visitors Bureau features regional and international business leaders from the Philippines, Singapore, Korea and Japan representing a variety of industries. Calvo continued, "And so this symposium is a culmination of all the marketing efforts done by GEDA, GVB and the government in general and brings together some networking opportunities and sharing of information of where can businesses truly get started in doing things on Guam."

Today's event focused on several topics from Guam's strategic plan for visitor industry growth to increasing arrivals to Guam.

The keynote speaker was Joshua Cooper Ramo, who spoke on Guam as a portal for commerce between Asia and America. He announced, "We're in the process of a tremendous change in the way the international system operates part of them inherently is the financial system is changing and also with that comes new routes of trade and economic opportunity, Guam's position is its geographically unique in that sense so in a networked economy the role for a place like Guam is maybe very different than it had been in the past but that also means the opportunities are very different."

Ramo is the vice chairman of Kissinger Associates and a director for the Starbucks and FedEx corporations. He has lived in China for the past 12 years and shares the value of Guam's location, saying, "I think Guam is tremendously important for the US-China relation for any number of reasons. It is the part of the United States that is the closest to china so the opportunities for investment ties and trade ties obviously are quite tremendous."

The symposium continues Thursday with discussion on Guam's strategic position in Asia and building Guam's infrastructure. Calvo noted, "I think this is something we should build upon and every year try to have a marketing effort to explore economic opportunities and see how our plans are working out so I definitely think this is something we can look forward to seeing more of."

 



‘I killed my mother’


Thursday, 23 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


Allan Agababa, right, is shown with his lawyer Randall Cunliffe during Agababa’s trial in the Superior Court of Guam. Variety file photo


Witness who claims to be Agababa’s friend testifies

A 34-year-old man claiming to be a friend of Allan Agababa – the man accused of murdering his mother, Shelly Bernstein – testified yesterday that Agababa purchased a gun days before Bernstein was killed. Randall Fulcher also testified that Agababa burnt his own clothing and smashed his laptop to get rid of evidence that might connect him to the killing.

Fulcher and his wife testified during the second day of the trial of Agababa.

Fulcher said one night in August 2013, Agababa phoned him to inform him that he would be coming to Fulcher’s house in Carlos Heights in Tumon to talk to him. Minutes later, he said Agababa appeared at his door carrying two translucent bags – one containing Agababa’s clothing, the other one containing a gun.

Fulcher told the court that as soon as he arrived, Agababa told him “I killed my mom” and “I need to get rid of these.”

The two continued their conversation in Fulcher’s backyard where Agababa burned his clothing in a burn pit while Fulcher went to the kitchen to get a drink, Fulcher said.

Fulcher said he took the gun and hid it in his car, with the intention of getting rid of it later.

In addition to the plastic bags, Fulcher said Agababa took a laptop from his car which was initially offered to him. When Fulcher refused to accept it, he said Agababa asked for a hammer and then smashed the computer on the kitchen table before pouring water on it. According to Fulcher, the broken laptop was taken by Agababa when he left Fulcher’s house.

On that same night, “he asked me if he could tell police that he was with me, but I said no,” Fulcher said.

Hide gun

According to the witness, he and his wife went to a vacant house owned by his wife’s family to hide the gun. He said he put the firearm in the ceiling and returned home.

Agababa and Fulcher have known each other for about eight years, Fulcher said.

Fulcher told the court that Agababa, prior to his mother’s killing, had sent him a message on Facebook asking if Fulcher could find a gun for him.

Fulcher said he acquired a .357 magnum from someone which he sold to Agababa for $150.

Fulcher was asked by the prosecutor whether he believed Agababa when he told him that he killed his mother. Fulcher said he was not convinced at first. The next morning, a friend phoned him saying Agababa’s mother had been killed. After this conversation, Fulcher said he and his wife retrieved the gun from the vacant house and threw it, along with the bullets, into the Ylig River. He told the court that what he had thrown was the .357 magnum he allegedly sold to Agababa.

‘Plea agreement’

Bernstein, 55, was found dead in her Tamuning apartment in the early morning of Aug. 13, 2013. According to the autopsy report, she died from blunt force trauma.

During cross-examination yesterday, Agababa’s attorney, Randall Cunliffe, questioned the witness about his background.

Fulcher said he was arrested in April in a case involving the manufacture and dealing of marijuana. He also admitted that he had been arrested numerous times for dealing marijuana. Currently he is incarcerated for that offense.

Between September and October, he said he was interviewed by both the attorney general and the defense counsel, both asking about his knowledge of Bernstein’s murder. He admitted that he lied to them and said that he had no knowledge or information about the incident.

Recently, Fulcher said, he was offered a plea agreement by the government under which all charges against him will be dropped in exchange for testifying in the case for the government.

Fulcher’s wife, Leialoha Borja-Fulcher, also testified yesterday and corroborated her husband’s statements.

She told the court that when Agababa went to their house in August 2013, she was watching television in the sala. Borja-Fulcher said that her husband, after Agababa left that night, told him about the conversation the two men had.

“My husband was frightened and worried. And I know something was wrong,” Borja-Fulcher said.

She said her husband told her that Agababa asked Fulcher to destroy Agababa’s clothing and get rid of the gun.


Agababa murder trial begins


Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


Allan Agababa, right, is shown with his lawyer Randall Cunliffe during the start of Agababa's trial yesterday in the Superior Court of Guam. Photo by Matt Weiss / Variety


Witness: Defendant was ‘fairly calm’

THE murder trial of Allan Agababa began yesterday in the Superior Court of Guam as prosecution and defense attorneys presented opening statements to the jury.


Agababa is charged with aggravated murder in connection with the death of his mother, 55-year-old Shelly June Bernstein, on Aug. 13, 2013. According to the autopsy report, Bernstein died from blunt force trauma.

Prosecutor Brian Gallagher called six witnesses – all of whom had said they doubted the story told to them by the defendant regarding Bernstein’s death.

Guam Police Department Officer Bert Carbullido was among the officers who first responded to the crime scene on the early morning of Aug. 13, 2013 where Bernstein was found dead in her Tamuning apartment.

Based on his experience as a police officer since 1997, he said that contrary to information given by Agababa when they reached the crime scene, the apartment did not appear burglarized. He cited the absence of elements of a burglary such as forced entry or damaged doors or windows that are usually evident in a burglary. There was also no disarray of household goods that might indicate the apartment was ransacked, according to Carbullido.

Carbullido and Officer Virgilio Antonio Jr. said they were escorted into the apartment by Agababa upon their arrival. The defendant, he said, led them directly to the bedroom to see his mother’s motionless body lying on the bed.

Carbullido said that in his initial interrogation, Agababa told him that his mother’s home had been burglarized and a laptop had been stolen.

Receipt

When discussing the location of the defendant when the crime happened, Carbullido said Agababa pulled a receipt from his pocket showing he had purchased cigarettes and then went to his brother’s workplace for about 25 minutes and socialized with his brother and his friends. When he arrived home, the officer said Agababa told him that he noticed the screen door was open and the door was unlocked.

Carbullido said if he was in that situation, he would "still be emotional." Carbullido said Agababa seemed more concerned with finding a charger for his cell phone which he was holding.

The second witness told the jurors that the 911 call reporting the death was received from the victim’s neighbor, and not from Agababa.

Antonio described the murder scene. He said he noticed blood stains on the victim’s pillow and bed sheet. He also said he noted a “head trauma” on the victim. When asked to elaborate, the witness described severe damage to the victim’s skull. Antonio said he then requested the presence of crime scene investigators.

When Agababa was transported to the GPD Criminal Investigation Division in Tiyan, he was interrogated by Officer Anthony Borja, who had not been to the crime scene.

Borja said the defendant didn’t appear traumatized or upset during the interrogation. He was told by Agababa, when asked for identification, that along with his laptops, his passport was stolen during the burglary.

Borja said the defendant told him he left the house at 10:24 p.m. on Aug. 12, 2013 to go to his younger brother at the request of their mother.

On his way, Agababa told Borja he purchased cigarettes at the East Hagåtña Mobil gas station. In fact, Borja said, Agababa handed him the receipt which indicated he made the purchase at 11:40 p.m. on Aug. 12.

Gallagher showed Borja the written statement made by Agababa after the incident where he wrote that he left the house at 11:30 p.m. to purchase cigarettes and then went to his brother.

Borja said when he confronted Agababa about this “discrepancy” between his oral and written statements, Borja said the defendant told him that “my phone is an hour off.”

Benefits inquiry

Clarissa Perez, Bernstein’s superior at United Airlines by whom Bernstein was employed as a flight attendant, testified that she learned about Bernstein’s death from Agababa. She said she received a call from him while she was in Japan for a business trip.

Perez said Agababa told her that his mother was dead and that her house had been broken into.

Perez said Agababa told her that Bernstein had instructed Agababa to contact Perez in case something happened to her. Perez said during the call, the defendant inquired about the death benefits that Bernstein’s survivors might receive.

Perez testified that she was surprised by the timing of the benefits inquiry considering there remained a lot of unresolved matters.

During a second conversation, a day or two after the first, Perez said the defendant texted her and then she called him. Agababa, she said, told her what transpired during the night his mother died.

On the defendant’s third call to her, Perez said Agababa made specific inquiries about his mother’s Social Security Number which the manager refused to give him, citing company protocols. “I was a bit surprised,” she said.

In the conversations with Agababa, Perez described the defendant’s tone as “fairly calm” and it “didn’t appear he was distraught.”

What neighbors say

Two of Bernstein’a neighbors also testified yesterday.

Robert Plew, who occupied the apartment unit next to Bernstein, said it was past midnight when he was awakened by Agababa’s knock at his door.

Upon opening his door, Agababa told him that someone broke into their apartment and that laptops were stolen, he said.

Plew said the defendant, while saying this, appeared “not panicked at all” and kept repeating that Plew “needed to come and see” Bernstein.

“I was expecting that it (the house) was ransacked, but it (was) not. Then I got a weird feeling when he (kept) on saying that I need to go and see the bedroom,” Plew said.

Plew also said he had once heard an argument between Bernstein and Agababa over phone bills and Bernstein was not happy with a bill.

Plew said he called 911 after he was informed by Agababa about the incident.

Phillip Kapp, also a neighbor of Bernstein, testified that he also got a knock on the door from Agababa on the early morning of the incident. He also said he was told by the defendant that they were robbed. Kapp was also led by Agababa to the unit where he also saw Bernstein’s body in the bed. Kapp also described Agababa’s tone as “pretty calm” during the incident.

'Victim on medication'

During the opening statements, defense attorney Randall Cunliffe told jurors that the victim had been under different medications – enough to cause her death.

He said the defense will prove Agababa’s alibi during the trial. Agababa, according to his counsel, was very concerned about his mother’s condition and that he went out that night to go to his younger brother at the request of his mother.

Cunliffe said police were suspicious of Agababa because they didn’t like how he reacted to the situation.

The trial will resume Wednesday at 9 a.m. in the courtroom of Judge Maria Cenzon.



Company turns on first Solar4All residential solar energy system

Monday, 20 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

MICRONESIA Renewable Energy Inc. (MRE) flipped the switch on its first Solar4All home on Guam, with the Yigo family of Gen and Greg Calvo as the first beneficiary of the zero money down solar energy service program.

MRE officially launched its Solar4All program last July. In its soft launching, MRE reported listing 20 participants in the program.

For the initiative, MRE partnered with SUNNOVA Energy Corp., a company based in Texas which provides solar energy services to several states across the nation.

MRE and SUNNOVA officials were on hand last week to explain the program and its affordability to all Guam residents.

While a typical solar energy system could be cost-prohibitive, ranging from $20,000 to $50,000, MRE said under the Solar4All project, the system will be installed for free. The company will also provide maintenance for the life of the agreement.

Jeffrey Voacolo, MRE vice president, said the company owns the system and sells power it generates to homeowners.

For homeowners interested in the program, Voacolo said the entire process could be completed within a month.

“So we can come here at a house, tell you about the program, do a site visit, do the proposal and the contract, and be out within 30 days and put a free system in your house,” he said.

“With the Calvos they are saving $800 a year. As the utility rates increase, their savings increase as the years go by. They did not pay any money down. Year one they save $800; year two will be more. ... The entire time, we are maintaining the system and ensuring the system works,” he said.

Voacolo said MRE provides 100 percent insurance and the program does not impose a lien on the property.

“As long as you are a homeowner and you have decent credit. You can get a solar system installed in your house,” he said.

Gen Calvo said the program offered them a way to save money and cut power costs. “We first installed the solar power water heater and since that was a success, we heard about this program and applied,” she said. “Right now, I have no complaints. The maintenance comes up with the program. If there is a storm that comes and damages one of the panels, they will come two days after and fix whatever needs to be fixed.”

Difference

William J. (John) Berger, SUNNOVA CEO, said the company is proud to now call Guam home. “We have an excellent partner with Jeff (Voacolo) and the team at Micronesia Renewable Energy,” he said. “We look forward to helping everybody here on Guam to be able to save money and put that money back where they can really make a difference for their families.”

According to MRE, with Solar4All the customer simply pays for solar power by the month, just like the normal power bill, only lower.

MRE is a Guam-based company that specializes in the development, design, engineering, procurement and construction of renewable energy infrastructure and alternative energy solutions.

SUNNOVA’s mission is to be the most reliable and efficient provider of low-cost solar power to homeowners, according to its website

Investors to get closer look at assisted living center

Monday, 20 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

INVESTORS who will be attending the Guam Economic Development Authority Economic Symposium will get a closer look at the assisted living center proposed by American Medical Center’s principal partner Dr. Vince Akimoto, who wants to build the center at Oka Point in Tamuning.

“This is ready right now,” Akimoto said. GEDA officials were initially opposed to the idea of using the 52 acres in the Tamuning space for an assisted living center for the elderly population. “There’s been resistance from GEDA but the governor broke the stalemate on Friday and told GEDA, ‘put (us) in the conference,’” Akimoto said. “So the point is not just to be there but to do this presentation in front of all those hundreds of off-island investors who apparently are going to drop a lot of money on Guam to do something.”

Akimoto said there are not many opportunities for investors to invest in Guam right now, with the exception of the assisted living center.

The project is estimated to cost $573 million and already has some investors, he said.

There is no other shovel-ready project on the table, Akimoto said, and the governor agreed that the assisted living facility should be presented at the symposium on Wednesday to guests and investors. “The whole theme is ‘The time is now’ and this is (ready) right now,” Akimoto said. “GEDA is on board.”

The land is also under the purview of the Chamorro Land Trust Commission, and the commission supports the assisted living center, according to Akimoto. Nasion Chamoru (Chamorro Nation) is also in favor of the project and has written a letter of support.

Further, both gubernatorial candidates have shown support for the project. Akimoto said it was former Gov. Carl Gutierrez who signed off on the legislation that will allow the CLTC to enter into a general lease for the commercial development of Oka Point back in 2001. More recently, Gov. Eddie Calvo has approved the development of an assisted living facility in the area.

The area at Oka Point has been vacant for years and as far as he is aware, there is no assisted living facility on island for the senior citizens on Guam or the region, Akimoto said.


‘No part-time legislature, no minimum wage increase’

Friday, 17 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Aspiring senators agree

SENATORIAL candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties seemed united yesterday, at least on two issues – a part-time legislature and the minimum wage hike.

The Rotary Club of Guam’s third round of candidate forums yesterday was attended by six contenders for the 33rd Guam Legislature – all of whom have never before served as legislator.

The GOP panel comprised Wil Castro, Adonis Mendiola and Glenn Leon Guerrero. The three panelists from the Democratic Party included Derick Baza-Hills, Rodney Cruz and Nerissa Underwood.

Rotarians discussed the U.S. Department of Labor’s final ruling on the implementation of President Barrack Obama’s executive order that would raise the wages of workers hired under federal construction and service contracts. Beginning January 2015, the wage will go from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 an hour.

Democrat Rodney Cruz was vocal in saying that although he may support the idea, the timing is not good for Guam now. Cruz cited the still unstable economy of Guam, and the fear of losing – instead of creating – more jobs for the people.

The GOP’s Adonis Mendiola said he believes that raising the federal minimum wage on Guam, without conducting an economic impact study, may create more burdens than benefits to the Guam economy.

Republican Wil Castro also expressed hesitancy about the federal minimum wage hike implementation without the economic impact study.

Cost of living

“The issue here is not how much we pay our people, but the cost of living. I will fully support a wage increase, but it has to go on a study. Instead of talking about this wage hike (now), why not examine the ‘inflationary pressures’ – the power, the water,” said Castro.

Democrat Nerissa Underwood said if Congress mandates the increase in the federal minimum wage, “Let’s obey it.” However, she said, Guam cannot act “before that.”

“Raising the minimum wage is not the solution (we need now),” she said.

Democrat Derrick Baza-Hills pointed out that raising the minimum wage gives employers some “pressures. And I am not in the business to force the employers.”

For Baza-Hills, providing incentives to employers and high school students is a more viable way to help the working poor families. In his proposal, high school students may work for three to four hours after school to help out their families.

In the issue of raising the federal minimum wage for federal contractors, there remains uncertainty that the Guam Employers Council said it wants clarified. This is regarding a provision in the ruling that this increase in federal minimum wage may exclude Guam since it is a U.S. territory.

All six of the panelists agreed that the people of Guam deserve to have a full-time lawmaking body that will enact legislation with their best interest at heart.

Underwood said she would like to restrict the “limited session legislature.”

Castro also pointed out that the legislature’s primary job is not restricted to just passing an annual budget.

 

  • Mathew

    If you are already going to chicken out on the wage issue, for instance, before you even become a senator, stay home and raise chickens instead. At the same time, you want a full-time Legislature? To do what? To appropriate money, you do not need a full-time body. To pass the medical marijuana issue onto the voters as a referendum, you do not need a full-time body. To do the bidding of the Governor, you do not need a full-time body. Maybe you like the trappings of a full-time entity, just like you like the benefits of not paying your student loans, for instance, Mr. Castro.

    IslandLife

    Reporting not correct: Aspiring Senator Glen Leon Guerrero clearly stated that he would be FOR a part-time legislature.

    Senatorial candidates breeze through GWCC forum

    Friday, 17 Oct 2014 03:00am

    BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    TWELVE senatorial candidates said as much as they could within the hour and a half they were in front of attendees at last night’s Senatorial Conversation forum, and considering the minute-long response time, that’s saying a lot.

    Last night was the second of a two-part forum hosted by the Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce at the Academy of Our Lady of Guam’s Ysrael Auditorium of Fine Arts. The participants were a mix of incumbents, new candidates, Republicans, Democrats and even a write-in candidate.

    Incumbents at last night’s forum included Sens. Tina Muña-Barnes, Tommy Morrison, Frank Aguon, Rory Respicio, Brant McCreadie, Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz and Speaker Judith Won Pat. Candidates Mary Torres, Wil Castro, MiChelle Taitano, Nerissa Underwood and write-in candidate Romeo Carlos were also at last night’s forum.

    Carlos was the lone candidate on this year’s primary ballot that did not garner enough votes to appear on the general election ballot.

    Four candidates – Sen. Tony Ada, Frank Ungacta, Adonis Mendiola and Rodney Cruz – were unable to attend.

    From the start, candidates were tested as to how quickly and thoroughly they could address the audience, which made for an informal and light tone throughout the forum. While some candidates had to be cut off during their 30-second introductions, others had to drag out their concluding words to make it long enough to fit the time span.

    The candidates then drew two questions that ranged from retirement to marriage between homosexuals, and were so efficient at keeping time that moderator Carmen Kasperbauer suggested a third round, which was ultimately dismissed.

    Packed

    Still, between the two rounds, candidates packed their answers tightly and delivered them rarely with an intrusion.

    Castro kicked off the round answering a question about retirement and said it was not reliable that employees should be made to believe that they should rely on welfare. Kasperbauer asked if it was “realistic for employees to believe that in the future they will be able to live on their retirement considering the continued high rates of inflation.”

    Castro said millennials, the generation of individuals now in their 20s, are projected not to retire and that the legislature should provide as much opportunity for the younger generation to have the necessary training and expertise so they can earn and sustain their lifestyle as they choose.

    Next, Cruz said it was important to support more tourists as well as invite tourists with higher incomes, which is in line with the Guam Visitors Bureau’s Tourism 2020 plan. Cruz also said he supports the legalization of medical marijuana.

    McCreadie said he supported any effort to benefit the island’s athletes and the youth and supported the government pursuing growth in sports tourism.

    Respicio was asked how he would cut down the current processing delay of Medicare and MIP payments for physicians, which is why some physicians do not accept those insurance plans. The senator said his law to fix that issue was vetoed but he would, if re-elected, try to resurrect that bill.

    Republican candidate Taitano said she would revisit the impact of adding another dollar to the minimum wage before voting in favor of that proposal, when asked by Aguon if she would support raising the wage from $8.25 to $9.25.

    Casino gaming

    Aguon himself was asked in the second round if he agrees with casino gaming machines at Liberation festivities which he said he opposes. He said he is against the machines and if there is one piece of legislation he regrets supporting, it is the law that allows 200 gaming machines on island which was intended to help Guam Memorial Hospital.

    Torres was asked if she would repeal that gaming law, a surprising sequence of events, considering the questions were randomly chosen at the beginning of the event. Torres said she would look into auditing the documents to ensure the actual remittance from the gaming machines lined up with the projected remittance and go from there.

    In response to a question about gay marriage, Carlos said the vote to legalize gay marriage should be up to the people and that he would not leave it up to a 15-member legislative body to make decisions on the happiness of thousands of people.

    Won Pat was asked about helmet laws for motorcycle riders, which she said are individual choices to be determined by each citizen.

    Morrison said the position of attorney general should not be appointed by the governor, as it was in the past.

    Finally, Muña-Barnes closed the conversation last night in saying she would work closely with mayors for a separate bus system for each village for a revised public transportation system that could work.

    The forum is viewable online at GWCC’s Facebook page, on YouTube and will be rebroadcast on Docomo Channel 2.

    2014 Women in Business Conference

    Friday, 17 Oct 2014 03:00am

    PRESS RELEASE

  • SBDC) – The Guam Small Business Development Center, along with the Bank of Guam Women in Business Program, presents the 2014 Women in Business Conference with this year’s theme: “Made Local. Go Global.”

    The conference will be held at the Westin Resort Guam on Oct. 24 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with guest speaker, Douglas Smith.

    Smith is the assistant director at the International Trade Center at the University of Texas at San Antonio, certified global business professional, with a master’s degree in international relations, and has his MBA in finance international business from the University of Texas Austin.

    The registration fee is $50 per person which includes lunch and refreshments.

    Requests for reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made if requested two weeks in advance. For arrangements or more information, contact the Guam SBDC at 671-735-2590 or email nicole[at]pacificsbdc.com. Services are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.

    Smith has been involved in international trade and marketing consulting for more than 20 years, focusing on import and export development, international marketing strategy, international market research, marketing channel management, and industry and economic research.

    His consulting experience involves a broad range of industries, ranging from industrial products and computers to food products and textiles.  He has consulted for small businesses as well as major corporations such as IBM and Motorola.

    The 2014 Women in Business Conference: “Made Local. Go Global” will de-mystify the export process and explain it in a logical series of manageable steps. Smith will cover topics such as: benefits from exporting, export marketing and pricing, payment methods, finance and risk management, and U.S. and foreign regulation and taxation.

    The conference will also include an export expert panel featuring local business owners and professionals discussing the financial and technical logistics of exporting from Guam. The Women in Business Wine & Networking Event will follow immediately after.

    Airport responds to DFS lawsuit

    Friday, 17 Oct 2014 03:00am

    VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    THE Guam International Airport Authority released a statement yesterday following the news on Tuesday that DFS Guam has filed a complaint with the Superior Court of Guam protesting the award of the airport’s specialty retail contract to Lotte Duty Free in May 2013.

    According to GIAA, the latest complaint filed in Guam Superior Court by DFS Guam LP relating to the specialty retail concession contract “rehashes” old accusations that the airport has already refuted in numerous court filings and public statements.

    Earlier in the month, the Guam Superior Court entered final judgment in favor of GIAA, dismissing the first lawsuit brought by DFS in this same matter. (Tuesday’s) court filing by DFS comes in the wake of the dismissal of DFS’s protest by Guam’s Office of Public Accountability on Sept. 30.

    “Since DFS’s first attempt to stop Lotte from taking over the GIAA duty free concession failed in July 2013, Lotte has renovated and opened the airport concession space and made over $20 million in capital improvements at the airport pursuant to its contract with GIAA. Such improvements include much needed renovations to airport bathrooms and the food court,” GIAA stated. GIAA added that under the contract, Lotte also pays GIAA $15.4 million in annual minimum guaranteed rent which is more than three times greater than the minimum guaranteed rent paid by the predecessor concessionaire, DFS. Based in large part upon the Lotte concession contract, GIAA said it was also able to obtain over $200 million bond financing in September 2013.

    “GIAA expects to prevail in the latest action as we have in every other attempt by DFS to dispute a fair and competitive bid process that continues to pay dividends for the people of Guam. This matter has been a distraction and has taken far longer than it should have because of all of DFS’s legal maneuvering and tactics. Fortunately, we were able to move forward with projects that not only make our airport a more beautiful and efficient facility but also enhance the security and safety for our people and the traveling public,” said Chuck Ada, GIAA executive manager. “GIAA is committed to making the A.B. Won Pat International Airport a world-class facility that will help fuel economic growth for all of Guam. The new concessions contract with Lotte that was awarded through an open, competitive process has led directly to a significant series of improvements at the airport and allowed GIAA to move forward with $110 million in capital projects, financed in part by revenues guaranteed under the new contract,” he added.

DRT meets tax refund deadline

Thursday, 16 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • THE Department of Revenue and Taxation’s court-ordered deadline to pay income tax refunds within six months was yesterday and the department is “well ahead” of meeting that deadline, said DRT Director John Camacho.

    A court order issued in January 2013 requires the government of Guam to pay income tax refunds within six months or it will face possible receivership.

    Camacho said the last batch of refunds was paid last week and includes taxpayers who filed 2013 income tax returns through April 30. He said that batch was about $7 million.

    The government began paying tax refunds this year in early February. According to Variety files, more than 13,000 residents filed their returns between Feb. 3 and Feb. 10. Camacho did not say exactly how many residents filed their taxes between February and April this year.

    However, Camacho said that about 1,000 taxpayers filed their 2013 income tax returns yesterday, which was the deadline for individuals who filed for a six-month extension. The extension is for residents who needed more time to get their paperwork in order, Camacho said.

    So while the department was able to meet the deadline ordered by the District Court for timely income tax refund payments, it was also in the midst of processing hundreds of tax documents for those who filed late yesterday.

    Nothing new

    Camacho said late filers are nothing new and the department experiences this rush every year. “I see tax preparers come in with stacks of documents,” Camacho said.

    The director also recognized that with each passing day, the government must ensure that tax refunds filed after the April 15 deadline should be paid within the six-month requirement. Camacho said for example, if a tax return was filed on April 16, the government must pay the coinciding tax refund on Oct. 16.

    In 2013, a total of $133.5 million in tax refunds was paid to taxpayers.


Employers may still qualify for foreign worker exemption

Thursday, 16 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

ALTHOUGH the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released information that the nationwide cap of 66,000 foreign workers under the H-1B visa has been reached, employers on Guam and the CNMI still may qualify for the cap exemption, according to Marie Sebrechts, USCIS West Coast supervisory public affairs officer.

“In order to still qualify for this cap exemption, all form I-129 H-1B and H-2B petitions requesting employment in Guam must be received by USCIS by Dec. 31, 2014 and have an employment start date that is on or before Dec. 31, 2013,” Sebrechts said yesterday.

If the U.S. Congress does not extend the special cap exemption program, then at the end of this year the H visa employers in Guam and the CNMI will have to compete under the normal H-1B and H-2B visa annual caps with other employers throughout the U.S., according to Sebrechts.

Guam Memorial Hospital has six staff members working under the H-1B visa waivers. Four of them are currently working at GMH and two more are expected to arrive this year, said June Perez, GMH public information officer.

The four staffers on island are doctors, with one more doctor and a dietician expected to join the GMH staffing pattern soon.

The positions are critical to the hospital’s services. “If we don’t get the necessary extensions on these visa caps, the hospital will be severely impacted in all future recruitments of specialty hires like doctors and other clinicians,” Perez said.

Rely

Many other clinics rely on medical specialists and a lot of them come from foreign countries, Perez said. The health care professionals working under the H-1B visas are licensed to practice in the U.S. and licensed to practice in Guam but many are from foreign countries.

“They are not American citizens so they have to go through the visa process to work here,” Perez said.

Some professionals like engineers and architects are also working on Guam under the H-1B visas and will definitely be impacted if the island is not given an extension to the cap exemption, she said.

The USCIS reminded Guam and CNMI employers of the cap exemptions’ looming expiration in September. A statement from USCIS said the H-1B and H-2B petitions for foreign workers to work in Guam and the CNMI were not subject to the regular annual cap other states were subject to.

The exemption was a result of a provision in the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, which allowed H-1B or H-2B visas to nonimmigrant workers performing labor or services in Guam and the CNMI without competing with other employers in the states. The provision indicated Guam and the CNMI had five years, beginning in 2009, for the exemption.

H-1B visas are granted to specialty occupations for workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher to perform labor or services that require higher education as a criterion.

GEDA announces speakers, agenda for symposium

Wednesday, 15 Oct 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

GEDA) – The Guam Economic Development Authority yesterday announced the speaker lineup and agenda for the upcoming Invest Guam Economic Symposium.

Notable speakers include: Joshua Cooper Ramo, vice chairman of Kissinger Associates Inc. (keynote speaker); Esther Kia’aina, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior for Insular Affairs; Paul H. Vosti, senior advisor on Guam policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs; Jay Saakvitne, head of the Municipal Credit Division of Barclays; and Frank Chin, chairman of the Public Finance Group of Citigroup.

This world-class conference will explore in detail three areas of the economy poised to grow: the visitor industry, utilities and infrastructure, and the defense industry.

Altogether it is estimated these three sectors will add an additional $12 billion to $15 billion in investment and income over the next seven to 10 years on Guam.

The three-day conference will not only bring regional and international business leaders to Guam, but also feature experts from the tourism, finance, defense and development sectors who will provide facts and discuss contracting opportunities and development plans for the island.

 

Parents protest at GACS

Wednesday, 15 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/101514/gacs_200_200.jpgDURING last night's meeting at the Guahan Academy Charter School in Tiyan, parents sought answers from the GACS board and protested the decision to remove Dr. Donna Dwiggins, former principal of the school.

The stakeholders who spoke at the meeting all expressed support for the former charter school head who was relieved of her position earlier this month.

With the stakeholders wanting clarity over the issue, Roger Cooper, GACS board chairman, said Dwiggins was let go for several reasons.

"In doing our fiduciary duties for the school, the board came to a decision to relieve Dr. Dwiggins from her responsibility as principal, based on mismanagement of funds; poor decisions regarding school equipment and materials; disregard for the board direction on financial practices; and spending," he said, addressing the parents.

"I can't go into the exact details with you right now until we have presented the report to the government. Then, the government will determine where we go from there," he added.

Cooper said the board has been formulating the report for several weeks. The report will be made available to the parents and will become public record after submission to the government.

He also assured that the school is not in danger of closing and has enough funds until the end of the year.

In response to questions fielded by parents on who currently manages the school, Cooper assured they are currently looking for a replacement, but as of now, the board runs the school while Arlene Sayco continues to act as interim principal.

‘In the best interest’

According to Cooper, they had to go through two years worth of documents before making a decision.

"We are doing this in the best interest of the school, to protect our school, to protect the moneys that were given to the school to operate, and to assure that the school can continue to operate," Cooper assured the parents.

At first, tensions rose as parents spoke and expressed their support for Dwiggins.

Rita Arriola demanded why parents were not given a say in the decision-making and in determining the future of the charter school.

"This school gave my child a chance and I will fight for the school," she said.

According to one of the parents, school staffers have also submitted their concerns and also expressed their disagreement with Dwiggins' removal.

Some of the staffers also expressed concerns over personnel files which have been removed from the school.

Peggy Denney, a GACS board member, assured parents and teachers that it was part of the HR audit to ensure that "everything is in place that should be in the files."

"We have to go through the audit to make sure that everything is in order," she said.

Cooper said they will address issues in a separate meeting with staff this Friday.

With tensions rising throughout the meeting, one of the parents, Sandy Lucas, urged the parents and the board to set aside their differences and move forward.

Although she personally wanted to see Dr. Dwiggins back at the school, Lucas said she knew this was not going to happen. Thus, she urged both sides to rally and support the teachers and the school.

"This is Dr. Dwiggins dream ... even if she is not the CFO, or the principal. She did this for our children," she said.

Meanwhile, Cooper said, "We have to get this under our belt. We have had some rough decisions to make but we have to move forward."

DOL: Previous H-1, H-2 cap was ‘devastating’ to employers

Wednesday, 15 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

IN 2007, Guam employers were subject to the limited number of H-1B and H-2B foreign workers allowed to work on the island and the cap placed on employers then was devastating for their projects, said Department of Labor’s Dorinda Meno, an employment development worker.

A federal law entitled Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 allowed employers in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to hire nonimmigrant workers under the H-1B and H-2B visas on an as-needed basis for five years, without a limit.

But at the end of this year, that exemption expires and employers here will be subject to the nationwide cap on the number of workers with H-1B and H-2B visas that are allowed into the United States.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, there is an annual cap of 65,000 H-1B visas and 66,000 H-2B visas available each fiscal year for the entire nation.

Meno said this means if an orange farmer in California puts in a petition to the federal government that indicates that his farm needs 3,000 foreign workers before a Guam company puts in a petition for workers for a construction project on Guam, the workers will go to work in California.

A similar limitation was in place in 2007, Meno said. “The last time we were subject to it, it was very devastating for some employers that didn’t get the workers,” she said. “They lost the project. It had to be turned over to somebody else.”

Forced to subcontract

When employers have to wait for foreign workers, the work cannot be performed and contractors are forced to subcontract the project or lose the contract for the project completely.

Most of the foreign workers working under the H-2B program work for the construction industry and more than 90 percent of them come from the Philippines, Meno said.

Currently, there are about 1,300 H-2B workers on Guam and there are another 300 applications for workers that DOL has received for review before the end of the year.

Meno said many employers with projects in need of foreign workers have applied before Dec. 31 in light of the regulations changing at the end of the year. However, the department is being diligent with the applications and ensuring the employers have work lined up for the employees they plan to hire.

Any H-1B or H-2B worker petitions received by Dec. 31 will be exempt from the cap, USCIS stated online.

USCIS expects visas to be available for the H-2B program after Jan. 1, 2015 but they are subject to availability. However, there are no more H-1B visas available for fiscal year 2015. The citizenship agency said that the 66,000-visa cap has been reached and it will begin accepting H-1B petitions next April for foreign workers to work during fiscal year 2016.

Foreign workers under the H-1B visa program that wish to work on Guam this fiscal year may have to wait for next year. “(The cap) will affect the H-1 workers desperately,” said Manny Cruz, director of DOL. “Guam Memorial Hospital, they’re going to have issues because they partnered with (St. Luke’s Medical Center) and they’re going to be bringing back and forth as a partner, so that will affect them.”

St. Luke’s is based in the Philippines and signed a memorandum in August with GMH that will allow professionals from the Philippines to fly to Guam to help at the hospital.

Affect buildup

Cruz said the cap on workers under the H-2B visa program will likely affect the island in the future, when projects tied to the military buildup get underway. “They’re going to be asking for workers because of the construction of all these facilities because there’s not enough local workers,” Cruz said.

GMH administrators were unavailable for comment yesterday.

Kevin Kerrigan, Guam Regional Medical City’s communication director, said GRMC does not expect to be affected by the cap.

"In all, GRMC is hiring about 500 people. The vast majority are local hires. Of that number, we are hiring just over 50 physicians, 36 of whom are already on board. All of them are either stateside hires or already practicing on Guam," Kerrigan said.




Candidates come out swinging

Wednesday, 15 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Gutierrez and Calvo trade barbs over various issues

ENERGY at the Hyatt Regency Guam was high as the gubernatorial candidates took the stage to a sold-out crowd at last night’s Election 2014 debate addressing health insurance, the Compact of Free Association and medical marijuana.

Last night’s debate was sponsored by the Guam Medical Association and hosted by Dr. Thomas Shieh and moderated by Dr. Nathaniel Berg. Berg said 700 tickets had been sold to the public who sat among members of the medical association.

Republicans were charged up before the debate began, chanting on their side of the Hyatt ballroom “Four more years” which was countered with Democrats’ chants of “No more years.”

At the start of the debate, Shieh informed the crowd and candidates of the format. The gubernatorial candidates had two rounds to debate each other and the second round would be done without the podium which allowed Gov. Eddie Calvo and former Gov. Carl T.C. Gutierrez room to move about the stage.

Gutierrez and his running mate attorney Gary Gumataotao were introduced first and Gutierrez won the initial coin toss.

Calvo opened the debate with a subtle jab at Gutierrez, reminding the crowd that in the four years since his opponent “lost – uh, left office,” that more clinics have opened and health insurance rates have decreased. Gutierrez fired back and said Calvo wrote off $3.5 million worth of tax credits for Calvo family businesses.

Compact

The Compact of Free Association was brought up to the candidates.

Calvo said the solution to get fully reimbursed for COFA by the feds is to invest in the health facilities on Guam and “press” the federal government to make good on its promises. Gutierrez countered with the need for pounding on the door and networking with the feds to get full Compact-impact reimbursements.

Both candidates were asked if they supported mandated health care for the entire island population. Gutierrez said there is a proposal at the Department of Health and Human Services and that he would make sure Guam benefits from that proposal made in 2001. Calvo said Gutierrez was a “broken record” with promises of the past and said he was supportive of mandatory health insurance for the Guam population.

As far as medical marijuana is concerned, both candidates said medical professionals need to provide input on the current referendum but Calvo said input needs to be in place before legal medicinal use. Gutierrez suggested that medical professionals look at how legalized medical marijuana worked over five years and also said it is not a crime. Calvo said he did not support recreational marijuana.

The candidates had the opportunity to ask each other a question that was read by Berg. Gutierrez asked Calvo if he allowed businesses run by Calvo’s family to make away with $3 million in tax write-offs, a question which Gutierrez said Calvo dodged initially. After Gutierrez pressed him on the question, Calvo answered that the claim is false and he “did not authorize any write offs.”

Gutierrez then asked if Calvo would allow forensic audits of his family’s finances as well. Calvo publicly called for Public Auditor Doris Flores Brooks to audit the finances of his family. Gutierrez said, however, that Brooks is not an independent auditor and Calvo “bullied” her into showing the GovGuam audit had a surplus instead of a deficit.

Calvo, in turn, asked Gutierrez if he would lay off thousands of employees at the start of the year if he is elected. Gutierrez reminded the people of the natural disasters that occurred during his term.

Final question

The final question of the first round allowed both candidates to ask each man’s strength and weakness. Calvo said Gutierrez was a charismatic man but he breaks the rules “in more ways than one.”

Gutierrez said he admires Calvo for loving his family so much that he allowed them to write off tax credits for his family business; however, Calvo “doesn’t tell the facts.”

Berg asked each candidate what they did during their respective terms to improve the health care systems on Guam, to which Calvo responded that under his watch, the island had not run out of medicine and that no one had been convicted of crimes in the health care industry.

Gutierrez said Calvo got rid of the Guam Memorial Hospital board that led the way for its accreditation and “put all his cronies in there” and has since “gone downhill.”

The night was charged with support for both candidates, making it difficult at times for Berg to moderate. Nonetheless, Berg was able to move the debate along even with interruptions from both sides of the room.

Calvo and Gutierrez also addressed shortfalls that they took responsibility for during their respective terms. Gutierrez said he wished he worked more with the legislature and said this time around, he would be less stubborn. "I'm not going to have a hard head anymore," he said. "It's softened over the years."

One regret that Calvo said he had during his term so far was his relationship with the late Democratic Sen. Ben Pangelinan. While he said he tries to work with other government leaders, he wished he had a better relationship with the late senator.

 

  • Mathew 19 minutes ago

    I don't begrudge the Governor for looking out for his own personal interests as that is what most, if not all, governors do to a certain extent. But to stand there and talk about health insurance "achievements" when 50% of the Guam non-military residents do not have any, according to a stat from DRT, and when the point man of Selectcare, spent a good piece of his time over the last 4 years helping to kill off the implementation of ACA on Guam, is too much of a negative stain on the Calvo team, no matter what the frills and fancies of the overall achievements are, such as borrowing money to pay off refunds. Without health insurance, you are pretty much up a creek, especially in the U.S., when the number one reason for personal bankruptcy is health-care related.



Guam's unemployment rate drops

Posted: Oct 13, 2014  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM
Guam - The unemployment rate on Guam has dropped again. According to two reports from the Department of Labor, the unemployment rate in Guam decreased to 8.4 percent from September to December 2013 and 7.4 percent from December 2013 to March 2014. The drop is a result of an increase in the number of jobs and people employed. In March 5,350 people were unemployed which showed a decrease of 590 jobs from December last year. Meanwhile, the US unemployment rate in September this year was 5.9 percent - a decline of point 2 percentage points since August.


‘Guam wasn’t consulted in maritime boundary treaty’

Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

SPEAKER Judith Won Pat has sent a letter to the federal government, asking it to pursue meaningful consultation with Guam over the recent execution of a treaty that appears to remove the deepest known point in the Mariana Trench, Challenger Deep, from Guam’s exclusive economic zone.


The “Treaty Between the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia and the Government of the United States of America on the Delimitation of a Maritime Boundary” was executed between the U.S. government and the Federated States of Micronesia on Aug. 1 in Palau during the 45th meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum.

The treaty was negotiated to formally redefine overlapping maritime boundary lines between Guam and the outlying islands of the FSM, but Won Pat said at no point was Guam "meaningfully consulted" during discussions, negotiations and ultimately the execution of the treaty.

Won Pat said there is still confusion as to where Challenger Deep actually lies under the treaty and the potential adverse impacts the treaty would have on Guam’s rights over marine resources, including deep sea minerals possibly located in the area.

“This lack of engagement is especially problematic given the ambiguity surrounding the precise location of the deepest known point in the Mariana Trench, i.e. Challenger Deep. To be sure, many of us in Guam have long understood Challenger Deep as falling within Guam’s EEZ, i.e. on the Guam side of the line identified in the U.S.-FSM treaty,” Won Pat wrote in her letter.

In her correspondence with the federal government, she also attached a 2005 United States Geological Survey publication explicitly indicating that Challenger Deep falls on the Guam side, and not the FSM side, of the line.

"The United States should have been significantly more diligent in discharging its duties to the people of Guam as Guam’s administering power, and more specifically, it should have provided a mechanism for the meaningful consultation of the people of Guam prior to executing a treaty that potentially divests them of no insignificant part of their natural resources inventory,” Won Pat said.

Won Pat also attached a legal memorandum analyzing the international law issues surrounding the treaty.

Specifically, the memo discusses Guam’s right – as a nonself-governing territory – to be consulted on matters impacting its ability to pursue economic, social and cultural development and to have a say on issues affecting the island's natural resources.

“Guam had every right to be privy to information surrounding the execution of the U.S.-FSM treaty, particularly as it potentially significantly impacts the territory’s prospective economic development,” Won Pat said.

Copies of Won Pat's letter have been sent to President Barack Obama, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, the U.S. State Department deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, the assistant secretary of Insular Affairs, the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization chairman, President Emmanuel Mori of the Federated States of Micronesia, the FSM Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the FSM consul general in Guam, Gov. Eddie Calvo, all Guam legislators, Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo, an

Democrats: Adelup hindering road safety


Friday, 10 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


  • DEMOCRATIC senators in the Guam Legislature have passed a resolution claiming that the Calvo administration plans to stop all Route 4 safety enhancements relating to the solid waste Consent Decree for the opening of a new landfill at Layon.

    According to Rules Resolution 476-32, which was introduced by Sens. Tom Ada and Rory Respicio and co-sponsored by the Democratic majority, Adelup’s alleged efforts to halt this work “will cause unsafe consequences and disenfranchise our island’s southern residents.”

    The federal Consent Decree for the opening of a new landfill calls for specific improvements along Route 4 in order to address traffic safety issues related to the continuous use of Route 4 by heavy commercial trucks hauling solid waste to the new landfill.

    However, the Democrats charged that, at the direction of Gov. Eddie Calvo, the legal counsel for the government of Guam is seeking to amend the Consent Decree to delete the planned improvements to Route 4 in order to produce $6.4 million in savings, which the administration hopes to be able to have available to use for other government expenditures. 

    “The Calvo administration has proceeded to secure this deletion without any consultation with our island’s southern mayors and residents, who will be most negatively impacted by these changes currently being pursued in federal court by the Calvo administration,” the resolution states.

    According to the Democrats, the legal counsel for the government of Guam stated that the planned improvements to enhance traffic safety along Route 4 are not necessary because safe travel for solid waste trucks is being provided by a pilot vehicle escorting the trucks from the Talofofo Bay area to the Layon Landfill.

    ‘Oblivious’

    However, southern mayors, in a submission to the U.S. District Court, contend that the arguments put forth by the Calvo administration are "oblivious" to the transportation safety and quality of life of the residents most impacted.

    The rules resolution states the road segments between Talofofo Bay and the entrance to the landfill are not constructed to carry the weight of the solid waste trucks, which average about 10 tons more than what Guam law allows on local roadways.

    Without adequate reconstruction, the Democrats say the accelerated degradation of Route 4 will pose greater safety risks and greater vehicle maintenance costs to motorists who have to travel the roadway on a daily basis.

    A copy of the resolution has been transmitted to U.S. District Court Judge Francis Tydingco-Gatewood, the attorneys involved in the case, the federal receiver, Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc., the governor of Guam, the Office of the Attorney General, as well as the mayors of Inarajan, Talofofo, Merizo, Agat, Santa Rita, Umatac and Yoña.

d the executive director of the Commission on Decolonization.

GEPA gets over $3.1M from feds

Friday, 10 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is awarding Guam more than $3.1 million for environmental protection work.

The funding will go to support the operations of the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, including inspections, monitoring the safety of beaches and drinking water, permit writing, enforcement and other facets of their environmental protection programs.

According to Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo, the funds will also help support GEPA’s efforts to protect Guam's natural resources.

“GEPA provides critical oversight to ensuring the safety of our drinking water and beaches, educating the community on environmentally-friendly best practices, and providing outreach to appropriately address pollution on Guam. I look forward to these funds supporting GEPA, and assisting them on their efforts to ensure that our island’s resources are maintained for future generations,” Bordallo said.

Specifically, the funding will enable GEPA to continue a host of ongoing environmental programs, including:

  • Reducing non-point source pollution in the Ugum watershed – a key drinking water source for southern Guam – through education and outreach, improved land management and construction practices, and afforestation of eroded areas;

  • Protection of the northern Guam lens – the island’s sole-source drinking water aquifer – through permitting and enforcement programs designed to prevent contamination, maintain water quality, and ensure potable drinking water for the residents of Guam;

  • Weekly monitoring of 44 recreational beaches around the island for microbiological contamination;

  • Improvements to automate, standardize, and provide real-time access for sharing environmental data through development of the Guam Facility Registry System and improvements to GEPA’s geographic information system;

  • Continued development of GEPA’s Brownfields program and selection of clean-up sites;

  • Pesticide management to educate farmers on proper application techniques and eliminate illegal importation and use of unregistered pesticides;

  • Islandwide inspections to help ensure safe underground and above ground fuel storage tanks; and

  • GEPA emergency response, hazardous waste, and clean air program management.

    Advance goals

    Jared Blumenfeld, regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest, said EPA’s funding enables Guam to advance their goals in the pursuit of clean air, water and land.
    “The continued program work and improvements will greatly benefit the residents of Guam and their precious island resources,” he said.



Calvo, Gutierrez face off

Friday, 10 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Former Gov. Carl T.C. Gutierrez, left, stresses a point during yesterday’s gubernatorial debate hosted by the Rotary Club of Tumon Bay at the Pacific Star Resort & Spa. At right, Gov. Eddie Calvo talks about his administration’s accomplishments during the debate. Photos by Matt Weiss / Variety

GUBERNATORIAL candidates Gov. Eddie Calvo and former Gov. Carl Gutierrez squared off in person for the first time this election season with each candidate highlighting his accomplishments during his term as governor.

Calvo and Gutierrez faced a packed Rotary Club of Tumon Bay luncheon yesterday at the Pacific Star Resort & Spa with supporters from both political camps filling The View meeting room to capacity. Directors of several government agencies sat among the crowd of Rotarians, a few senatorial hopefuls from both parties and yellow-shirted Gutierrez supporters.

Gutierrez started the forum energetically, calling on Calvo to disclose whether or not his family is benefiting inordinately from government contracts since he was elected into office and he addressed claims that he was the first governor to stop paying Earned Income Tax Credits.

“I hear my opponent’s claim to fame ... that I left him all this income tax that were unpaid and that he caught up with it,” Gutierrez said. “Let me say this to you that the Earned Income Tax Credit that I paid one year of my eight years was because there was an appropriation made in 1998 by ... Tony Blaz.”

Gutierrez said the legislature never made an appropriation to pay the income tax credits for seven out of the eight years he was in office, which is why he only paid EITC once during his tenure. Gutierrez also said Calvo had been the legislature’s Ways and Means Committee chairman in 1999 and 2000 and “never appropriated one penny for me to pay the Earned Income Tax Credit.”

Gutierrez also brought up the difference in debt between the two candidates, saying under his administration he had only borrowed $150 million over eight years, a stark contrast to Calvo’s $380 million in borrowed funds. “It is not sustainable,” Gutierrez said. “Right now, the first payment was $80 million this (past) Oct. 1 and it’s going to go up $110 million in 2017. You cannot mortgage the people of Guam, the children of Guam because things happen. ... You can have another type of disaster.”

Calvo

Calvo followed Gutierrez’s remarks with a focus on what he accomplished during his time as governor and said he would not entertain being the “arch nemesis” of Gutierrez. 

When addressing the increased debt service, Calvo said the 2017 debt payment would be about $82 million, not the $110 million figure that Gutierrez estimated.

Calvo said under his administration, he restructured the debt to be paid over 30 years with a lower interest rate. It was Gutierrez who authored a bill for a bond to pay tax refunds and it was Gutierrez who “made a wanton decision not to pay tax refunds,” Calvo said.

Both candidates touted their improvements to the island’s infrastructure, with Calvo highlighting the improved road structures and Gutierrez recalling the fixed sewer and water lines following damage from an earthquake.

Both Calvo and Gutierrez expressed support for expanding business relations to improve the economy and discouraged a Rotarian’s suggestion to privatize the Guam Power Authority.

At one point during the forum, the candidates were asked how they would improve customer service in the government agencies. Gutierrez spoke first and said education and working with the business community is the way to improve customer service.

Calvo responded, saying he had government workers trained by bringing in trainers. Calvo also said Gutierrez was the governor who signed the merit bonus legislation into law and never paid the government workers. Afterward, Gutierrez spoke up again out of turn, prompting many in the Rotarian crowd to heckle the former governor, telling him to sit down. Gutierrez responded to the audible objections with, “Why? You don’t want to hear the truth? You don’t want to hear the truth?”

Gutierrez said the merit bonus law was passed in 1992 and took effect in 1995 but had to be appropriated by the legislature. Gutierrez accused Calvo of buying votes and paying merit bonuses for 20 years when the law states the bonuses should be limited to three or four years of back pay.

Calvo countered Gutierrez’s statement, telling attendees that as a leader, Gutierrez could not abide by simple debate rules, so how could he abide by the law as a government leader.

Gutierrez also had documents passed out to the crowd to compare his administration with Calvo’s. “I passed out some of that information to show you that this man will just say anything because he thinks it will be printed the way he says it. But look at the facts,” Gutierrez said. “Thank God we have those audited documents to show that what he says out there is completely untrue.”

  • Yigo76

    Someone start digging up the old PDNs because history is being re-written. Why didn't anyone bring up the

    USDA approves loan for UOG, GCC facility improvements

    Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 03:00am

    BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    Guam Community College President Mary Okada said the projects that will be funded by the loan will further enhance the GCC criminal justice program by providing a more conducive learning environment to give GCC graduates the necessary skills to fill the demand for law enforcement and forensic science careers on Guam and in the region.

    THE U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved loans for facility improvements to the University of Guam and Guam Community College.

    The loans will be used for the construction of the UOG Student Services Center and the annex building for the UOG School of Engineering as well as the extension of the GCC Gregorio G. Perez Crime Lab building and the renovation of GCC buildings 100 and 200.

    Speaker Judith Won Pat, chairwoman of the Guam Legislature's education committee, lauded the approval of the loans, saying she remains committed to working with UOG and GCC to improve the island’s educational facilities through feasible financing options.

    "These loans will contribute to the advancement of education, and ultimately our future,” Won Pat said.

    The $5 million loan to GCC will enable students to gain a better understanding of police forensics and help Guam Police Department specialists who will now have better tools to help put criminals behind bars.

    Gov. Eddie Calvo, GCC President Mary Okada and Joe Diego, USDA Guam area manager, gathered with other officials yesterday at the GCC Multipurpose Auditorium to announce the USDA’s $5 million loan to GCC for the renovation/expansion of Building 100 and the construction of a classroom and DNA laboratory addition to the nearby Gregorio D. Perez GPD Crime Lab.

    The renovated Building 100 will house the GCC criminal justice program and cosmetology classes, while the crime lab extension will provide classrooms and a DNA forensic lab.

    Greatly benefit

    “This $5 million loan is the result of what can happen when we collaborate, through entities like GCC, with federal agencies such as USDA to press for improvements on our island,” Calvo stated in a news release. “This project will greatly benefit the students at GCC, the officers of the Guam Police Department, and the law-abiding citizens of Guam.”

    Okada, who sought leveraged financing with USDA for the projects, said that these two projects will further enhance the GCC criminal justice program by providing a more conducive learning environment to give GCC graduates the necessary skills to fill the demand for law enforcement and forensic science careers on Guam and in the region.

    Diego said the awarding of the loan illustrates the Obama administration’s continued commitment to help rural residents gain access to up-to-date education and community services necessary to improve their quality of life.

    "We are pleased to play a role in continuing the impressive growth at Guam Community College,” Diego said.

    indictments of many of Gutierrez's top lieutenants?


Apple Tumon store to open by next month in Comete building


Friday, 10 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


  • THE Apple Store has confirmed it is coming to Guam soon to offer tourists and residents its wide range of product offerings.

    Erik Pedersen, the director of the Comete Building, told Variety yesterday that Apple has signed a five-year lease agreement with the company for the venue of its first store on Guam.

    He said Apple will be renting a 1,200-square foot space on the Comete Building ground floor for its newest investment. The building also houses UnderWater World Guam and the Sea Grill restaurant.

    Pedersen said the store is scheduled to open on or before Nov. 1, in time for the holidays.

    “This is a multimillion-dollar commitment to Guam and we’re very excited about it. It’s a great addition to Comete and a great addition to Tumon,” he said.

    Based on the preliminary planning and design, Pedersen said the reseller shop, which is estimated to be manned by about 15 personnel, will look exactly like Apple’s shops in various countries.

    “The plan I saw is very reminiscent of what they have in Dallas, Texas and like their other shops in many places in the states and other countries,” Pederson said.

    He said Apple’s decision to open a business on Guam is in line with the company’s goal of reaching out to more Asian patrons, considering that Guam is a favorite destination of tourists from Asian countries.

    This is also in line with Apple’s expansion goals as it has now nine shops in the Philippines.

    “By putting the store in Guam, this would allow folks and tourists on island to have the same Apple experience like customers in the U.S.,” Pedersen said. He added he believes prices for products offered on Guam will be within the range offered at stores elsewhere.

    Demand

    Pederson said the Apple Store is also convinced there’s a demand for its service and products on Guam.

    The Apple Store is a chain of retail stores owned and operated by Apple Inc., dealing with computers and consumer electronics.

    All stores offer a Genius Bar for technical support and repairs, as well as free workshops for the public, while some high-profile stores feature a theater for presentations and workshops, and a studio for training with Apple products, according to the company’s website.

    With global sales of $16 billion in merchandise in 2011, Apple leads the United States retail market in terms of sales per unit area. As of August, Apple has 435 retail stores in 16 countries and an online store available in 43 countries.




WestCare to help Guam veterans at risk of homelessness


Monday, 06 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


WESTCARE Pacific has received a federal grant which will be used to assist veterans on Guam who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, according to Sarah Thomas-Nededog, VP of WestCare Pacific Islands.


Thomas-Nededog said with this funding the nonprofit organization will be able to provide transportation to appointments, assistance in accessing legal services, child care, case management and counseling to qualified veterans.

The grant, which was announced Oct. 1, will also be used to make third-party payments for veterans who may be at risk of losing their homes. WestCare will be able to help with housing rental payments, security deposits or moving expenses, Thomas-Nededog said. 

The organization aims to serve 150 veteran families in the coming year.

Thomas-Nededog said the grant is one of the first substantial grants from the U.S. Department of Veteran Benefits Administration given to a nonprofit community-based organization on Guam. WestCare Pacific will receive $700,000 this year to serve homeless veterans and WestCare will have the chance to reapply in another grant cycle.

“The (Supportive Services for Veterans and Families) grant for Guam is a message that we are part of the U.S. and that our veterans here are perceived by the (U.S. Department of Veterans Benefits Administration) as in need of greater support,” Thomas-Nededog said.

WestCare expects to collaborate with the veteran communities, social service agencies and the local homeless coalition to help implement the project, Thomas-Nededog said.

In 2012, there were about 31 homeless veterans on Guam, according to a 2013 research report on homelessness from the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Overall about 1,301 people were considered homeless in 2012 a decrease from 2011, during which the Guam homeless population was about 1,745.

Guam is one of many other states that received the federal grant, called the Supportive Services for Veterans and Families grant. More than $500 million has been designated by the federal government to assist with veteran homelessness, according to Thomas-Nededog.

The grant will be put to use soon as WestCare Pacific Islands prepares to implement the program.

WestCare also services persons with mental illness, youth at risk and people who have or may have HIV/AIDS.

For more information about WestCare Pacific or the assistance available for veterans through WestCare, call 472-0218.



$500K earmarked for Paseo project


Saturday, 04 Oct 2014 03:00am


PRESS RELEASE


 (ADELUP) – The U.S. Department of the Interior has awarded a grant requested by Gov. Eddie Calvo for $500,000 to complete the Department of Parks and Recreation’s repair of Paseo Park and Recreation Area.


This money will renovate the recreation center and will also fund reconstruction of a new concrete roof, to replace the old steel roofing.

“We’re using this money to provide a safe and fun environment for the people and families of Guam,” Calvo said.

The renovation to the Paseo park and recreation area will give the families of Guam another place to enjoy family time safely, while enhancing their health and wellness.

Police Chief Fred Bordallo also confirms the additional police hires give GPD the resources to increase patrols. Police presence will increase at the Paseo de Susana to keep people safe there



Government map website a 'frustrating' experience


Monday, 06 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


THE government of Guam’s map website used to be a vital tool for realtor Christopher Felix, but in recent months it’s been shut down and restored with fewer features, rendering it nearly useless.


The government map website, found at www.maps.guam.gov, was used by realtors to find land through lot numbers so it could be valued accurately for potential buyers or sellers. Felix said the website had a feature which would allow realtors to view land with corresponding lot numbers from the Department of Land Management.

Felix said he deals with hundreds of lots a month and the online map tool made it easier to access photos of the land, and the government website also allowed him to give buyers or sellers credible information with ease. “I was able to copy the information online and show them to homeowners and developers and say, ‘It’s not just me. This is what the government is saying’ as well,” he said.

About six months ago, the government map website was shut down and about two months ago it was restored, according to Felix.

However, now the website lacks the feature to view lot numbers associated with areas of land. Felix said the information available through the government website is the same information available on Google Earth and said the government website was of no use to him.

Felix said it’s been a frustrating experience.

“Most of us realtors ... developers and contractors, we were using this system to help us on budgeting and valuations and getting costs,” Felix said. “With these overlays it could really help. It was good for all the people of Guam. And even homeowners can go in there and look at it; it was open to the public.”

The government website is maintained by the Bureau of Statistics and Plans. A disclaimer posted on the website notes that users should verify the information contained on the map with primary government agency sources and is not a substitute for land survey data.

Officials from the bureau were not available for comment Friday or yesterday.

Felix said when he noticed the lot numbers were not available online, he inquired about the change in features at the Department of Land Management. “They said ... it’s there but (DLM) no longer lets the public see it,” he said. “And that really upset me because who pays for this? We, the public pay for this and they have this data and information. Why not make it available to the public?”

Felix said he has been in contact with Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio to help restore the website to how it was before the changes and while Tenorio has been helpful, the website still is not.

The realtor questioned why the lot numbers are not available online now as it was before. “It seems, if it’s available, why not do it? Why not allow the public to take a look at it? I understand now that all it takes is to flip a switch, just push a button and that’ll allow public access to that part of the system,” he said.

He said he is able to view lot numbers at DLM offices and ask for copies of the information but that is time-consuming and inconvenient as he is dealing with hundreds of lots a month.

Further, with the lot number overlay feature online, buyers who choose not to use a realtor could see if they are getting what they paid for in terms of size and the area. Felix said sometimes there are “sliver lots” that could alter the value of an area and the overlay feature would be able to show the buyer the sliver lots.

“Sometimes when you get buyers and sellers meeting directly, the poor buyer can get burned so easily,” he said.

IslandLife 6 hours ago

We, the tax paying public, also used to be able to pay our GRTs online (pay.guam.gov), which has been offline for 2 (?) years now, we used to be able to pay for and renew our vehicle registrations online, we used to be able to pay our payroll withholding taxes at any bank on island, etc. Now, we, the tax paying public, have to go and physically stand in line at one of the few, crowded GovGuam Treasurer location, to be treated "not very courteously" by disgruntled employees. I think that the only solution is to privatize the entire collections process with audited oversight and open bidding for 5 year contrac



Airport defends United's lease of closed commuter terminal

Thursday, 02 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

GIAA decision on Star Marianas application remains pending

THE Guam International Airport Authority has defended the lease it approved for United Airlines of the now-closed commuter terminal after Star Marianas Inc. raised its concern on the issue.

Star Marianas is applying to service the Guam-NMI routes. No decision, however, has yet been made by the airport authority which prompted Star Marianas to file a complaint with GIAA and the Federal Aviation Administration. This is the second time the carrier has applied for the same service. The first was two years ago, but it did not come to fruition.

Rolenda Faasuamalie, GIAA marketing administrator and spokeswoman, told Variety yesterday that communication is constant between the FAA and GIAA on the Star Marianas complaint.

"The FAA is fully aware about the issue (with Star Marianas) and we're in communication with them," she said, adding that GIAA's concerns about the issue have been aired to the federal agency.

Variety learned that Robert Christian, chairman of Star Marianas, on Sept. 2 submitted to GIAA a complaint-letter regarding the delayed response on its application. The airline also raised questions about the lease provided by the GIAA to United despite the space being closed down.

In response to Christian's letter, GIAA Executive Manager Charles Ada defended the authority's decision.

"I was quite surprised and disappointed that you raised the commuter terminal again in your letter which we discussed thoroughly and had documented during our Aug. 19 meeting," Ada told Christian in a letter dated Sept. 22.

Security reasons

The commuter terminal was closed more than 10 years ago for security reasons by both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency.

"The identification (of the area as "commuter terminal") on our Airport Layout Plan was for familiarization only and is currently being updated to alleviate any future confusion," Ada said.

He said the current United lease of a space within the closed commuter terminal was made since it was available and needed to support the airline's hub operation.

Additionally, Ada said, GIAA has decided not to revert the space back to commuter operations since no aircraft could be parked on its adjoining apron because safety clearances could not be met after GIAA constructed the parallel taxiway.

According to Ada, GIAA recognized the demand for a permanent facility for commuter operations. This is why, he said, the authority established an Interisland Passenger Facility project to be funded under the 2013 revenue bonds.

However, Ada said to realize this project, it would take 18 months for GIAA to plan, design and construct the facility.

According to Ada, because it would take some time to realize the Interisland Passenger Facility, GIAA has opted to open an interim facility.

"We are committed to look at the options for an interim facility to meet the specific requirements of your aircraft's passenger capacity; to provide more operator self-access and improve passenger service to the residents and visitors of the Marianas," Ada told Christian in the Sept. 22 correspondence.

Target structure

GIAA has identified the Yellow Cargo Building as the target structure for the interim facility.

Ada noted that the Yellow Cargo Building is just an identifier as it is a multipurpose building.

"Although there are no federal inspection requirements, we have been working with Guam Customs and Quarantine on their criteria and to designate the (Yellow Cargo Building) as an inspection facility under their mandate," said Ada.

He said that GIAA is "getting closer to a workable layout" for the interim facility which will be made available to Star Marianas for its review.

Once built, the space will also be available for other interested carriers utilizing specific aircraft types and will become a common use facility.

Under a Star Marianas proposal, daily operation will commence primarily for Guam-Rota service and Guam-Saipan service. The company will utilize a Piper Navajo Chieftain aircraft with eight-seat capacity. At present, Star Marianas' operation on Guam is for cargo service only.

Star Marianas Air Inc. was incorporated in August 2006 under the name Star Aviation Inc. In 2008, the name was changed to Star Marianas Air Inc. Based on the company's website, its current fleet is comprised of seven Piper Cherokee Six aircraft and four Navajo Chieftain aircraft.

Adios Senådot Ben

Wednesday, 01 Oct 2014 03:00am

BY MICHAEL BEVACQUA

IN JULY of this year, the Marianas said goodbye to Senådot Ben Pangelinan, a longtime champion of the Chamorro people, their language and their rights. In the context of Chamorro struggles today, Senådot Ben was taiachaigua especially in terms of our elected leaders.

Senådot Ben was known for being an outspoken and highly principled person. One of the ways in which this manifested was through his and his office’s support for the decolonization of Guam and his work to help make possible a political status plebiscite. Senådot Ben was born in Saipan and traced his Chamorro lineage to Saipan. This made him ineligible to vote on a political status for Guam. This did not deter him from seeing decolonization as a critical issue and one he should take seriously in his life, as a matter of justice worth supporting and fighting for. Because of the efforts of his office, thousands of people were added to the decolonization registry, pushing it closer than it ever had been before to meeting the 70 percent registered threshold needed prior to the holding of a plebiscite.

Senådot Ben was one the few amongst Guam’s elected leaders today who could fluently speak the Chamorro language and would use it in his campaigning and in his speeches on the floor of the Legislature. He was well known for his passionate use of Chamorro while in session, reminding others, both Chamorro and non-Chamorro of the importance of Guam’s native language, especially when fewer and fewer people are using it. A’gang i bos-ña Si Senådot Ben, ya på’go mas suabi i bos Chamorro gi halom i leyeslatura.

I remember his presentation for the 2nd Marianas History Conference in 2013 held at the University of Guam. Titled “Galvanizing Past and Present Threats to Chamorro Homelands,” he covered the importance of the Chamorro Land Trust, a GovGuam agency created through a mixture of government reform, grassroots activism and attempts at restorative justice. He presented the struggles to get the Land Trust implemented, but also the need to be vigilant in terms of keeping Guam’s land, the most sacred heritage of any native people safe. As he noted in his presentation, “Manteni I Tano’ ya ta susteni I taotao,” hold onto the land and we will sustain the people. A simple, but profound truth. Senådot Ben, a fine orator filled his articles and his speeches with many such powerful points. For his memorial service, his staff and friends gathered together portions of his writings and statements over the years and provided copies for those gathered.  His power and passion is still evident in these words. Some of them I’ve gathered below:

“My prayer and wish for you today is that you will not let present day conventions and institutions mute your voices, clip your wings or keep you from flight. That when the walls of today’s institutions confine and obstruct your vision, that your imagination leads you to add new things to these institutions and when that is not enough, you find the courage and tenacity to raise them and build new ones. Don’t just think outside the box, dismantle the box and you will have real freedom in your revolution.”

“Today, in a time full of cynicism, political sound bites and press releases, we must remember who we are as a people. We once mastered the navigation of the seas; surely we can determine our political future. We survived a world at war; surely we can build an economy which leaves no hardworking families behind. We are the inheritors of an ancient land; surely we can leave this place better than we found it.”

“Despite hundreds of years of influence and suppression, the fundamental principles that make our people unique remain intact. The values of inagofli’e’, inarespeta, inaguaiya, ika and chenchule’ teach us a respect for oneself and for another – that we take care of one another, especially in times of need. Our values teach us that giving back is as important as standing up for truth and justice – that our actions are a reflection of the people who raised us, and the respect we pay them extends beyond their lives on earth.”

“We are no longer a generation rooted in the gratefulness of a liberation. We are a generation whose hearts have been hardened by unkept promises and transgressions unresolved. Knowing this, you have no reason to be surprised as you are met with arms raised in opposition, rather than arms open to accept your plans to take our lands again, change our way of life forever, to once again suit your needs.”


The last time I saw Senådot Ben was at the movie theater a few weeks before he passed. I was taking my kids to watch “Edge of Tomorrow” and we bumped into him in the concession area. I had my kids fanginige’ him and we talked for a bit. My daughter Sumåhi had gotten a hot dog and in Chamorro, taking our cue from a pre-war joke, we call it “maipen ga’lågu” which means literally a hot dog (as in the animal). As we added ketchup to it, he overheard me refer to it as “maipen ga’lågu.” He started laughing and congratulated us for keeping the language alive. In my last image of him, he was walking away to watch “The Fault in Our Stars” with that “maipen ga’lågu” smile still on his face.

Adios Senadot Ben.



Ordot lawsuit bill disputed


Wednesday, 01 Oct 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


  • BILL 281 was taken off the Guam Legislature session floor yesterday and sent back to committee following a motion by Sen. Michael San Nicolas.

    The measure, introduced by Sen. Chris Duenas, would authorize the government of Guam to assert a claim against the federal government for compensation to help defray the cost of closing the Ordot Dump.

    It would also appropriate $350,000 to retain legal services to establish if there are justifiable claims for a government of Guam lawsuit against the federal government.

    Duenas said the funds would also be used to hire environmental experts who would determine whether there is a viable claim against the U.S. government under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as the Superfund.

    But San Nicolas said the bill would have allowed the spending of government money in addition to the 30 percent in contingency legal fees to which a law firm would likely be entitled.

    “Bill 281 would have spent $350,000 of the people's money to do all the legal legwork, only to have the work handed over to a private law firm of the administration’s choosing to pocket $30 million to $60 million of the settlement,” San Nicolas said.

    Moreover, San Nicolas said the source of the $350,000 was not identified in the bill. San Nicolas said the bill merely says that the Department of Administration would be directed to identify the funding source.

    "Therefore, this is another unfunded mandate. When funding sources aren't identified, that means that $350,000 could come out of the funding for education, health, public safety and other priorities. If this case is strong, we should have it move forward on a contingency basis without spending public funds to do all the legwork for a private firm,” San Nicolas said.

    ‘Penny-wise and pound-foolish’

    After the San Nicolas motion to remove the bill from the session floor, the Republican Party of Guam issued a statement pointing out that the Democrats had voted down party lines to send Bill 281 back to committee.

    Duenas said the motion proffered by San Nicolas was “penny-wise and pound-foolish,” and was “consistent with his past positions on blocking all initiatives coming from the Calvo administration.”

    According to the GOP statement, the initiative was supported by the governor in his State of the Island Address, the Guam Solid Waste Authority board of directors, and a fiscal note and funding source for the bill was provided by the Governor’s Office.

    “Because of party politics, we lost an opportunity today to possibly reclaim hundreds and millions of dollars in federal reimbursements,” Duenas said.

    Duenas said his bill was introduced to recover a portion of the $360 million it will cost Guam’s taxpayers to close the Ordot Dump and open a new landfill.

    “This is an unfunded mandate imposed upon the people of Guam, and we would be foolish not to pursue any potential reimbursements available to us by federal law,” he said.

    Duenas also noted the Ordot Dump was built, owned and operated by the military for the disposal of military waste prior to World War II and again after the war, until about 1950 before it was transferred to a federally appointed administration until 1970.

    “Under federal law, the cleanup of sites such as Ordot, falls on responsible parties to include the federal government. The bill allows us to move forward in pursuing reimbursement for a portion of the cleanup costs, which could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars,” the Republican senator said.

    Duenas said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has already stated that the U.S. Navy is a potential responsible party with respect to environmental contamination of the dump and CERCLA requires that responsible parties pay their share.


·         "Live Life Alive" formed to educate public about medicinal marijuana


  • Posted: Sep 30, 2014  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

    Guam - It was just last week when a federal lawsuit was filed to prevent the Guam Election Commission from putting the question of medicinal marijuana on the ballot. But while that waits to be heard, a group has formed to not only educate the community on the matter but to teach them to "Live Life Alive."

    Senator Tina Muna Barnes says the petition by Attorney Howard Trapp for a writ of prohibition with the District Court of Guam is just another hurdle to leap over. "I just hope that the people will be given the opportunity to vote on an issue of great importance and know that there will be an alternative to those that are suffering from debilitating health issues," she told KUAM News.

    It was last week Friday we first reported that Trapp filed the lawsuit asking the federal court to prohibit the Joaquin "KC" Concepcion II Compassionate Cannabis Use Act of 2013 from being placed on the general election ballot. For Joaquin Concepcion, the father of "KC", he, like Barnes, expressed his disappointment, saying, "And to me I think it's a total disrespect to our own Supreme Court, we have three excellent justices that decided and issued their order and their decision saying it's totally legal what the Guam legislature did I am not surprised he did this, but I'm very disappointed he did."

    Aside from the lawsuit, Concepcion says he and his family, friends and supporters are still moving forward in the hope of seeing medicinal marijuana allowed on Guam. "This is something that needs to be done," he said.

    In fact, a non-profit organization was recently formed modeled after the mantra KC lived up to every day despite his fight against cancer. "Don't just survive, live when you're alive and it makes a lot of sense here as far as that's concerned, hence we named it Live Life Alive Inc. and we're pursuing to better educate our people before the election as to the medicinal value of cannabis," said Concepcion.

    Documents were filed with rev and tax last week to form the non-profit. He adds along with education, the group hopes to print informational materials and signs to bring awareness to the cause. Concepcion said, "It will eventually morph into a Live Life Alive foundation further down the road in which one of his dreams was to console and take care of children whose parents are suffering from any type of terminal or debilitating disease he wanted to go and take care of these kids and what to expect."

    Along with allowing for medicinal marijuana on Guam, he says the live life alive group was a dream of KC's before his passing. A wave meanwhile is being held Friday October 3 at the Micronesia Mall intersection starting at 430pm. For more information visit the group's Facebook page or email at livelifealive215@gmail.com.

    GEC executive director Maria Pangelinan in the meantime says she is proceeding forward with the election process as the mass production of the ballots containing the medicinal marijuana question began on Monday and continues today.

  •  

    Guam company gets $6 million for missile facility

  • Wednesday, 01 Oct 2014 03:00am

  • BY FRANK WHITMAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  •  

  • THE Department of Defense announced yesterday that it has awarded a $6.18 million contract to AIC International Inc. for the construction of a new 710-square-meter tactical missile maintenance facility at Andersen Air Force Base.

    The facility is to accommodate the maintenance operations, including assembly, disassembly, inspection, testing, and repair of precision guided munitions, according to the award notice on the Federal Business Opportunities website. 

    The project is a fiscal year 2014 military construction project set aside for a Historically Underutilized Business Zone business. The request for proposal was originally posted on Dec. 24, 2013. Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii is the contracting unit.

    AIC was established more than 30 years ago and has offices in Agat, Saipan and Seattle and a staff of more than 150.

    Guam Power Authority signs record-low interest bonds

  • Wednesday, 01 Oct 2014 03:00am

  • BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • THE Guam Power Authority yesterday held a ceremony to mark the signing of closing documents for $76.47 million worth of revenue bonds, and reported that the latest bond issuance was closed at a record-setting low interest rate of 4.37 percent per annum.

    The 2014 bonds will support the power authority's plans to procure a new energy storage system, implement system improvements, and provide initial funding of GPA’s proposed energy conversion blueprint.

    Joaquin Flores, GPA general manager, said the 2014 revenue bonds beat the power authority’s 2012 bond sale which had a then-record low interest rate.

    “It was nine times oversubscribed in about 45 minutes when we finally opened the marketing desk. It was exciting to see new investors who are interested in Guam, who value our credit, and to see that we are doing things right, for many different reasons – for reliability, for customer satisfaction, for efficiency, and affordable rates,” Flores said.

    He said GPA’s debt service costs would be about $5 million per annum.

    But with financing levelized and spread out over a longer timeframe, Flores said they expect to mitigate consumer power rate increases for the next four or five years.

    “That is the best thing. We have found an innovative way of financing that we don’t automatically ask ratepayers to fund our improvements. We found ways to levelize this through many years and achieve no rate increases within the next four or five years,” he said.

    Sean Keatts, bond underwriter with Barclays Capital, said he expects the transaction to close by today. Keatts affirmed that the 4.37 percent interest represents all-in true interest costs.

    “That is your effective borrowing rate for 30 years,” he said.

    Overwhelming demand

    He said the demand from investors was overwhelming, which enabled bond-financing underwriters to lower borrowing costs.

    According to Flores, GPA was able to take advantage of favorable market conditions and low interest rates to secure financing for the projects and leverage strong demand for the bonds, resulting in reducing the repayment of the bonds by nearly $1 million.About $3 million will be allocated from the 2014 bond money to fund the power authority’s new generation plan, as well as ongoing efforts to shift to liquefied natural gas, according to Flores

    But about $35 million has been reserved for energy-storage and renewable-energy mitigation projects.

    Flores said the new investment would allow for reliability and higher penetration of renewable energy in the grid.

    The Consolidated Commission on Utilities has already approved a resolution authorizing the power authority to seek Public Utilities Commission approval for use of the revenue bonds to develop specifications for procuring and commissioning the energy storage system as well as to contract technical support for the procurement.

    Aside from the energy storage system, Flores said the funds will also be used to support deferred maintenance projects, transmission improvement projects, distribution improvement projects and cybersecurity upgrades.

    Retirement

    Yesterday also marked Flores’ final day at the helm of the power authority. “One thing that is constant in life is change. GPA is undergoing tremendous change. Kin Flores has been part of that change,” said Simon Sanchez, CCU chairman, who described the signing ceremony as bittersweet. “I’ll miss his professionalism, his intelligence and his energy. Managers are not perfect but overall, his years at GPA have been ones of progress, growth, professionalizing, modernizing and restoring credibility at GPA.”

    Sanchez added: “It is time for him to do something different. I am sure he will do very, very well. I suspect that he will be involved in doing energy solutions in the future. He will just be doing it from the private sector.”

    Art Perez, GPA communications manager, said the retiring GM has been at the cusp of a lot of things.

    Perez recalls working with Flores starting in the 1990s on various projects, from Cabras 3 and 4 first coming on line to the development of the Integrated Resource Plan, the inclusion of renewables, and now, the new battery project.

    “It has been a good learning experience to work alongside the professionals at GPA. Kin has been always a professional throughout his entire career,” Perez said.

    After his 35-year stint at GPA, Flores said he still sees the possibility of getting involved in the energy industry in the future. “I don’t want to dismiss anything at this time. I will weigh all options. I just want to keep everything positive, open, and see how it goes,” he said.




Russian university planning to open language centers on Guam and Fiji

Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

SERGEI Ivanets, president of Far Eastern Federal University, said the university wants to open Russian language learning centers on Guam and Fiji, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

RIA Novosti is considered one of the country’s major news organizations, according to the BBC News country profile.

RIA Novosti reported that Ivanets announced the introduction of the learning centers last week Thursday at the 3rd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference on Cooperation in Higher Education.

Ivanets said the university “is set to open Russian language learning centers for the local population of Guam and Fiji,” RIA Novosti reported. Local authorities in Guam and Fiji are negotiating the terms of the project with Far Eastern Federal University officials and both sides expect to come to an agreement this year.

FEFU is located in Vladivostok. Before direct charter flights operated by Oren Air had ceased last month, Vladivostok was one of the major cities that had been part of weekly direct flights between Russia and Guam.

China is home to centers similar to those proposed for Guam and Fiji and the students that attend the centers gravitate toward FEFU for further study, according to the RIA Novosti article.

Ivanets is quoted as saying he hopes that foreign student enrollment will continue to increase, based on current trends. He said the number of foreign students doubled this year, from 600 to 1,200 and hopefully by 2019, the foreign student population will increase to 7,500.

Guam holds reception, thanks Japan for 25M visitors

Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

GVB) – A Guam delegation attending a travel trade show in Japan recently held an appreciation reception for over 200 travel trade partners that helped to bring millions of visitors to the island since 1967, the year when the first international flight to Guam landed.

“Tourism is a people industry and it’s because of people like you that we have achieved 25 million visitors from Japan,” said GVB General Manager Karl Pangelinan. “On behalf of all the staff and management, the board of directors, and most especially our governor and lieutenant governor, we’d like to say si Yu’os ma’åse, thank you very much and domo arigato gozaimasu.”

The reception also featured Chamorro food and dynamic performances from the Mt. Carmel Phoenix Stage Band, Jesse and Ruby and Pa’a Taotao Tano. A Tourism Ambassador award was also given to Shoei, a famous Japanese actor who constantly visits Guam with his family.

JATA

With more than the entire population of Guam attending the JATA Tourism EXPO, Team Guam continues to display the very best that the island has to offer to the travel industry and consumers in Tokyo.

The Guam booth stood out as cultural performances and activities captured the attention of thousands of consumers. The Google Street View Trekker that was used for newly launched Google Street View Guam imagery was also on display.

Additionally, Guam performed on stage at the Discover America Pavilion. A fashion show was also held at the Guam booth featuring the new San-ai Swimwear Collection. After the show was completed, Guam honored San-ai 2014 Campaign Girl Ikumi Hisamatsu for her contributions to the island.

The JATA Tourism EXPO concluded with the Guam Chamorro Dance Academy performing on both the Guam stage and the JATA Tourism EXPO Japan main stage.

GPA to sign revenue bond documents

Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Guam Power Authority will be hosting a signing ceremony today to commemorate the closing of $76.47 million worth of revenue bonds that will support the power authority's plans to procure a new energy storage system, implement system improvements and provide initial funding of GPA’s proposed energy conversion blueprint.

The ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. in the GPA board conference room at the GPA main office in Harmon.

“The authority’s accomplishments over the past decade have improved services to our customers, particularly on improving the reliability of our existing generators and with renewable energy projects being planned,” according to Joaquin Flores, outgoing GPA general manager who announced yesterday that he is retiring. “GPA continues to take important steps towards a renewable energy for our island in a manner that can be made available to all our customers."

About $35 million from the 2014 GPA revenue bonds has been reserved for energy-storage and renewable-energy mitigation projects.

GPA studies have determined the need for the use of the energy storage system “to stabilize GPA’s grid, reduce 77 percent of GPA’s under-frequency load shedding outages as well as optimize GPA’s unit commitment, spinning reserve management, and economic dispatch to reduce fuel requirements and expenses,” according to GPA's newly completed energy storage feasibility study.

During the last Consolidated Commission on Utilities meeting, the body approved a resolution authorizing the power authority to seek PUC approval for use of the revenue bonds to develop specifications for procuring and commissioning the energy storage system as well as to contract technical support for the procurement.

Bill helps job seekers with training

Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

A BILL introduced by Sen. Aline Yamashita seeks to allocate unappropriated fiscal year 2014 Tourist Attraction Fund money for the expansion of the WorkKeys assessment program under the purview of Guam Community College.

According to the senator's office, the bill was introduced to help increase community access to the program. WorkKeys is currently being provided to residents of Inarajan, Sinajaña, Tamuning, and Talofofo through the Community Access Point program.

The WorkKeys assessments measure "real world" workplace skills critical to job success. The senator said these skills are valuable for any occupation – skilled or professional – at any level of education, and in any industry.

WorkKeys has been used as part of the field assessment and as part of the hiring process, not only in the private sector but also in government of Guam agencies.

According to the senator's office, within the last two years, GCC, the Guam Chamber of Commerce, and several of Guam’s mayors established partnerships aimed at helping village residents prepare themselves for various occupations in tourism and other industries on island.

These partnerships have helped to fund several computer workstations at each of the four village community centers.  The computers are available to residents who wish to study for and eventually complete the Work Keys assessment program.

"Bill 403 recognizes a serious need to support workforce training and assessment programs such as WorkKeys – especially in today’s highly competitive job market,” Yamashita said. “This legislation builds upon the good work GCC, our mayors, and the Guam Chamber of Commerce have done to help residents earn a decent wage to support themselves and their families.”

Last July, the Guam Visitors Bureau reported an anticipated surplus of more than $1.3 million of TAF funds for FY2014, and said it expected revenues to hit $30 million.

In FY2012, TAF ended the fiscal year with a $1.3 million increase in fund balance.

Flores retires as general manager of Guam Power Authority

Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

TODAY marks the last day that Guam Power Authority General Manager Joaquin Flores will be heading the power agency. In a surprising announcement disseminated yesterday, Flores – who has been with GPA for the last 32 years, nine of them as GM – said he will be retiring at the end of the month.

A memorandum dated Sept. 26 was given out to employees, in which Flores expressed his gratitude for allowing him to serve the public for the last 32 years.

"Over the past three decades, it has been an honor and a privilege to serve our island, first as an engineer, as a mid-level manager and finally, for the past nine years, as general manager by CCU appointment," he said.

Following the Sept. 26 memo, Simon Sanchez, Consolidated Commission on Utilities chairman, also sent a follow-up letter addressed to employees and ratepayers announcing that John Benavente, Consolidated Utility Services general manager, has been appointed interim GPA general manager beginning Oct. 1.

Sanchez also mentioned the accomplishments and challenges experienced by Flores during his stay at the power authority, first as an employee and then as general manager.

"During these 32 years, GPA has gone from load shedding, inefficient operations and bond defaults to a system that is much more reliable, provides improved service and is again financially respected. As GM, Kin worked effectively with many stakeholders to help bring about these improvements," Sanchez said.

Invest

Sanchez went on to say that GPA will soon invest in new plants that use much less fuel, and fuels that are cleaner and more affordable.

“Combining with over 100 (megawatts) of renewable energy, smart grid and more energy conservation, Guam will need less energy and use much less fuel than we do now, lowering power bills for everyone by the end of this decade,” Sanchez said. "Kin has left behind a strong foundation of professional public servants at GPA who will bring about these major changes. He also helped raise our standards and expectations from ratepayers."

According to GPA, Flores's utility management experience spans more than two decades with emphasis on planning and performance for the operations division of the power authority in the areas of engineering, generation, transmission and distribution, and power system control.

While with GPA, Flores participated in the development of the integrated resource study, submitted testimony to the Public Utilities Commission for all of GPA’s major capital improvement projects and assisted with rate petitions.

In addition, Flores assisted in the refinancing of $350 million in revenue bonds, which saved GPA $13 million in the late 1990s.  In June 2010, Flores also assisted with the sale of $250 million in bonds to fund projects like the Smart Grid, additional underground lines and further improvements to generation assets, and other transmission and distribution upgrades.

Earlier this month, GPA sold $76.4 million in revenue bonds that will be used to fund energy storage systems and the initial phase of GPA's proposed energy conversion plan.

Arguments for and against marijuana initiative approved

Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

GEC on track for Oct. 6 deadline to mail pamphlets to voters

THE Guam Election Commission has approved arguments to be placed on the pamphlets to educate voters about the controversial medical marijuana initiative which is subject to voters’ ratification in the Nov. 4 general election.

Maria Pangelinan, GEC executive director, told Variety yesterday that both the arguments and analysis on the submitted legislative referendum from Sens. Tina Muña-Barnes (in favor) and Dennis Rodriguez (in opposition) will be on the pamphlets after the commission unanimously adopted the submissions during its meeting Thursday night.

The commission had received six arguments – two in favor of the referendum and four opposed to it.

The election commission is to produce 52,000 educational pamphlets for the initiative. Once produced, they will be sent through the U.S. Postal Service to all registered voters. As of last week, GEC had approximately 49,400 registered voters.

According to Pangelinan, the pamphlets will be printed by Graphic Center.

As of yesterday, the commission was waiting for the signatures from both authors of the chosen arguments which will be incorporated into the layout for the pamphlets.

GEC, Pangelinan said, needs to send out the pamphlets by Oct. 6. The director said the commission remains on track with this deadline.

Based on the invitation to submit price quotations to printing companies, the vendor is expected to “clean up” the database of up to 50,000 names and addresses, and verify the data through the National Change of Address System.

Argument in favor

The GEC, after its review of the arguments it received, opted to use the one submitted by the author of the legislative referendum, Muña-Barnes. This presents the argument in favor of the proposal.

"Thousands suffer from diseases that make undesirable. To eat, to sleep, to think, to smile, to remember all become unbearable when dealing with chronic pain. The Joaquin 'KC' Concepcion II Compassionate Cannabis Use Act of 2013 should be approved because it would allow our people to use cannabis for the treatment of certain medical conditions. Not for recreational use, medicinal marijuana will allow for life to be tolerable for those severely suffering.

"Many family members have testified that medicinal marijuana has allowed their family member to die with dignity.

"This act will also allow patients to discuss with their doctor whether or not cannabis use will be beneficial. Written certification from a doctor will be required before a patient can obtain a registry identification card to use of cannabis. Patients must be licensed to use cannabis for the treatment of their medical conditions.

"The proposed list of medical conditions consists of: 1) cancer; 2) glaucoma; 3) multiple sclerosis; 4) damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord, with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity; 5) epilepsy; 6) positive status for human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immune deficiency syndrome; 7) admission into hospice care; 8) post-traumatic stress disorder; 9) rheumatoid arthritis or similar chronic autoimmune inflammatory disorders; or 10) any other medical condition, medical treatment or disease as approved by the Department of Public Health and Social Services.

"Patients who are minors will be allowed to use medical cannabis but only under strict conditions. The patient’s doctor must discuss the benefits and risks associated with cannabis use with the minor’s parents or legal guardian, who would have to formally consent in writing and act as the minor’s primary caregiver.

"Private cultivation of cannabis will not be allowed. The Department of Public Health and Social Services will develop rules and regulations for the use, licensure and dispensing of cannabis. There will be public hearings to provide input on the proposed rules and regulations.

"An advisory board – made up of medical professionals, a representative from the Department of Public Health and Social Services, and of Agriculture, the Guam Legislature, the Guam Board of Medical Examiners, and the public – will assist DPHSS in developing the rules and regulations.

"Funding will be provided to DPHSS to start the program and the continued funding will come from the fees generated by licenses issued under this act.

"The Office of the U.S. Attorney General has stated that the federal government will respect states’ right to make this policy call, and that it is already addressing FCIC concerns about funds attached to cannabis dispensaries.

"Families in 20 states and the District of Columbia, with 15 more states now going through this process, have a natural alternative for the treatment of painful medical conditions."

The opposition argument

GEC chose Sen. Dennis Rodriguez’s analysis and comments to represent the arguments against the proposal.

The following text will be placed in the pamphlet:

"We are being asked to legalize marijuana for medicinal use despite disagreement in the medical profession and concerns of the law enforcement community. At the federal level, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule II Substance (with cocaine, heroin and crystal methamphetamine) which means that it is considered to have a high potential for dependency and no accepted medical use, making distribution of marijuana a federal offense.

"In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice reserved the right to challenge any state and local law legalizing marijuana. According to the USDOJ, no 'state or local law provides a legal defense to a violation of federal law, including any civil or criminal violation of the Controlled Substance Act.' Creating a law that legalizes marijuana does so without the full protection of the federal government additionally putting doctors, patients, caregivers, and law enforcement officers at risk for federal prosecution. Local efforts to authorize marijuana production, distribution, and possession further threatens federal efforts to curb drug-related crimes. Law enforcement officials have repeatedly expressed concerns about the ability of local agencies to comply with the USDOJ’s expectations, and thus, strongly advise against the legalization of marijuana.

"Because the chemicals found in marijuana can travel through the body at rapid rates via the lungs, it is mostly commonly smoked. Smoking marijuana releases toxins into the body of the user and creates intoxicating second-hand smoke that can be breathed in by others. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, marijuana has a wide range of effects on the cardiopulmonary and mental health of users, and although marijuana has been used to treat conditions related to serious diseases, clinical evidence has not shown that the therapeutic benefits of the marijuana plant outweigh its health risks.

"The proposal allows an advisory board of as few as five persons to set regulations for production, distribution and use of marijuana. With less than half of its members being medical practitioners, this board will be empowered to recommend eligibility as well as determine additional qualifying medical conditions.

"DPHSS will be required to use $100,000 of their budget to pay for the implementation of this measure. Additional costs to other government agencies (including additional resources needed to implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement system as required by the USDOJ) are not accounted for in the law.

"This referendum contains significant flaws:

"1. Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug because it has strong addictive properties, a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. USDOJ has reaffirmed its policies on production, distribution and sale of marijuana as grounds for federal prosecution.

"2. The proposal gives advisory board, Public Health and other agencies little to  no resources to effectively implement a strong regulatory and enforcement system necessary to deal with the unknown medical, legal, economic, and social consequences that may result in its passage."

Guam Pacific International wins Navy project

Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

  •  (DoD) – The Department of Defense announced Friday that it has awarded Guam Pacific International LLC a $9.24 million task order under a previously awarded multiple award construction contract to repair 18 high explosive magazines at Naval Magazine on Naval Base Guam.

    Repairs are intended to restore the magazines to fully functional efficient status, requiring no further repair and minimal maintenance. In addition, the scope of work includes, but is not limited to site work; structural and related repair; replacement of ventilation system, doors, and frames; and grounding and lightning protection repair by replacement.

    Work is expected to be completed by December 2015.

    The task order was awarded under a small business MACC awarded to six contractors in March 2010. The five-year contract has a maximum value of $500 million.

    Four proposals were received for this task order.

    Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Marianas is the contracting unit.



GVB: Chamorro culture makes impact at JATA


Monday, 29 Sep 2014 03:00am


PRESS RELEASE


Close to 100 dancers from Japan learn the art of Chamorro Dance

(GVB) – Team Guam continues to make a great impression at the JATA Tourism EXPO Japan with a plethora of activities lined up for the final day of this four-day event.


Led by Master Frank Rabon, nearly 100 Japanese dancers from the Guam Chamorro Dance Academy performed to thousands of consumers on the Guam stage, as well as on JATA’s main stage. GCDA is a program that was started by the Guam Visitors Bureau in 2009 to teach interested Japanese people the art of traditional Chamorro dance. Since the program began, Rabon has taught more than 1,500 students in over six cities in Japan, including Tokyo and Nagoya. The program has also expanded to the U.S. mainland this year.

“They’ve enjoyed it. Every time I come over here, there’s always an addition to the numbers that are coming in to learn. It amazes me because they really don't have to learn our culture. They have their own culture. They’re Japanese. But they really want to learn,” said Master Frank Rabon. “A lot of them travel to Guam after getting a little bit of the practices. They get the interest to travel to Guam and they stay a little longer. They take in not just the beaches and the sights and the hospitality of the island, but they also take in the culture, which is something that is unique to us.”

The island’s 4,000 year old Chamorro culture separated the Guam booth from the rest of the 150 countries and regions that are part of Japan’s largest tourism expo.

“We want to thank Japan for welcoming us and embracing the Hafa Adai spirit, especially through the Guam Chamorro Dance Academy,” said GVB Deputy General Manager Nate Denight. “Team Guam has worked hard these last few weeks to share our island’s story with the international community. It’s definitely important for us to continue placing our Chamorro culture, I Kottura-ta, at the forefront of JATA because it has drawn millions of people for over 20 years to visit and learn more about Guam.”

To add to the island’s unique appeal at JATA, the Guam booth also featured the Hafa Adai Chamorro Dance Show, a Chamorro Craft School, a Miss Guam photo session and presentations by several island businesses that are part of Team Guam.

The JATA Tourism EXPO Japan concluded today, but Team Guam’s efforts continue with the mission to make the island a better place to live, work and visit.



Most archdiocesan assets excluded from Deloitte accounting review


Monday, 29 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


DELOITTE & Touche LLP's accounting review of the Archdiocese of Agana’s financial statements covers only a fraction of the archdiocese’s total assets, according to the recently published letter from Deloitte & Touche.


Land and property, plant and equipment assets were excluded from the scope of work so Deloitte & Touche accountants did not review land, property, plant and equipment which make up 92 percent of the archdiocese’s total assets.

According to the archdiocese’s Statement of Financial Position dated June 30, 2012, property, plant and equipment were valued at $66.7 million. Property, plant and equipment are one of the archdiocese’s largest category of assets, second only to land.

The Statement of Financial Position indicated land assets were valued at $97.8 million.

“Due to the exclusion of land and property, plant and equipment from the scope of our engagement, we did not perform review procedures on land and property, plant and equipment, which constitute 92 percent of the organization’s total assets,” Deloitte & Touche accountants wrote.

The review was originally dated Oct. 31, 2013 but published online on Friday. The financial statements were posted online almost two months after Archbishop Anthony Apuron stated that the church’s finances would be disclosed to the community, following a string of contrasting statements between the archdiocese and “concerned Catholics.”

The independent accountants’ review report of the Archdiocese of Agana focused on applying analytical procedures to the church’s financial data and inquiring about the archdiocese’s management, the letter stated. An independent opinion of the church’s finances is not released in an independent accountants’ review since a review is not an audit. “A review is substantially less in scope than an audit,” the report said.

In addition to the exclusion of land and plant and equipment, a statement of cash flow was not presented to Deloitte & Touche accountants, which is “required by accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.”

The report also stated that the accountants were unsatisfied with the lack of details on beginning balances and as a result, the impact of beginning balances on the statement of activities remains unknown.

As for the statement of activities, the Archdiocese of Agana, which is comprised of 26 parishes, nine catholic schools and the chancery office, recorded total revenues of about $26.2 million at the end of June 30, 2012, the report stated. Losses and expenses were reported to be $26.5 million ending the same year.

More than half of the revenue the church received was from tuition and fees, which accounted for about $15.8 million of the total $26.2 million revenue.

The largest expense for the Archdiocese of Agana was salaries and wages, which were listed as $10.7 million.

Except for excluding cash flow statement and land, property, plant and equipment assets, the accountants reported that they were not aware of any material modifications that should be made to the financial statements.

The archdiocese also indicated in a statement on Friday that the review reports of the Catholic Cemeteries of Guam, the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary and the Catholic Social Services organizations would be available on their respective websites. As of yesterday, the reports had not been published online.


Survey: 95 percent of UOG graduates employed


Saturday, 27 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


A UNIVERSITY of Guam alumni survey revealed that 95 percent of its university graduates are employed and that 56 percent earn more than $40,000 annually.


The UOG Office of Development and Alumni Affairs and the Office of Academic Assessment and Institutional Research released the results of the survey, which was conducted in the 2014 Spring Semester.

The purpose of the survey was to identify the employment status and work placement of graduates, and the perceived usefulness of the degree and UOG university education.

According to UOG, several samples of alumni surveys from other institutions were reviewed and used as a base template for designing the survey instrument.

Moreover, the design of the survey was made in consultation with faculty, deans, and senior management of the university.

Numbers

The survey gathered 391 responses from respondents who graduated from the 1960s up to the 2000s. A majority of the respondents, or 71.4 percent, were graduates from the 2000s.

A total of 87 percent of the respondents earned their bachelor’s degree; 27 percent their master’s degree, and; 1 percent their associate’s degree from UOG.

Meanwhile, 41 percent earned their degree from the School of Business and Public Administration; 25 percent from the School of Education; 18 percent from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences; 9 percent from the College of Natural and Applied Sciences, and;   6 percent from the School of Nursing and Health Sciences.

Significant findings

The survey also revealed that 80 percent of UOG alumni claim their University education was either very useful (36 percent) or useful (44 percent) in preparing them for their jobs.

A majority of the respondents who received their bachelor’s degree from UOG are employed in their major field of study, and felt that their UOG education prepared them for their job.

Almost all UOG graduates, 95 percent  of respondents are currently employed while 56 percent of survey respondents reported that they earned $41,000 to $81,000 and above per annum and 77 percent reported that they were working while attending university. Meanwhile, 31 percent said their employment was the result of a practicum, internship, or cooperative learning activity. Academic Advising (42 percent) and Faculty Mentoring (32 percent) were University services or resources that benefited graduates the most.

According to UOG, as a result of the graduates’ responses through this project, they “are prompted to revisit and further review UOG services, events and resources in order to identify opportunities to better serve current students and alumni.”


GPA expecting 3 percent revenue increase in FY2015


Saturday, 27 Sep 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


FY2015 budget approved by CCU

WITH just a few days to go until the end of the current fiscal year, the Guam Power Authority has presented its final budget for fiscal 2015 totaling around $489 million.


The final budget, which was submitted to the Consolidated Commission on Utilities this week, forecasts a 3 percent potential revenue increase due to recently opened and anticipated commercial and housing developments all over the island.

The CCU approved GPA’s FY2015 budget during its regular meeting last Thursday night.

GPA noted that the FY2015 budget is based on a non-fuel budget of around $167 million and also a fuel budget of $321 million.

According to GPA communications manager Art Perez, there are significant projects that reflect the projected 3 percent revenue increase – from the opening of the new Dusit Thani Hotel and the expansion of Hotel Nikko to the expected opening of the new mall in Tumon.

The announcement of the opening of the Guam museum and the American Medical Center also contribute to the projected revenue increase in the upcoming fiscal year, according to Perez.

Sales drop


In their presentation, GPA noted that although the authority experiences continuing degradation of sales due to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, this will be mitigated by these commercial and housing developments.

Dusit Thani hotel, in particular, is slated to come online in FY2015.

Moreover, residential housing projects such as Summer Ville and Summer Green as well as projects which are anticipated to expand during the fiscal year such as Talo Verde and Paradise Meadow are also expected to add to the revenues of the power authority in FY2015.

Reserve

The CCU approved the final budget at its regular meeting after noting that a provision setting a reserve on the authority’s non-fuel revenues should be included.

Although the commissioners approved a $167 million non-fuel revenue budget, they challenged the GPA management to work within the FY2014 level, which is $165 million.

Perez said GPA will hold back $2.3 million in reserve, which could be utilized for other expenditures at the end of the fiscal year.

CIPs

The FY2015 budget also includes funding for capital improvement projects totaling about $15.43 million.

Perez said these CIPs will be purely revenue supported. GPA will not tap into its current bonds to support these projects, which include various investments from power refurbishments, replacements and upgrades to Cabras 1, 2, 3, 4, and IT services and software upgrades.

The CCU has been authorized under GCA Section 8117, Chapter 8, Title 12 to adopt an annual budget for the authority.

Prior to the approval of the final budget, the commissioners held a working session to review line items with GPA management and staff.

According to the resolution submitted to the CCU, GPA management carefully scrutinized each line item of the budget and made substantial and significant reductions to the budget document as a whole to ensure that all expenditures are consistent with the strategic goals of the authority.