Cabinet members receive retroactive pay

Friday, 19 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

GOV. Eddie Calvo yesterday announced that his Cabinet and staff were paid their salary increases pursuant to P.L. 32-208 as the final implementation of the Hay pay plan, “based on merit and progress.”

Under the law, elected officials and the governor’s Cabinet received salary increases retroactive to Jan. 15.

The governor stood by his earlier statements that his Cabinet deserved the raises. “My conscience is clear that the men and women of the Cabinet and my staff earned the pay they will begin to get,” Calvo said in a statement. “Even with these pay increases, we unfortunately are losing some good people to the private sector. I can’t blame them. The pay is better in the private sector.”

Department of Public Works Director Carl Dominguez and Guam Visitors Bureau General Manager Karl Pangelinan announced this month that they will not be returning to work in the government of Guam in the coming year, but are returning to work in the private sector.

Dominguez and Pangelinan, as well as other agency heads who may not continue in their positions in the next term, will receive the increased salaries because P.L. 32-208 includes retroactive pay for the past year at the higher rate.

Calvo said he made a promise in 2010, that only when the government’s finances were in order would the Hay plan and the government-wide salary increases be implemented.

In January, Calvo said he implemented the plan because the government had paid tax refunds, prioritized public schools, expanded the local hospital and wiped out the government’s budget deficit.

Promise

“After we did all these things, I kept most of my promise and implemented the Hay plan pay raises. The legislature told me to hold back on the pay adjustments for my Cabinet and the elected officials until after the election,” Calvo said in a statement. “And, so, today, here we are and I’m going to complete my promise.”

The raises for each department head are dependent on the Competitive Wage Act of 2014’s Executive Pay Plan. More than 60 directors, deputy directors, general managers and chiefs will receive a raise.

Accompanying Calvo’s statement were three infographics listing the current wages of the agency heads and Cabinet members in contrast to Calvo’s current salary as well as Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio’s salary and Department of Administrator Director Benita Manglona’s salary.

According to the infographic, Joseph Verga, Guam Memorial Hospital administrator; Jon Fernandez, education superintendent; Chuck Ada, airport general manager; Pangelinan; and Joanne Brown, general manager of the Port Authority of Guam, are paid more than $100,000 a year, which is more than Calvo’s current $90,000.

Bill rolling back senators’ pay hike to have public hearing

Friday, 19 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

ALTHOUGH Bill 436 did not make it onto the session agenda this week, the measure – which seeks to roll back the retroactive pay raises for senators that were included in the pay raise bill passed on Nov. 21 – will be the subject of a public hearing scheduled for Dec. 29 at 2 p.m.

The committee on general government operations made the announcement yesterday. Only Bill 436, which is most likely the last legislation to be introduced in the 32nd Guam Legislature, is on the agenda.

Sen. Frank Aguon had sought a waiver of public hearing after introducing the measure this week. It seeks to amend P.L. 32-208.

The bill removes only the senatorial salary increase. It still would allow for the governor, lieutenant governor, Cabinet members and the attorney general to retain their respective retroactive salary adjustments as set in law.

After introducing the measure, Aguon sent a request to Speaker Judith Won Pat to waive the public hearing requirement for the measure and add it to the current session agenda.

Aguon’s bill is the second measure introduced this month that seeks to repeal the retroactive pay raises for the members of the Guam Legislature on Nov. 21.

On Dec. 9, a special session was convened to discuss Bill 435, a measure seeking to repeal all of the recently passed retroactive Hay pay increases for elected officials and political appointees.

Bill 435 was introduced by Sen. Michael San Nicolas. It failed to gather enough votes to pass.

Letter

In the letter sent to the speaker, Aguon said that although he supports the spirit of Bill 435, a measure which seeks to stop salary increases for elected officials and Cabinet members by repealing P.L. 32-208, he did not support the bill in its entirety due in part to an amendment he introduced in Section 4 of the law.

With the introduction of Bill 436, Aguon said “in as much as I believe we, the senators, deserve the recommended salary increase, the people of Guam are far more deserving of safer communities, reliable public transportation, adequate roads, and most importantly, trust in their elected leaders to carry out their will for the betterment of our island’s future. In light of the polarizing issues concerning P.L. 32-208, I am requesting from all my colleagues to support this measure.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Eddie Calvo continued to defend the salary hikes provided by the new law.

In a special message released yesterday, Calvo said it is up to the lawmakers to decide whether senators now and in the future earn their salary increase.

But the governor said his conscience is clear that the men and women of the Cabinet and his staff earned their salary increase.

Half of consent decree road projects marked completed

Friday, 19 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE government of Guam reported to the District Court of Guam on Wednesday that the Department of Public Works is continuing work to complete all road and bridge projects along Route 4 which affect the consent decree.

In the latest biweekly report filed with the U.S. District Court of Guam on Wednesday, GovGuam’s counsel Cabot Mantanona LLP indicated that of the six road and bridge projects identified critical to the closure of Ordot Dump, three of the projects have been marked completed while the rest are continuing to progress.

The following Route 4 projects along the transfer truck route to the Layon Landfill are considered critical elements in the ongoing operations of transfer trucks traveling to and from the landfill: the Ylig Bridge, the Togcha and Talofofo bridges, Route 4 Pågo Bay to Route 17, from the Togcha River to Ipan Beach Park, the As-Alonso Area of Route 4 and the Route 4 safety enhancements.

Three of the projects were marked completed including the Togcha and Talofofo bridges, Route 4 Pågo Bay to Route 17, and the Togcha River to Ipan Beach Park.

The construction of the Ylig Bridge is now 98 percent complete.

According to court documents, bid documents for the project were issued in August 2010 and the bid opened in October of the same year. The contract was executed in November 2010 and a notice to proceed was issued in the same month. The original target completion was November 2011, the current expected completion date for the project is March 2015.

Factors

According to the latest filing, the delays on the project were attributed to several factors including resolving waterline conflicts, subsurface pile conflicts, archeological data recovery, Ylig memorial site and perpetuation of existing property access.

Two other projects, according to the report, remain incomplete.

The As-Alonso area of Route 4 project needs a slope stability assessment, the report indicated. On Aug. 22, 2013 DPW responded to the receiver that Route 2 is the alternative access to Layon Landfill.

For the Route 4 safety enhancement project, it was indicated that it was on Sept. 17 when DPW transmitted the 25 percent conceptual plan cost estimate to Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc., the court-appointed solid waste receiver.

GEDA OKs resurfacing of tennis courts

Friday, 19 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Guam Economic Development Authority board of directors yesterday approved $141,000 to resurface and restripe the Hagåtña tennis courts.

Board chairman E.J. Calvo said the tennis court project is part of the hotel occupancy tax (HOT) bond projects.

Diego Mendiola, real property division assistant manager, said the next step is for GEDA to prepare a notice of intent to award the project to Maeda Pacific, the company that won the bid.

Another bid to upgrade the Hagåtña pool will be prepared in the coming days, Mendiola said.

The projects are two of several funded by the HOT revenue limited obligation bond. The HOT bond project was established by P.L. 30-228.


    

Residents may be asked to vacate homes for pipeline project

Thursday, 18 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

SOME residents will need to leave their home for increments of up to eight hours so contractors can safely examine anomalies found underground as work to replace and upgrade the 15-mile fuel pipeline that runs from Piti to Andersen Air Force Base begins to move beyond military property.

Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marianas has already alerted about 200 residents of Yigo and Dededo about the possibility of intermittent evacuation next month.

Residents will be asked to vacate their homes for varying amounts of time for their safety as contractors investigate metals and possible unexploded ordnance detected underground, military officials said.

It is NavFac’s goal to provide advance notice to all residents who will be affected through door-to-door meetings with NavFac personnel, letters and posted signs.

Contractors will be scanning the underground area around the fuel pipeline for anomalies and based on what is found underground, a safety exclusion zone will be designated.

Residents whose homes are within the declared safety exclusion zone will be notified in person and on paper that their home falls within the safety exclusion zone.

Before contractors begin examining the anomalies underground, NavFac Marianas will inform the affected residents when contractors will examine the anomalies and when they should vacate their homes.

Multiple days

Lt. Commander Brian Schonefeld, the deputy resident officer in charge of construction for NavFac Marianas, said residents may be asked to vacate their homes for multiple days at a time, but it will only be for eight hours, at the most, each day.

As the project progresses, NavFac officials will work to alert the public at least a month in advance if their area is part of the safety exclusion zone.

Bill Austin, public affairs officer for NavFac and Dan Guerrero, community planner, have spoken to 200 northern residents between Potts Junction and Machananao Elementary School about vacating their homes next month. The residents have homes within the safety exclusion zone designated by the contractors who have scanned the area on Department of Defense property in Yigo. They have not yet begun scanning easements outside DoD property and will begin that process next month.

Austin said he and Guerrero have gone door-to-door with the letters explaining the construction work since November and most of the feedback has been positive. The eight-hour time frame is just a window for the contractors to work with and if the residents can return home before the eight-hour time frame is over, NavFac will let them know.

NavFac expects most eight-hour time frames to be during the day when people are already at work so vacating their home is not so inconvenient. The schedule, however, is dependent on the location of the safety exclusion zone and what will be investigated underground. Military leaders have met with community and government leaders to help determine the best time to investigate the anomalies.

“It just all depends on who’s in that immediate area. So you wouldn’t want to work weekends if there’s a church there. You wouldn’t want to work during the school day if there’s a school in the immediate area,” Schonefeld said. “So that’s where our partnership with the local leaders is key.”

Dededo gym

Schonefeld said Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares suggested opening the Dededo gym during the eight-hour time frames for residents who might not have a place to stay while they are asked to vacate their home.

The focus is on public safety, military officials said.

The pipeline project has been underway for about half a year on Department of Defense land and should be completed in 2016. The project is not connected to the military buildup, officials said. The pipeline is decades old and will be upgraded for improved fuel transfer capabilities.

Contractor Nova Group, Inc.-Underground Construction Inc., a Joint Venture of Napa, California was awarded the $52 million fixed-price contract to upgrade the fuel pipe last year.

NavFac officials encouraged residents who have questions about the project to visit the project’s website at www.upgradefuelpipeline.com. Questions can also be sent to the public affairs officer whose contact is listed on the website.

Guam Memorial Hospital urgent care unit not yet fully staffed

Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

GUAM Memorial Hospital Administrator Joseph Verga said the hospital is ready to open its urgent care unit but it is not yet fully staffed.

“We’re ready but we want to be more prepared,” Verga said. The hospital has a core group of doctors and nurses hired for the urgent care unit but it is still looking to hire some more.

Verga said the hospital hopes to open the urgent care unit next year, which gives GMH more time to adjust the scheduling and the urgent care pilot program. This time of the year is the busiest for the emergency department, Verga said, which is why the hospital wanted to delay the opening so as not to disrupt the emergency department by adding a new program during its busiest time.

GMH will use the time to get supplies and familiarize the staff with the new pilot program. “This will give us time for more tweaking,” Verga said.

As for the doctors who have been tapped to work in the urgent care center, Dr. Jon Sidell, medical director, said none of the doctors will be paid until the urgent care unit opens. The doctors that will work in urgent care already have privileges at GMH, Verga said.

Modified schedule

The pilot program is a modified schedule. The urgent care center will only be open during peak hours from 3 p.m. through midnight. GMH spokeswoman June Perez said last month that having the care center open during the peak hours will help alleviate the strain on the hospital’s emergency department.

The urgent care center has been in the works for more than a year, Verga said. Work on the facility began in January. The urgent care center was mandated by Public Law 32-60 and will receive patients with injuries or conditions that require immediate attention but are not serious enough to require emergency care.

Yesterday, Verga said the hospital still has not received all of the funds intended for GMH through Public Law 32-60, which designated gaming tax funds for the hospital. Verga said with Department of Administration Director Benita Manglona now serving as the interim chief financial officer at GMH, she will be able to help move the process along so GMH receives the funds.

A good fight

Thursday, 11 Dec 2014 03:00am

VARIETY NEWS STAFF

SEN. Michael San Nicolas must have known that his effort to rescind the hefty, retroactive pay increases that legislators voted themselves would be futile. It was, after all, not even three weeks ago that the retroactive pay raise bill passed by a vote of 10 to 1. Surely, San Nicolas did not expect the members of the legislature to reverse themselves on something that is so in their self-interest. They weren’t ashamed to vote for the retroactive raise three weeks ago; why would they have been ashamed to vote the same way on Tuesday? Obviously they were not.

Nonetheless, San Nicolas introduced the rollback legislation and has vowed to introduce it again in the 33rd Guam Legislature. If that fails to pass, he said he will consider making introducing it as a voter referendum to be on the ballot in the 2016 election. 

We commend San Nicolas for his effort to set right the legislature’s actions and encourage him to pursue it.

After rejecting the raises for elected officials and unclassified employees earlier in the year with much fanfare, 17 days after the election the members of the legislature voted for the raises, which were made retroactive to Jan. 15. Legislators apparently knew that raising their salaries before the election would have hurt them at the polls. They likely assume the move will be forgotten by Nov. 8, 2016 – the date of the next election. We do not intend to allow that to happen, and apparently neither does San Nicolas.

On Tuesday, San Nicolas pointed out that legislative salaries had not been included in the Hay compensation study and senators were, as some contended, not obligated to approve and accept the raises – that make them the most highly paid state or territorial legislators, behind only those of California – in order to get value from the funds spent on the Hay study.

We also commend Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz for being the sole member of the legislature to reverse his position and vote in favor of San Nicolas’ bill.

We continue to believe that the governor, the lieutenant governor, the legislators, the attorney general and the more than 80 directors, deputy directors and other unclassified officials were paid well enough before Public Law 32-208, and that the money would be better spent subsidizing the mass transit system, paying hospital vendors, reopening the public library, repairing the schools, buying textbooks, providing adequate medical care and facilities at the Department of Corrections, fixing village roads, hiring more school aides, youth counselors and police officers, or just paying down the government’s massive debt.

We are hopeful that other senators come to see the retroactive raises as unacceptable and likewise support the next effort to rescind the Hay raises for elected (except the mayors) and unclassified officials.

 

The correct outcome for waste-to-energy

Monday, 15 Dec 2014 03:00am

VARIETY NEWS STAFF

SEN. Dennis Rodriguez took the correct action Friday when he ended the public hearing on the legislation that would ratify the waste-to-energy contract proposed by Guam Resource Recovery Partners. During the hearing it became clear that there were too many questions about the contract and its impact on the community that remained unanswered and Rodriguez stated that he could not and would not move the bill out of committee. Apparently, his legislative colleagues agreed with Rodriguez’s decision.

A couple of questions remain that warrant residents’ attention.

The community had raised a number of issues about the project, and residents appeared ready to object to the project based on the potential impact on the environment, on government finances and its financial feasibility. But among the significant questions raised at the hearing was how it happened that the contract was before the legislature for ratification.

The hearing began with testimony from Chief Deputy Attorney General Phil Tydingco, on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General, stating that contract negotiation was a function of the executive branch of government, and the legislation appeared to violate the separation of powers provision of the Organic Act. He said if the bill passed, it would face legal challenges on that and other grounds.

During the hearing, it became apparent that the contract was submitted to the legislature solely in order to meet the conditions of the mediated settlement of a $20 million lawsuit filed by GRRP against the government. A memorandum of understanding, it was disclosed during the hearing, that constituted the settlement required that the contract be submitted to the legislature for either a ratification or denial by vote, or the passage of 120 days with no action.

During the hearing, neither the Guam Economic Development Authority nor the governor’s office would endorse the contract. Both offices had been party to the court-ordered mediation. The proposed contract had been sent to the legislature by GEDA. The governor’s office was not initially even represented at the hearing, until, at Rodriguez’s apparent request, the governor’s attorney Sandra Miller testified at the afternoon session.

We were encouraged to hear Miller testify that Gov. Eddie Calvo had yet to be convinced that the waste-to-energy project was environmentally sound, legal under Guam law and economically feasible. She said he would not sign the contract if he were not convinced it met those standards.

Attorney Tom Fisher, representing GEDA, said it appeared that GRRP accepted the settlement proposal that the contract be ratified by the legislature because it believed it could “muster the votes” to get it passed by senators.

Commenters on the Variety website have observed, accurately we believe, that the only support for the waste-to-energy contract appeared to come from those affiliated with GRRP. So the community is left to wonder why GRRP believed the proposal would pass the legislature despite community opposition and despite the questions left unanswered by the proposal.

  • Mathew 2 days ago

    There is support for it, editors. They, the legislators, are just feigning to be listening to the so-called public input. And, the Gov. will go along with it once the support from Hessler begins to gel. It is one big cabal.



Calvo urges senators to vote on Bill 332 for Rigålu House


Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 03:00am


PRESS RELEASE


ADELUP) – Gov. Eddie Calvo has urged the legislature to vote to Bill 332, which provides for the building of the Rigålu House in Tamuning.

“It is the most vulnerable of our children are who are at stake. It’s our job, as elected leaders, as adults, as family-oriented Guamanians to protect them and to ensure that in these most difficult of times in their young lives they are getting a safe place to sleep at night,” Calvo said.

“I am urging Vice Speaker BJ Cruz, with the support of our social workers and Tamuning residents and mayor, to place Bill 332-32 on the upcoming legislative session agenda,” the governor added.

Earlier this year, the governor’s office, with the help of Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes, submitted Bill 332 for consideration in the legislature.

“The social workers of Guam, the Tamuning mayor, and Tamuning residents have submitted letters and petitions showing their support,” the governor stated.

Calvo said about 200 Tamuning residents signed a petition, giving their generous support for the building of a foster home in their village.

In her letter to the Vice Speaker, Mayor Louise Rivera held a special meeting with the Tamuning municipal planning council rendering a majority vote to support Bill 332.

“I also humbly ask for you and your colleagues to pass the bill for the sake of the unfortunate children on Guam who deserve respectful care during a traumatic period in their young lives. The foster care home in Tamuning would be a valuable and respectful addition to our village,” the mayor stated.

In addition, social workers had a similar petition signed by nearly 100 individuals, reiterating the need for a temporary shelter.


Report highlights bleak finances at GMH

Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

A REPORT from the Department of Interior Office of the Inspector General published on Dec. 10 expresses concern that Guam Memorial Hospital’s cash flow is negative and its reimbursement rates and fee schedules “are out of date.”

The inspector general evaluated the hospital in light of a projected population increase of 80,000 people including the relocated U.S. Marines and their families. “GMHA’s financial situation may jeopardize future medical needs of the citizens of Guam,” the report stated.

Most of the weaknesses found at the hospital were related to GMH’s inability to generate revenue and without adequate income the hospital cannot upgrade its infrastructure, maintain and replace supplies or equipment or recruit necessary staff, the report said.

Quality health care services will be at risk for the people of Guam until actions are taken to collect revenue and secure funding for the hospital, the report stated.

The findings in the report highlight ongoing financial problems with the hospital including fees that have not kept pace with rising costs and lack of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements from the federal government, rising vendor costs and an inefficient collection of accounts receivable.

DOI suggested GMH increase its fees and while GMH replied that a proposed increased fee schedule was sent to the Guam Legislature, the schedule has not yet been implemented. GMH has had the same fees since the early 1990s despite rising costs.

Lost

As for reimbursements, the hospital reported that it lost $22 million from operations because government and local health insurance companies did not adequately reimburse the hospital. Federal reimbursements were also lacking and the hospital has hired a consultant to help find a solution.

During DOI’s review of the hospital’s operations, the federal government found GMH owed $22 million to vendors on accounts that were long overdue and continuously increasing.

Additionally, the hospital’s primary vendors refuse to extend credit which forces the hospital to find other suppliers who tend to charge more for supplies, the report stated. This leads to GMH paying nearly double for some supplies and services, according to the report.

The hospital also still relies on outdated paper billing and does not currently accept online payment for services at the hospital. If the hospital was to move to paperless billing, it could save on paper and postage costs, DOI wrote in its report.

The hospital also had 14 capital improvement projects that do not have approved funding. The projects total $5.7 million.

DOI also acknowledged that the new private hospital, Guam Regional Medical City, poses another challenge. “A new private hospital is currently under construction and, once it opens, might exacerbate GMHA’s financial challenges by drawing away some of its self-paying and insured customers,” the report said.

The Department of Interior offered eight suggestions to the hospital after the department evaluated GMH and noted that seven of the suggestions were resolved but not implemented and the final suggestion remained unresolved.

DOI suggested GMH review its fee schedule on a regular basis and make adjustments when necessary to make sure costs are covered. The hospital has not yet implemented a new fee schedule but GMH officials told DOI that they contracted a company to analyze the hospital's charge master and expect the company's report this month. The charge master is a list of procedures billable to patients or their health care providers.

The inspector general acknowledged the contractor’s work but asked GMH whether the fee schedule will be reviewed and adjusted regularly as a matter of policy in the future.

 Mathew 8 hours ago

  • Those proposed fee increases will increase health insurance premiums in some form, way or shape. You don't expect the Calvo family, among other elitists, to eat that, do you? It is not so much what the market will bear. It is what the Calvos will bear as the Calvos are the market makers in the closed, opaque private sector on Guam.

  

Minimum wage economic impact statement bill moved to 3rd reading

Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

BILL 376, a measure introduced by Sen. Aline Yamashita to require the completion of an independent economic impact statement relative to the minimum wage on Guam, progressed to the third reading file during the Guam Legislature’s session yesterday.

The bill would require the Department of Labor to issue a request for proposal to conduct a one-year independent economic impact statement, relative to the minimum wage on Guam no later than Jan. 1, 2016.

After funding for the study was initially questioned, Yamashita proffered an amendment during session identifying a funding source.

The senator suggested that DOL, in collaboration with the Guam Economic Development Authority, identify the resources necessary to fund the study.

Sen. Michael F.Q. San Nicolas also proffered an amendment that DOL work with the University of Guam to determine the study parameters.

Yamashita said the study would provide "hard, concrete data" on the true impact of the minimum wage increase to the community.

"So we are not just looking at national sights and speculating, but you can then say ... based on our study here on Guam, this is what has happened," she said.

Yamashita also said the study should detail the impact of the wage increase on small businesses, their employees, and their budgets.

San Nicolas suggested the study also include the impact of the increase on the welfare system, in terms of dollar amounts as well as reduction in numbers of people on public assistance.

Multiplier effects

San Nicolas said the impact of a minimum wage increase on the money velocity on Guam – including relevant multiplier effects and subsequent economic benefits, if any – should also be considered in developing the parameters of the study.

"One of the points that I raised is we do have some industries that export a lot of their profits. ... As we increase the minimum wage, we do have more of those dollars going into the pocketbooks of our people, who then spend it into the local economy. That creates a money velocity environment where dollars are circulating locally as opposed to profits being exported off-island," he said.

In July, the legislature passed what is now P.L. 32-178, a compromise measure, which will increase the current minimum wage of $7.25 to $8.25 an hour effective Jan. 1, 2015. It had originally been proposed that the minimum wage be raised to $10.10 an hour.

    

New pay raise rollback bill

Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

SEN. Frank Aguon has introduced a bill amending Public Law 32-208 and removing senators from being covered under the salary rates set pursuant to the Competitive Wage Act of 2014.

Aguon introduced Bill 436 yesterday afternoon while the legislature was in session.

The senator's bill is the second measure introduced this month that seeks to repeal the retroactive pay raises for the members of the Guam Legislature that was passed on Nov. 21.

On Dec. 9, a special session was convened to discuss a measure seeking to repeal the recently passed retroactive Hay pay increases for elected officials and political appointees.

Bill 435 was introduced by Sen. Michael San Nicolas. It failed to gather enough votes.

On Nov. 21, the legislature voted 10-1 to pass Bill 1 (8-S), now Public Law 32-208 in special session called just the evening before by acting Gov. Ray Tenorio.

Under the new law, the governor’s salary increased by $40,000; the lieutenant governor will receive an extra $25,000; and each member of the Guam Legislature is set to receive a raise of around $20,000.

Additionally, the attorney general will receive a $19,000 salary hike and all members of the governor’s Cabinet are set to receive significant increases.

The raises were effective retroactively from Jan. 15.

Gov. Eddie Calvo first proposed the Hay pay increases for elected officials and political appointees in his official transmittal of the Hay Plan to the legislature in January.

Opposition

The move to raise the salaries of elected officials and political appointees, and to do so retroactively, has faced opposition from the community.

After the enactment of P.L. 32-208, a group started a petition on change.org opposing the pay hike. Many of those who expressed opposition wrote that the pay raises are without justification, unaffordable and “ridiculous.”

But the governor has said the pay hikes for elected officials and political appointees established by P.L. 32-208 should be supported.

Calvo said the pay raises are deserved for the people in the government and are needed to stabilize inequities among the wages between autonomous agencies and line agencies.

San Nicolas, the senator who originally opposed the pay raises, said if the increase in salary and retro pay for the governor, lieutenant governor, senators, political appointees and others are repealed, around $4 million would be saved this fiscal year.

According to San Nicolas, the $4 million is a significant amount that could be used for several major village roads repairs, could more than double the public transit budget, or could be used to renovate public schools such as Simon Sanchez High School and George Washington High School.

The senator has vowed to continue opposing the pay raises in the next legislature.

 

Inspector general finds deficiencies in Rev and Tax collections

Wednesday, 17 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • IN A September 2014 report, the Department of Interior’s Office of Inspector General discovered that the Department of Revenue and Taxation followed inadequate procedures when identifying contractors subject to the business privilege tax and did not collect all the taxes the government of Guam was owed.

    There were holes in DRT’s procedures, including not using a complete list of federal contractors when identifying which businesses are subject to the business privilege tax and the department did not follow through with established processes when collecting. The lack of follow-through added to the government’s problem of possible lost revenue, the report stated.

    According to the inspector general, a possible $414,414 is owed to the government in business privilege taxes. At least six contractors had no record at DRT showing they paid the 4 percent business privilege tax for contracted jobs.

    The Department of Interior recommended Guam resolve whether or not those taxes are owed, in addition to developing and implementing a collection procedure for business privilege taxes and expanding their information sources so that DRT can identify all federal and local contractors who may be subject to the business privilege tax.

    Important

    It’s important for DRT to collect all the taxes that it’s owed in order to pay down GovGuam’s $1 billion long-term debt, the inspector general wrote. “By failing to address longstanding tax collection deficiencies, such as the case with (business privilege tax), Guam has been deprived of the revenues it desperately needs to fund public education, health, safety and other programs for its people,” the report stated.

    The report was sent to Assistant Secretary of Insular Affairs Esther Kia’aina, and Gov. Eddie Calvo. Calvo responded to the report and said he agrees that taxes should be collected in full.

    Calvo also said he has introduced legislation to hire counsel to pursue companies not paying taxes, adding that the Department of Revenue and Taxation has been “constrained by both manpower and time.”

    DOI also noted that the inefficiencies found last year at DRT were similar to conditions discovered almost 20 years ago, based on previous Interior reports. In 2008, DOI reported that DRT was losing at least $23.5 million in taxes every year.

    The DOI evaluation spanned about three months, from March 2013 through May 2013. Interior officials visited DRT, the Guam Economic Development Authority, the Bureau of Statistics and Plans and Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marinas and interviewed DRT staff and staff from the Office of Public Accountability. The evaluation, the inspector general wrote, was performed in accordance with the Quality Standards for Inspection and Evaluation as put for by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.

 

Pangelinan resigns as GVB chief

Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

 (GVB) – The Guam Visitors Bureau board of directors announced yesterday the resignation of Karl Pangelinan as general manager effective Jan. 31, 2015 following which Deputy General Manager Nathan Denight will serve as acting general manager.

“Karl’s dedication and marketing acumen have served the bureau well and have helped to guide tourism to new heights,” said Mark Baldyga, chairman of the board of GVB. “The board accepted his resignation and offered their appreciation for his outstanding work and contributions.”

Pangelinan said: "I cannot thank Gov. (Eddie) Calvo enough for this invaluable opportunity to serve the people of Guam and the tourism industry for the past two years. The fine people at GVB and in the industry have made this stint extremely fulfilling as a professional.  I will stay on through the end of January to ensure a smooth transition to the next leader of this organization. With the governor's vision and the expertise at the board level, GVB is in very capable hands and I expect even more success to be realized in the coming years.  As for me personally, I've not been shy about my intention to go back to the private sector. It's where my roots are and I'm extremely thrilled about the opportunities ahead of for me."

Baldyga said “Karl has been a great asset at the bureau. We are fortunate to have great depth in capable, seasoned leadership and an outstanding board that brings decades of industry experience.  We remain focused on executing the Tourism 2020 plan as we wish Karl the very best and look forward to continued growth in the island’s leading industry.”

 

Archaeological sites discovered

Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

USFW) – On Nov. 12, Mike Carson, associate professor of archaeology at the University of Guam, visited the Guam National Wildlife Refuge at Ritidian Point. While exploring the eastern part of the refuge with refuge maintenance worker Brian Leon Guerrero, they came across an ancient latte village complex site that has yet to be studied.

The site is part of what Hans Hornbostel described in the 1920s as a large expanse covered with "dense latte" around the northern end of Guam. The specific latte sets, however, were not formally mapped, recorded or excavated. Later islandwide surveys continued into the 1960s, acknowledging that the Ritidian area contained several latte sets but lacked proper documentation.

“This is exciting news to the refuge staff and all those concerned with Guam's cultural resources,” said Joseph Schwagerl, refuge manager. Carson led Schwagerl and staff to the site the following day where a small clearing and markings were set. This ancient village site includes eight to 10 latte sets.

The cultural midden deposits are visible at each latte set and in adjacent areas. At least one of the midden deposits, outside the footprint of any latte house, is curious because it apparently consists almost entirely of burned material without visible artifacts.

The site offers an excellent opportunity to observe and appreciate the layout of a latte village complex. The relationships among the different latte can be studied through detailed site recordings, measurements and discoveries of controlled excavations. Depending on the material findings, new questions may be addressed in regards to the ancient social life of the latte village.

Because of its location, northeast of the refuge’s administration building, this area is not frequented by staff or researchers.

“This comes as a complete surprise, because we thought we knew where every sacred and significant cultural site was on the refuge,” said Emily Sablan, park ranger.

This find is significant and plans are underway to submit a revised application, previously submitted to the State Historical Preservation Office, for this site to be included for listing in the National Register of Historical places. Visits to the site will be available at a later date and inquiries may be directed by calling 355-5096/5097 or submitting written inquires on the refuge website: http://www.fws.gov/refuge/guam/.

 

Proposed incinerator near heritage preserve

Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE site for the proposed waste-to-energy facility is near Guam's first heritage preserve – one reason why the Guam Preservation Trust expressed opposition to the now-moot Bill 433.

The proposed legislation sought to approve the WTE project proposed by Guam Resource Recovery Partners and ratify the settlement agreement between the group, GovGuam and the Guam Economic Development Authority.

According to the trust, the development would result in changing the integrity of the area and adversely affect Guam’s traditional cultural properties.

The trust was deeded 175 acres of land in the municipality of Piti and Santa Rita known as Atantano. According to the trust, it has designated the site as Guam’s first heritage preserve, to be known as the Atantano Heritage Preserve, as the property contains multiple cultural, natural and historic resources that have the potential to increase the knowledge of Guam’s history and heritage.

Moreover, the trust is designating the Atantano Heritage Preserve to promote the conservation and protection of the environmental footprint for the community.

Incomprehensible

“The notion of entertaining a proposal for a waste-to-energy facility next to what will be a heritage preserve seems completely incomprehensible,” said Joe Quinata, Guam Preservation Trust’s chief program officer. “We have called upon our island communities to help us stand with affirmation to conserve and preserve our cultural and natural heritage.”

According to the trust, it is its vision and mission to preserve, promote and protect Guam’s historic sites, culture and heritage through education, advocacy and community involvement.

Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, the chairman of the legislative committee on economic development, has decided not to report out Bill 433.

“I am going to take the prerogative as chairman of the committee to say that I will not move forward with this bill. This bill will not move forward in this term. It won’t be reported out,” he said.

Rodriguez made the announcement at the tail end of the public hearing for the measure on Friday. Members of the community who were in attendance applauded the decision.

 

‘Guam airport under investigation for Star Marianas issue’


Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 03:00am


BY ALEXIE VILLEGAS ZOTOMAYOR | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


  • SAIPAN – The Guam International Airport Authority is under investigation.

    A letter from the Federal Aviation Administration director of airport compliance and management analysis Randall S. Fiertz to Star Marianas Air counsel Jason Goldstein of Richards & Associates on Nov. 13 confirms this.

    A copy of the letter was received by the airport’s counsel Calvo Fisher & Jacob LLC last Nov. 21.

    “I understand that on Sept. 16 you contacted FAA’s Western-Pacific Region Airports division requesting an investigation. That investigation is both recent and ongoing,” Fiertz told Goldstein.

    Fiertz said the “investigation process initiated by the Western Pacific Region, in accordance with 14 CFR Part 13, presumptively provides a reasonable prospect for resolution.”

    Star Marianas Air sought a formal Part 16 investigation as well which FAA dismissed without prejudice pursuant to 14 CFR §16.27 or incomplete complaint.

    Under 14 CFR §16.27, “If a complaint is not dismissed pursuant to § 16.25 of this part, but is deficient as to one or more of the requirements set forth in § 16.21 or § 16.23(b), the Director will dismiss the complaint within 20 days after receiving it. Dismissal will be without prejudice to the refiling of the complaint after amendment to correct the deficiency. The Director’s dismissal will include the reasons for the dismissal.”

    Fiertz explained to Goldstein that pursuant to 14 CFR §16.21, before filing a Part 16 complaint, a person directly and substantially affected by the alleged noncompliance must engage in good faith efforts to resolve the disputed matter informally with those individuals or entities believed responsible for the noncompliance.

    Firtz said, “A complaint under this part will not be considered unless it certifies that (1) the complainant has made substantial and reasonable good faith efforts to resolve the disputed matter informally prior to filing the complaint; and (2) there is no reasonable prospect for practical and timely resolution of the dispute.

    Elevated

    Last Sept. 16, Star Marianas Air through its chairman Robert Christian elevated the issue to FAA seeking an investigation of the Guam International Airport Authority for breach of grant assurances.

    Star Marianas Air has been attempting to provide scheduled and charter flights between the Northern Marianas and Guam; however, it claims to have hit roadblocks with its application to do so.

    According to the regional carrier, GIAA has leased the commuter terminal designated on the airport layout plan to United Airlines Human Resources and continues to deny SMA the use of the commuter passenger building for its aeronautical use.

    Star Marianas Air claims the airport is using the space for non-aeronautical purposes, which is a breach of grant assurances.

    The airline said that GIAA has breached Grant Assurance 22, Grant Assurance 23 and Grant Assurance 24 which in effect prevents SMA from having airside access to the Guam airport terminal.

    Grant Assurance 22 is on economic nondiscrimination which requires the airport sponsor to make its airport available for public use “without unjust discrimination to all types, kinds and classes of aeronautical activities.”

    Grant Assurance 23 pertains to exclusive rights whereby it will permit no exclusive right for the use of the airport by any person providing, or intending to provide, aeronautical services to the public.

    Grant Assurance 24 covers fee and rental structure which requires the airport sponsor to assure that it will maintain a fee and rental structure for the facilities and services at the airport which will make the airport as self-sustaining as possible under the circumstances existing at a particular airport.

    Further on the Part 16 investigation request by SMA, FAA said that for a Part 13 informal investigation to be elevated to Part 16, certification as cited in 14 CFR §16.21(b)is required.

    Description

    The certification, Variety learned, must include a description of the party’s efforts to obtain informal resolution but shall not include information on monetary or other settlement offers made but not agreed upon in writing by all parties.

    Efforts to seek an informal resolution must be recent and with pertinent documentation.

    Fiertz, in response to SMA, wrote, “Your pleading does not indicate why the informal Part 13 resolution process offers no such prospect, or why FAA should commence the Part 16 process while the informal Part 13 process is ongoing.”

    In an interview, Star Marianas Air Inc. president Shaun Christian confirmed to Variety that an informal investigation is ongoing.

    “We have been informed that the FAA is investigating our informal complaint, but we do not have any feedback from them on how the investigation is going or how long it will take,” he said.

    “To date, we have received no formal timeframe from the GIAA when they will have a location available for us that allows self-access / self-handling of our aircraft and customers consistent with the size and scope of our operation,” he said.

    Hopeful

    He said they remain hopeful that SMA will receive feedback from them “in the near future that puts a definitive timeframe on when we can begin using the airport without being required to contract third party ground handlers at a substantial cost.”

    But if the FAA investigation drags on too long, Christian said they may consider their legal options.

    “At this point we are considering our legal options if the FAA’s investigation drags on too long or if the Guam Airport does not provide us with a location to operate from, including possibly filing a lawsuit in federal court against them. Hopefully this won’t be necessary and the FAA and the GIAA will work together to bring the airport into compliance with its regulatory requirements as a recipient of Federal Airport Improvement funds,” said Christian.

    SMA’s efforts to offer scheduled flights to Guam have been ongoing for the last two years.

    For its Guam-Rota-Saipan flights, Star Marianas Air is planning to use five passenger planes and seven cargo planes. It plans to use five nine-passenger aircraft, PA-31-350, Piper Super Chieftain and seven cargo planes.

    They intend to provide the traveling public with an alternative to Cape Air.

     


     

Real property revaluation behind deadline

Monday, 15 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

CORNERSTONE Valuation Guam is unable to complete the real property revaluation of local properties on time, prompting Department of Revenue and Taxation Director John Camacho to request an extension from the Guam Legislature.

“Our vendor that’s doing the revaluation for the entire island, that involves taxable and nontaxable property,” Camacho said. “There was a delay of the project for the taxable (property). It was supposed to be done by Aug. 30 so we can meet the time periods for releasing the preliminary notice and so forth.”

However, Cornerstone Valuation Guam failed to meet the deadline but Camacho said the revaluation will be completed by the end of the year.

In March, Adelup announced Cornerstone Valuation Guam would be reappraising and performing a “mass revaluation” of the island’s property, which had not been done on Guam for 20 years.

Once the reappraisal and revaluation is complete, the island can update its real property tax system, codes and collection data to reflect up-to-date values of properties.

With the revaluation process delayed, the other deadlines for the appeals and board approvals are pushed back. DRT looked to Guam lawmakers to extend the deadline for the revaluation process.

Camacho said he testified at the legislature in support of Sen. Michael Limtiaco’s Bill 413-32 which would extend deadlines and lower the statute of limitations on property tax payments from 30 years to 10 years.

If the bill becomes law, the first installment of taxes for 2014 real property tax assessment are to be paid on or before April 20, 2015 and the second installment on or before May 20, 2015. By June 2015, the department will publish the list delinquent of delinquent taxpayers and get back to regular deadlines for 2015 property assessments after that, Camacho said.

The deadlines will only apply for 2014 real property tax year only.

Camacho said he hopes the legislature will vote on the measure this month.

 

Hospital to upgrade revenue data system

Monday, 15 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

GUAM Memorial Hospital is working to integrate the revenue part of its new system software installed on Oct. 11. At last week’s board meeting, Vincent Quichocho, administrator for the hospital’s information technology division, said the hospital is still working to integrate the revenue portion of the new system before moving on to upgrade its general finance accounting system.

The hospital plans to upgrade its general finance accounting system and its clinical system next year but it is still ironing out problems with the revenue cycle system.

“We still have open issues, most of them are being worked on. We’re addressing them daily with our software vendors NTT Data,” Quichocho said.

Joseph Verga, hospital administrator, said the vendor would need to send a team back to Guam to train hospital staff to use the new system after the holidays have passed. Representatives from NTT Data were on Guam for three weeks after the Oct. 11 installation and also conducted web training months prior to switching to the new system, Quichocho said.

The reports generated by the new system have too much data that employees have to sift through and most of the time the employees are looking for specific information. This, in turn, slows the employee’s progress.

Interim Chief Financial Officer Benita Manglona said inputting information into the new system takes more time than it did with the old system. “There are some major challenges with the system that need to be addressed,” she said.

Manglona also said she thought the representatives from NTT Data left too soon and should have stayed longer when they were on Guam to train the staff.

“There’s been problems with this vendor, I’m not happy with this vendor,” Verga said. “We’ll get through it; it’s just going to take us a little bit longer than we had hoped.”

Manglona said the way the new revenue system was implemented was different from the way other system conversions were done. Instead of running both systems parallel while training staff to learn the new system, the old system was shut down and the new system was put in place.

Verga said the hospital might have to backtrack and run both systems for a smoother conversion.

Alongside upgrading the revenue system, Verga said the hospital was upgrading the clinical system and that it was important to stick to the timeframe when upgrading the clinical system for GMH.

Upgrading the clinical software would qualify GMH for $1.3 million in incentive payments from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service through the Electronic Health Records program.

Quichocho said the IT department will work on an implementation schedule for the clinical system upgrade and this week the hospital has a conference call with NTT Data to discuss this upgrade.

One of the bigger challenges GMH will have with implementing the clinical system upgrade is finding physicians to work on the implementation team. Some physicians who were slated to lead the effort with this program a year and a half ago are no longer working at GMH, Quichocho said.

        

Food stamp participants highest in five years; benefits drop

Monday, 15 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Food prices also increased

THE number of people receiving assistance under the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) on Guam is the highest it has been in five years, according to recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. SNAP, or food stamps, is a federal program that offers eligible, low-income individuals and families assistance with food purchases.

While the number of people on Guam receiving SNAP benefits is at its peak, the amount given to each person has dropped an average of $25 per person.

In September 2013, there were 46,694 people on Guam receiving an average of $216 in SNAP benefits for food purchases, USDA data showed. Guam and Hawaii received the highest amount of average monthly benefits per person in fiscal 2013.

However, data from September 2014 showed 47,321 people on Guam received an average of $191 in SNAP benefits.

In addition to the average drop in benefits, food prices on Guam have increased, as indicated in the local consumer price index (CPI).

According to the latest CPI report, overall prices for food increased about 5.6 percent in the third quarter of 2014 compared to the third quarter of 2013. The CPI report is generated quarterly by the Guam Bureau of Statistics and Plans.

During the third quarter of 2014, egg prices jumped 9.3 percent, compared to the same period last year, according to the report.

Likewise, cereals and cereal products, including rice during the third quarter of 2014 were 22 percent higher than the same time period in 2013. In contrast, other food products like fats and oils and alcoholic beverages were priced lower this year, compared to last year.

The consumer price index report shows the price index for all food items between January 2013 and September 2014 grew 8 percent. Since December 2007, all food item prices climbed 37 percent through September 2014.

The drop in food stamp benefits is due to the cut in the nation’s food stamp budget for this year. In February, Congress passed a bill that cut $8.7 billion in food stamp benefits for the nation, which also affected Guam.

Over the last five years, USDA data showed a steady increase in the average number of individuals who receive SNAP benefits on Guam, from 36,926 individuals in 2009 to more than 47,000 in 2014.

The consumer price index is a measure of the average change in prices over time of goods and services purchased by households of families and single persons living alone, according to the report. It is measured from a total 165 items in eight major groups and covers price indexes of food, housing, transportation, medical care and others.

Mathew

As the macro economic numbers began to look good for investors over the last five years causing them to invest in Guam bonds, ironically, the number of folks on food assistance, among other types of assistance, has increased, not decreased. Why the dichotomy? Macro numbers are aggregate numbers that do not necessarily reflect the state of the economic health of the island's families. So, you could be on welfare and still contribute to the overall economy as welfare is a federal transfer program, for the most part, and therefore, an investment on Guam by another entity, Uncle Fed. (No wonder there is no movement on self-determination.) At the rate this divergence of economic health between the macro and micro components are occurring, it will take about 50 years to 'imagine Guam' being in a better place for working class families.

 

Real property revaluation behind deadline

Monday, 15 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

CORNERSTONE Valuation Guam is unable to complete the real property revaluation of local properties on time, prompting Department of Revenue and Taxation Director John Camacho to request an extension from the Guam Legislature.

“Our vendor that’s doing the revaluation for the entire island, that involves taxable and nontaxable property,” Camacho said. “There was a delay of the project for the taxable (property). It was supposed to be done by Aug. 30 so we can meet the time periods for releasing the preliminary notice and so forth.”

However, Cornerstone Valuation Guam failed to meet the deadline but Camacho said the revaluation will be completed by the end of the year.

In March, Adelup announced Cornerstone Valuation Guam would be reappraising and performing a “mass revaluation” of the island’s property, which had not been done on Guam for 20 years.

Once the reappraisal and revaluation is complete, the island can update its real property tax system, codes and collection data to reflect up-to-date values of properties.

With the revaluation process delayed, the other deadlines for the appeals and board approvals are pushed back. DRT looked to Guam lawmakers to extend the deadline for the revaluation process.

Camacho said he testified at the legislature in support of Sen. Michael Limtiaco’s Bill 413-32 which would extend deadlines and lower the statute of limitations on property tax payments from 30 years to 10 years.

If the bill becomes law, the first installment of taxes for 2014 real property tax assessment are to be paid on or before April 20, 2015 and the second installment on or before May 20, 2015. By June 2015, the department will publish the list delinquent of delinquent taxpayers and get back to regular deadlines for 2015 property assessments after that, Camacho said.

The deadlines will only apply for 2014 real property tax year only.

Camacho said he hopes the legislature will vote on the measure this month.

 

  

USS Fort Worth arrives

Posted: Dec 11, 2014 by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

Guam - The USS Forth Worth made its first visit to Guam this morning as part its maiden 16-month rotational deployment in support of the Indo-Asia-Pacific rebalance.

Building on its USS Freedom's inaugural 10-month deployment from March to December 2013, Fort Worth will expand LCS operations in the region to include visiting more ports, engaging regional navies during exercises like Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) and expanding LCS capabilities with tools like the MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned autonomous helicopter.

According to a release, Fort Worth will train with the Republic of Korea Navy in exercise Foal Eagle and will join multinational ships at Singapore's Changi Naval Base for the International Maritime Defence Exhibition.

Joint Region Marianas Public Affairs Office Lt. Tim Gorman says there are about 100 sailors aboard the USS Forth Worth. While he could not disclose how long the USS Fort Worth will be on Guam, he says their visit is an opportunity to refuel and restock on supplies and get some downtime in Guam before they head to Singapore.

$40M reconstruction renovation for Emerald Oceanview OK’d

Friday, 12 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

NEW investment may be coming to Guam to the tune of $40 million following the approval of the permit application for the reconstruction of the Emerald Oceanview Park Condominium.

Carl Dominguez, director of the Department of Public Works, told Variety yesterday that the agency has approved the application filed by Core Tech International, the owners of the property.

Under the newly-approved permit, the developer has 90 days from approval of the permit to start the project.

Dominguez said that in the event the developer is not ready for this startup date, DPW can provide the company an extension of 90 days which must be filed before the first 90-day original start date for the project. By law, a developer can be provided up to three extensions consecutively only, each with a 90-day window.

The director said that the $40 million overall construction cost will specifically be used in the reconstruction and renovation of the existing four towers on the Cliffside next to Guam Memorial Hospital in Tamuning.

In September, Core Tech picked up the permit application from DPW. As a process, planning and designs for the proposed project have to be turned in to the agency’s engineers for assessment and review.

Dominguez told Variety that on the newly-approved design, there were certain modifications which he labeled as “minor changes” from the original design that was proposed years back.

DPW is the agency that issues building permits for all government and private sector projects. Clearances also have to be obtained from other agencies. Once these agencies have cleared the applicant, DPW grants the permit.

New design

The director said that under the project’s new design, the current four towers will not go any higher and the new investment will specifically be utilized in its full construction and renovating all of them.

Dominguez said that the $40 million “new money” is a key investment for Guam and DPW welcomes this substantial infusion of funds to the government.

Under the original Emerald Oceanview Park Condominium plan, the project was to include four condominium towers and 20 villa-type luxury homes in Tamuning. Two towers were to be 15 stories while the other two towers were to be 18 stories.

In 2007, DPW issued the building permit for the Emerald Oceanview Park Condominium project. However, when the project stopped construction in June 2010, it didn’t request an extension of its building permit.

By Guam law, if an applicant discontinues a project for 90 days and doesn’t get an extension from DPW, the permit becomes void.

The original target date for completion of the Emerald Oceanview Park was the end of 2010. But the project was suspended in June 2010 after banks financing the main contractor, Korea’s Hanil Corp., were ordered by the Korean government to suspend any further loans.

Core Tech acquired the mortgage to the property several months ago.

 

USEPA: Recycling favored over waste-to-energy method

Friday, 12 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • Calvo urges legislature to carefully examine WTE contract

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authorities say recycling is a preferred method of solid waste management over waste-to-energy methods.

    “Recycling and composting is definitely preferred over waste-to-energy under USEPA’s solid waste management hierarchy,” said Timonie Hood, staff member of EPA Region 9, who works with solid waste and recycling programs.

    Recent legislation introduced by Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes, Bill 433-32, seeks to approve a waste-to-energy facility for Guam proposed by Guam Resource Recovery Partners.

    A public hearing for the controversial legislation will be held today.

    GRRP project consultant David Sablan addressed the Mayors’ Council of Guam last week seeking the council’s support for Muña-Barnes’ bill. Sablan told mayors that the waste-to-energy facility would be economically sound and environmentally friendly and that USEPA had approved the plans for the facility.

    But USEPA Press Officer Dean Higuchi told Variety that EPA Region 9 is not aware of any approvals provided on the subject of waste-to-energy plans. “Neither USEPA’s solid waste nor air management programs approved any such plans,” Higuchi said.

    Further, waste-to-energy facilities are considered one of the least preferred solid waste management practices.

    Hood said recycling conserves more energy than waste-to-energy facilities produce, even when transportation is factored into the equation.

    Extended

    The life of natural resources is extended through recycling efforts. “Recycling extends the life of our natural resources by turning them into new products,” Hood said. “For example, office paper can be made into recycled copy paper instead of cutting down trees.”

    Aluminum cans can be made into new cans or used for baseball bats or airplane parts, Hood added.

    The island is “making incredible recycling progress,” Hood said. Guam’s annual recycling rate jumped from 18 percent in 2011 to 32 percent in 2013, before islandwide curbside recycling was implemented, she said, adding that using recycled materials reduces pressure to expand forestry and mining production, which can damage the environment.

    On Wednesday, Consolidated Commission on Utilities chairman Simon Sanchez told mayors that the waste-to-energy contract proposed by GRRP was a risky contract and said the money the government would spend on the facility would be better spent on recycling efforts.

    Gov. Eddie Calvo said the Guam Legislature should look at all the cards on the table when considering the waste-to-energy contract.

    “Let’s look at the environmental issues and the science and then the economics. We already are in a situation where we have a lot that’s going to be on the plate of ratepayers because of the overspending on Layon (Landfill) and the closure of (Ordot Dump),” Calvo said. “There’s no doubt the receiver has overspent. ... With that, we can’t afford to make further mistakes that can have an impact on the environment or the ratepayer.”

 

Asan residents reject statue

Friday, 12 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

IN A heated village meeting held last night at the Asan Mayor’s Office, residents vehemently objected to the statue of famous Filipino revolutionary leader Apolinario Mabini that was recently put up in the village.

Philippine Consul General Marciano de Borja attempted to assuage residents by sharing the reasons behind putting up the statue of Mabini, but residents continued to speak over de Borja. The consul general said Asan was where detainees, including the exiled Mabini, were held in the early 1900s, which is why the village is a place of significance in Mabini’s history.

De Borja said he went through the proper government channels and the project was permitted by the Asan mayor, the Department of Public Works and the Mayors’ Council of Guam.

Lifelong Asan resident Leslie San Nicolas, 61, however, said the statue should not have been put in place without the input of the community. “You know our mayor and the (municipal council), you should be ashamed of yourself,” San Nicolas said. “You’re going to build a Mabini? Who is Mabini? I don’t care if he’s an exiled Filipino guy. But, hey, let us decide.”

Members of the Philippine Consulate presented about Mabini’s life to the impassioned crowd, explaining that this year would be the 150th anniversary of Mabini’s birth and that the government officials of Guam approved the project.

Emotional crowd

Asan Mayor Margaret Blas attempted to speak to the emotional crowd and said another meeting will be held to discuss the village’s concerns.

The statue is funded through donations from various Filipino organizations on Guam and not through government funds, according to de Borja.

The statue is a life-size granite sculpture of Mabini, only the third in the world to exist and the first one to be put up outside of the Philippines. The statue itself cost $7,000, while the pedestal built on government property next to the mayor’s office cost about $13,000.

Fred Aguon, 72, said he is part of the Chamorro organization Taotaomo’na Native Rights. Although he is a resident of Malesso, Aguon attended last night’s meeting. He said he did not want the statue of Mabini but thought that a statue of a reputable Asan resident should be put up instead.

Many of the residents that spoke last night were concerned about the lack of community input about the statue of a Filipino leader. Instead, residents suggested that other Chamorro leaders’ statues be erected in the village.

Three police officers were present at last night’s meeting to ensure the crowd did not get out of hand and despite the nearly two-hour meeting, residents walked away without a feeling of resolution.

Immediately after the meeting, Blas met with the municipal council to digest the community’s input and decide whether to hold another meeting.

The statue is scheduled to be unveiled Monday at the statue site.

De Borja said he did not think the issue would cause arguments among the community and said it was the wish of the consul to strengthen ties between the village and the Philippines with the statue.

De Borja told Variety that he was approached last week while at the statue site by angered Asan resident Joe Jesus who yelled at the consul general and said the statue should be taken down.

 

  • MLK 4 hours ago

    Racism is alive and well on Guam

    ARTLAFFER 3 hours ago

    How about moving Ricky's statute from Adelupe to the newly built pedestal in Asan? Then the people of Asan will get the likeness of a Chamorro leader upon which to gaze...a man who, the day he was slated to leave Guam to enter prison in the States, chained himself to the statute of another Chamorro leader and shot himself in the head.
    Erecting the Mabini statute on the pedestal at Adelupe would more accurately reflect Guam' s values.

    Mathew 6 hours ago

    Napoleon Bonaparte: The only thing that is stopping the poor from killing the rich is religion. So, thank the Spanish for bringing in organized religion and a "statue culture."

    Yigo76 7 hours ago

    Solutions: Put the statue on a private citizen's lot or move the statue to a predominantly Filipino village.

    taotaomona 8 hours ago

    The people of Asan have spoken. Biba!!

  

GMH trauma center proposed

Friday, 12 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

DR. Hilary Chollet, who was hired as a general surgeon in October at Guam Memorial Hospital, is proposing that the hospital be designated as a trauma center.

Chollet spoke to hospital board members at their meeting on Wednesday about the trauma center designation that Chollet is planning to gain for the hospital. The trauma care designation will be authorized by the American College of Surgeons.

Joseph Verga, GMH administrator, said he is very excited and wholeheartedly supports the idea.

Chollet said he successfully set up three trauma centers in the United States mainland. There are four types of trauma centers, levels 1 through 4. The trauma centers Chollet had set up were all level 2 trauma centers, which is what he plans to set up at GMH.

“Near as I can tell, in Guam you have about 1,000 trauma cases a year. That’s a small number but ... it’s a big deal. It’s a life-changer,” Chollet said. “More money in trauma is lost than in heart disease and cancer because in large part, it hits our young people and they’re disabled and not able to work, and for society to take care of them for years, and years, and years ... it’s a big deal.”

The goal is to take good care of a trauma patient and get the patient back to work, Chollet said.

Chollet said he noticed some areas of improvement for Guam in order to have an efficient trauma center, including having EMTs call the emergency room to determine the patient’s status as soon as EMTs arrive on the scene.

Ideally

Chollet said, ideally, a trauma center would need a nurse for the right side of a patient, the left side of a patient, an emergency room doctor, trauma surgeon and a CAT scan technician in addition to alerting the operating room to have the whole hospital on alert when a trauma patient comes to GMH. “That’s the kind of resources you have to throw at people to have them survive,” he said.

“In terms of infrastructure, a couple nice things have taken place,” Chollet said. A chapter of the American College of Surgeons come will come to Guam and allow Chollet to bring together a committee. From there, the rules and infrastructure will be developed.

Chollet said he expects by next September the American College of Surgeons will consult with GMH and about a year after that they will visit to verify if GMH can become a trauma center.

Chollet said that GMH will have to have zero deficiencies in order for it to become a trauma center.



Power rates may go down again


Friday, 12 Dec 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


CCU OKs further LEAC reduction

THE Consolidated Commission on Utilities last night endorsed a Guam Power Authority resolution further reducing the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause (LEAC) starting February 2015.


CCU chairman Simon Sanchez said this could generate another 10.29 percent savings to power ratepayers, on top of the 10.99 percent savings produced by a prior adjustment to the LEAC ordered by the Public Utilities Commission in November.

Should the PUC approve the new LEAC adjustment, power ratepayers will see a significant combined reduction of at least 21 percent by Feb. 1, 2015.

Last November, the LEAC was adjusted from $0.176441 per kilowatt-hour to $0.146666/kWh, resulting in a 10.99 percent decrease in the total bill of a residential customer utilizing an average of 1,000 kWh per month, or savings of around $29.77 per month.

For the new filing, GPA determined that the LEAC factor for secondary voltage service customers will need to be decreased from $0.14666/kWh to $0.121461/kWh for the period of Feb. 1, 2015 to July 31, 2015.

The change in the LEAC factor would result in a decrease of 10.29 percent of the total bill or $25.21 per month for a residential customer utilizing an average of 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month.

Additional reduction

Sanchez said the new filing is an additional reduction on top of the LEAC rate decrease that occurred last Nov. 1.

"The total bill went down by almost 11 percent in November. Subject to PUC approval, it will go down to at least another 10.29 percent in Feb. 1. That decrease will hold all the way to end of July," Sanchez said, adding, "The good news is, this new reduction will hold during the whole six months until the next LEAC adjustment period.”

The next adjustment period will be in Aug. 1, 2015.

Sanchez said the combined reduction will continue at least until the end of July next year.

"So the reduction from Nov. 1 continues. On top of that, you will have a reduction in February next year. The total reduction – around 21 percent on the total bill – stays in place at least until the end of July 2015," Sanchez said.

The LEAC rate represents the fuel surcharge that GPA periodically adjusts every six months, based on world oil prices.

According to GPA, the worldwide cost of fuel has been very volatile in recent years and more noticeably in recent months.

Moreover, the spot market price for fuel has seen a reduction in recent months that compelled GPA to file a petition for an interim reduction.



‘USEPA did not issue any approval on waste-to-energy plan’

Thursday, 11 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

DESPITE assurances by the Guam Resource Recovery Partners (GRRP) that it has received approval for its waste-to-energy facility, one local resident yesterday said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not issued any approval on the WTE plan.

Santa Rita resident Ken Leon Guerrero, who has been opposing the planned construction of the WTE facility for seven years now, said he has sought clarification from the USEPA on the matter.  Yesterday morning, Leon Guerrero said federal representatives responded to his inquiry via phone and email. During a presentation at the Rotary Club of Northern Guam, Leon Guerrero told the group that representatives from the federal agency informed him that they were not aware of any approvals given to the proposed WTE project.

GRRP representative David Sablan earlier told the Mayors’ Council of Guam that the emissions from the planned WTE facility are “the second cleanest smoke” and that plans for the facility have already been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

According to Leon Guerrero, USEPA gave the following response to his inquiry: “USEPA Region 9 is not aware of any approvals we provided on the subject WTE plans. In particular, neither USEPA’s solid waste nor air management programs approved any such plans.”

No financial plan

In an interview with Variety, Philip J. Flores, chairman of the board of directors of Guahan Waste Control, said there has been no financial study or independent study done on the WTE plan proposed by GRRP, except for the studies released by Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc. and consultant William Whitman.

“They have produced no financials to show how much it would cost to build and to operate. They don't even have an operator,” Flores said.

The Whitman study estimates a minimum capital cost of $249,450,000 while GBB estimates $234 million.

However, Flores said the amount could even be much higher.

"They do not have anybody in their team who has done this before. They even said they need to find somebody who could do this. If they are going to find somebody to do this, then they really do not know how much this is going to cost," Flores said.

Bill 433, which was recently introduced to ratify the settlement agreement and approve the WTE contract, estimates the project will involve new investments totaling more than $200 million.

Flores said GRRP has been releasing estimates, but so far, “they have yet to show a firm financial model.”

He added there are several other financial concerns, specifically on the implications to Guam's debt burden with the opening of the WTE facility.

"Layon will still have to operate. It is not going to close down and you still have to pay the debt on it. We owe over a hundred million dollars on this and we still have to pay that debt," he said.

Flores added, "If you build the WTE facility at another $200 million, now you have $400 million worth of facilities to take care of. It cost us $171 per ton to take care of one facility and the closure of Ordot. How much is it going to cost per ton to take care of two facilities and the closure of Ordot?"

"Tipping fees have to go up. When GRRP says that tipping fees are going down, they are absolutely trying to fool the public," he added, citing figures from both GBB and the Whitman study.

Once the facility becomes operational, the GBB study estimates that current rates of $171.60 could increase to $399.17 per ton. Meanwhile, the Whitman study estimates an increase of up to $430 per ton.

Flores said customers will have to pay almost $70 a month for residential trash pickup and $400 per ton for commercial trash disposal to recover the debt service the government of Guam will incur if the agreement materializes.

No new facilities

In 2000, there were around 110 WTE plants in the U.S., according to Flores, citing a magazine article. The number has decreased to 84 with the closure of several plants.

"There has not been a new WTE plant in the U.S. built during the last 20 years," Flores stressed.


Dominguez stepping down as Department of Public Works director

Thursday, 11 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

DEPARTMENT of Public Works Director Carl Dominguez said his last day as DPW director will be at the end of this month.

“I intend to return to the private sector,” Dominguez said. “The governor will formally announce my resignation and replacement when he is ready to. I’m leaving DPW because I want a change of pace.”

Dominuguez was appointed director in January 2013, according to a statement from the Office of the Governor. Dominguez served as DPW deputy director under former DPW Director Joanne Brown since January 2011.

When Brown left to take the helm as general manager of the Port Authority of Guam, Calvo appointed Dominguez to replace Brown as

director.

Under his tenure, Dominguez oversaw completion of various DPW roadway projects, including the widening of Route 4, completion of the Agana Bridge and work on Route 17.

Dominguez was also in charge at the start of many other large DPW projects, including the Tiyan Parkway project, the Pigua bridge and Inarajan bridge rehabilitation.

Prior to joining DPW, Dominguez was the facilities manager for Continental Micronesia airline.

Interim commuter terminal project ongoing, airport assures

Thursday, 11 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY MONETH G. DEPOSA | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • STAR Marianas Air’s wait to operate on Guam may be a little longer because the site identified to become the Guam airport’s interim commuter terminal for the airline and other interested parties has not yet been constructed or renovated for use.

    The A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority said yesterday that inspection of the proposed interim commuter terminal is still ongoing, and once plans are approved by the regulatory agencies, construction and renovation of the facility will be bid out.

    “It is important to note that a critical piece of making this facility possible lies with the Guam Customs and Quarantine, and (the Department of) Agriculture – in particular regard to the inspection area and its operation and allocation of resources to process arriving passengers and cargo,” said Rolenda Faasuamalie, GIAA marketing administrator and spokeswoman for the agency.

    GIAA has identified the Yellow Cargo Building as the target facility as a multipurpose building. Although there are no federal inspection requirements, the airport has been working with Guam Customs and Quarantine on its criteria and to designate the Yellow Cargo Building as an inspection facility under its mandate.

    Yesterday, Faasuamalie told Variety the project is ongoing in consultation with parties of interest to ensure all concerns are addressed. She added the facility plan is still in development.

    “Once the proposed inspection area has been approved by the regulatory parties, GIAA will consult with Star Marianas and other operators on the common-use facility,” she said.

    According to Faasuamalie, GIAA will prepare a bid package for construction and renovation for the facility.

    Security

    Variety was earlier told that the airport’s commuter terminal was closed more than 10 years ago for security reasons by both U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Guam Customs and Quarantine.

    GIAA decided not to revert the original 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.

    Because it would take some time to realize the permanent Interisland Passenger Facility, GIAA has opted to open an interim facility.

    Once built, the space will be available for Star Marianas and other interested carriers utilizing specific aircraft types and will become a common-use facility.
    Under the Star Marianas proposal, daily operation will commence primarily for Guam-Rota service and Guam-Saipan service. It will utilize a Piper Navajo Chieftain aircraft with eight-seat capacity. At present, Star Marianas’ operation on Guam is for cargo service only.


  

GVB backs Bill 416 but opposes qualifying certificate abeyance

Thursday, 11 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Guam Visitors Bureau said it supports Bill 416 and its provision introducing a special tax-incentive qualifying certificate specifically for the development of 1,600 new hotel rooms.

However, the bureau opposes that part of the bill which provides for the abeyance of the QC program.

Sen. Dennis Rodriguez introduced the measure which also seeks to enact a "General Industry Specific Qualifying Certificate" abeyance so that no new QC or QC renewals shall be approved until the Guam Economic Development Authority has developed industry-specific policies, regulations, criteria and measurable goals ensuring the appropriate stimulation of legitimate investment in new economic development.

During the public hearing for the measure, Karl Pangelinan, GVB general manager, said the QC program has been and continues to be an important tool for attracting new investment to Guam and developing new industries.

He said the current lack of hotel room inventory is hampering the goal of increasing tourism arrivals, noting that the Tourism 2020 master plan reveals a need for 1,600 more rooms to accommodate increased tourist arrivals. “We recognize GEDA’s board, management and staff for recognizing this opportunity and updating the QC program to effectively attract new hotel investment,” he said.

Pangelinan said that Asia’s tourism industry is booming and the cost of doing business on Guam is quite high relative to many parts of Asia. He said the new QC program is exactly the new tool that Guam needs to be competitive in this environment.

“GVB looks forward to marketing this program together with GEDA,” he said.

Road map

GVB launched its tourism 2020 plan in January. The plan sets a road map for achieving a shared vision for developing Guam as a world-class, first-tier resort destination of choice.

According to Pangelinan, the plan projects an aggressive but achievable goal of raising arrivals from 1.75 to 2 million by the year 2020, adding approximately 12,000 more jobs and $140 million in additional tax revenues.

Under the measure, a special QC would incentivize developers and assist GVB in achieving its 2020 target of building 1,600 new hotel rooms.

Each developer will be allowed a tax rebate, exemption and abatement in an amount equal to 10 percent of their total construction cost, which could be applied to one of the following:

  • 50 percent business privilege tax for 20 years as long as the tax credits are available at the point they are taken;

  • 75 percent income tax rebate for 20 years;

  • 100 percent real property tax abatement for 10 years, under certain conditions; or

  • 100 percent of use tax exemption with respect to the property used to construct, furnish and equip the new facility construction or substantial expansion of an existing building.

    Eligible developers will also be required to file their application for the special QC program prior to issuance of the hotel project building permit.

    

Ancient latte village discovered at Ritidian refuge

Posted: Dec 11, 2014 by Krystal Paco  KUAM


Guam - The US Fish and Wildlife Service is releasing information about the recent discovery of an ancient latte village complex site at the Guam National Wildlife Refuge at Ritidian.

University of Guam associate professor of archeology Dr. Mike Carson was exploring the eastern part of the refuge with maintenance worker Brian Leon Guerrero when they found the ancient village which includes eight to ten latte sets.

According to Park Ranger Emily Sablan this find is significant and plans are underway to submit a revised application, for the site to be included for listing in the National Register of Historical Places.

                            

 

Mayors’ Council shelves resolution on waste-to-energy facility

Thursday, 11 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • CCU chairman: Agreement risky

    YESTERDAY the five mayors that attended a special meeting to listen to opponents of Bill 433 decided it was best to take their time reviewing the pros and cons of the proposed waste-to-energy facility before drafting a resolution in support or against the project.

    Ordot-Chalan Pågo Mayor Jessy Gogue reiterated his sentiments last week asking acting Mayors’ Council of Guam President Mayor Carol Tayama to hold off on drafting a resolution reflecting the council’s position.

    “I asked that we delay it until such time that we look at this matter individually and come up with our own opinions,” Gogue said. “I appreciate the presenters coming today because it provides us with the flip side of the coin and I still contend that until we can collectively say we fully understand the issue, creating a resolution one way or another at this point in time, I think, is premature.”

    Consolidated Commission on Utilities Chairman Simon Sanchez presented at the Mayors’ Council of Guam yesterday along with Guahan Waste Control Chairman Phil Flores and Ken Leon Guerrero, a resident of Santa Rita. They oppose the waste-to-energy facility proposed by Guam Resource Recovery Partners.

    A smattering of mayors attended yesterday’s meeting, including Gogue, Tayama, Piti Mayor Ben Gumataotao, Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares, Barrigada Mayor June Blas, Santa Rita Mayor Dale Alvarez and Asan-Maina Mayor Joanna Margaret Blas. Savares and Gumataotao left the meeting before Gogue suggested they delay a resolution about the bill and the WTE facility.

    Gumataotao suggested they prepare a resolution to stop the GRRP facility but Tayama pointed out that the council did not have a minimum number of members present to vote on Gumataotao’s proposal.

    Too risky

    Simon Sanchez spoke on behalf of the CCU and said the contract proposed by GRRP is too risky and the numbers do not add up.

    Sanchez said there is not enough information with reliable numbers from GRRP that adds up and if the numbers make sense on the solid waste side, it negatively affects the utilities side. Conversely, Sanchez said if the numbers make sense on the utilities side, then it negatively affects the solid waste data.

    “In either case, on the trash or power side, the net difference for all of us is that it goes up,” Sanchez said to the mayors. “Either your power bill’s going to go up or your tipping fees go down a little or not at all.”

    Sanchez said the money that would go into GRRP would be better put to use increasing recycling efforts and exporting the waste off-island through recycling efforts rather than keeping the waste on island.

    Sanchez also said the Guam Power Authority does not have a contract with GRRP for the electricity the WTE facility would generate. There are other unknowns that have not been made clear to key stakeholders, the CCU chairman said.

    “Even at GPA we don’t see the numbers,” he said. “We’re not sure of a lot of things and that should tell you something. We would never award a contract if we were unsure of all this stuff. It would be irresponsible.”

Chairman: Chamber opposes waste-to-energy legislation

Thursday, 11 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE chairman of the Guam Chamber of Commerce has reiterated his group’s opposition to Bill 433, the controversial measure which seeks to approve the waste-to-energy project (WTE) proposed by Guam Resource Recovery Partners

According to Pete Sgro, chairman of the Guam Chamber, the group's board of directors unanimously voted to oppose Bill 433.

"This is the third consistent position that the chamber has objected to the GRRP contract," Sgro said.

The chamber represents more than 400 businesses that employ approximately 40,000 people. Although there are several reasons why the chamber opposes the WTE contract, Sgro said the main reason is the total lack of disclosure "on how much each and every one of our members and every taxpayer on Guam" will have to spend to fund the project.

"We are very disappointed that this bill is being introduced despite almost 20 years of objection by our community. The bill is about 300 pages, which is an artful way of discouraging anyone to read it. The bill itself, without all the distracting exhibits, is only six pages. Despite existing law that makes this contract void, the author cleverly inserts the language ‘notwithstanding any other law.’ This is another hidden agenda to repeal all existing laws that oppose this contract which I personally believe lacks full disclosure," Sgro said.

He added the contract guarantees a rate of return of 20 percent on an entire project that all tax payers will have to pay.

"Not one of our members have this luxury of basically no risk. Also, despite the mediation, GEDA never agreed to the contract and turned the matter to the legislature," Sgro said.

Sgro also wants to know exactly how much the project will cost the taxpayers of Guam. "The cost always is not disclosed nor is it disclosed by the sponsor of this bill. My members and 40,000 employees have the right to know and yet nobody seems to know the cost or does know the cost but is hiding it from the entire community," Sgro said.

As chairman of the Guam Chamber of Commerce, Sgro said he has a fiduciary duty to protect the chamber's membership. Sgro said he will testify against the measure during the bill's public hearing on Friday.

‘Pay raises deserved’

Thursday, 11 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

GOV. Eddie Calvo yesterday said the recent pay raises for elected officials and political appointees established by P.L. 32-208 was a move he supported, and he believes he and his appointees deserve a raise.

“I believe my people deserve a raise,” Calvo said. “I do believe I do deserve a raise but a raise that was not calculated by me but by a group that the government of Guam paid good money for.”

On Dec. 3, Simon Sanchez High School teacher Andre Baynum started circulating a petition online pleading with politicians to repeal the new law with respect to elected officials.

More than 800 people yesterday signed the petition as of 7 p.m. Baynum wrote that the law is “an affront to the general public on Guam who continue to endure substandard results on social and economical issues facing the island.”

Baynum told Variety he thought the pay raises are “unconscionable.”

Calvo, however, said the pay raises are deserved for the people in the government and are needed to stabilize inequities among the wages between autonomous agencies and line agencies.

The timing of the bill, Calvo said, was to ensure the issue was not politicized as it was in the beginning of the year. “Unfortunately, Sen. (Michael San Nicolas) has politicized the issue again.”

San Nicolas introduced a bill to repeal P.L. 32-208 on Tuesday but the measure failed to pass during Tuesday’s special session.

Not forgotten

Calvo said he has not forgotten about the other issues on Guam, including dilapidated roads and the condition of Guam Memorial Hospital. He said under his governance, he’s been able to repair roads, add police equipment, add police officers and improve conditions at the hospital.

“Rome was not built in a day,” Calvo said. “I’m seeing improvement and obviously we have to do a lot more but it also means as we improve, we pay the people the fair worth of their salt.”

All the government employees received wage increases according to the Hay Group’s study completed in 2010 and the elected officials were initially taken out at the beginning of this year. Calvo said he has been fighting for this raise since the beginning of the year and he advised the legislature in February not to tinker with the Competitive Wage Act of 2014.

However, now that the act has been tinkered with, Calvo said continued tinkering will further cause inequities among government employees’ salaries. “My recommendation is this: If they’re going to continue to fool around and kill off the portions that we put back, then maybe we should consider everything,” Calvo said. “Then maybe we consider just taking everybody’s pay increase away and look at autonomous agencies and start from square one. I don’t think we should do it but in order to create harmony and equity, to ensure we don’t cause an imbalance.”

Calvo said he’ll donate his salary as he and his wife decide.

On retroactively paying the salaries, the governor also said they should have been paid since the beginning. “I think these hard-working government employees that were excluded in January were cheated,” he said.

Guam's diabetes statistic hits alarming rate

Posted: Dec 09, 2014  by Jolene Toves  KUAM

Guam - Diabetes on island is a very serious problem. According to Public Health program coordinator Pat Luces in the last ten years we were averaging 10%, meaning one in every ten people has the disease. And in 2013 that number jumped to 14%.

"The most alarming thing is that we are seeing it hit our youth at a very young age we are them the youngest that we have with type two diabetes is five years old," he explained. Luces says that diabetes patients are getting younger and the contributing factors is obesity, adding, "The 8-year-old that we had which is about eight years ago when this person was diagnosed this person was about 150 pounds and so we got some big kids obese kids and that is the alarming issue," he said.

He says they are seeing a lot of young adults in their twenties already needing dialysis treatment, and the youngest individual with diabetes who has lost their sight is sixteen years old.  "We at the department the data is so alarming that you cannot address diabetes and NCDs such heart disease stroke and cancer and obesity at a later stage of their lives when they actually have the disease," he said.

Seeing such alarming numbers and the age of those afflicted younger the Public Health is focusing on education working with the Department of Education, UOG, GCC and the private schools to address these diseases. "We are going to address NCDs where we learn where we live and that's in our homes changing healthy behaviors in our home where we work we have the worksite wellness program where we play what is it that we do after our day at work or what is it that our kids do after school," he said.

Luces says physical activity is key to protecting against diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.

Rev and Tax to launch online pay option by end of the month

Wednesday, 10 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

John Camacho

DEPARTMENT of Revenue of Taxation Director John Camacho said the online payment feature for taxpayers is still set to launch at the end of this month.

“Our vendor said it’s still going to be completed by the end of the year, so once that online payment is up, we’re going to also revive our online services which were put aside for a while,” Camacho said. “I’m trying to make sure we go back by the end of the year or first week of January to make sure these services are back on track again.”

The department’s website is able to handle electronic transactions such as vehicle registrations, business license renewals and electronic filings of income tax returns and gross receipt taxes but taxpayers have not had the option to pay online for about three years, since November 2011.

Camacho said the department did not have enough money to pay for the website feature which is why it was unavailable for so long.

By the end of the month, users can hope to process their payments electronically for taxes, business licenses and vehicle registrations.

DRT will continue to accept payments in person at the Treasurer of Guam or by mail.

In addition to restoring the online payment feature, the department is aggressively seeking to collect from taxpayers who owe the government.

Camacho said the collections branch is aggressively pursuing individuals who owe money and contacting them for payment.

The department is also open to working out a payment plan with those taxpayers that may not have the money readily available.

Bill seeks abeyance of GEDA Qualifying Certificate program

Tuesday, 09 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

A MEASURE which seeks to issue special Qualifying Certificates for the development of new hotel rooms but at the same time also enacts a temporary suspension on the issuance of other industry-specific QCs has received mixed support from the Guam Economic Development Authority.

Bill 416, introduced by Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, seeks to enact a "General Industry Specific Qualifying Certificate" abeyance so that no new QC or QC renewals shall be approved and issued until such time as GEDA has developed industry-specific policies, regulations, criteria, and measurable goals ensuring the appropriate stimulation of legitimate investments in new economic development.

The QC abeyance provision shall not include industry-specific development projects already “satisfactorily” established on Guam, to ensure that the government does not unnecessarily waive needed revenues for an industry-specific category that already exists or is satisfactorily established.

The Rodriguez measure also supports the Guam Visitors Bureau's goal of developing 1,600 new hotel rooms by introducing a special qualifying certificate specifically for this purpose and authorizing GEDA to issue the qualifying certificates.

According to Rodriguez, the intent of the legislation is to amend the current statutes on QCs, not to close down the program.

"Our plan, moving forward, is to look at all the industries that we have on our books. What are the QCs that we have provided to investors? We want to see how we could re-establish or change the way things are. Right now, the QC program is open-ended," Rodriguez said.

Tighten

Rodriguez said the measure would tighten up the program and make it really attractive to investors. At the same time, it also seeks to ensure that the community benefits from the investments.

"Part of the bill establishes an abeyance of any future QCs moving forward. But we are not closing shop. We know that QCs are important but what we would like to do is look at all the different industries and look at what the real needs of the community are. What kind of investors do we need to bring in? From there, we can give the flexibility to GEDA to develop the process and develop a measurable formula," the senator said.

In a recent public hearing on the bill, Mana Silva-Taijeron, GEDA deputy administrator, provided testimony on behalf of administrator John Rios, saying that the development authority partially supports the measure.

However, they oppose an abeyance of the QC program.

"GEDA has testified in the past that the program is the single most unique investment tool that allows Guam to compete with Asian and U.S. domiciles. It has been a successful marketing program, enticing billions of dollars to Guam since its inception," she said.

Silva-Taijeron said that aside from creating jobs and other benefits, the QC program has helped GEDA's role in building a strong economy. "Any moratorium on Guam's investment tool would hamper our efforts to compete in the global market, to entice investments and to grow industries," she added.

She went on to say that without the QC program, GEDA would no longer be able to require companies to provide employment to local residents and ensure participation in training programs as well as support local community programs.

Incentive

Under the measure, a special QC would incentivize developers and assist GVB in achieving its 2020 target of building 1,600 new hotel rooms.

Each developer will be allowed a tax rebate, exemption and abatement in an amount equal to 10 percent of their total construction cost, which can be applied to either the following: a) 50 percent business privilege tax for 20 years as long as the tax credits are available at the point they are taken; b) 75 percent income tax rebate for 20 years; c) 100 percent real property tax abatement for 10 years, under certain conditions; or d) 100 percent of use tax exemption with respect to the property used to construct, furnish, and equip the new facility construction or substantial expansion of an existing building.

Eligible developers will also be required to file their application to the special QC program prior to issuance of the hotel project building permit.

‘WTE to affect recycling’

Wednesday, 10 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Adverse impact to jobs seen

THE proposed waste-to-energy facility, once set up and operational, could impact the island's growing recycling industry causing the potential closure of facilities and loss of jobs, opponents of the plan warned.

The waste-to-energy, or energy-from-waste, contract is now awaiting ratification through Bill 433. The measure will be heard this Friday, Dec. 12, at 11 a.m. at the Guam Legislature.

The WTE process involves generating energy in the form of electricity and/or heat from the incineration of waste.

Because of this, Robert “Bob” Perron, president and general manager of Guahan Waste Control, said WTE is normally in competition with recycling. Thus, he said there needs to be a very carefully crafted contract to allow these two opposing uses of the waste stream to co-exist.

"In this case, there is no carve-out for recycling. Recyclables would necessarily need to be burned to meet the volume demands of the incinerator. The problem you run into on Guam is that you have a small waste stream, too small to allow these two points of view to exist together," he said.

On Guam, Perron emphasized, "You'll either have recycling or incineration, not both.”

“We see the passing of the incinerator contract as the death of recycling on Guam. Incineration is not the highest and best use of recyclable material. When you recycle paper or cardboard, you will recycle the fiber numerous times, not just a one-time use like burning it,” Perron said.

More energy

He added that recreating products from raw material takes significantly more energy and use of precious natural resources than to reuse or remanufacture it using the recycled material.

Phil Flores, chairman of the Guahan Waste Control board of directors, said the WTE facility could shut down recycling companies on island, forcing a large number of people working in the industry to lose their jobs.

"These companies provide tax revenues to the government of Guam. These companies will no longer be around to pay taxes," he said.

The Guam Environmental Protection Agency has a comprehensive list of around 10 companies accepting recyclable plastics, aluminum cans, paper, cardboard, and green waste. The bigger companies, such as Guahan Waste Control, employ more than 35 people.

Flores said recycling efforts have improved over the years. This year, Guam had a 28.13 percent recycling rate, according to GEPA.

"All of those efforts will go up in smoke should they decide to push through with the waste-to-energy contract," Flores said.

Provisions of the WTE contract require recyclables to be sent to the plant for burning. If the island is otherwise unable to deliver 110 percent of the guaranteed capacity, Flores said the WTE operator has the right to remove recyclables from the solid waste stream, which would otherwise be delivered to the recycling facilities.

Flores said the WTE contract makes it very clear that GovGuam must use its best efforts to deliver enough acceptable waste to the facility to meet the “guarantee capacity, even if they have to deliver waste that would otherwise be recycled.”

Moreover, Flores said a provision in the contract requires Guam to have a plan to deliver, at minimum, the guaranteed tonnage.

Flores said GEPA and the Guam Solid Waste Authority estimate between 258 to 260 tons of trash produced per day while GRRP estimates that the island produces 725 tons per day.

He said GRRP would require at least 300 tons of trash per day to feed the incinerator.

Analysis

According to an analysis by consultant William Whitman, the WTE contract could potentially monopolize all waste processing on island, including recycling.

"Under this contract, the government would give GRRP a right of first refusal to construct waste reduction, resource recovery and electric generation facilities during the 20-year service agreement," Whitman said.

He added that the cost of a WTE plant on Guam will be very high, emphasizing that WTE is already very expensive in any event but more so for a very small plant such as that proposed for Guam.

“The relatively high energy pricing will not offset the very high project cost," Whitman said.

Whitman said he believes the best alternative would be the reduction of waste landfilled through increased recycling – either at the source or through the processing of the waste – and possible composting of anaerobic digestion of organic waste.

He said a proper review and development of a long-term waste disposal plan would illustrate the relative merits of the alternatives.

Senators vote down salary raise rollback

Wednesday, 10 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Michael San Nicolas

LEGISLATORS yesterday voted not to pass Bill 435-32, which sought to repeal the recently passed Hay pay increases and retroactive pay for elected officials and political appointees.

Acting Speaker Benjamin Cruz called the Guan Legislature into session at 4 p.m. after Sen. Michael San Nicolas introduced the bill yesterday.

San Nicolas earlier requested a session to be convened to immediately tackle the proposed legislation.

Of the 11 senators present, only San Nicolas and Cruz voted to pass the measure. Sens. Michael Limtiaco, Tina Muña-Barnes, and Speaker Judith Won Pat were excused from session.

During session, San Nicolas urged his colleagues to consider supporting the measure, noting that if the pay raise and retro pay for the governor, lieutenant governor, senators, political appointees and others are repealed, around $4 million would be saved this fiscal year.

According to San Nicolas, the $4 million is a significant amount that could be used for several major village roads repairs, could more than double the public transit budget, or could be used to renovate public schools such as Simon Sanchez High School and George Washington High School.

On Nov. 21, the legislature voted 10-1 to pass Bill 1 (8-S) in special session called just the evening before by acting Gov. Ray Tenorio. Tenorio signed the bill into a law on the afternoon of Nov. 21, a process that San Nicolas pointed out "took less than 24 hours without a public hearing and with little public notice." Sens. Dennis Rodriguez and San Nicolas were off-island at the time. Sen. Tom Ada was also absent from the session.

New law

Under the new law, the governor’s salary increased by $40,000, the lieutenant governor will receive an extra $25,000, and each member of the Guam Legislature is set to receive a raise of around $20,000. Additionally, the attorney general will receive a $19,000 salary hike and all members of the governor’s Cabinet are set to receive significant increases.

The raises were effective retroactively from Jan. 15.

Gov. Eddie Calvo first proposed the Hay Pay increases for elected officials and political appointees in his official transmittal of the Hay Plan to the legislature last January.

San Nicolas was the first to oppose the pay increase for elected officials and political appointees by introducing Bill 268-32, which halted the pay increase for elected officials and political appointees.  Bill 268-32 was subsequently passed by the legislature but vetoed by the governor.

The late Sen. Ben Pangelinan then introduced the compromise measure, Bill 278-32, which contained the same removal of elected official and political appointee pay increases and was passed by the legislature and lapsed into law.

San Nicolas said Bill 1 (8-S), now Public Law 32-208, undoes his work and the work of the late Sen. Pangelinan in halting the governor's proposed pay raises for elected officials and political appointees.

After the passage of P.L. 32-208, San Nicolas said he looked into the possibility of legal action to stop the implementation of the pay increases. However, after an analysis that the legal options were uncertain, San Nicolas said he decided to pursue legislative action instead.

"If it was not responsible to pass this before an election, it's not responsible to pass it after an election. I was against this pay increase when it was first proposed in January and my position remains consistent," San Nicolas said in a statement released yesterday.

"The people have spoken on this issue and they have spoken loud and clear. These raises must be rescinded. It is fundamentally unfair to be able to vote yourself a pay increase. You have to ask your boss for that. My bosses are the people of Guam," San Nicolas said.

Reiterate

Just before session started, Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio sent a letter to Cruz reiterating the administration’s support of Public Law 32-208.

"This administration has put a lot of effort into improving the island. We have paid tax refunds timely for four years, and two of those years we did it without borrowing. Also, each year we’ve been in office, we’ve gotten better at managing our finances so the wait for tax refunds is getting shorter each year. With the improved finances and financial management, we’re drawing more investors – creating a cycle of economic growth and continued improvement of our fiscal landscape," he said. "It’s time we stop playing politics – this was the reason we increased everyone else’s salaries before elected officials’ with the exception of mayors’ salaries. We need to recognize that even those public servants who are elected, or who are appointed, work hard and should be compensated accordingly.”

Amendments

During floor discussions, Sen. Brant McCreadie proffered an amendment removing political appointees, the governor, lieutenant governor and other elected officials from the pay raise repeal proposed by the measure.

But according to San Nicolas, this would lower the $4 million savings to $400,000, leaving 90 percent of the raises and retro payments intact.

“It is unconscionable that Sen. McCreadie would keep 90 percent of these raises and retro pay in Public Law 32-208 pay intact,” San Nicolas said.

During the session, several senators said the Hay Study recommended the salary increases.

However, San Nicolas said the Hay group made no recommendation for salary increases for senators and the recommended salary increases for other elected officials were actually lower than what was passed in the public law.

 

‘Renewable energy bill needs to pass before tax credits expire’

Wednesday, 03 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Workers install solar panels at the University of Guam. Renewable energy proponents on Guam said the introduction of Bill 431, the measure which amends current laws to empower the Guam Department of Education to procure renewable energy systems for schools, would open Guam to more investment in the renewable energy industry.


THE introduction of Bill 431, the measure which amends current laws to empower the Guam Department of Education to procure renewable energy systems for schools, would open Guam to more investment in the renewable energy industry.

However, Bill Hagen, a member of the Guam Renewable Energy Association, said the bill must be passed as quickly as possible because federal tax credits on renewable energy investments expire at the end of 2016.

"Allowing nine months for design, permitting and construction – that means that unless the contracts for GDOE's schools are in place and signed by March 2016 on Guam, GDOE and the industry will lose out," Hagen said.

In a statement sent to the Variety, Hagen said, "millions of dollars in off-island investment is always good for the island."

He said 40 to 50 percent of investment will be spent directly on Guam for labor, supplies, transportation, accommodations, ground transportation and payroll taxes.

"Then there is the local contract for the continuing monitoring and maintenance of the systems on GDOE's roofs and the (gross receipts tax) on the revenue received by the system owners," he said.

Hagen went on to say that Bill 431 "makes a statement."

"We care about not only Guam's environment but the planet's. It shows our students that there is a cleaner way to live and the power produced will be sold to Guam's schools for at least 20 percent less than current power rates. Also, a 25-year contract for power will fix the rates GDOE will pay for the next quarter of a century. Projected savings to GDOE over the life of these agreements is in the multiple tens of millions," he said.

Collaborated

GREA collaborated with the legislature on Bill 74, now Public Law 32-95, which allows the education department to enter into a renewable energy purchase agreement for a term of up to 25 years with a qualified provider.

Under the agreement, the qualified provider will be responsible for providing the power purchase agreement to cover no more than 80 percent of the power needs of GDOE schools, as well as administrative and ancillary buildings.

Hagen echoed GREA President Jeffery Voacolo’s position that Public Law 32-95 has been languishing for too long.

"On Nov. 27, 2013 we were invited to a public signing of what became Public Law 32-95 and we began to anticipate the (requests for proposal) for the various projects. There was some evidence of activity in February 2014, then everything stopped. What happened? We really don't know," he said.

After the enactment of Public Law 32-95 in November 2013, the General Services Agency released a request for information for interested bidders who wish to enter into a power purchase agreement for all GDOE schools, and administrative and ancillary buildings.

"In February there were off-island investors standing by waiting for the release of the RFPs which never came,” Hagen said. “These were serious and sophisticated investors who understood the renewable energy market and the power purchase agreement process."

He added there was a potential in early 2014 for tens of millions of dollars of off-island investment as well as the growth of jobs on Guam that would come from these investments. “Some of these investors are still available if this measure is successful in jumpstarting the procurement process," he said.

Procurement

Bill 431 strikes out the role of the General Services Agency and tasks GDOE with the procurement responsibilities originally assigned to GSA.

As proposed by the measure, the multi-step bid is to be conducted by GDOE instead of GSA, in accordance with the procurement laws and regulations of Guam. Instead of GSA, GDOE is to seek technical consultation from the Guam Power Authority in implementing the law.

The bill also allows GDOE to seek technical consultation from other entities such as the Guam Energy Office, Department of Public Works, and GREA.

Power rates drop as PUC ratifies GPA fuel surcharge cut


Wednesday, 03 Dec 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/120314/puc_200_200.jpgThe Public Utilities Commission met on Monday night to discuss the order released by PUC Chairman Jeffrey Johnson earlier in November, recommending a further reduction of the LEAC rate proposed by GPA and thus increasing savings for residential power customers. Photo by Matt Weiss / Variety


THE Public Utilities Commission has ratified an order authorizing a further reduction of the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause rate initially proposed by the Guam Power Authority in October.

The LEAC rate represents the fuel surcharge that GPA periodically adjusts and trues up every six months, based on world oil prices.

The power authority filed a LEAC rate reduction after noting that 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 from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31, 2015.

The commission met Monday night to discuss the order released by PUC Chairman Jeffrey Johnson earlier in November, recommending a further reduction of the LEAC rate proposed by GPA and thus increasing savings for residential power customers.

The PUC order raised projected savings for residential power customers from the initial proposal of $27.67 to $29.77 per month. The savings had been reflected in power customers’ November billings.

In the original petition, filed Oct. 29 with the PUC, GPA requested that the current LEAC factor of $0.176441 per kwh for its civilian customers be decreased to $0.148767 per kwh effective for meters read on or after Nov. 1.

The original proposed 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 worth of savings per month for a residential customer utilizing an average of 1,000 kilowatt hours per month.

Lowered further

After a review of GPA's petition, PUC felt that the rate could be lowered even further.

According to the PUC order, aside from the LEAC adjustment request, the commission also allows the power authority to file for an adjustment of the LEAC factor during the six-month levelized period in the event that GPA has cumulative over-recovery of more than $2 million, or if the over-recovery balance is projected to exceed $2 million during the six-month levelized period."

Johnson also said, "While a LEAC reduction should be approved, GPA's over-recovery balance should be further reduced by $500,000, which will mean additional savings to the ratepayers."

As a result, GPA was asked to submit a revised LEAC calculation which indicated that for a residential customer utilizing an average of 1,000 kwh per month, the LEAC would be decreased from $0.176441 per kwh to $0.146666.

This reflects a 16.88 percent decrease in the LEAC factor.

Moreover, a residential customer utilizing an average of 1,000 kwh per month will see a 10.99 percent decrease in the total bill or savings of around $29.77 per month

Although the commission did not formally meet prior to the release of the order in November, PUC legal counsel Frederick Horecky said its issuance was in accordance with the law which says that in emergency circumstances, the chairman or an authorized commissioner can act on behalf of the commission.

Moreover, various resolutions approved in the past have designated the chairman with this authority.

According to the PUC order, GPA's request for expeditious action on the LEAC rate reduction should be granted. "It is imperative that relief in the LEAC rate be granted to rate payers as soon as possible," the order said.

Not be prudent

The order further noted that ordinarily, the LEAC reduction request would be addressed by PUC’s seven commissioners at a duly scheduled regular meeting.

However, PUC said they could not await action by the full commission on Dec. 1, noting that doing so would not be prudent.

According to the order, GPA sought a LEAC reduction effective Nov. 1.

If action were to await a full commission meeting, the rates requested by GPA could not be implemented until December 2014 and might well require some form of rate compressions by the PUC to return the over-recovery to ratepayers for the months of November and December.

"Rate compressions are not a favored outcome, as ratepayer recovery would be delayed," the PUC order said.

There will be a public hearing for the measure on Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. at the legislature hearing room.


Bill to ratify settlement, approval of waste-to-energy contract


Wednesday, 03 Dec 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


A BILL introduced this week seeks to approve the waste-to-energy project (WTE) proffered by Guam Resource Recovery Partners and also to ratify the settlement agreement between the group, GovGuam, and the Guam Economic Development Authority.

Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes introduced Bill 433.

According to the measure, the WTE project will involve new investments totaling more than $200 million.

Moreover, the measure states that aside from the generation of a new and reliable source of renewable energy, the project would create new and sustainable jobs in the solid waste management industry and in other industries such as construction and maintenance.

The bill also claims the project would increase indirect economic activity, expand the tax base, and lead to other project benefits, including protecting the environment by reducing the volume of solid waste land-filled on Guam by 90 percent – thus extending the life of the landfill depository by disposing of ash residue than solid waste.

According to the measure, it is in the best interest of the government of Guam and the people of Guam for GovGuam to approve the WTE contract.

Opposition

However, the WTE project, in the past, had received opposition from the community.

More than three decades has passed since GEDA and the government of Guam entered into a license with international Energy Enterprise Inc. The license required IEEI to arrange for the financing, construction, and operation of a waste-to-energy facility.

In 1989, Guam Power Inc. purchased the license and it was amended the following year. Both licenses grant GRRP "an exclusive right to develop, finance, design, construct, and operate" a WTE facility.

Seven years later, GovGuam, GEDA and GRRP executed a Solid Waste Construction and Services Agreement.

In 2000, two plaintiffs filed suit, challenging the validity of the 1996 contract. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment and the Superior Court granted GRRP's motion.

In March 2008, after the Guam Supreme Court decision was issued, GRRP requested that GEDA and GovGuam resume negotiations to replace the 1996 contract.

On Nov. 6, 2009, GRRP filed a government claim seeking $20,000,000 in damages for GovGuam’s and GEDA's alleged breach of the licenses. The government denied the claim on April 16, 2010.
GRRP filed an action with the Superior Court of Guam based on its government claim.

According to the bill, the parties to the government claim action entered into court-ordered mediation.  As a result of the mediation, the parties entered into a memorandum of understanding settling the government claim action subject to the satisfaction of certain terms and conditions.

Pursuant to the MOU, the parties negotiated a contract for the financing, construction, and operation of a waste-to-energy facility.

The government, GEDA, and GRRP agreed that the WTE project is subject to legislative review and approval.

GEDA sent a letter informing the legislature that the agency has fulfilled efforts to satisfy the terms and conditions of the MOU.

The MOU was discussed in two board meetings on June and July this year and was approved without the need for a formal resolution.

An informational hearing was convened by the legislative committee on economic development in June during which GRRP's proposal was met with more questions.

Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, committee chair, said he felt GEDA essentially “threw the ball at the legislature's court,” referring to two letters sent by GEDA on the matter.

In the agency’s letter to the legislature, GEDA stressed the contract is "subject to the approval of the legislature as Guam's policymaking body."

The draft contract further states that the GRRP proposal requires legislative policy and direction.


War survivors’ foundation to host commemorative events


Wednesday, 03 Dec 2014 03:00am


PRESS RELEASE


  •  (GWSMF) – On the morning of Dec. 8, 1941, the island of Guam was forever changed when Japanese planes dropped bombs on Sumay village. Seventy-three years later, members of the community continue to piece together the stories of their loved ones to understand their history and honor those who survived this horrendous war. 

    The Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation will be hosting a series of events at the beginning of December to remember the beginning of the war and pay tribute to all who suffered during the World War II occupation of Guam.

    Book signing

    On Friday, Dec. 5, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Coast360 Federal Credit Union in Maite, island residents will have the opportunity to purchase the foundation’s book, “Real Faces: Guam’s World War II Survivors,” and have survivors featured in the publication sign their copies. The books cost $70 each, but as an added bonus for Coast360 members, the books can be purchased at a discounted rate.

    Memorial Mass

    On Monday, Dec. 8, at 7:30 a.m. at the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Hagåtña, the foundation will host a Mass in honor of all those who suffered and died during Guam’s World War II occupation.

    This will be the fifth consecutive year the foundation has worked with the Archdiocese of Hagåtña to host the memorial Mass. Along with honoring our survivors, the Mass serves as an opportunity for the island’s man’åmko to complete a Mass that was abruptly ended more than 70 years ago when enemy forces attacked Sumay.

    Unveiling

    The foundation will also be unveiling a traveling memorial featuring the names of 15,891 Chamorros who lived through, died, or suffered during the war on Guam.

    The exhibit, entitled “Guam’s Wall of Strength: Names Never Forgotten,” opens Monday, Dec. 8, at 9 a.m. in the Agana Shopping Center’s exhibit showroom on the second floor opposite the entrance to Pay-Less Supermarket. The wall will remain on display for the public to view from Dec. 8 through Dec. 14.

    “It is amazing how many names I recognize on the wall,” said Frank Blas Jr., the foundation president. “Many of them have passed on since the war, but I can still recall their faces and the memories they shared with me. Some of my relatives on the wall were never able to share their experience, but I can only imagine how strong they were to have survived the war.”

    The foundation worked in collaboration with the National Park Service, which will also be contributing a World War II display to the exhibit.


New leadership takes over charter school


Posted: Dec 03, 2014  by Krystal Paco  KUAM

Guam - The Guahan Academy Charter School has a new face on campus.

As of Monday, Mary Mafnas started her job as the school's new principal.

According to charter school council chair Rosa Paloma, Mafnas is a longtime educator, a retired DOE principal, and a former charter school council member which makes her the perfect candidate for the position.

GACS has been without leadership for the last month following the board's decision to remove Donna Dwiggins as principal and the resignation of assistant principal Arlene Sayco.



New GVB marketing rep in China

Tuesday, 02 Dec 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

GVB) – The Guam Visitors Bureau announced yesterday the appointment of Travel Link Marketing to provide destination marketing and representation services throughout China beginning Dec. 1.

“We are excited to represent the Guam Visitors Bureau in the China market," said Brenda He, general manager of TLM. "We appreciate the trust placed in us, and the team will work diligently and enthusiastically to secure many wins for Guam."

As GVB’s marketing representative office, TLM will be responsible for:

  • Aggressively promoting Guam to expatriates, affluent experienced Chinese travelers, corporate travelers for leisure and MICE, as well as wedding couples and honeymooners, and education travelers.

  • Encouraging more cost-effective joint promotion opportunities with leading travel agencies, airlines, foreign chambers of commerce, international expos as well as other special groups to maintain Guam awareness.

  • Working closely with airlines for charter flights and new route development.

  • Increasing visitors from mainland China to Guam.

    Established in China in 2005, TLM now has branch offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu.

    The marketing company has built up an extensive network with thousands of tour operators and media outlets throughout China. TLM also owns Travel Link Daily, a well-recognized online travel trade publication.

    "We are excited to partner with TLM. China has become an important market for Guam and it has tremendous growth potential. With the commitment and expertise of TLM, we’re confident that we will be able to further cultivate this emerging market for Guam," said Karl Pangelinan, GVB general manager.

    Korean media reps to spread good news about Guam tourism

    Tuesday, 02 Dec 2014 03:00am

    BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • THE Guam Visitors Bureau and United Airlines sponsored four media representatives from various outlets that cater to the Korean travelers with the hope that the media representatives will spread the word about travel opportunities in Guam.

    GVB estimates that the three-day Thanksgiving trip will generate news about Guam that will reach about 262,000 followers of the Lonely Planet Korea, Tour de Monde, AB-ROAD, Singles and Grazia publications and companies. The bureau estimates to gain about $49,000 worth of media exposure generated from this tour.

    Yeri Cha from Tour de Monde, Anna Lee from Lonely Planet Korea, Mina Shim from AB-ROAD, Jina An from Singles magazine and Hyunmin Kim from the Grazia magazine met with Guam authorities yesterday at an informal meet-and-greet event.

    Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio, GVB acting General Manager Nathan Denight and United Airlines Managing Director Sam Shinohara said they were pleased with the familiarization tour and thanked the representatives for agreeing to take the tour.

    The Korean tourism market has grown significantly over the years, Denight said. Between fiscal 2011 and 2014, the market has grown from about 150,000 annual visitors to about 300,000 he said.

    Shinohara said it’s the fastest growing market and is a key market for United and GVB alike.

    Shopping

    An, from Singles magazine, said the group visited many of the shopping malls on Guam and some tourist attractions during their stay. For her readership, An said she would focus on the shopping opportunities available on the island. Soo Yeon Kim, United Airlines employee, translated for some of the visitors, including An.

    Kim, from Grazia, also said she would showcase the shopping opportunities for Korean travelers interested in the island.

    The familiarization tour coincided with Black Friday sales and the Shop Guam festival ongoing over the weekend.

    “The return rate (for Korean visitors) is not as high in Japan, but we’re really catching steam in Korea,” Denight said. "Koreans are really an active people, they enjoy the beach and water sports so I would say they’re really outdoorsy."

    Sometimes, Korean baseball teams choose to train on Guam during the winter and Denight said GVB is working with the Korean professional baseball league to advertise Guam soon.

    Cruz works on Compact-impact money

    Tuesday, 02 Dec 2014 03:00am

    BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    VICE Speaker Benjamin Cruz, chairman of the government operations committee of the Guam Legislature, has asked the U.S. Department of Interior for a Compact-impact funding offset in the form of debt relief or the repurposing of $100 million in unused federal monies held by Compact states.

    Cruz sent the request to DOI Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs Esther P. Kia’aina who visited Guam in October and publicly acknowledged the inadequate Compact-impact funding received by Guam and other affected jurisdictions.

    “Your acknowledgement of our claim to ‘reimbursement’ – which I personally applaud – is a clear departure from the previously stated policy of DOI in these matters,” Cruz said in a letter to Kia’aina, referring to a federal report issued three years ago that highlighted DOI’s objection to Guam’s use of the term Compact-impact “reimbursement” as the term implies that such costs should be returned to the local government in full.

    “I am heartened that the Senate has confirmed an assistant secretary for insular affairs with enough political courage to advocate an issue for which we have been seeking recompense for many years,” Cruz said.

    “In light of the recent change in DOI policy you so ably articulated this October and the earnestness with which I believe your public remarks were made,” Cruz said, alluding to reported statements in which Kia’aina mentioned the option of debt relief as compensation for inadequate Compact funding, “the people of Guam need to know when we can expect a DOI request that would allow the offset of amounts Guam may owe to the federal government for the Make Work Pay tax credit program.”

    Timely

    With the beginning of the fiscal year 2016 federal budget process quickly approaching, Cruz said DOI’s issuance of the request preceded by its recent policy shift is especially timely. Alternatively, Cruz said another good place to start would be the implied repurposing of $100 million in unused federal monies presently held by the Compact states.

    “Because, in your words, ‘the federal government should no longer be using the lack of (reporting) uniformity among the jurisdictions against them,’ I see no reason that a request for a substantive DOI action on Compact reimbursements cannot be met,” Cruz said.

    Cruz is also pressing for a DOI budget item that will fund the full reimbursement of costs associated with Compact migration incurred by Guam and other affected jurisdictions.

    ‘DRT denying access to hotel taxation data’

    Tuesday, 02 Dec 2014 03:00am

    BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    THE Office of Public Accountability has released an audit report on the hotel occupancy tax, but lamented that they were denied access to the data needed for the report due to the Department of Revenue and Taxation’s interpretation of the law protecting taxpayer confidentiality.

    According to Public Auditor Doris Flores Brooks, as a result, OPA could not verify the hotel occupancy tax data’s completeness, reliability and accuracy.

    In the report, Brooks noted that based on discussions with DRT and some members of the 32nd Guam Legislature, OPA recommended that the legislature clarify the law to allow OPA full access to taxpayer returns and other information in the conduct of audits and reviews of local Guam taxes, consistent with the duties outlined by law.

    The public auditor noted in the report that the office has no assurance whether occupancy tax filings, payments and collections were in compliance with P.L. 32-068 for the six years 2008 to 2013.

    Hotels are required to collect the occupancy tax, file with DRT and pay at the Treasurer of Guam on a monthly basis. The payments are then deposited into the Tourist Attraction Fund and recorded by the Department of Administration. Hotel occupancy taxes are assessed at 11 percent.

    According to Brooks, DRT, DOA and the Treasurer of Guam provided only redacted hotel occupancy tax data.

    Coded names

    The report further noted that DRT's Taxpayer Service Division provided data for hotel occupancy tax filings with “hotel” code names, while the department's Tax Enforcement Division provided a summary of hotel occupancy tax accounts receivable with “taxpayer” code names.

    According to OPA, the redacted information made it difficult, if not impractical, to perform data analyses.

    Citing both data sets as examples, the report said the "data did not specify whether the code names represented the hotel or other lodging facility or taxpayer. Moreover, it did not specify whether the reported amounts were based on the establishment or taxpayer and used code names that could not be matched between taxpayers and the establishment.

    Findings

    Despite these difficulties, OPA reported the following findings:

  • As of May, five taxpayers owed a cumulative balance of $3 million in hotel occupancy tax from 2002 to 2013, with outstanding balances from $120,000 to $1.6 million. However, OPA noted that the accuracy in the receivables could not be verified. Moreover, the report said that DRT has not seized properties since the 1990s.

  • DRT does not have a comprehensive list of all hotels subject to the hotel occupancy tax. According to OPA, staff attempted to verify the 38 hotels listed in the data provided by DRT against other listings from DRT enforcement division, Bureau of Statistics and Plans, Guam Visitors Bureau and the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association.

  • $2.2 million in hotel occupancy tax exemptions claimed by eight taxpayers in 2008 and 2013 could not be verified. According to OPA, there were missing exemption schedules and the amounts on amended returns were not reflected on the database provided; and

  • Between 2008 and 2013, taxes due for 10 taxpayers were inaccurately assessed at the hotel occupancy tax rate of 10 percent. According to OPA, DRT determined that at least one taxpayer should have been assessed at the 11 percent rate and others at the 4 percent GRT tax rate.

    System

    The OPA report also noted that DRT and DOA’s AS400 systems have not interfaced since 2011. This contributed to major delays during the TAF and government of Guam financial audits of fiscal 2012 and 2013.

    "In FY 2013, DRT and the Treasurer of Guam’s systems interfaced incorrectly and resulted in the creation of a $64 million suspense account, which had an adjusting entry as high as $1.1 billion. DOA and DRT subsequently reconciled to $270,000 as of June 2014. As of report issuance, DRT continues to manually input tax returns in the AS400," the OPA report noted.

    Renewable energy group backs Bill 431

    Tuesday, 02 Dec 2014 03:00am

    BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Utilizing renewable energy such as solar energy would also reduce pollutants that affect the island by cutting down on the amount of energy produced by fossil fuels. Variety file photo

THE Guam Renewable Energy Association has expressed support for Bill 431, the measure introduced in the Guam Legislature by Speaker Judith Won Pat, which would amend current laws to empower the Guam Department of Education to procure renewable energy systems for schools.

Jeffrey Voacolo, GREA president, outlined the group's official position on the new bill, saying P.L. 32-95 has languished for too long.

The law allows GDOE to enter into one or more power purchase agreements to purchase solar energy from qualified providers for not more than 25 years. Under the agreement, the qualified provider will be responsible for providing the agreement to cover no more than 80 percent of the power needs of GDOE schools, as well as administrative and ancillary buildings.

Moreover, it provides an exemption for GDOE-leased schools, allowing the department to explore plans to pursue renewable energy projects at its leased schools. Won Pat and Sens. Aline Yamashita and Tina Muña-Barnes introduced the legislation.

After the enactment of P.L. 32-95 in November 2013, the General Services Agency released a request for information for interested bidders who wish to enter into a power purchase agreement for all GDOE schools, and administrative and ancillary buildings.

"Signed into law over one year ago, the process to move GDOE to the use of less expensive renewable energy has been bogged down and this new legislation is exactly what is needed to jumpstart what can be a wonderful benefit to Guam’s schools, Guam’s economy and Guam’s environment," Voacolo said. "Fully implemented, your action will bring tens of millions of dollars to Guam as off-island investors recognize the benefit of investing in Guam."

‘Where the money belongs’

With the millions of dollars saved annually, the savings will be going back to the school system "where the money belongs," he said.

Moreover, according to Voacolo, the economy of Guam will be greatly enhanced by training more personnel into the new industry, adding tax revenues as well as enhancing business to business commerce.

Utilizing renewables "would also reduce pollutants that affect the island by reducing the amount of energy produced by fossil fuel," he said.

"In the past five years, members of the Guam Renewable Energy Association have installed almost 200 photovoltaic systems identical in design, and some in size, to the systems which will be needed to power up Guam’s schools with environmentally safe renewable energy.  As an industry, we are ready and fully capable of meeting this challenge," he said.

Bill 431 strikes out the role of the General Services Agency and tasks GDOE with the procurement responsibilities originally assigned to GSA.

As proposed by the measure, the multi-step bid is to be conducted by GDOE instead of GSA, in accordance with the procurement laws and regulations of Guam. Moreover, instead of GSA, GDOE is to seek technical consultation from the Guam Power Authority in implementing the law.

The bill also allows GDOE to seek technical consultation from other entities such as the Guam Energy Office, Department of Public Works and GREA.

Inactive bank accounts transferred to GovGuam

Tuesday, 02 Dec 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • LOCAL banks yesterday published a list of bank account holders whose checking or savings accounts have been inactive for a number of years, informing the account holders that if the accounts are not reactivated the funds will be escheated, or turned over to the government of Guam.

    According to P.L. 18-37, if a checking account is inactive for two years or a savings account is inactive for 10 years, the balance of the dormant account is transferred to the Treasurer of Guam.

    Banks publish notices of the dormant accounts with balances that are eligible to be transferred to the government. These notices are published twice a year, at the tail-end of every year on Nov. 1 and Dec 1.

    Philip Flores, president of the Guam Bankers’ Association and president of BankPacific, said usually about half of the account holders who have dormant accounts will return to BankPacific to reactivate their accounts. The other accounts, however, are turned over to the Treasurer of Guam. The amounts vary, Flores said.

    “Usually the amounts aren’t that much but sometimes the amounts are very large,” he said. “We’ve had customers that have $50,000, $60,000 ... somehow they’ve lost track of the funds they have there.”

    Flores said account holders are also entitled to reclaim their balances that have already been transferred to the government. Flores said individuals who have discovered that their money was turned over to GovGuam could file with the Department of Revenue and Taxation to reclaim the money.

    “You can go to Rev and Tax and redeem your money but I don’t know how often that happens,” Flores said.

    Funds from the dormant accounts are transferred in January of the new year.

    Last year, under P.L. 32-036, $1.4 million from unclaimed and dormant bank account funds were transferred to the Guam Housing Corp.’s Housing Trust Fund to be used specifically for the First-Time Homeowner Assistance Program.

    Banks consider accounts that are inactive for two years as dormant. After the designated number of years under dormancy for a checking or savings account, the balances are at risk of being turned over, Flores said. While they are considered dormant, it is under a higher security and account holders may have to go through additional procedures to reopen those accounts. Before the balances are transferred to the government, banks are required to send written notice to the account holder that the money is at risk of being turned over before Oct. 1 of every year.


  • GPA seeks to end power plant deal

    Saturday, 29 Nov 2014 03:00am

    BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    Operations at the Tanguisson Power Plant may soon cease after the Guam Power Authority declared its intentions to save on maintenance and other operational costs. Photo by Matt Weiss/ Variety

    Tanguisson management contract proved too costly

    THE Consolidated Commission on Utilities has authorized the Guam Power Authority to file a petition with the Public Utilities Commission for the termination of a management contract for the operations of the Tanguisson Power Plant.

    The continuous operations of the power plant have been costing GPA $550,000 per month, according to GPA communications manager Art Perez.

    "It is going to be a buyout. It is one of the lesser of the efficient baseload units that we have and what we want is to save on the maintenance and other operational costs," Perez said.

    GPA is eyeing the closure of Tanguisson Power Plant before May 2015.

    However, Perez assured employees assigned at the plant will not be laid off but instead will be deployed to other units to augment existing personnel.

    According to the resolution, once approved by the PUC, GPA would be authorized to terminate the contract with Pruvient Energy Guam Investments Inc. at a cost of $8.1 million.

    GPA has estimated the cost of operating the plant for the next 33 months will be $28 million under its obligations under the contract.

    GPA believes most of these costs can be eliminated or drastically reduced as a result of the termination of the contract with Pruvient.

    GPA has been discussing the early termination of the contract with Pruvient for more than a year and has negotiated an effective date of Jan.1, 2015.

    Closure

    When GPA entered into a power purchase agreement with Quantum Guam Power Inc. on June 27, 2012, the cost of the solar energy system was modeled against the cost of operating the Tanguisson Power Plant which is the least efficient of GPA’s baseload plants, according to the resolution.

    The Quantum agreement was later purchased by NRG Inc.

    With the power purchase agreement scheduled to get online in March 2015, GPA’s usage of the Tanguisson plant is expected to decrease dramatically in the future.

    The power authority also plans to develop and implement a plan to bring new power generation online over the next five to eight years, which will comply with current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

    Two of the EPA-issued regulations include the Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engine-Maximum Achievable Control Technology (RICE-MACT) rules and the Electric Generating Utility-Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (EGU-MATS).

    GPA’s slow-speed diesel generators as well as its small diesel generators had a RICE-MACT compliance date of May 3, 2013. The power authority applied for an extension to comply with the requirements and spent approximately $4.1 million for stack emission equipment to bring the units into compliance with the new regulations.

    Costly

    GPA said it would cost $240 million to bring Cabras 3 and 4 and MEC 8 and 9, all impacted by RICE-MACT, into compliance.

    Meanwhile, the EGU-MACT rules impact the operations of GPA’s steam-generating plants – Cabras 1 and 2 and Tanguisson 1 and 2 – and GPA estimated the cost of bringing these units into compliance was approximately $220 million.

    GPA was reluctant to make any investment into these plants as the Cabras 1 and 2 and Tanguisson 1 and 2 power plants were nearing the end of their operational lifespan.

    The cost of implementing the required stack emission controls would require a significant increase in base rates and there would be no efficiency gains resulting from this significant investment, according to the power authority.

    GPA is in the process of entering into a consent decree with the EPA wherein it will be allowed to be in non-compliance with EPA regulations while it constructs new generation facilities in order to become compliant with the regulations.

    An integral part of the proposal to the EPA has been the deactivation of the Tanguisson Power Plant prior to May 2015.



Bordallo returns from congressional trip to Middle East

Friday, 28 Nov 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo recently returned from a congressional delegation to Qatar, Afghanistan and Jordan.

The CODEL, led by Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia, chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, met with key government officials and military leaders to discuss matters regarding U.S. operations against ISIL and counter-terrorism initiatives in the Middle East.

The CODEL also included Rep. Dave Loebsack of Iowa, Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, Rep. Bill Flores of Texas, and Rep. Reid Ribble of Wisconsin.

In Afghanistan, the group met with President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah to discuss the Bilateral Security Agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan, which recently passed the Afghan National Assembly’s House of the People.

The delegation also met with U.S. service members stationed in Qatar and had an audience with King Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein of Jordan.

“I appreciated the opportunity to meet with Afghan President Ghani and CEO Abdullah to discuss the Bilateral Security Agreement that recently passed Afghanistan’s National Assembly’s lower house,” Bordallo said.

“Our delegation was the first from the U.S. House of Representatives to meet with Afghanistan’s new leaders following elections earlier this year. This CODEL also gave us an opportunity to see firsthand and discuss directly with our military leaders on the ground the progress being made to combat ISIL. I thank Chairman Wittman for organizing this CODEL, and I look forward to working with him my colleagues on (the House Armed Services Committee) to support our military operations in the Middle East and around the world.”

Council seeks to reform Jones Act

Friday, 28 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

MICHAEL Hansen, president of the Hawaii Shippers Council, is proposing a reform of the Jones Act for noncontiguous trade routes including Alaska, Guam, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.

“Our proposed reform would exempt noncontiguous domestic shipping trades from the U.S. build requirement of the Jones Act for large oceangoing self-propelled ships only,” Hansen told Variety via email.

With Matson Inc. as the Jones Act carrier serving Guam, rates for goods are subject to Matson’s service charge. On Tuesday, Matson announced an increase in shipping rates which would moderately impact the price of imported goods on Guam.

Hansen said it’s important that Guam and other noncontiguous jurisdictions like Alaska and Puerto Rico support the Hawaiian Shippers Council reform proposal to obtain broader support in Congress.

“Even if a single member of the Hawaii congressional delegation were to support Jones Act reform, that would be insufficient to move federal legislation ahead,” Hansen said. “However, it is possible to substantially increase support by engaging the other noncontiguous delegations.”

By changing the build requirements of shipping vessels required in the Jones Act, Hansen said the economics of the trades would change substantially.

Five times

A large oceangoing self-propelled ship constructed in the U.S. is five times the cost of a ship similarly constructed in South Korea or Japan. The high cost of domestic ship construction in America creates a shortage of ships for the noncontiguous trades, Hansen said.

The high cost of building a ship in the U.S. has also led to old inefficient ships employed in the noncontiguous trades because Jones Act operators cannot afford to replace their ships as can be done everywhere else in the world.

Hansen said if the build requirements for a ship would change, the trade would become more contestable and the trades would be subject to more competition.

Guam is exempt from the U.S. build requirement but since the natural trade route from the U.S. West Coast to Guam goes through Hawaii, ship operators need the Hawaii cargo to pay for the trip, making Guam “shackled” to the build requirement, Hansen said.

By exempting Hawaii from the requirement, trade would open for both destinations.

“We are not proposing to repeal or abolish the Jones Act, nor allow foreign flag ships into the domestic Hawaii trade. Other than eliminating the build requirement, our proposal would retain other Jones Act requirements,” Hansen said.

Hansen also said the proposal is not proposing to change the build requirements for the domestic tug and barge industry operating in the noncontiguous trades.

The Hawaii Shippers Council is an organization that represents cargo interests operating the Hawaii trade.

Woman at odds with Fish and Wildlife over access to property

Thursday, 27 Nov 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

LAND owner Melvia Artero Cafky has spent the last three years trying to grow her company, Mariana Stones, by developing her land at Urunao in northern Guam, but she said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has continually hindered her progress.

Cafky said she would like the quarry company she hired to have access to her land at Urunao and be able to extract rocks to sell through Mariana Stones. For a time in 2011, the quarry company was able to do just that. However in 2012, Fish and Wildlife prohibited the company from continuing the work, restricting it from using the access road to her property and said the quarry company needed a permit to drive its trucks on the road to travel between Cafky’s land and back Route 3A.

Use of the access road was granted in 1994 in a federal court consent decree to Antonio Artero Sablan’s company. While Sablan and Cafky are related, since Cafky is not listed on the court order granting access, Fish and Wildlife officials have not allowed Cafky and the quarry company working with her to use the road that Sablan is able to use.

Cafky and Fish and Wildlife authorities are at a standstill and after three years of letter writing, citations and meetings, Cafky is frustrated now that the five-year contract she has with the quarry company is near expiration and the company vehicles have not been allowed access to her property since 2012.

‘Not suited’

Joseph Schwagerl is Fish and Wildlife refuge manager for the National Wildlife Refuge at Ritidian which is adjacent to the Urunao property. He said the quarry trucks that carry extracted stone from Cafky’s land are not suited to safely travel on the access road. “Someone is just waiting to get hurt,” he said.

The trucks would need to make an estimated 70,000 trips on the 10- to 20-foot narrow road that has at least two sharp turns, making it an unsafe drive. This is why Fish and Wildlife refuses to approve the permit for the quarry company to travel on the access road, he said.

Cafky, however, said she does not see how the quarry company’s trucks are considered unsafe to travel on the road when tour buses carrying tourists to and from Sablan’s Coco Palm Resort are allowed to use the roadway multiple times a day.

Schwagerl said the Coco Palm Resort buses are allowed to travel the roads because of the consent decree.

Cafky said she attempted to bring the consent decree back to court to argue for her company’s need for use of the road but was denied by the District Court of Guam because she was not listed as one of the defendants.

In addition to safety reasons, Schwagerl also said the quarry company’s trucks traveling on Route 3A with its heavy loads caused much of the damage to the road, adding that part of the consent decree requires landowners to maintain the road.

In a 2012 letter to Schwagerl, Cafky said she’s open to improving the road condition as a goodwill gesture, but she said Fish and Wildlife is not willing to work with her.

Alternative route

In their meetings, Schwagerl said an alternative route was also suggested to Cafky and required an engineer to draw plans to build another road to get to her area, but he said Cafky has yet to take them up on that option.

“We have an access already. Why can’t they just let us go through there, finish our business in five years and that’s it,” Cafky said.

Cafky said she would just like to extract the rocks and sell them. She said she has the necessary government permits and spent thousands of dollars to support this project but without access to the land, her efforts are for naught.

Schwagerl said as far as he knows, the area in question is a tourist zone and he questioned how Cafky was granted a quarry permit for a tourist zone.

Anthony Artero, Cafky’s cousin, said he’s asked Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo for assistance and traveled to the U.S. mainland and Hawaii to meet with Fish and Wildlife authorities to negotiate access to the road on Cafky’s behalf, but he has not been able to make progress and negotiate.

“It’s too bad that no matter where you go, a refuge is supposed to work with the community but this is the opposite,” Artero said. “They don’t want to work with the community.”

thewayforward 21 hours ago

This is just another example of the federal government putting roadblocks in the way of the people of Guam to have access and use of their property. I wonder if Schwagerl complained when the military quarried huge amounts of coral, topsoil and vegetation on the most southerly lot of the Artero clan's Urunao property. The military have left a huge scar in the land, visible from the air. No attempt to backfill their quarry site with topsoil or to replant the acres of natural vegetation to restore it. Military work was an attempt to right the wrong when live munitions were dumped over the cliff from the Northwest Field property (also taken from the Artero family and other local families by the federal government for use by the military). The property is now zoned for Resort because it was an attempt by Legislature to help the Artero family get access to their private property in the 1980's when the military had a sentry at Pott's junction, refusing entry to the public, and only allowing the Artero family members access to their property if they got a pass from the military security office. Then Senator Carl Gutierrez sponsored legislation to rezone the entire property, which got the attention of the US government that Guam officials were supportive of the need to expand tourist infrastructure beyond Tumon Bay. It is actions like this that make local residents view the Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service with the same hatred as they do the US military for injustices going back to the taking of 40 per cent of Guam land, just after World War II. Land values were kept artificially low before WWII by the Naval Governors refusing civilians entry into Guam unless they had a Navy security clearance. Then in 1950 when the Organic Act of Guam was enacted, The US Attorney's office condemned and acquired vast amounts of private property through the US District Court. Give the poor lady access to her property. If necessary, expand the road, widen and pave it to make is safe to residents and visitors. I have spoken to DOI employees who are angry that the federal government has not repaved the road and have resulted in frequent tire damage to the employee vehicles. Schwageral, help out your own employees, help Guam tourism, and give some justice to the Artero family and other private property owners in that area of Guam, and allow access, and push your federal government partners in the US military, and Government of Guam to repave the terribly unsafe road from Potts Junction to the outstanding Visitor Center on your property and to what remains of the Artero property.

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.”