LNG scrutinized


Thursday, 17 Apr 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


University of Guam President Robert Underwood questioned why the Guam Power Authority would invest heavily on LNG infrastructure instead of renewable energy. Photo by Matt Weiss / Variety


THE Guam Power Authority's plan to transition to liquefied natural gas (LNG) was heavily scrutinized during a panel discussion at the University of Guam-Center for Island Sustainability's fifth regional conference.


Panel members and the audience hurled questions about the transparency of the process leading to the decision to shift to LNG as well as the $800 million capital investment needed for the LNG infrastructure.

University of Guam President Robert Underwood questioned why the power authority would invest heavily on LNG infrastructure instead of renewables.

Consolidated Commission on Utilities chairman Simon Sanchez, at the beginning of the discussion, emphasized that going into a 100 percent renewable energy source takes time. Meanwhile, he said, GPA needs to balance its power generation source with renewables and LNG is a cleaner option compared to current fossil fuel sources.

Sanchez said GPA needs to find an interim solution that would bridge the goal toward achieving renewable energy.

"But since you can’t get to renewable energy faster, what do you burn in the meantime? We have actually done the analysis and the bridge to nowhere is to do nothing," Sanchez said.

He stressed that even if 50 percent of the island's power would come from renewable energy, there would still be a need for a baseload burning source and LNG appears to be the cleanest, most affordable at this time.

Sanchez also emphasized that the new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency smokestack emission rules require capital investments of at least $400 million to bring GPA's aging generating units into compliance.

"If we don’t move to cleaner fuel, we have to put $400 million worth of oil scrubbers on Cabras 1 and 2. I’d rather adopt efficient generation that burns cleaner fuel while we grow renewables with our partners in the renewable community," Sanchez said.

GPA's concern, he added, is how to migrate to an energy paradigm in which renewables are dominant while the technology matures.

Loan

Sanchez also reported that half of the current loan being eyed by the power authority – around $40 million – would be used to purchase battery storage for renewable energy.

"Half of this $100 million loan is going into batteries and reducing demand for energy. Half of the money will be used for something that would advance renewable energy," he said.

Underwood asked whether the LNG issue is already a done deal.

Sanchez said it is already a done deal since no one has come up with an alternative. In addition, Sanchez said staying with the current fuel source is not an option.

He added that GPA requires a stable and reliable energy source.

Bill Hagen, of Pacific Solar and Photovoltaics, said if around $800 million will be spent on LNG, why not consider spending the money on photovoltaic equipment to be placed on everybody's roof.

Hagen agreed that the island needs something in the interim but also said that the LNG investments would only last for 10 to 15 years before renewables become more reliable.

Sanchez also responded to the accusations that the public was not informed about the shift to LNG.

"Our meetings have been public. We even brought it up at the Guam Energy Task Force. Our Integrated Resource Plan was public. We are very open about this process," he said.

Excited

At the start of the panel discussion, Sanchez said he is excited about the transformation that is about to occur in GPA, in terms of maximizing the use of renewable energy.

"Right now, carbon-based fuels provide most of your energy and renewables provide less of your energy. We want to flip that," he said.

By the end of the year, Sanchez said GPA and its partners will have 25 mw of solar energy in Dandan, making them the largest producer of renewable energy in the western Pacific.

"But the transformation of GPA has begun, you will see more and more renewable power generation. We are excited with the battery technology. When batteries get more efficient, then you will a see a movement to renewable faster," he said.


     

Calvo hedges on wage hike

Tuesday, 15 Apr 2014 03:00am

BY MAR-VIC CAGURANGAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

TAKING a lukewarm stance on a proposed minimum wage increase, the Calvo administration yesterday said any proposal to boost the hourly rate for Guam workers requires a thorough analysis lest it cost thousands of jobs.

"The wise thing to do is to gather data, conduct an independent study and make sure this will help workers and not hurt them," said Troy Torres, communications director for the governor's office.

Torres said Gov. Eddie Calvo would support a wage increase if a study concludes it will indeed help workers.

The administration's recommendation for a wage study came on the heels of Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz's filing of a bill to raise Guam's minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $10.10 incrementally over three years.

The administration, however, is apparently not too keen on a mandated wage rate.

"Setting an artificial floor on wages is a superficial solution to the problem, because it doesn't help those employees who make above the new minimum wage, if it does become law," Torres said.

He said the governor's "preferred tactic is to address economic development in a way that gives employers the ability to increase wages for all of their workers."

State of the Island address

During his fourth State of the Island address in February, Calvo encouraged employers in the private sector to give their employees salary boosts.

"The problem isn't that GovGuam employees make too much money; it's that some private sector employees aren't being paid what they should be paid," Calvo said.

The governor said low wages that have hardly changed over the years against the backdrop of inflation "is what's causing thousands of workers to need food stamps."

"Investing in employees through wages, benefits and training equals greater productivity and better business," Calvo said in his address. "Imagine what this will mean for the employee who's spent the past 10 years earning less than $14 an hour while his cost of living went up and his family got bigger. Or the employee making $10 an hour who has to worry about day care she can't afford as a single mom."

He said higher wages "will lift thousands of people off the welfare rolls."

Impact

In a statement emailed to the Variety yesterday, Torres said Guam should first assess the possible impact of a minimum wage increase before moving forward with it.

"The discussions should also look at whether a minimum wage increase would force certain companies to lay off employees because they couldn't afford the raises," Torres said.

He cited a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office projecting 500,000 to 1 million people likely to lose their jobs by 2016 as a result of President Barack Obama's proposed federal minimum wage boost.

"Raising the minimum wage, if it's proven to be a good thing, is only one part of the solution," Torres said.

He said what matters more than the wage rate is the number of low-paid breadwinners who can't afford to support their families.

"A man making $15 an hour may seem to make a good wage, but not a good living if that is the only income for him, his wife and their two kids," Torres said. "The government can't swoop in and, with the flick of a wand, solve this issue."

'Euphoria and anguish'

Andrew Andrus, executive director of the Guam Employers Council, said it is expected of "the everyday politician" to "take advantage of the disenchanted to further a cause and promote adjustments in the distribution of success."

In the long run, Andrus said, the government of Guam will equally benefit from higher wages.

"Of course, with any mandated increase in wages, the amounts withheld from paychecks will increase so that the government will get its share," he said. "Need we pose arguments regarding that effect? Vote wisely."

Andrus said a minimum wage increase – which he expects to take place "sooner or later" – will entail "new products, services and customer demands, new industries, new opportunities, and new jobs requiring new skills, abilities and knowledge."

He said the new labor landscape created by a pay hike will be governed by new rules, values and standards.

"Today, we're inundated with a multitude of laws and regulations that employers must address to properly manage the work environment," Andrus said.

He cited an economic theory that the minimum wage increase is a double-edged proposition.

"With changes in the minimum wage, there will be a period of euphoria and rejoicing in some quarters, and there will be depression among those ill-affected by the change," Andrus said.

"But enterprise will survive and even thrive, and eventually those in the job markets who cannot or will not adjust will again express dissatisfaction with the distribution of success, and we'll have more laws, more adjustments, amidst more creativity, higher wages, greater costs, and the cycle goes on," he added.

Andrus said there are principles to effectively establish and manage pay structures in any given organization, be it public or private.

"Those organizations that have effective wage, salary and benefit structures will glide through the changes and thrive. Those that don't may endure, but with anguish," he said.




Guam Community Police Review Commission may dissolve


Wednesday, 16 Apr 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


FOR its first – and possibly its last – resolution, the Guam Community Police Review Commission elected to take an indefinite recess.


Chairman Roland Taimanglo said there are several reasons he drafted Resolution 1, which would essentially suspend the commission from having to fulfill its duties. Taimanglo stressed the main reason is because the commission does not yet know what its duties are.

Taimanglo cited the case filed against Fred Bordallo, the Guam Police Department’s chief of police, as a case which required guidelines for the commission to follow, guidelines that do not exist.  “We have no processes, no procedures, no standards in place to do any review,” Taimanglo said. The commission, after reviewing that case, then passed a motion to dismiss all complaints filed against the Guam Police Department.

Taimanglo maintained that the commission has no authority to rule on the case against Bordallo, which was filed by Bernadette Meno, former Port Authority of Guam employee.

The drafted resolution also cited that other agencies already exist that would do justice to review injustices, including the Office of the Attorney General, the FBI, Guam Internal Affairs and the Office of Public Accountability. Moreover, those agencies have standards in place to review cases, unlike the police review commission.

“It’s almost like a commission was set up because of a lack of trust in our police,” Taimanglo said. “But in fact, we already have formal agencies to address these things.”

Quorum

The commission hardly ever makes a quorum and when it does it, again, standard operating guidelines to move forward with any sort of action are lacking, Taimanglo said. Yesterday’s meeting was one of the few when a quorum was met with five members present and allowed for the passage of the resolution.

Taimanglo also pointed out that the commission is made up wholly of volunteers who receive no compensation or monetary incentive to meet. “Commission members are appointed volunteers, with other full-time responsibilities,” the draft resolution stated. “Many lack knowledge and experience about governing such complex requirements outlined in P.L. 30-76.”

Now that members have approved the resolution, the commission will forward it to the Legislature with the hope that senators revisit the existing law and revise it. Taimanglo said it would be best for guidelines and policies to be set in place prior to reinstating the commission.

“The most important thing is getting those standards done – this is what the public wants,” the chairman said. “If the people believe this law is good for Guam, then the real goal should be to get the standards done.”

He likened the process to constructing a vehicle, with the Legislature manufacturing the vehicle then establishing a standard operating procedure before having the volunteers take the wheel, by serving on the commission and managing the implemented policies.

As it stands, the commission is now without a map nor any means of transportation.



Bill 315 passed, critical Sanctuary youth programs get funding


Wednesday, 16 Apr 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


THE Legislature yesterday unanimously voted to pass Bill 315 which appropriates $292,800 from the general fund to Sanctuary Inc. in order sustain two of its critical youth programs.


Sen. Michael San Nicolas introduced the bill to help the nonprofit service provider address a budget shortfall which placed the Emergency Youth Shelter as well as the youth alcohol and drug rehabilitation program under threat of closure.

According to San Nicolas, the nonprofit has had to turn away 200 youths seeking their services due to lack of funding for the Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation program.

Representatives from the nonprofit organization, who were waiting for the voting outcome in the Legislature's public hearing room, applauded once they heard the bill cleared its first hurdle.

But Millie Lujan, executive director of Sanctuary, said they are still not out of the woods since the measure has yet to be enacted into law by the governor.

"If he vetoes it then I am hoping, we are keeping our fingers crossed, that the Legislature would overwrite it," he said.

Lujan said the funding would ensure that their Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation program and the Runaway Homeless and Victims of Abuse program would continue its operations until the end of the current fiscal year.

The programs have a budget shortfall of around $132,000 and $160,800, respectively, according to Lujan.

Sanctuary intends to request the Legislature to consider increasing the appropriations for the Department of Youth Affairs' Runaway Homeless and Victims of Abuse program.

Sanctuary receives approximately $321,000 in appropriations through DYA from the local government.

"We do have a three-year contract with them which ends this year. Next year, another (request for proposals) will be issued for that but we have already seen the preliminary FY2015 budget and it is still at the same rate. We know that is just enough for next year," she said.

At the current contract rate, Sanctuary expects to exhaust the funding by June of this fiscal year. The additional $160,800 authorized by Bill 315 would allow Sanctuary to keep the program open until September.

"The funding for our emergency shelter simply allows to keep it open because we are operating at a deficit every month. We don't have enough money to sustain that program and the number of clients are increasing, the amount of time spent in our shelter is increasing," said O.J. Thomas Taitano, program director.

He went on to say that the public need is growing while public funds shrink.

Austerity

In the past, the nonprofit had implemented austerity measures that included layoffs, salary cuts and the closure of the homeless youth street outreach as well as the homeless youth transitional living program to keep the two programs afloat.

“It is a sad reality that many of our youths face alcohol and drug problems. It is important to be able to treat these problems at an early age before they become larger problems in adulthood including trouble with the family, trouble keeping a job and getting involved with crime," San Nicolas said.

The senator went on to say that an investment in Sanctuary’s drug and alcohol program is an investment in Guam's most at-risk children and an investment in saving a life.

Sanctuary is the only nonprofit organization accredited under the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities on Guam and the region, and the only service provider offering a multitude of programs specifically for the island's youth.




Shedd to leave Docomo

Wednesday, 16 Apr 2014 03:00am VARIETY NEWS STAFF

http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/041614/shedd_200_200.jpgJay Shedd

JAY R. Shedd, CEO of Docomo Pacific, will be leaving the company, according to Variety sources who did not want to be identified.

The company declined to comment and no further details were available.

Shedd has been with the company since he came to Guam as senior vice president and general manager of fledgling Guamcell Communications 20 years ago. In 2008, after a four-year period off island, he returned to the helm of the company and saw it through its acquisition by NTT Docomo of Japan, and its subsequent rebranding as Docomo Pacific. He also oversaw the company’s entry into the local cable TV market with its acquisition of MCV Broadband in May 2013.

Most recently, Docomo Pacific along with more than 800 other members of the National Cable Television Cooperative announced that an agreement had been reached with Viacom to continue to carry Viacom’s media networks. The agreement followed a dispute over a proposed drastic increase in Viacom’s rates.


Public schools eyed for solar project

Friday, 11 Apr 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


THE Guam Department of Education will be piloting its renewable energy project at its leased schools.

In an interview with the Variety, Jon Fernandez, education superintendent, said that within the next few months, the department hopes to install solar panels on site at Okkodo High School, Adacao and Liguan Elementary Schools, and Astumbo Middle School.

GDOE worked with the Guam Education Financing Foundation (GEFF) to design, build, finance and lease back Liguan and Adacao Elementary Schools as well as Astumbo. GEFF also collaborated with GDOE for the Okkodo expansion project.

Fernandez said he is also in talks with the leaseback partners of John F. Kennedy High School.

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 (PPA) for all GDOE schools, and administrative and ancillary buildings.

However, the legislation provides an exemption for GDOE-leased schools, according to the superintendent.

"The legislation allowed us to move forward with our leased schools. We are also in conversations with the landlord at JFK so we can go ahead and move forward with renewable energy," Fernandez said.

Speaker Judith Won Pat and Sens. Aline Yamashita and Tina Muña-Barnes introduced the legislation which allows the education department to enter into a renewable energy PPA for a term of up to 25 years.

Under the legislation, the qualified providers will be responsible for providing a power purchase agreement to cover no more than 80 percent of GDOE’s power needs.

In his testimony during the public hearing for then-Bill 74, Fernandez said the education department spent $14.46 million for power in fiscal 2012.

He also said that despite the conscientious efforts made by GDOE to reduce power consumption, its power expenses continue to rise, citing the example of their consumption for the first half of fiscal 2013, which shows that despite a kilowatt-hour usage decrease by nearly 1.36 million kwh compared to the first half of fiscal 2012, GDOE’s power bill increased by nearly $174,000.

 

Gap between private sector and GovGuam wages noted

Monday, 14 Apr 2014 03:00am

BY MAR-VIC CAGURANGAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THERE is a wide gap in pay rates and benefits packages between private-sector employees and government of Guam workers, according to labor consultant Barry Mead.

Mead said due to unattractive salaries and benefits, a huge number of people choose to skip work and depend on government welfare.

“Unemployment, though reportedly at an all-time low, is still more than 40 percent of Guam’s entire eligible workforce when factoring in the 48,000 people not looking for work but yet drawing on the government for some type of assistance,” Mead said during a wage and compensation forum held last Thursday by the Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce at the Pacific Star Resort & Spa.

Mead noted that, at $216 a month per person, Guam was the top recipient of federal funding from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the United States, with 45,614 enrolled in the program as of June 2013.

Throughout the nation, Mead said Guam wages are some of the lowest in the United States. The national median wage is $16.87 per hour, the national average is $22.33, and the national annual average salary is $46,440. On Guam, the median hourly pay is pegged at $12.23, the average is $15.72 and the average annual salary is $32,700.

“Not only between Guam and the rest of the U.S. but more so between Guam’s private sector and the government of Guam,” Mead said.

He noted that all government employees receive 40 hours a week of work and pay, with 14 days paid sick and vacation leave per year, as well as medical and dental insurance.

On the other hand, minimum-wage earners in the private sector, who each receive an hourly rate of $7.25, work 35 hours for a total of $253.75 per week or $13,195 a year.

Gap

“The lack of unemployment compensation all contribute to not only the ‘gap’ but the overall low wages paid to Guam workers,” Mead said.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the mean hourly wage for private sector employees is $13.65, while the mean for GovGuam is $19.78.

The private sector employs 46,170 people and GovGuam, 11,835.

Almost 3,000 runners participate in Guam Int'l Marathon

Posted: Apr 13, 2014 by Sabrina Salas Matanane  KUAM

Guam - Almost 3,000 runners from around the region hit the streets this morning to participate in the 2014 Guam International Marathon hosted by the Guam Visitors Bureau and the Pacific Islands Club and United. Runners from Guam, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Hon Kong, Taiwan, Australia, United States and Palau took part in the 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon.

In the men's division Koki Kawauchi from Japan won with a time of 2:38:06 while South Korea's Eunhee Yoon won the female division with a time of 3:04:43.

Other winners included:

Hideyuki Ikegami (Japan): Male Half Marathon / 1:09:28

Megumi Sugawara (Japan): Female Half Marathon/ 1:37:24

Kaoru Yamazuki (Japan): Male 10K/ 33:57

Saori Kawaii (Japan): Female 10K/ 38:41

Jinsu Song (South Korea): Male 5K/ 17:48

Amy Atkinson (Oregon): Female 5K/ 21:47

Nearly 660 runners took part in the marathon, about 670 in the half marathon, 689 in the 10K and over 930 runners in the 5K. Guam International Marathon proceeds benefit the Tourism Education Council and the Island-wide Beautification Task Force."The Guam International Marathon is a signature sports tourism event and brings in economic incentives for our island community," said Karl Pangelinan, Guam Visitors Bureau General Manager.  "By hosting this event, an estimated $6.7 million in spending is infused into our economy by international participants, their families and friends. This spending represents overseas money Guam has captured because of this event."

"On behalf of the Guam International Marathon, we congratulate and thank our participants, volunteers, media partners, supporters and sponsors of GIM. We're extremely pleased with this year's record turnout and we encourage everyone to join us again for the 2015 Guam International Marathon on April 12, 2015," said GIM Race Director, Ben Ferguson.

The Guam International Marathon is also sponsored by ASC Trust Corporation, Bank of Guam, DFS Galleria, Docomo Pacific, Powerade, Nanbo Insurance, Tokio Marine Pacific, SPPC 76 and Circle K, Luckland, TakeCare, Taico and the stations of KUAM.

'Raise minimum wage to $10.10’

Friday, 11 Apr 2014 03:00am   BY MAR-VIC CAGURANGAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, right, explains why he wants to introduce a bill to raise Guam's hourly minimum rate from $7.25 to $10.10 with a staggered rollout over three years while Joseph Bradley, senior vice president and chief economist at the Bank of Guam, listens intently. Photos by Matt Weiss

Economists say rate should be higher

TAKING a cue from President Obama's pitch for a minimum wage hike, Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz said yesterday he will introduce a bill to raise Guam's hourly minimum rate from $7.25 to $10.10 with a staggered rollout over three years.

"Like its federal counterpart, my $10.10 proposal will take a phased-in approach, incrementally raising the minimum wage by 0.95 cents a year ending in 2017.  Doing so will allow our business community to adjust," Cruz told the Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce's wage and compensation forum at the Pacific Star Resort & Spa.

"Though the first increment of our plan would not be enough to immediately regain the purchasing power lost by the minimum wage when compared to 2007, I know that progress requires partnerships, and we must work together," Cruz said.

But Guam economists endorse higher wage rates given the fact that the cost of living on Guam is much higher than that of the continental United States.

Maria Claret Ruane, economics professor at the University of Guam, noted a 20 percent cost differential on Guam compared to the U.S. mainland. Based on her calculations, the hourly wage rate required to meet the poverty threshold on Guam should be pegged at between $12.12 and $15.81.

"Whichever hourly wage rate prevails, it should be equal for employees with the same productivity and qualifications, regardless of their gender and regardless of whether they work in the public or the private sector," Ruane said.

Value matters more

Joseph Bradley, senior vice president and chief economist at the Bank of Guam, said the actual value of the dollar weighs more than the nominal wage amount.

"Wage rates don't matter; it is what you can buy with those wages that is important," Bradley said.

He noted that Guam's minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, has not fared very well over the years.

"It has less than half the purchasing power that it had 30 years ago," Bradley said. "A $10.10 minimum wage would get us back to where we were in the middle of 1992."

In February, Obama signed an executive order to implement the $10.10 hourly wage increase for federal contract workers, starting on Jan. 1, 2015. It applies to new contracts and replacements for expiring contracts.

Obama, who has also pressed Congress to enact legislation to raise the minimum wage for all workers nationwide, urged business leaders and government officials to do more to increase workers' incomes.

During his State of the Island address in February, Gov. Eddie Calvo stopped short of calling for a mandated minimum wage increase, but encouraged employers to pay their employees more, saying that investing in employees presents a successful formula that produces happy employees and results in greater productivity and better business.

Ruane said economic theory always links the wage rate to employee productivity and contribution to production.

"Wages must be rewarding enough for any prospective employee to get up from their beds, couches, leave the comfort of their homes, usually drive to work and do their work," Ruane said. "If it is more attractive to stay home than work, very simple economics will predict exactly that. From an employee's perspectives, going to work is costly but the benefit is the wages and compensation he/she earns from working."

Ruane, however, acknowledged raising the minimum wage is not an easy proposition as it entails additional cost for the employers.

"It is a two-edged sword and the goal is to find that delicate balance," she said. "Increasing wages increases the cost to employers and businesses but it also increases the purchasing power in the economy." 

Cruz said Guam’s experience indicates raising the minimum wage "does not kill jobs or cut hours."

He said a phase-in approach can mitigate the impact on employers.

"By responsibly raising the minimum wage over time, and protecting public assistance programs and existing tax subsidies for our most vulnerable neighbors; we give thousands of people the chance to move, at least a few steps, past poverty," Cruz said.

Inflation

The Bureau of Statistics and Plans' first quarter report showed Guam's consumer price index of 116.4 shows a 0.5 percent increase over the fourth quarter of 2013.

The purchasing power of the dollar is 58 cents when compared to base year 1996.

Cruz said the spiraling prices of commodities make a wage increase imperative.

"When indexed against the cost of housing, food, medical care, and electricity; today's minimum wage would have to be $8.41 an hour just to have the same purchasing power as it did in 2007— the time at which the first of three minimum wage increases went into effect," he said.

"To put it in terms we might all understand, in 2007, a 50-pound bag of Jasmine rice was $14.95.  That same store now prices that bag at $29.99.  A can of Spam at this store was $1.89 in 2007 but that can is now $3.19."


‘Obamacare is not good for Guam’

Friday, 11 Apr 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – with its many revisions and deadlines that have been extended to U.S. states for its implementation, is proving to offer no significant benefits for anyone in Guam.

Gina Ramos, special projects manager at Calvo’s SelectCare, presented the issues that affect Guam in relation to Obamacare at the Rotary Club of Guam’s weekly meeting yesterday.

Because of the endless hurdles created by the implementation of Obamacare, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners wrote a white paper for U.S. territories, including Guam, detailing these hurdles and other concerns, Ramos said.

The paper has been submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services in an attempt to get Congress to make some sort of accommodation for the territories much like accommodations have been extended to the mainland states, Ramos said.

“There have been 31 different changes that have been made already, so we’re trying to jump on that wagon,” she said. “The territories are just trying to say, ‘Listen, you have been open to other groups to provide accommodation, or waivers, delays and extensions. Can you consider that for us as well?’”

The hope is that the paper makes it way to Congress and eventually to the president for consideration.

Ramos said individuals on Guam are not required to purchase health insurance like people in the U.S. mainland. The market for individual insurance, then, is nonexistent on Guam. No companies on island offer individual health insurance plans.

The options for residents who want health insurance are limited. “You either get employed and get covered or you qualify for Medicaid, hopefully,” Ramos said. “But even with Medicaid, they’re only limited as to what they can cover.”

Uninsured

The other option is go uninsured, Ramos said. Uninsured patients will then only have Guam Memorial Hospital to turn to when they need care and will become part of the many self-pay patients the hospital is obligated to serve.

“Hopefully you can pay for it, otherwise the rest of the private health insurance will have to subsidize the cost of that care,” Ramos said.

Guam will also receive an additional $3.6 million in expanded Medicaid funding because Guam does not have a health insurance exchange, Ramos said. However, $3.6 million in Medicaid funding does not amount to much in the grand scheme of things.

“The cost to providing health benefits to our Medicaid population is several millions of dollars,” Ramos said. “So a $3.6 million increase in providing care for the existing population is not going to help us increase the number of people we cover ... so giving us $3.6 million in additional funds will not help us get more people insured under Medicaid.”

Ramos said health insurance companies have been pushing for the federal government to offer some changes since March 2010, and will continue to do business as usual just with the added price limitations and additional benefits required by the feds.

“The only thing that would really cause a change for Guam is if they change the law,” Ramos said. “Changing the law is a whole different monster to deal with.”

 

FY 2015 budget published online

Thursday, 10 Apr 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Office of Finance and Budget (OFB) is publishing a webpage dedicated to the fiscal 2015 budget proposals as submitted by government of Guam line agencies and semi-autonomous agencies.

The summaries and details of the budget proposals are available for public viewing at the website of Sen. Ben Pangelinan who has oversight over the OFB.

According to Pangelinan, this comprehensive project has been undertaken and completed annually for the past five years by the professional staff of the OFB.

“The webpage contains complete information for the FY 2015 budget proposals as submitted by the departments and agencies. The public has immediate access to this webpage which includes the working files and scanned files of all budget requests submitted to the Office of Finance and Budget,” the senator said.

Included in the website are:

  • Fiscal 2014 budget information;

  • Public Law 32-068 (Bill 1 (4-S));

  • Fiscal 2014 SBill 38-32 committee report findings;

  • Fiscal 2013 budget information;

  • Fiscal 2013 Bill 426-31 committee report findings;

  • Videos of fiscal 2013 budget hearings; and

  • Executive request – federal program inventory.

    The OFB is managed by Artemio "Ricky" Hernandez, who serves as executive director. For more information, visit online: www.senbenp.com, and click on the Office of Finance and Budget tab.

    

Jonathan Diaz, Respicio present at GCC candidates forum

Thursday, 10 Apr 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

REPUBLICAN gubernatorial hopeful Jonathan Diaz returned to the Guam Community College multipurpose room last night with a staff in hand and a knit scarf around his neck.

Diaz said he was thankful for being allowed to present his platform during last night’s 2014 Gubernatorial Forum alongside Democrat representative Rory Respicio. This time the host Supervision and Management class allocated time slots for each invited speaker to address the audience.

Diaz reiterated what he had said at Tuesday’s forum as his main campaign platform: free power and water for island residents.

“My first campaign goal is to give free water and free power to all the people of Guam,” Diaz said. “It’s possible because I thought of it in my head, right, I believe it in my heart and I can push it out with my hands.”

“Can you imagine if you had free power and water what it would do for your salary? A lot of people on Guam are working for their power and water,” Diaz said. “So let’s end that.”

Diaz said poverty on island could be eased through his free power and water initiative as well as through education.

Diaz added that he will try to provide solar panels for all homes. Additionally, Diaz said another sustainable effort could be launched into having all types of scrap metal melted down and made into steel.

“We need to move to melt all that metal – all that rust, all that metal. My campaign goal is to have a green Guam and that people are not throwing all that metal out in all our jungles and the private properties of Guam,” Diaz said. “I really want us to have ... an industry where you just melt all the metal.”

Diaz said he was a new kind of Republican. “This is what the new Republicans stand for,” he said. “The new Republicans stand for equality, justice and truth for all.”

The gubernatorial hopeful said he will announce the name of his running mate in November and he noted that his running mate is a Democrat.

Respicio

Sen. Rory Respicio remained positive about the Democrat camp. “The Democrat Party is united,” Respicio said. “When the party moves forward in this fashion, which we are, then the island community will have to come together.”

Respicio said this election is a different type of election and is not one that will be led solely by campaign funds. “If you’re going to start a campaign and your opposition has all the money in the world, you just can’t match that kind of war chest, dollar for dollar,” the senator said.

Respicio said he continues to hope for an alternative ticket, no matter what that ticket may be.

“Whatever team emerges as an alternative to the administration is going to be an ABC ticket and is going to be a ticket that responds to this hunger for change,” Respicio said. In the past, ABC has been understood to stand for "Anybody But Calvo."

   

Green waste management disposal plan announced

Posted: Apr 09, 2014 4  kuam  by Jolene Toves

Guam - Today the Guam Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will be partnering with the National Park Service in launching a pilot project using the air curtain burner to dispose of green waste without spreading invasive species.

As the battle against invasive species rages on and the efforts to get a handle on green waste around the island is in high gear a viable solution for both may have been identified with the introduction of the air curtain burner. Guam EPA Administrator Eric Palacios said, "I will say that I am extremely confident that it will immediately result in positively addressing the invasive species situation."

Not to be confused with an incinerator the air curtain burner also called a burn box uses a curtain of air that flows over the fire and contains the fire in the box. "Which basically is a metal box with a retractable lid and so the only fire that really or the only element that is need to get it is you light the initial waste that is in there with a lighter or match regular household items and the machine does the rest," he said.

Palacios says the air curtain burner is completely safe and legal, saying, "If so it will be very, very little again because it has a retractable roof."

Unlike conventional fires which die out as soon as it is covered by a lid the fire contained within the box will not because air is actively pumped into the fire to keep it going allowing the green waste being burned to be reduced to ashes that can then be used by the farming community by mixing it with soil. Another benefit of the burn box according to Palacios is that it is mobile which will help reduce the chance of spreading invasive species such as the rhinoceros beetle and little fire ant.  "It could be brought to different places around the island mayors green waste sites for example so that we don't further spread the fire ant for example and it can be burned on site in a controlled very safe and stable manner," he said.

Island residents are advised to not transport green waste that is knowingly infested with the rhinoceros beetle and little fire ant, instead contact your village mayor. To see the air curtain burner in action residents are invited to the War in Pacific National Historical Park in Asan on Monday at 2pm.

Guam EPA will closely monitor the use of the air curtain burners, and it will require that the company follow all applicable procedures to secure a processing permit. Air curtain burners are widely accepted and used throughout the United States, and it is a safer alternative to open burning. This growing technology is available on Guam, and it makes sense to put it to good use for everyone's benefit," Palacios added.



Cruz wants minimum wage increased to $10 by 2017


Posted: Apr 10, 2014 by Sabrina Salas Matanane Kuam


Guam - During a Wage and Compensation Forum hosted by the Guam Women's Chamber of Commerce this morning, Vice Speaker BJ Cruz announced that he would be introducing legislation that would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour over the next three years or 95 cents a year.  The goal o f today's discussion is to formulate policy initiatives based on the data presented at the Forum.




UOG Presidential lecture to tackle marine resources as possible sources of medicine

Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 03:30am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/040914/uog-hendrik_200_200.jpgHendrik Luesch

THE next University of Guam Presidential Lecture series will feature a researcher who has identified promising compounds from algae for combating cancer, Alzheimer's disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Dr. Hendrik Luesch will speak on Guam's marine resources as a starting point for drug discovery and development at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 10 at the UOG-College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) Lecture Hall.

In an interview with Variety, UOG President Robert Underwood said this concept could be feasible thanks to the newly mandated Research Corporation of the University of Guam, or RCUOG, which can facilitate partnerships for marine pharmacological research.

The signing of Bill 190 into law authorized the University of Guam to ramp up its research activities through the establishment of a research corporation.

The bill, introduced by Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz, established the Research Corporation of the University of Guam, a public 501(c) (3) corporation that operates separate and apart from the university that will enable improved management of UOG’s federal grants and contracts as well as monetize the university’s research through public-private partnerships.

The law, enacted on Feb. 10, is expected to help the university translate annual research funding into increased revenues from commercial products and services.

Opportunity

With Luesch as UOG's next lecture speaker, Underwood said: "The opportunity presents itself. Partially, one is the integrity and interest of Dr. Luesch to come back to us and be part of a network of scholars and interested people, including some researchers down at the University's Marine Lab.

"There is something unique about the kinds of algae or the pharmacological properties that are found in naturally occurring phenomena around Guam. Of course, we hope that that would generate interest from pharmaceuticals who may want to sponsor further research here, or collections here," he said.

Underwood said this would further enhance the standing of the university. "We are very happy that a researcher of his caliber is willing to speak to us about it and hopefully, suggest some levels of collaboration," he said.

Research

Luesch received his diploma in chemistry at the University of Siegen in Germany in 1997. He studied marine natural products chemistry at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa where he obtained his doctorate in chemistry in 2002.

In 2005, he joined the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Florida. In 2011, he was awarded the three-year University of Florida Research Foundation Professorship and, in 2012, the endowed Frank A. Duckworth Eminent Scholar Chair in Drug Research and Development.

As of 2013, he is the endowed Debbie and Sylvia DeSantis Chair in Natural Products Drug Discovery and Development where he leads a multidisciplinary marine natural products drug discovery and development program. In 2013, he founded and now directs the Center for Natural Products, Drug Discovery and Development at the University of Florida.

For more information on the presentation abstract, visit www.uog.edu or contact Louise Toves at 735-2995 or email: lmtoves[at]uguam.uog.edu.

 

Tiyan Parkway Project Phase 1 breaks ground

Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 03:30am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

WITH the Tiyan Parkway groundbreaking ceremony completed, Carl Dominguez, Department of Public Works director, said he hoped IMCO General Construction would get to work on the project as early as an hour after yesterday’s ceremony ended.

Construction of the $7.3 million project, however, is estimated to span at least 365 calendar days.

Dominguez said there are still preliminary assessments that need to be completed. “You won’t see any earth-moving equipment here in the next 24 to 72 hours because they have to do certain things like survey and establish the boundary lines of the new parkway,” he said.

Residents who travel through Central Avenue, will, however, be able to get a glimpse of the progress of the job over the next year. Dominguez said the first phase of the parkway will end between Cars Plus and San Jose Supermarket and through the grassy area in front of the site of the former Guam Police Department headquarters.

“This was a particularly difficult project because of policies and the politics,” Dominguez said. “I’m just so glad we’re having this today. I just wondered when we would ever break ground … and we’re confident that IMCO can complete the project by next March.”

Dominguez said DPW has been in contact with Federal Highway Administration officials weekly regarding the project. He said they, too, are pleased to know ground has been broken for the parkway. The entire project was paid for with federal funds.

Since a section of Central Avenue is currently within the safety clearance zone of a runway that was extended, the area is considered in violation of federal safety standards. The parkway is necessary to eventually close the section of road in the clearance zone. The federal government requires the closure of the area in violation by December 2015.

At the start of this year, the department held another groundbreaking ceremony for the demolition of several Tiyan buildings. These buildings stood in the way of the first phase of the project.

Phase two of the parkway will include the construction of the roadway extending along Sunset Boulevard, through the former Navy housing, to Route 10A near Home Depot.

In addition to demolition of government structures, the parkway project also required the purchase of several private properties. Dominguez said P.L. 32-41, which was passed last June, was a reason the project was able to move forward.

The law appropriated $500,000 from the Guam Territorial Highway Fund to DPW so the department could purchase property that would be in the way of the parkway construction.

 

Calvo opposes gay marriage

Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 03:30am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Says next tax refund mailing April 17

GUAM Community of College’s Supervision and Management class hosted the first 2014 Gubernatorial Forum last night at the school. It was scheduled as the Republicans’ night to make their presentation, with incumbent Gov. Eddie Calvo taking the reigns and addressing the audience of mostly students.

The governor announced that a batch of tax refunds will be released on April 17, although the amount and the dates of the income tax returns will be released by Adelup at a later time.

At the forum, Calvo touted his accomplishments over the last four years as governor, reminding the audience that he built his campaign on the Guamanian dream and now hopes to spend the next four years helping Guamanians reach new heights, should he be re-elected.

Students kept Calvo on his toes asking about hot button topics like local employment and gay marriage.

Calvo said he is in favor of all couples, whether they be homosexual or heterosexual, but he does not stand behind gay marriage.

“I’m going to be upfront with you, I have an issue with gay marriage,” Calvo said.

Calvo said it would be opening Pandora’s box should the law allow for homosexuals to be legally married. The governor added that should gay marriage be legalized, it may lead to the legality of polygamy and incestuous marriages.

“I’m not trying to put my morals on anybody,” the governor said. “I just want everyone to understand that when society makes that move, there will now be a new question.”

Calvo also conceded that societal norms change and that if the law should change to allow for gay marriage, he would prefer it would be through a referendum.

“If society as a whole says, ‘We want gay marriage’ then guess what? I will accept gay marriage,” he said.

New hospital

The topic of unemployment was also brought up. Calvo said he expects that when Guam Regional Medical City opens in the fall that it would hire local nurses.

Calvo challenged criticism of the administration’s decision to allow a new hospital to be built. “What’s wrong with a new hospital?” he questioned.

The governor said that even with a new hospital, the number of beds in GRMC and Guam Memorial Hospital combined would still be less than what the island needs.

Calvo promised to do what he could to ensure GRMC hires local nurses, but he also added more emphasis should be placed on more employment opportunities because of the new hospital. “Whether it was someone from Guam or someone from California, as nurse they would not have a job opportunity because there would be no hospital,” he said.

Diaz

Gubernatorial hopeful Jonathan Diaz was present last night, but was not scheduled to speak during the forum. Diaz stormed out of the room at the end of the forum, clearly upset at not having been invited to speak. “You withheld me from speaking tonight and I am a Republican running for governor,” he shouted as Calvo tried to address him. “Free power and water to the people of Guam.” He said voters should write his name in, “because they’re not going to put me on the ballot.” 

Frederick Tupaz, instructor of the class that hosted the forum, said Diaz was welcome to speak at tonight’s forum which will feature Democrat Rory Respicio, who will speak as a representative as no gubernatorial hopeful has yet to come out of the Democrat camp.

“I have no problem going as a gubernatorial candidate and having a debate,” Calvo said. “But people who run for this office better honor and respect the responsibility and not do it as a gimmick, as a ploy or as a stepping stone for presidential office.”

“That is an insult to the people of Guam. And I guarantee you, I will debate anyone, Republican, Democrat, Independent – and then I’m going to leave it to you.”

The next forum will be tonight at the GCC Multipurpose room at 6 p.m. The class will host Senatorial Candidate Forums for Republican candidates on Wednesday, April 23 and for Democratic



Small waves, big hearts


Tuesday, 01 Apr 2014 03:00am


BY MATT WEISS | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/040114/small-0046_200_200.jpgGirls pose for a photograph after competing in Saturday’s Hui Nalu Ocean Club Inaugural Guam International Ladies Surf Fiesta held at Rick’s Reef at Satpon Point, off the shores of the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort in Tamuning. Photo by Matt Weiss / Variety


Pro surfers inspire Guam’s female youth

FOR three days, five top-ranked professional junior female surfers from Hawaii, Australia and Japan helped dozens of Guam’s girls through three separate instructional clinics, tournaments and surfing fiestas.


From Friday through Sunday, Joe and Hidemi Villatora, along with their grass routes organization Hui Nalu Ocean Club (HNOC), and pro surfers Dax McGill, Tatiana Weston-Webb, Bailey Nagy (Hawaii), Kobie Enright (Australia) and Reika Noro (Japan) held a successful Inaugural Guam International Ladies Surf Fiesta.

The fiesta kicked off Friday at Onward Resort’s wave pool, with the pros having offered instruction to more than three dozen young ladies.

The wave pool provided a safe, controlled environment, a perfect situation for education and fun. Sharing the success of HNOC youth programs, the Villatoras said: “Surfing is a fast growing sport on Guam and around the world. For over two years, Hui Nalu Ocean Club has taken the lead role in developing Guam’s young surfers. The club runs year-round organized surf camps at the Onward Beach Resort. Over 300 children have attended the camps. It has grown from three sessions per week with five to six children, to a program that offers 10 sessions per week with up to 15 to 18 children. We have also run four contests in the wave pool. Three times in the past two years, Hui Nalu has taken surfers to Hawaii to surf in youth contests.”

Rick’s Reef

On Saturday morning, the surfers moved their fiesta to Rick’s Reef, Satpon point, just off the coast from the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort in Tamuning.

While the waves were small, ranging from 12 to 24 inches – perfect for the littlest of youngsters – there was no disappointment to be found anywhere. Rather, the pros split into five separate groups, each with six or seven kids on their teams, and participated in one of the most fun surfing tournaments ever recorded.

With the megaphone pointed at a surf-tandem, two contestants on a single board, Jon Cramer said: “Here they come, all the way to the beach.” He could also be heard saying: “Here comes a big one. It’s going to cover ... their ankles.” Spectators from the rocky Satpon Point shores smiled and laughed each time the joke-cracking Cramer spoke.

International Surfing Association (ISA) 2013 world champion Tatiana Weston-Webb, a 17-year-old from Kauai, Hawaii’s garden island, and her team were the first to take to the water.

“We’re all here to help the Hui Nalu kids surf and it’s such a great experience to be able to come to Guam and be the first professionals to help out on Guam.”

Having just returned from their 25-minute heat, with having had 6-year-old Kaya Fitzgerald on the board with her, Tatiana shared: “Oh my gosh, there’s nothing like it. It just reminds me of how excited I was when I first started to surf. Once you catch the bug, you’re always going to be a surfer no matter what.”

She added: “I’m really happy to be able to surf with Kaya. She’s adorable. She did super well out there and I am proud of her.” When asked what she would say to a child who wanted to become a pro surfer, she said: “I think you have to be passionately in love with the sport. If you don’t love something, don’t go for it. You’ve got to dream. Whatever your dream is, go for it. If surfing is your dream, work every day to see what you can do to become a better person and a better surfer. That’s what I do.”

All fun

Dax McGill, a 16-year-old from Hawaii’s Oahu North Shore and winner of the 2012 Dakine ISA World Junior Championship, spoke regarding her surf session with Guam’s 7-and-a-half-year-old Emme Miller: “I was keeping everybody out there happy with funny chants and stuff. It was all fun, twirling her around.” Candidly, she said: “I’ve never done something like this. To come out to Guam, I’ve never been out here. I’ve actually never even heard of it until I came here.”

She added: “It’s a passion I do. I love it. Ever since I stood up on my first wave I just had a blast and it’s been a fun time all the way. I get to travel to places like this and meet all these amazing people. I like that I get the chance to experience with a new friend and have a chance to be where I want to be.”

The 7-year-old also shared what she learned from McGill: “I learned that anything isn’t impossible. It’s able to be learned.”

Great opportunity

“What a great opportunity to see this type of surfing and learn from them,” said HNOC’s Joe Villatora.

Speaking about the importance of education as a vital component for becoming not only a great surfer, but also a great person, he added: “Everyday in the camps, we tell the kids: If you’re not passing school, it’s not as important that you’re surfing. And we really make it a point that when you get out of camp, you buckle down. We’re not asking for straight-A students, but we really push education first.”


Jonathan Diaz to challenge Calvo in primary

Monday, 07 Apr 2014 03:00am

BY MAR-VIC CAGURANGAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

http://www.mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/040714/diaz_200_200.jpgJonathan Diaz

CULTURAL activist Jonathan Frank Blas Diaz will challenge Gov. Eddie Calvo in the Republican primary election for nominee for governor, a political move he said will serve as a launching pad for his future presidential candidacy.

"I knew deep in my heart that one day I would eventually run for president of the United States of America. This is what Guam needs and I believe that this is my calling," Diaz said.

"Running for governor is a perfect first step for this political platform and I believe that the Republican Party best represents my last name which spans to the European continent and the entire globe," he added.

Self-determination for Guam and reunification of the Marianas will be the centerpieces of Diaz's platform.

A former seminarian, Diaz ran in the Democratic primary for the Guam delegate nomination in 2008 and then as an independent candidate for the same position in 2012.

"I ran as a Democrat early on to honor my mother who is a Democrat. Then I decided that in order for me to make this tremendous leap, I would first have to run as an independent," Diaz said.

"But because of the cold-heartedness of the two political parties at the Guam Legislature, it became impossible to run on a third party platform. I am running this year as a Republican to honor my father who I deeply love and respect," he said.

Diaz is the only gubernatorial hopeful to have emerged other than Calvo, who is seeking a second term in Adelup.

With less than five months until the primary elections, the Democratic Party is still struggling to build a gubernatorial team.

Some political pundits predict Calvo – facing no strong challenger– will have this year's gubernatorial race in the bag.

But Diaz said he wants to give voters more choices. "I decided to run for governor because no one else was coming forward," he said.

Running solo

Diaz, who will run solo, said he would appoint his lieutenant governor if he gets elected.

"The elected office is governor, not lieutenant governor, and therefore because of our legacy in having been governed by the U.S. Naval government, we inherited a system that was born from that legacy until a U.S. civilian was appointed, and then finally elected," he said.

While the Organic Act mandates the election of a lieutenant governor, Diaz said he may decide to go to court to challenge that provision.

"This would be another first for our island, just like it was a first for Guam to have an independent to run for the elected office of nonvoting delegate in the last election cycle of 2012," he said.

Platform

Diaz's campaign platform includes a push for Guam self-rule.

"As a pioneer and a leader of Generation 20/20 – a generation that finally sees clearly without corrective lenses – we will push the boundaries of the law to finally put into action our human right to a political self-determination process administered by the United Nations in conjunction with the United States," he said.

"Until we recognize collectively that Guam is a non-self-governing territory that does not have adequate representation in the U.S. Congress, even with a nonvoting delegate, the issue of self-determination is appropriate for diplomatic discussions in light of recent events in Europe and Asia," Diaz said.

Diaz said this year's election provides a venue for a continued discussion on Guam's political structure in the future. "This campaign looks beyond to a Guam that is finally reunited with its ancient sister islands of the northern archipelago and asks the question: If not now, then when?  If not me, then who?" he said.

Diaz was born on Beale Air Force Base in Marysville, Calif. on Feb. 9, 1977 to Frank Reyes and Frances Blas Diaz. He grew up in Barrigada.

He earned his bachelor's in English Studies at St. John's Seminary College; and received his master's in systematic and philosophical theology from the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif. He taught theology at Moreau Catholic High School, Franciscan School of Theology and Sacred Heart School. Diaz also worked as policy research aide at the Guam Legislature and as office manager for TRIO Programs.

Accessibility: an uphill battle

Monday, 07 Apr 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

ABOUT 75 percent of businesses on island are not in full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act’s accessible parking standards, according to an estimate from Ben Servino, director of the Department for Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities. Servino and DISID officials are hoping to reduce that number through education and encouragement.

Some able-bodied people hold an “us versus them” mentality, he said. “They don’t realize that they’re going to develop some sort of disability later on,” Servino said. “We’re all temporarily able-bodied people. As we get older, we’ll get arthritis; we’re going to get vision loss because of our age.”

The case for creating a more accessible environment is more of a proactive approach to benefit the entire community, Servino said.

Noncompliant parking lots on the island is old news to the DISID community, but the organization continues to plug away, hoping business owners will see accessible parking as an added advantage and not just another federal directive.

“It makes good economic sense. If people can access their business, people with disabilities, it builds up the economy,” Servino said.

“And a lot of businesses that were established prior to the ADA (standards) can actually use their tax incentives, tax credits and tax reductions to correct their accessible parking problem,” he said.

According to the ADA, tax credits or reductions can be used annually to offset the cost of providing access. These tax credits are available for small businesses. The ADA also recognizes that owners of older buildings may have difficulty changing the physical structure of their facilities and established different requirements for accessibility for buildings built before 1993.

Public accommodations

Nonetheless, all businesses that provide goods or services to the public whether nonprofit or for-profit, privately owned or not, are considered “public accommodations,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Therefore, these establishments are required by federal law to comply with ADA standards.

“If you own, operate, lease or lease to a business that serves the public, then you are covered by the ADA and have obligations for existing facilities as well as for compliance when a facility is altered or a new facility is constructed,” a guide issued by the U.S. DOJ’s Disability Rights Division stated.

Servino said DISID is pushing for parking standards to be rectified first and foremost, because they can be easily tackled by most businesses.

“We try to start with parking because it’s one of the things that they need to address before individuals can even go into the building,” Servino said. “We take it a step at a time. We don’t want to overwhelm everybody.”

The most common violation Servino said he runs into is improper accessible parking signage. Many do not have the proper Guam Code Annotated penalties on the sign or are not posted on poles, he said.

Some parking spaces designated for individuals with disabilities are set on an incline, like the parking spots at Kmart, Servino pointed out. The ADA standard allows for a maximum 1-50 ratio incline for parking spaces. This regulation requires that for every 50 feet of run, a maximum 1 foot of rise is allowed, the ADA states.

Basic

Many of the standards set forth by the ADA are basic, Servino said. “When you look at accessible parking and you have a slope greater than the (1-50 ratio), individuals in a wheelchair will have a very difficult time having to get on their wheelchair and keep their wheelchair there because of gravity,” Servino said.

Marlon Molinos, a resident of Dededo, is studying at the University of Guam and is wheelchair-bound due to cerebral palsy. “The things that are affected are my legs and feet and left arm,” Molinos said. “Mentally, I’m at 100 percent.”

Molinos said push buttons that automatically open doors are a great help; however, he is able to access buildings that do not have that kind of equipment, provided that the door is light enough to push open and the opening is wide enough for his wheelchair to clear.

Elevators that are out of order, however, pose more difficult problems. For one, any upper floor of the building is no longer accessible and it can be days or weeks until the elevator is repaired. “The response time to getting things fixed, that’s a question,” Molinos said. “It’s not just an accessibility concern, it’s for everyone’s safety.”

Servino said elevators and doors should accommodate individuals with vision impairments by having Braille tactile numbers on the buttons inside the elevator and room signs, and with Braille on wall spaces near door handles.

Additionally, doors with signs that include Braille should not be on the actual door, lest a blind individual attempt to read the sign at the same time someone is on the other side trying to exit, Servino said.

Ray Barcinas, of Agat, has been blind since birth. Barcinas said he would have a better time getting around if more crosswalks were available around the island.

Books

Additionally, 20-year-old Barcinas, who is also studying at the University of Guam, said he finds that there is a small selection of books in Braille and an even smaller selection of audio books available for him to read.

As a strong advocate for perpetuating the Chamorro culture, Barcinas was disappointed when he walked into the Micronesian Area Research Center. “I wanted to read Father Ibanes’ works but I cannot read it because it’s not in Braille,” Barcinas said. “I want to read Pale Roman’s grammar dictionary, but it’s not in Braille.”

Barcinas is able to have textbooks available to him online and uses Braillenote, a device that allows individuals who are blind to take notes and read content on the computer online through their fingertips. However, Barcinas understands that not everyone is afforded the same $5,500 technology.

Servino said physical barriers are only part of the hindrances in a community built by an able-bodied population. Servino also noted that communication and attitudinal barriers should be addressed in the community.

Servino said there is a large shift to eliminate the word “handicap” from the public’s conversational language, and especially accessible accommodation signs, because the word was historically based on a negative connotation.

“After the war, there were a lot of soldiers that were amputated and they couldn’t find a job,” Servino said. “So what they did was they took their cap, put it in their hand, and started going out and begging. Cap in hand – handicap, right?

“So that’s why we’re trying to get away from the use of the word handicap – it’s very derogatory and very demeaning. Basically what it’s saying is that people with disabilities are beggars.”

Government

Servino said government should be an example for the community and work to create more accessible accommodations, which is why most of DISID’s efforts have been directed at government agencies lately. “We’ve been working with a lot of the government agencies through their ADA coordinators to address that,” he said.

“Do I think the government should be obligated to help as much as it can? I think the government should help everyone. That’s why they were elected,” Barcinas said with a good-natured chuckle.

Servino stressed that everyone will develop a disability eventually and it helps to have a more accessible community to meet those eventual needs.

Servino commended the hotels on island, which have addressed accessible parking violations and adapted to the ADA standards with relative ease. Servino said the change is due in large part to working directly with the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association.


Feds ask District Court to retain solid waste receiver

Monday, 07 Apr 2014 03:00am

BY GINA TABONARES-REILLY | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE U.S. government has objected to the Guam Solid Waste Authority board’s request to reduce the role of the receiver, saying the board has no technical expertise in solid waste operations or familiarity with the agency’s finances.

In a response to the letter sent by the GSWA board requesting for an early piecemeal transfer of authority from the receiver to the board, Robert D. Mullaney, U.S. representative for the consent decree, asked District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood to retain Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc. (GBB) and continue its control and authority over GSWA’s day-to-day operations and consent decree projects including both the Layon landfill and Ordot Dump.

Mullaney said the transfer of authority should be consistent with the court’s previous transition order until the proper environmental closure of Ordot Dump has been completed, all discharges from Ordot Dump to the waters of the United States have been ceased, and the U.S. has accepted this certification.

The U.S. said that transition is also possible if the receiver is able to fund and complete the additional projects, including upgrades to the residential transfer stations, Route 4 safety enhancements, Dero Road upgrades, and possible improvements to the Inarajan wastewater treatment plant.

In the transition court order, the board can only take over GSWA if the supplemental environmental project including the Household Hazardous Waste Program has been fully implemented, a post-closure plan for Ordot Dump has been accepted by the U.S., the post-closure care has commenced, and the receiver has contracted with a third-party operator to perform post-closure care in accordance with the approved post-closure plan.

Funding for the first 30 years of post-closure care for Ordot Dump should also be set aside in a dedicated post-closure account with a third-party trustee accepted by the U.S. before the board takes over.

No expertise

Mullaney supported the observation of the receiver that the board does not have familiarity with GSWA’s finances, even though those issues are addressed in the receiver’s quarterly status reports.

“The board’s letter is similarly unconvincing, stating only that: ‘The contracted operations are well-run under the receiver’s management ... day-to-day activities are – like Mr. Manning stated – routine,’ and ‘the board feels they are ready to get involved in’ managing those contracts,” Mullaney said.

Recalling the court’s advice, saying that a smooth and orderly transition could only be accomplished through cooperative working relationships, Mullaney pointed out that instead of working cooperatively with the receiver on the transition, GSWA requested a piecemeal transfer authority.

The U.S. also agreed with the receiver that bringing in a new accounting system would be complex and costly “and would create risk for GSWA in the transition.”

“Taking into account the potential pitfalls in introducing a new system, GovGuam’s persistent failure to cooperate with the receiver, and the receiver’s assessment that DOA’s services are adequate and reasonable for GSWA’s needs, the U.S. fully supports the receiver’s position,” Mullaney said.

Accounting

Mullaney also disagreed with the recommendation of GovGuam lawyer Rawlen Mantanona to require an accounting of the receiver’s management of GSWA before transition, saying GovGuam is “merely recycling baseless arguments about the receiver’s management of GSWA and mischaracterizing the facts in this case.”

Mantanona suggested the need to audit the receiver and at the same time questioned some of the expenses incurred by the receiver reflected in its reimbursement receipts.

The Office of the Governor specifically mentioned a two days’ stay by David Manning, GBB principal representative, in a Waikiki hotel for $930.51 when the prevailing maximum per diem rate should be $177 for lodging, or $283 maximum.

Arthur Clark, the chief policy advisor of the Calvo administration, also pointed out the exorbitant meals GBB partner Chace Anderson incurred in 2008. Anderson was reimbursed $180 for dinner at Hotel Santa Fe on March 24, 2008; $78 for his dinner at Jamaican Grill on March 25,2008; $146 for a meal at Tumon Bay Lobster & Grill on March 26, 2008; and $110 for breakfast at the Hyatt Regency on March 27, 2008, when the prevailing per diem during that period should be $75.

GBB insisted that there have been no findings of improper expenses and all of its expenses have been reviewed by the District Court and been the subject of two full audits by Guam’s public auditor.

As for the accusation of alleged double billing, the U.S. said GovGuam erroneously stated that GGH Guam LLC is paid approximately $6.3 million to operate the Layon landfill when the company received $3.3 million in 2012.

Transparency

GovGuam also questioned the receiver’s quarterly reports.

Clark said the last quarterly report was made in November 2013 and the next one is not scheduled until June 2014.

But what really ticked off the Office of the Governor, according to Clark, was the “dishonesty” of the receiver who first announced a $21 million savings in October 2010 only to declare in May 2013 that there will be insufficient money to finish the closure of Ordot Dump and other consent decree-related projects.

From the original $40 million Ordot Dump closure cost, Clark said GBB is now asking for $80 million.

Manning, however, explained that in 2008 the dump closure cost was estimated at $40.11 million and with the inclusion of an environmental investigation, closure design, closure construction and construction management, the cost is $65.75 million.

Manning said the figures are within the total amounts the receiver originally estimated more than five years ago.

The U.S. supported GBB, saying GovGuam cannot fault the receiver for failing to foresee in its preparation of capital cost estimates in October 2008.

They agreed that post-closure care expenses are normally considered operating expenses instead of capital costs.

“The receiver is not responsible for GovGuam’s failure to set aside funds for the cost of post-closure care during the 61 years that GovGuam operated the Ordot Dump,” Mullaney said.

BBMR Releases Report on Criminal Justice System

Posted: Apr 06, 2014

by Sabrina Salas Matanane 

Guam - With data provided by the Unified Courts of Guam and the Guam Police Department the Bureau of Budget and Management Research has released the findings of analysis it has conducted on the government's criminal justice system.

BBMR has concluded that although the police department has been meeting its mission to arrest criminals, and the courts have dispensed with justice timely and in a manner that innovatively rehabilitates criminals, the system is broken if prosection and prison space are lacking. "It is imperative for the Legislature to provide the ways and means both the Attorney General's Office and the Department of Corrections need to make their roles in the criminal justice system sustainable".

Here's the BBMR report released to Media Sunday:

Between 2010 and 2014, almost half the charges brought against murderers, child abusers, rapists and other felons were dismissed.  And 43 percent of all criminal misdemeanor charges also were dismissed in that same period.  Those include charges against criminals like robbers, thieves, vandals and even abusive spouses.

 - Totally felony charges:  2,470; charges dismissed: 1,059

 - Total misdemeanor charges:  4,372, charges dismissed: 1,827

 Several defendants facing trial probably would not have been free to commit crime if they were sentenced for a previous crime and were not under pre-trial release:

- 16 percent of family violence criminal defendants were on pre-trial release for a previous crime

- 11 percent of defendants facing trial for crimes against people and their property were on pre-trial release for a previous crime

- 10 percent of DUI defendants were on pre-trial release for a previous crime

 - 24 percent of drug crime defendants were on pre-trial release for a previous crime

- 9 percent of sex crime defendants were on pre-trial release for a previous crime

 The likelihood of criminals on adult probation committing crime also is very high: 24 percent of adult probationers were charged again by the Attorney General's Office.  These are criminals on probation who committed crimes against people and property, and DWI and criminal traffic violations.  There are 2,974 adult probationers.  This means about 713 of them committed another crime while on probation.

 From 2010 to April 3, 2014, the Attorney General filed 3,131 felony cases with the Superior Court.  He filed 5,209 criminal misdemeanor cases in that same period.  Only half of the felony cases involved first-time offenders.  Likewise, nearly half the criminal misdemeanor cases involved first-time offenders.

 Over half the cases filed with the Superior Court involve criminals who would not have had the opportunity to commit crime if they were in jail for a previous offense against the law.

 FINDINGS: Since FY 2011, the Guam Police Department efficiently and effectively responded to and deterred crime, with exceptions.

 - Police have arrested 8,843 people for violating over 21,000 different criminal counts

- 1,611 of these arrests were made for family violence

 - For 2012 and 2013, and for burglary, alone, officers arrested 38-criminals

 - This data does not reflect the ancillary duties police officers have in the criminal justice system, to include the writing and filing of reports, time spent in court, investigative work, etc. This data demonstrates only the result of their efforts to take criminals off the streets and place them in the criminal justice system.

 FINDINGS: The Attorney General's Office is challenged in efficiently and effectively dispensing criminal justice once the police have turned the case over to prosecutors.

 - The AGO has filed 8,340 criminal felony and misdemeanor cases since 2010. The AGO has only 19 prosecutors to follow these cases. That's 439 cases per prosecutor, on average the past four years.

- It is hardly fair to expect the AGO to effectively prosecute these many cases dealing with even more defendants with only 19 prosecutors.

 - The Bureau has, by law, released one-twelfth the AGO's budget each month, and the Department of Administration has released cash timely for the budgeted operations of the AGO.

 - The problem is the AGO is underfunded; its budget is too small. It is critical for the Legislature to give the AGO the spending authority to hire more prosecutors.

 - This underfunding, which led to a lack of prosecutors, has allowed criminals to roam free to commit more crimes during the past four-year-period.

 FINDINGS: Had the AGO succeeded in prosecuting these criminals, there would not have been room for their remand at the Department of Corrections.

- The Department of Corrections currently houses many more inmates and detainees than its facilities were designed to accommodate for effective rehabilitation.

 - Before the Legislature is legislation by Sen. Brant McCreadie that provides ways and means for the construction of a new prison. There has been no action on this bill to date.

GTA making $10M worth of network upgrades

Posted: Apr 04, 2014 by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - GTA will be investing about $10 million in network upgrades to further improve the communications experience of customers. The upgrades, some of which are already underway include adding additional 3H and 4G LTE cellular sites to its network, increasing core network capacity, implementing LTE roaming, and acquiring additional spectrum.

Those upgrades will allow GTA to serve more customers with faster speeds while continuing to improve the quality and reliability of its wireless network.


Congratulations, SBA winners

Friday, 04 Apr 2014 03:00am

VARIETY NEWS STAFF

ON WEDNESDAY, the Guam office of the U.S. Small Business Administration recognized seven champions of small business on Guam. We join the SBA in congratulating Guam’s Small Business Person of the Year – Dr. Thomas Shieh, physician and owner of Dr. Shieh’s Clinic. In addition to delivering a significant number of the island’s babies and providing health care for their mothers, Shieh contributes to a number of good causes on island and has been a key organizer of Guam Medical Association relief missions to aid Super Typhoon Hayan victims in the Philippines.

We also congratulate the other winners, including Women in Business Champion of the Year Siska Hutapea, president and owner of real estate appraisal firm Cornerstone Valuation Guam Inc. The Jeffrey Butland Family-Owned Small Business of the Year is Hagens Inc. which does business as Pacific Solar Energy, owned by Teresita and Bill Hagen. Minority Small Business Champion of the Year is Romeo Angel, vice president and Upper Tumon branch manager at Bank of Guam. Also from Bank of Guam, Wayne Santos, vice president and marketing manager, was named Financial Services Champion of the Year.

Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year was Victor Rodgers, assistant director for continuing education and workforce development at Guam Community College. And, of course, Variety’s former business editor, Aldwin Fajardo, was named Small Business Journalist of the Year.

All of the winners strengthen the critical small business segment of Guam’s economy by direct participation as entrepreneurs or by facilitating, assisting, promoting and/or spreading information. Again, our kudos to the winners and to SBA for the critical role it plays in the island’s economy.

On another note, we’re glad that most of our readers appreciated our attempts at April Fools’ Day humor with Tuesday’s stories about Yokoi’s secret son and Kobe Bryant’s plans to represent Guam on the basketball court. The Web comment by “therapist” was typical of the feedback we hoped for, and got: “Awesome, you had me until the end!”

However, some readers were not amused and felt insulted that we would run our April Fools’ Day story as if it were a straight news story. Many news organizations around the world run such stories in an attempt at humor on the day tradition allows it. Since the stories are often quite clever, we appreciate the humor and decided to get in on the fun. We thought including the phrase April Fools’ Day twice in the last paragraph of the Yokoi story would alert readers to the joke, and that the Kobe story was so improbable it would not last long. It was not our intention to insult anyone.


Mass transit planning critical


Monday, 03 Mar 2014 03:00am


VARIETY NEWS STAFF


WE WOULD like to see a successful mass transit system on Guam, and so are encouraged to see progress in that point of the 10-point agenda outlined in Gov. Eddie Calvo’s State of the Island address. The governor announced last week that he has appointed a planning team headed by Sen. Aline Yamashita to determine the details of the pilot project in Tamuning, Tumon, Harmon and Dededo.

We continue to believe that a reliable system that gets people where they need to go when they need to get there – and when its schedule says it will get them there – will be a boost for those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. They will be able to get to a job, or medical appointments, or shopping, or wherever they feel the need to go, without the economic burden of a vehicle.

In order to formulate a plan, we assume the team will first try to determine why the island’s mass transit system – which has existed for decades – has been such a failure. It is our observation that the transit system was set up to take advantage of available federal funds and there has been little accountability. Its ridership was apparently not considered significant enough in size or import to demand service on which riders could rely. We hope that has changed.

Of course, the commitment to seven-day service is essential. Riders cannot depend on a system that closes on Sundays and holidays. Much of the entry-level employment is for those willing and able to work on weekends, holidays and nights.

We wonder, though, if 24-hour service is necessary. Ridership may drop off in the late-night hours such that it is feasible for the system to stop running, for example, from midnight to 5 a.m. without significant inconvenience to riders. The downtime would allow for bus cleaning and routine maintenance. Inadequate maintenance has been the bane of government vehicles, particularly its school buses.

The team will need to determine how to gauge the project’s success – below what level of ridership, for instance, should a route be abandoned in favor of another effort. How long should a given route system be left intact as residents become familiar with and reliant on it? It will undoubtedly take a while for residents to take a reliable system seriously and change their travel habits – hopefully, not longer than the team is willing to commit to the system.

It may also be that a mass transit system can only generate the ridership to be successful in the densely populated areas in the pilot project. Perhaps the population in other areas is just too spread out for a mass transit to be practical.

We hope the team will be creative and flexible; it is unlikely to succeed by expanding the systems that have been so unsuccessful for so long.


Delinquent property tax list published


Friday, 04 Apr 2014 03:00am


BY FRANK WHITMAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


Average tax owed under $300

THE Department of Revenue and Taxation today published the names of property owners who are allegedly delinquent in the payment of property taxes. The list contains the names of more than 9,000 property owners who owe a total of $2.6 million or an average of about $290. A reading of the list indicates some of the taxes may not be collectible.

According to the list, the largest amount owed is $113,498 by UFB Guam Hotel Corp. The company, which owned what was the Guam Marriott Resort &Spa, (and is the Pacific Star Resort & Spa as of April 1), declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. The property has long since had a different owner.

The next largest amount on the list is $79,000 reportedly owed by City Hill Co., owner of Guam Plaza Hotel and other properties. That is followed by Sherwood Hotel, now Verona Resort, in Tumon. The hotel was closed in 2002 after being severely damaged by Super Typhoon Pongsona and sat vacant until it was acquired by the current owners in 2011. The next highest amount on the list is $22,463 owed by Manhattan Guam Inc., which does business as the Royal Orchid Guam Hotel.

The smallest amount owed on the list is $13.02. Dozens of property owners are listed as owing sums less than $15.

The enforcement of property tax collection was the eighth point of the 10-point action plan announced by Gov. Eddie Calvo in his State of the Island address on Feb. 20. “The Department of Revenue and Taxation is identifying the first landowner for forfeiture of property for failing to pay taxes,” he said in the address. “As part of process improvement at DRT, the men and women there now have more time and resources to concentrate on more of its mandates. This includes going to court to seize the properties of landowners who are not paying taxes.”


GVB names social media ambassadors


Friday, 04 Apr 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


GUAM’S first group of social media ambassadors have been selected by the Guam Visitors Bureau to promote the island. Raymond Blas, Rafaelito DeAusen, Krystal Paco and Valene Taimanglo proved to be the most social-media savvy of the more than 60 applicants.

GVB General Manager Karl Pangelinan said the bureau is excited to work with the new ambassadors.

The four will share the “Guam experience” through their perspectives, which GVB officials hope will show a more authentic side to the island.

“These social media ambassadors will be present at all of our major events in the next 10 weeks,” said Pilar Laguana, GVB marketing manager. The group is tasked to capture Guam on various levels with pictures, videos or status updates that will be shared on GVB’s social media networks.

As an incentive for the volunteers, they will receive a GoPro camera, Laguana said.

To view the ambassadors’ updates, visit GVB’s Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter accounts.

The bureau has been actively reaching out to potential visitors using social media. In February, it launched its #GuamLove campaign, which encouraged residents to share a photo of what they loved about Guam on GVB’s Facebook page.


Court relieves Hawaii of health care duty for FAS citizens


Friday, 04 Apr 2014 03:00am


BY MAR-VIC CAGURANGAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


Guam weighs impact of ruling

HAWAII is not required to shoulder the unfunded cost of providing health care to citizens of freely associated states under the Medicaid program, a federal appeals court said in a ruling Tuesday, a ruling that Guam officials say can guide the island government in dealing with a similar predicament.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that Hawaii "has no constitutional obligation" to backfill the loss of federal dollars that resulted from Congress' withdrawal of funding under the cooperative state-federal Medicaid plan.

The Medicaid cuts have been a source of tension between local governments and the feds over who should pay for services to the migrants covered by the United States' Compacts of Free Association with Palau, the Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia.

"The ruling may offer Guam guidance on how to ensure appropriate coverage for Compact migrants through the (Medically Indigent Program)," Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo said. "This would not be necessary if the federal government lived up to its obligations to provide Compact-impact assistance to Guam and Hawaii."

According to the Compact-impact report released by the government of Guam in February, the cost of providing educational and social services to Compact migrants on Guam climbed to $128 million in 2013, creating the heaviest impact on health care and welfare. Last year's total cost represented an increase of $3 million from $125 million in 2012.

"I continue to work to find ways to reduce the impact of Compact migrants on local jurisdictions," said Bordallo, a co-sponsor of Rep. Coleen Hanabusa's bill proposing that FAS citizens be made eligible for federal Medicaid funds.

'Apples and oranges'

The appellate court reversed the district court's permanent injunction preventing Hawaii from cutting the health benefits for Compact migrants.

Gov. Eddie Calvo said the court's ruling in Hawaii does not apply to circumstances on Guam.

"It's apples and oranges," he said, noting that Guam has a locally funded MIP that requires residency instead of citizenship for eligibility.

"That means our island offers medical services to our migrant population,” the governor said. “But no matter the cards we are dealt, we have to consider two very important things: We should always pursue solutions to unfair federal policies; and as living, breathing people, our Micronesian neighbors should have access to health care. Caring for all of Guam's sick is a question of humanity that we cannot ignore or undermine."

'Deadbeat dad'

Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz has been advocating the deportation of Compact migrants convicted of crimes.

"The Ninth Circuit's decision deals with a separate issue but it does beg the same question: Why won't the federal government take responsibility for the guests it invites to our home?" Cruz asked. "As a child, I used to ask my mother why we didn't throw huge parties like other families. She used to say that if you can only afford to feed some people steak and others Spam, you shouldn't have a party."

He criticized the federal government for choosing to cut costs by reneging on its responsibilities, while allowing some to create a separate and unequal system of health care for FAS citizens.

"That might be legal, but it isn't right," the vice speaker said. "On this issue, the United States is like a deadbeat dad – it signed the Compacts of Free Association, knew there would be substantial costs for those acts, and left affected jurisdictions with the bill."

Equal protection clause

The Ninth Circuit's decision arose from a class action filed by Compact residents Tony Korab, Tojio Clanton and Keben Enoch claiming that Basic Health Hawai'i violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The lawsuit sought the reinstatement of Compact migrants' eligibility for health care benefits and to place them on equal footing with those covered by Medicaid.

The court said the case has presented yet another challenge to the complex area of state-funded benefits for aliens.

"The panel noted that in enacting comprehensive welfare reform in 1996, Congress rendered various groups of aliens ineligible for federal benefits and also restricted states' ability to use their own funds to provide benefits to certain aliens," the court said.

The court also noted that as a condition for receiving federal funds, Congress required states to limit eligibility for federal benefits, such as Medicaid, to citizens and certain aliens.

Judge Richard Clifton wrote a dissenting opinion, arguing that "the federal government is permitted to discriminate against aliens in a way that the state government is not and that established precedent required the court to apply strict scrutiny to Hawaii's exclusion of the plaintiff class from the Medicaid programs."


Mass transit team briefs governor on new system plan


Friday, 04 Apr 2014 03:00am


BY GINA TABONARES-REILLY | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

MORE than a month after Gov. Eddie Calvo created a team that will provide a vision for a dependable mass transit system, the task force has made proposals and briefed the governor on the plan.

The team, led by Sen. Aline Yamashita with representatives from concerned agencies, proposed the creation of six bus terminals strategically located across the island on Marine Corps Drive augmented by shuttle routes that will bring passengers to the terminals.

“There will be buses running around from the terminals every 15 minutes during peak hours and every 30 minutes during nonpeak time,” said team member Ken Leon Guerrero during a meeting with community members and stakeholders yesterday.

While the design for the procurement process submitted by the Regional Mass Transit Authority board is still under review by the Office of the Attorney General, the planning team has made several recommendations in providing a meaningful mass transit system.

Leon Guerrero said the plan entails several phases. The first phase will be to work around a system with initial capital of $3 million to $5 million.

With the initial funding, the government will subsidize the operation for two years until the transit system raises revenues and sustains a much bigger operation, he told Variety.

“The goal is to encourage more riders. With a 60,000 employed population in the island, all we need is at least 7,000 regular riders to sustain the operation,” Leon Guerrero said.

With the increasing cost of owning and running a car and with the spiraling prices at the gas pump, Leon Guerrero said it is high time for the creation of a dependable mass transit system.

Welcome development

“Not only will it be a welcome development for every island resident, this will also bring economic contribution to Guam instead of spending millions of dollars buying gas,” Leon Guerrero said.

He said the governor is treating the creation of dependable mass transit as one of his priorities and has been hands-on in putting together all the stakeholders to hear the issues in order to improve the mass transit system.

The team has been meeting with the community, people with disabilities, and representatives of different sectors, taking into consideration all the concerns and problems in the mass transit system.

Yamashita said with the new plan, there will be enhanced access and services in a sustainable transit system.

While some of the details of the plan are still up to the governor for consideration such as the financing mechanism, the team assured stakeholders that a better mass transit system is viable.

The team’s recommendation, according to Leon Guerrero, will serve as the key information in designing and implementing the new transit system.

The team will meet again on Monday for continued consultation with stakeholders.

Federal representatives coming to Guam

Thursday, 27 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY MAR-VIC CAGURANGAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

A NUMBER of federal representatives from various agencies are coming to Guam next week for a community tour and regional conference to be hosted by the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and Payu-ta Inc., an umbrella organization of nonprofit groups on Guam.

Attending the White House Initiative's Federal Regional Summit, to be held at Westin Resort Guam on April 3 and 4, will be leaders of the U.S. Associated Pacific Island Jurisdictions along with officials and community leaders from Pacific islands.

"The purpose of the community tour and regional conference is to strengthen the understanding and appreciation of the unique conditions that Pacific Islanders in Micronesia face in their quest for good health, quality health care, affordable housing, and employment and training opportunities, among other issues," according to the Payu-ta program.

"Participants of the community tour and regional conference include 75 to 100 federal and local government officials, as well as community-based, business and philanthropic leaders," Payu-ta said.

Payu-ta added that the regional conference aims to draw more attention to the significant disparities affecting Pacific Islanders and to fulfill the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders executive order mandate to increase access to federal programs for underserved Asians and Pacific Islanders.

"The conference will consist of presentations by federal, community, and philanthropic leaders, and will culminate in a plan of action and policy recommendations to be considered for incorporation into (the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) agency plans," according to Payu-ta. "Many of these efforts will also culminate in a report out by agencies at a (White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) administration-wide conference in May 2015."

This is the first time for the initiative to convene outside of the continental United States.

Among the federal departments to be represented at the summit are the Department of Commerce, Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Interior, the Department of Labor, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Small Business Administration.

 

Tolan, Sobti reappointed to airport board

Posted: Mar 27, 2014 by Krystal Paco KUAM

Guam - Two of the governor's reappointees to the Guam International Airport Authority board appeared before lawmakers for their confirmation hearings. They were Rosalind Tolan and Gurvinder Sobti. Ed Untalan was also reappointed but was not able to make it to today's hearing. Deputy airport executive manager Peter Roy Martinez however testified in support of all three to serve another term. Martinez said that individually these directors have demonstrated responsible corporate governance throughout their terms of service on the board.

"An example f their service was the September 20, 2013 closing of the $240 million airport revenue bonds which was the most successful munic0pal bond sale ever in Guam's history. Also under their oversight the airport also close FY2013 with a clean audit and posted a $7 million in net assets," he said.

Untalan has been serving on the board since 2012, Tolan since 2011 and Sobti is serving his third non-consecutive term which spans over 20 years and three administrations.

     

Philippine businessman endorses public-private partnership

Thursday, 27 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY MAR-VIC CAGURANGAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

A PROMINENT Philippine businessman is endorsing public-private partnerships, or PPP, which he said offer a practical solution to close huge funding gaps in major government projects.

Cezar T. Quiambao, who has embarked on several landmark projects for national development in the Philippines, said tapping the private sector can provide fiscal relief for any government, whose limited funding resources may instead be dedicated to basic public services.

“PPP has become the empowering force for government to undertake major projects especially those needing massive funding,” Quiambao told members of the Guam Chamber of Commerce during their general membership meeting at the Guam Hilton Resort & Spa yesterday.

He said the venture allows the government to benefit from the private sector’s expertise in “running a business and realizing a reasonable amount of return commensurate with the risks involved.”

Quiambao thus endorsed pending Guam bills authorizing the government of Guam to enter into project contracts via public-private partnerships.

“PPP is a worthwhile program to pursue since specific services that center on health, education or connectivity can be undertaken without the government having to float bonds, for which it would incur additional indebtedness,” he said.

PPP involves a contract between a government agency authority and a private company, in which the private party provides a public service or project and assumes substantial financial, technical and operational risk in the project. In some types of PPP, the cost of using the service is borne exclusively by the users of the service and not by the taxpayer.

Pioneer

Quiambao has been credited as the pioneer of the PPP business model in the Philippines.

In 1984, he ventured into the Indonesian construction industry where he was involved in major projects until 1993. Quiambao was one of the key figures in ensuring the completion of several major foreign-funded road projects in Sumatra and Java. He also managed the construction of the Lhoksumawe airfield conceived by Mobil Oil to serve the needs of the world’s largest natural-gas processing complex in Sumatra.

Quiambao returned to the Philippines in 1994 and pioneered the Build-Operate-Own and Build-Operate-Transfer projects initiated by former President Fidel Ramos for Philippine national development.

“The Philippine experience, insofar as the PPPs are concerned, was a game changer for the country,” he said.

He cited multimillion-dollar road projects and computerization programs in the Philippines – arranged through PPP – in which he is a key player.

One of these is the $619 million road infrastructure project that will connect southern and northern provinces through elevated expressways. The project is expected to be completed in 2017.

He also mentioned the computerization of the driver’s license processing at the Land Transportation Office.

“Innovations come in response to problems faced by lack of infrastructure projects due to government’s budgetary constraints,” Quiambao said.

                                

NEWS FLASH! - Jack in the Box comes to Guam

Tue, Mar 25th 2014,  Marianas Business Journal

TAMUNING, Guam — The franchise owner of Hawaii's Jack in the Box restaurants will be bringing five of the restaurants to Guam over the next two to three years, according to Christopher Felix, president of Century 21 and the real estate agent who is working with the franchise owner, Chris Scanlan.

The island will see two of the restaurants within the next six months, a third shortly thereafter, and two additional locations in the coming years. One known site will be connected to the Shell station on Route 8. Two other locations include near John F. Kennedy High School in Tamuning and near Micronesia Mall in Dededo. For further details, see the Marianas Business Journal of April 7

 

Early March arrivals are on par with 2013

Monday, 24 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/032414/early_200_200.jpgEven though Japan arrivals decreased about 11 percent, total Japan arrivals equal 56,988, accounting for more than half of the total arrivals for this time period. Variety file photo

AFTER March 2013’s record-breaking visitor arrival numbers, a recent visitor arrival report summary from the Guam Visitors Bureau shows the number of visitors for March this year is relatively on par with that of last March.

According to GVB, arrivals for the first 20 days of March 2014 remain relatively even with 2013 because of the increasing number of tourists from countries other than Japan.

“While Japan arrivals are slightly lower (than last year), a variety of other markets continue to trend upwards to make overall arrival numbers for this period in March reach more than 80,000 for the second year in a row,” the GVB report stated.

The 11.9 percent decrease in Japan arrivals did not affect the industry adversely because of gains in arrivals from Korea, the Philippines and Hong Kong. Each of these markets produced at least 30 percent arrival increases.

Additionally, Taiwan arrivals rose 20 percent and the People’s Republic of China moved up 14.2 percent. Despite political tension between the U.S. and Russian governments, arrivals from Russia continue to grow, this month showing a 167 percent increase. The arrivals from Russia are quite less in number, however, compared to the two largest markets, Japan and Korea.

Though Russia boasts of a 167 percent increase, for the first 20 days of the month, this equates to a total of 1,148 individuals.

Likewise, even though Japan arrivals decreased about 11 percent, total Japan arrivals equal 56,988, accounting for more than half of the total arrivals for this time period.

Korean arrival data continues to reflect a valuable market, increasing to 14,343 visitors for this month.

GVB stated that March is typically the best month for visitor arrivals.

The preliminary report shows 81,859 visitors flying to Guam during the first 20 days of this month. During the first 20 days of March 2013, GVB records show 83,226 people visited Guam, a 1.6 percent difference.

At the end of March 2013, the island welcomed 136,278 people, breaking the August 1995 monthly record of 135,170 total visitors.

 

Waste-to-energy agreement drafted, sent to Legislature

Monday, 24 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

A DRAFT solid waste and service agreement for the construction of a waste-to-energy plant between Guam Resource Recovery Partners (GRRP) and the government of Guam was released by Guam Economic Development Authority Administrator Henry Taitano last Friday.

The agreement has been given to the Legislature for its review. Taitano said the Legislature, as the policy-making body of the government, may adopt, reject or amend the agreement as it sees fit. He also noted that the governor hopes lawmakers approach the agreement in the interest of the people of Guam.

In a letter to Speaker Judith Won Pat dated March 18, Taitano said a new waste-to-energy contract had been successfully negotiated.

This contract was negotiated “on terms more favorable to the government than the 1996 contract,” Taitano wrote.

These terms identify Chevron as the partner that will finance and operate the waste-to-energy facility. Additionally, according to Taitano’s letter, the new contract does not obligate GovGuam to deliver a minimum tonnage and the new contract does not have a liquidated damages provision.

Taitano stressed that the agreement is subject to legislative approval and requires legislative policy and direction.

Taitano said in an email that GEDA and the governor do not agree with many of the proposed provisions in the draft agreement.

Decades

The new draft agreement comes after decades of lawsuits, according to Taitano’s letter to the speaker.

In 1990, GEDA and GovGuam entered into a license agreement with GRRP. The license agreement was done so with the intent to begin a waste-to-energy operation.

In 1996, GovGuam and GRRP entered into a waste-to-energy contract. Sen. Ben Pangelinan and former Santa Rita Mayor Joseph Wesley filed a case against then-Gov. Felix Camacho and GRRP as intervenor-defendant. The case challenged the validity of the 1996 Solid Waste Construction and Services Agreement between the government and GRRP. The Guam Supreme Court held that the contract was invalid because of a liquidated damages provision, which is not part of this new draft agreement.

In late 2011, GRRP filed a civil action against GovGuam and GEDA claiming that the government failed to negotiate a new waste-to-energy contract and breached the 1990 license agreement. GRRP sought $20 million in damages.

Last August, the court ordered GovGuam, GEDA and GRRP to resolve and settle the lawsuit through mediation. In November 2013, all three parties engaged in the court-ordered mediation, settling the 2011 lawsuit with a memorandum of understanding.

The draft agreement is a result of the court-ordered mediation, Taitano stated in his letter to the speaker.

The draft agreement was made public in an effort to maintain transparency, Taitano said. This announcement of a draft agreement comes after the Guam Environmental Protection Agency announced its repeal of a permit denial issued to GRRP. According to Variety files, GEPA rescinded the permit denial issued to GRRP regarding the company’s permit application for the Guatali Municipal Solid Waste Landfill.

GEPA gave GRRP 120 days to rectify deficiencies in its application.

Comments  

 

+3 #1 Mitch Stevens 2014-03-24 05:29

Don't fall for it Dems. It's a trap!

Chamber opposes tax credit suspension

Monday, 24 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY MAR-VIC CAGURANGAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/032414/chamber_200_200.jpgPeter Sgro, chairman of the Chamber board, said Bill 288 has ''no legal or practical merits'' and that for more than 20 years, the tax credit option has been available to businesses with government contracts. Variety file photo

THE Guam Chamber of Commerce is opposing a bill that seeks the suspension of all tax credits, including those that are offered to businesses to offset payments for services provided to the government.

Peter Sgro, chairman of the chamber board, said Bill 288 has "no legal or practical merits."

The chamber board voted against supporting the bill, authored by Sen. Michael San Nicolas and Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz.

"The primary basis of the board's decision is that when the government cannot pay for services provided by any of our members, those of you affected be given the choice to accept tax credits in lieu of cash," Sgro said.

He noted that for more than 20 years, the tax credit option has been available to businesses with government contracts.

Bill 288 would eliminate automatic granting of tax credits. Instead, San Nicolas said, all tax credit proposals would be presented before the people through a public hearing and then debated on their merits to ensure that they are in the best interest of the people of Guam.

San Nicolas pointed out that tax credits have been issued based on old laws with no consideration of their impact on current and future budgets.

A 2007 audit by the Office of Public Accountability found several existing tax credit programs in statute that do not limit the amount of tax credits to be issued and that therefore the maximum impact on the reduction of government revenues was unknown.

Tax credit sale

Sgro said the Chamber is also opposed to the senators' argument against the sale of tax credits.

"Without anyone not being able to sell a tax credit, you end up with a piece of paper that simply describes the credit," Sgro said in an email to Chamber members. "None of you faced with a debt obligation the government owes you, will be able to monetize the credits in order to have the financial resources to pay the debt owed to you."

Sgro noted that the Internal Revenue Service rules authorize the sale of tax credits to assist developers in financing projects such as those receiving incentives under the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program.

"The IRS issues what is known as 'new market tax credits' to assist in developing the likes of government buildings, various health care facilities, research centers and developments to improve parks, provided that a private entity maintains and manages the facility," Sgro said.

He pointed out that the sale of local and federal tax credits reduces the cost to the government considering that tax credits are only marketed if sold as a discount.

Review committee

During last week's meeting, the chamber board also voted to establish a Legislative Review Committee tasked to analyze the impact of bills affecting the business sector.

"It has become increasingly difficult to keep track of these bills by our staff," Sgro said.

As of last week, the 32nd Guam Legislature had introduced 293 bills.

"In an effort to effectively monitor bills that affect all of us, this committee will provide our board with the information needed to support or oppose the bills," Sgro said.



Medical Association plans grand opening for new office


Posted: Mar 19, 2014


by Krystal Paco


Guam - The Guam Medical Association will celebrate the grand opening of their new home in the Finance Factor Building in Tamuning on Friday at 5pm. GMA executive director Pram Sullivan said, "Everybody is invited to check it out because Guam Medical Association is to help educate and help Guam."


The facility is twice the size of the previous location at 800 square feet. Sullivan says the facility has a public library section with magazines and directories pertaining to the health community and staff on standby to help answer questions.


Toxic waste in Dededo


Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 03:00am


BY GINA TABONARES-REILLY | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


Concern raised about aquifer, may cost $25M

THE discovery of contaminants that can cause cancer and other health problems near the northern Guam aquifer alarmed the federal court judge yesterday and she immediately issued an order to the government of Guam to file a report on how it plans to mitigate the contamination.


Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc., the court-appointed solid waste receiver, yesterday said the testing, conducted by EA Engineering, Science and Technology Inc., has found no risk to the current employees and customers of the Dededo Residential Transfer Station as long as the area containing the hazardous waste remains secure and undisturbed.

As reported by the receiver, the hazardous waste detected at the Dededo Residential Transfer Station includes polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), lead, chromium and barium. While chromium and barium are also of concern, the most serious problem is the presence of PCB and lead.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency describes PCB as manmade organic chemicals known as chlorinated hydrocarbons manufactured from 1929 until its manufacture was banned in 1979. According to USEPA, PCB has been demonstrated to cause cancer as well as a variety of adverse health effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system and endocrine system.

Lead is toxic to humans and animals and can affect almost every organ and system in the body. Children 6 years or younger are most susceptible to the effects of lead, according to USEPA.

Aquifer

The location of the hazardous waste detected is in close proximity to the northern Guam aquifer, the island’s primary source of water.

“While the report finds that contamination of the groundwater is unlikely, such contamination cannot be ruled out based on the information developed to date. In order to confirm the initial finding and clearly identify the contaminants and the level of the contamination, additional testing was required,” the receiver said.

According to the receiver’s latest report, all of the three residential transfer station facilities – namely Agat, Malojloj and Dededo – have some level of environmental contamination on the property adjacent to each of them because of significant illegal dumping.

The Dededo transfer station continued to have commercial activities being conducted through leases sanctioned by the Chamorro Land Trust Commission.

The environmental site assessment conducted at Agat and Malojloj locations have shown that although both sites have been subjected to extensive illegal dumping that requires cleanup, none of the waste detected at the southern locations is hazardous.

The site of the toxic waste in Dededo is not on the property currently utilized by the Guam Solid Waste Authority but is on the adjacent property that has been the site of commercial activities allowed to operate on the property owned by the Chamorro Land Trust Commission.

While experts conclude that groundwater contamination is unlikely, its proximity to Guam’s primary source and relatively densely populated area make the mitigation of the contamination extremely important.

However, the experts informed the receiver that the mitigation cost could be as high as $25 million to remove all contamination to an off-island certified disposal facility, or at the very least $1.2 million for partial removal and capping and restricted future use of the site with ongoing monitoring.

Additional cost

With the discovery of the contamination in the immediate north of the current facility, GSWA will have to expand the facility footprint using the area immediately to its west. There was no finding yet as to whether the alternative expansion is free of hazardous waste; nevertheless, the area will involve a cleanup cost and the cost of the redesign of the facility is $200,000 plus the cost of the environmental assessment and cleanup, the receiver said.

The receiver urged the government of Guam to address the contamination as soon as possible, saying proper mediation of the hazardous waste is extremely important.

Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood immediately issued an order after receiving the receiver’s report and expressed concern about the information in the special report.

“This contamination issue may have serious public health consequences, especially because the location of the hazardous waste detected is in close proximity to the northern Guam aquifer,” Tydingco-Gatewood said.

The court ordered the GovGuam counsel to file a response to the special report by April 2, requiring GovGuam to advise the court on how it plans to proceed with mitigation of the contamination and to reply with a position on the receiver’s request to explore expansion to the west of the Dededo transfer station.


Police Chief Bordallo faces official misconduct complaint


Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 03:00am


BY MAR-VIC CAGURANGAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


GUAM Police Chief Fred Bordallo is facing a complaint of official misconduct and other charges for allegedly leaking confidential information to his “cousins” – the lawyers for the Port Authority of Guam – related to a complaint filed against the port safety investigator.

Bernadette Meno, former PAG marketing director, filed the complaint with the Guam Police Department and the Office of the Attorney General last week, accusing Bordallo of “obstructing governmental functions, and hindering apprehension or prosecution.”

Meno alleged that Bordallo relayed to the port authority’s legal counsel, Phillips & Bordallo P.C., information pertaining to a complaint she filed against safety investigator Paul Salas in August last year for allegedly falsifying an affidavit regarding her worker compensation claim. Meno filed a separate complaint with the Civil Service Commission alleging Salas was engaged in “loan sharking activities” at the port.

“I expressed to (Chief Bordallo) that these crimes were being orchestrated by the lawyers from the law offices of Phillips & Bordallo, who represent the port,” Meno said. “It must be noted that attorneys Mike Bordallo Phillips and John Bordallo Bell are all first cousins of Chief Fred Bordallo.”

Meno said despite her repeated efforts to follow up on her complaint, GPD continued to sit on the case.

“I received so many roadblocks on my police complaint that I was devastated that it was being covered up,” Meno stated in her complaint.

When she filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the Phillips and Bordallo legal billings last week, Meno said she was “shocked” to discover that a billing dated Aug. 20, 2013 – the very next day after she filed the case against Salas – included an item for review of her complaint filed with GPD.

“How did the private attorneys, who are not in law enforcement at all, receive a copy of my confidential police complaint, which was supposed to be the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation?” Meno asked. “To the best of my knowledge, the chief of police who is first cousins with those attorneys gave them a copy of my confidential report, which is not subject to public release.”

Denied

Bordallo has denied Meno’s allegations, saying her complaint was an attempt to draw attention from “the troubles she has been going through at the port.”

“It’s a bold-faced lie,” Bordallo said of Meno’s allegation that he leaked confidential information to the port’s legal counsel. “Why would I be delivering documents to other people? I’d be interested to know how she thought I delivered those documents.”

Dismissing the complaint as “weak,” Bordallo said it was not fair of Meno to “vent her frustrations toward me.”

He also took Meno to task for releasing her affidavit to the media instead of giving the Office of the Attorney General a chance to begin its own investigation.

Along with five other port employees, Meno was terminated at the port for allegedly falsifying her worker compensation claim for back injuries she sustained after a bathroom accident at the port.

Salas, who was dispatched to investigate the accident, initially issued a report dated Sept. 22, 2011, confirming the slip-and-fall incident. He later recanted the findings in the safety report, saying he “did not believe that an accident occurred on Sept. 22, 2011.”

On June 26, 2013, Salas signed a sworn affidavit stating that “he had lied and falsified that official government document,” Meno said in a complaint filed with GPD.

Meno said Bordallo has been giving her inconsistent responses on her inquiries regarding her complaint.

"On one hand, Chief Bordallo says he has not reviewed the criminal complaint, then he says there is no merit to the case. The truth is he has seen the complaint because he has personally been interfering and pressuring members of the police department to ignore the investigation,” she said in a statement.

“Instead he went straight to Adelup and further involved them in this matter which is, at the minimum, a conflict of interest and potentially an obstruction of governmental functions,” she added.

Adelup has issued a statement, dismissing Meno’s complaint as “nothing more than a distraction the accuser is creating to draw attention away from her own problems with the law.”

“It's very sad that she would drag Chief Bordallo's name through the mud like this with these false accusations, especially since Chief Bordallo has spent his life serving and protecting the people of Guam,” said Troy Torres, communications director, in the statement.

“We are curious about her motives and even more curious what is taking so long to bring her case to justice. It's been quite some time since the port handed over its investigation to justice authorities,” he said.


Comments  


 


-3 #2 masakada 2014-03-20 07:41


On the contrary Matthew... I've known Chief Fred Bordallo since he was a young man. He is a person of principled character, cannot be manipulated nor dissuaded from compromising his integrity, nor position. Honorable, best describes him.

Bernadette Meno's 15 minutes of fame is up. Enough already! Why would she want her job back at the port, when, her presence would be toxic?
Then again, with the port's new manager, very respectable, revered as the "Iron Lady", ... Meno, will be walking on eggshells.
No one wants to hear about this case anymore! Can't Meno find a new job? I mean... "[censored] happens!".


 


 


-2 #1 Mathew 2014-03-20 06:47


Chief Fred Bordallo is a company man, not unlike other police chiefs in recent memory, so it would not be far-fetched to suggest that he is in cahoots, of sorts or otherwise, with "his cousins," most notably, the overly high-priced lawyer for the Port. Of course, in the court of public opinion, the other important court, the 'defendant' in this case does not have much support, just like Sen. Respicio who is trying to make the case, a weak one, but still a case, that the administration is not paying out tax refunds in time. (Time is relative, too.)


Huffington Post features Guam


Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/032014/huffington_200_200.jpgThe Huffington Post has done a feature on Guam, calling the island the ''most interesting place in America.'' The article showcased many of Guam’s attractions including the island’s beaches and dive spots. AP photo


A HUFFINGTON Post article focusing on Guam quickly gained traction on social networking sites, and as of 6 p.m. yesterday had been liked by more than 39,000 users and shared more than 6,600 times on Facebook.

The island was called the “most interesting place in America” by the Huffington Post in an online story highlighting the island’s scenery and lifestyle, published March 18.

“Guamanians everywhere should be excited and optimistic about the new level of attention our island is getting,” Gov. Eddie Calvo said in a statement. “This positive, feel-good story comes just after Guam’s recent appearances on national networks like Bloomberg and Fox News.”

Nathan Denight, acting general manager of the Guam Visitors Bureau, said the article could potentially draw thousands of visitors and bring millions of dollars to Guam.

Chloe Fox wrote the article and, according to Adelup, she did so with some help from reporters familiar with the local scene. Former Guam reporter Gene Park and Anita Hofschneider from Saipan helped Fox with the content of the article and local photographer Victor Consaga provided some of the photos used in the piece.

“The rest of the world needs to know what any son of Guam already knows: Guam is good,” Park said in a statement from the governor’s office.

Fox listed 11 reasons why the island is so interesting compared to the rest of America. “Imagine a hybrid of Texas and Hawaii,” she wrote. “Or a cross between Spain and Japan.”

The history, the beaches, the scenery and food are a few of the reasons Fox called Guam “America’s most interesting and exotic destination.”

Fox said she hopes to visit one day.



Adelup official, senator face off over Facebook

Monday, 17 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

ANOTHER battle in the transparency wars between the executive and legislative bodies of government has sprouted, this time originating on the social media front.

Sen. Rory Respicio took to Facebook last week, claiming that the governor used $50 million in tax refund money for government operations.

Respicio posted the claim once in a comment on the Guam Grabs Facebook group on March 12 and again on his Facebook page yesterday afternoon.

The post prompted Adelup spokesman Troy Torres to call a meeting that is to be held today at 3 p.m. in the governor’s conference room to clear the air. Torres urged Sen. Respicio, the media and the public to attend.

In an email to the senator, Torres, the governor’s director of communications, challenged the senator to provide evidence to substantiate his claim. “I challenge you to meet with me ... in the governor’s conference room and provide to the people all the facts and documentation you have,” Torres wrote. “Likewise, I will bring all facts and documentation as evidence that the statement you made is false.”

Torres wrote that the media and the public should be in attendance in the spirit of transparency, and that he stands ready with information to support his claims that the governor did not use $50 million for operations.

Recorded

Torres added that the meeting will be recorded to be streamed live online or uploaded at a later time onto The Guamanian Network. An audio recording will also be available for use by local radio stations.

“If I do not receive a confirmation of your participation ... I will schedule the presentation to begin at 3 p.m.,” Torres wrote.

Respicio tersely responded to Torres’ initial email, stating, “I will only entertain a response from the governor, include a meeting with him so he can explain why he is not paying for all the processed tax refunds up until Feb. 7, 2014.”

Torres assured the senator that the presentation will continue as planned for today at Adelup, with or without him. “At the very least, I will be able to provide all the documentation that evidence (you’re) spreading falsehoods in a misinformation campaign on tax refunds,” Torres replied.

Recycling challenges

Monday, 17 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Food waste, glass are still problems

ALTHOUGH a number of programs and legislation have already been introduced on recycling, there are still enforcement issues as well as gaps to the current programs.

Currently, the Guam Solid Waste Authority has successfully developed and implemented an islandwide system to capture recyclable products like paper, cardboard and aluminum.

However, problems with recycling food – one of the largest waste products on Guam – still have to be addressed.

At present, there is still no program in place on Guam for the diversion of food waste from sources. Paul Tobiason, a member of the Recycling Association of Guam (RAG), said individual livestock farmers have been collecting food waste from hotels and restaurants on their own dime.

Tobiason said the farmers have no compensation for fuel, vehicle maintenance, insurance and time.

Bob Shambach, president of the Recycling Association of Guam, said RAG has been working with Sen. Michael Limtiaco, who expressed his intention to develop legislation addressing this gap.

Shambach said based on calculations, Guam generates around 18,000 tons of food waste each year.

Limtiaco last year said he hopes to divert Guam’s flow of food waste in an effort to prolong the life of the landfill while simultaneously creating an opportunity to revive the island’s livestock industry by providing low-cost feed.

"Our concept is for a private company to actually collect the food waste, run them into a machine, and process them into pellets. It is going to cost a fraction of the imported feeds if done locally," Tobiason said.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Facts and Figures for 2010 on Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States, 13.9 percent of all municipal solid waste is composed of food waste. The other components are recyclables and compostable items that should not end up in a landfill.

On Guam, the largest producers of food waste come from large commercial operations, large government agencies such as the Guam Departments of Education, Corrections and Youth Affairs, and the island’s various hotels and restaurants.

Limtiaco said a unified and proactive approach is the key to approaching a zero waste goal.

Glass

Another gap in the island’s current recycling efforts is glass, which is not yet being recycled on Guam due to the lack of economies of scale.

Just recently, Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes introduced Bill 279 to divert glass bottle waste from Layon in an effort to address this gap. According to the senator’s research, approximately 120,000 pounds of glass bottles are disposed of each month at the landfill.

Bill 279 also provides for a sustainable materials management study and a one-year operationally based pilot project that will assist in the development of beneficially re-using glass bottles.

Fortunately, sustainable materials management seems to be picking up on Guam.

According to the Guam Environmental Protection Agency, the calculated islandwide recycling rate for 2012 reached a double-digit increase compared to 2011, rising from 17.85 percent to 28.13 percent.

However, Tobiason said one of the reasons why there is still trash on island is due to the zero value attributed to these items.

"The sensible thing to do is put value in that. That is the whole issue," he said.

Shambach goes as far as suggesting the assessing and charging of an upfront fee for appliances such as refrigerators – a fee which could be redeemed after its useful life to fund its disposal.

"As soon as it comes on island, it should be assessed a flat rate. For example, a refrigerator, if it takes $35 to dispose of a refrigerator, put a fee on it," he said.

Hospital unveils balanced fiscal 2015 budget

Monday, 17 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

The proposed budget for Guam Memorial Hospital will finally put the hospital on stable ground and correct many years of inequitable funding, GMH officials said. Variety file photo

GUAM Memorial Hospital’s administration unveiled its fiscal 2015 budget Thursday, March 13 to the hospital’s board of trustees. GMH Administrator Joseph Verga said the budget is balanced. Alan Ulrich, GMH chief financial officer, agreed with Verga and added that it required “for all the stars to be aligned.”

The proposed budget will finally put the hospital on stable ground and correct many years of inequitable funding, Verga said.

A “blended percentage” 60 percent fee increase is proposed for the next fiscal year. The increased fees will affect commercial insurers, self-pay patients and government of Guam agencies that reimburse the hospital.

According to GMH, self-pay and uninsured patients will be affected by this increase in that the hospital will be aggressively pursuing patients and guarantors who fail to pay their bills. For the next fiscal year, the hospital projected a 5 percent collection rate from these patients.

Last week, the hospital announced it would be forwarding account information to the Department of Revenue and Taxation for tax garnishment beginning this month and continuing every month thereafter. GMH projects $50 million to be collected through this method.

The hospital also expects to continue in-house collections and the referral of account information to collection agencies.

Negotiate

For commercial insurers, the hospital will negotiate new contracts in the second quarter of this calendar year. The contract will negotiate a per diem rate above Medicare’s cost-per-day for in-patient stays. GMH is also seeking a discounted fee-for-service relationship for outpatient services and, finally, reimbursement for physician services at a higher percentage than what Medicare reimburses.

The hospital projected over $13 million more in revenue from appropriations from or through the government for the next fiscal year. The urgent-care subsidy, revenue from gaming machines and funding for “GMHA’s capital expenditures” account for about $4.7 million more in funding.

Another possible increase in revenue as specified in the budget is $14 million for the legislative mandate in Section 6 of the budget law. This is the amount of money the governor may dole out to the hospital without the approval of the Legislature. For this fiscal year, the Legislature appropriated up to $10 million that the governor may give to the hospital. For the upcoming year, the hospital projects this number at $14 million.

Next fiscal year, GMH administrators plan to implement several initiatives to help cut costs.

According to GMH officials, the hospital will introduce flexible staffing that will depend on a census taken by patients, compensation for physicians will be based on performance and productivity, and inpatient stays will be reduced and some services will be outsourced to save on hospital expenditures.

Freedom of Information Advisory Council OK'd

Monday, 17 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Legislature has approved a legislative rules resolution creating the "Guam Legislative Freedom of Information Advisory Council," an advisory body in the legislative branch which seeks to encourage and facilitate compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

Introduced by Sen. Rory Respicio, the council shall consist of 12 members including the attorney general of Guam, representatives of the media, the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, as well as members of the community.

"Open government is good government and this Freedom of Information Advisory Council will take the lead in protecting everyone's right to an open and transparent government," Respicio said after the approval of the resolution.

Legislative Rules Resolution 330-32 establishes the Guam Legislative Freedom of Information Advisory Council to encourage and facilitate compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. The resolution was introduced early last week and adopted on Friday.

"I am pleased with the adoption as this new council will help shine light into dark areas of our government," Respicio said. "Residents of Guam will now have a group to turn to for help when they are not being provided information about our government."

Within one month, Respicio said the council will be in place and will offer people more access to their government.

The council will identify which government of Guam agencies are not in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Government Law and they will issue advisories and opinions.

Public training

The council also will provide public training on the local open government laws and will publish documents and guidelines as needed. Members will also review all local laws and make suggestions for changes in legislation to make government more open and transparent to the people of Guam.

"Our government is lacking in transparency and openness and the people of Guam deserve to have a free and open government to serve them," Respicio said. "The public's right to know is sacred and this FOIA Council will ensure that those rights are always protected."

He added that members to the council can be appointed as early as this week. A meeting will be held once members have been appointed and accepted. All meetings will be announced pursuant to the open government law, broadcast live on the Legislature's TV channel and open to the public.

Respicio also stressed the importance of having media representation in the "Guam Legislative Freedom of Information Advisory Council" to ensure transparency and timeliness in the provision of requested documents from government of Guam agencies.

According to Respicio, the media – as a watchdog – would help highlight what requests were made to the agencies and what requests these agencies were not responding to.

“I am excited with this opportunity and I am sure that the governor, since he prides himself with being transparent, would embrace the concept,” Respicio said.


Nasion Chamoru wants answers in regards to fishing rights

Posted: Mar 15, 2014 11:03     by Jolene Toves     KUAM

Guam - Nasion Chamoru asks why the indigenous fishing rights are being held captive.  The human rights organization wants answers as to why there has been a significant delay in the implementation of the Indigenous Fishing Rights Program.

Earlier this week Maga Lahi Nasion Danny Jackson sent a letter to Governor Eddie Calvo pleading that his office review the proposed rules and regulations set forth by the Department of Agriculture. It was in 2008 that the law was enacted allowing Chamorros special rights to offshore fishing. However six years later and still nothing has been finalized.

So what's the holdup? We spoke with Department of Agriculture's Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources assistant chief Jay Gutierrez, who said, "The department has gone through many versions we are currently on Version 21 of the actual regulations there have been some I guess I'm going to say issues but concerns."

More specifically, Gutierrez says they are still working on the concept of the culturally managed areas which will be designated in non marine preserves. In these designated areas fishermen will be able to use talaya nets and rod and reel not drag nets. "What we have in the regulations involves establishing cultural managed areas and may not be what some of the groups we met with wanted," he said.

The division's chief Tino Agoun says they are trying to stay away from marine preserves so that the integrity of the preserve is not lost.  "What we tried to do is develop it in such a way that we were benefiting the protection of the resources as well as allowing for some take in some degree so that's where a lot of it has actually came to a standstill," he said.

Aguon says that while many of the issues have resolved itself there is still one prevailing issue with the law itself - that being those who may consider the law discriminate. "And all of our funding on our end as far as federal aid all hinges around US anti-discrimination issues," he explained.

Aguon says the discrimination between non-indigenous and indigenous people could affect the department's funding. Until those issues can be addressed the finalization of the rules and regulations remains on hold. 

Unpaid GMH bills balloon to $159M

Friday, 14 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY GERRY R. PARTIDO

To increase its collections, the hospital since March 1 has been garnishing the tax refunds of its delinquent patients. Variety file photo

THE hospital’s total unpaid patient bills have ballooned to $159 million, Guam Memorial Hospital announced last night.

These unpaid patient bills relate to insured patients (or their guarantor) who owe patient share fees (deductibles and charges denied by insurance companies) as well as self-pay and un-insured patients.

The $159 million covers unpaid services received from the hospital, the skilled nursing unit, or from GMH’s physicians.

The updated list of unpaid patient bills or receivables from the guarantor represents an increase of over $50 million from accounts currently placed with the Department of Revenue and Taxation, GMH stated.

To increase its collections, the hospital since March 1 has been garnishing the tax refunds of its delinquent patients. The hospital has provided DRT with a list of guarantors and patients who have not responded to GMH’s monthly statements or calls concerning payment of their bills.

Using the balance of receivables due from the guarantor, DRT will garnish any income tax refunds until the outstanding balance is satisfied.

According to GMH, it will send patients’ and guarantors’ account information to DRT for tax garnishment if patients have not done the following:

  • Responded to GMH’s collection calls and monthly statements;

  • Made a payment; or

  • Set up a payment plan within six months of discharge.

    If the patient does make payments and sets up a payment plan, GMH said it will ensure that the patient’s and guarantor’s information is removed from DRT’s data files.

    Patients and guarantors can contact GMHA’s business office staff during business hours (7 a.m. to 6 p.m.) or by telephone (8 a.m. to 7 p.m.) at 647-2126/7.

Comments  

 

+1 #1 Mathew 2014-03-14 07:50

If the economy is doing better, as the Governor claims it to be, why are the unpaid bills at GMH increasing, and not decreasing? It is either the economy is not improving -- enough -- for most of the folks, both public and private sector, or the customers who go to avail of the services at GMH are willfully opting not to pay even if they can afford to pay. The first possibility is more likely given that medical inflation on Guam is probably higher than not only stateside medical inflation, but also definitely higher than the wage gains that have come the way of the workforce, both public and private.

 

Businesses learn about retail opportunities with Guam Museum

Posted: Mar 13, 2014 by Ken Quintanilla kuam

Guam - By the end of the year, the new Guam Chamorro and Educational Facility is set to open its doors. And while construction is underway in Hagatna, stakeholders are working to ensure that local businesses and artists are right there every step of the way.

Its commonly known as the Guam Museum but its considered a rather multi-faceted institution. Along with an all-purpose room, an exhibit hall, a 200-seat auditorium and an outdoor theater, the Guam Chamorro and Educational Facility is set to not only provide a "cultural Mecca" for tourists and locals but offer a unique retail opportunity for local businesses, producers and artists.

Administrator of the Guam Museum Foundation Leona Young said, "The first thing we need to do is engage our local small businesses and cultural producers and artists to make sure the visitor experience is unique and they would have first hand at what's local, what's truly Guam."

And today the Guam Museum Foundation and the Department of Chamorro Affairs hosted a special conference aimed at assisting the dozens of local, small, emerging new businesses to further commerce activity in the museum. Young explained today's theme of "The Museum Effect", saying, "The Museum Effect is all the different components around the museum it could be commerce activity, it could be education, it could be sights and sounds, the parks, there's just so much to promote around the museum not just within the museum but the in the immediate surroundings."

From discussing museum marketplace standards to principles in retailing, several professionals in their trade shared their insight on how to capitalize on this unique retail opportunity. Some of the speakers included representatives from GVB and GEDA, the University of Guam and the Chamorro Village, and local businesses like Crowns Guam, Coco Jo's and Zories Only.

Guest speaker and GMFI board member Francis Guerrero said, "You have visitors that come into the island and they are truly looking for things that are authentically Guam, so it makes a big difference the ideas you put forth."

The business conference was made possible through a $50,000 rural business enterprise grant through the USDA. The museum meanwhile is set to open in December. 

 

Port board bids a fond farewell to former members

Thursday, 13 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Port Authority of Guam’s board of directors presented three commendation resolutions to three former board members yesterday in a room packed with port employees.

Current PAG administrators presented the resolutions to former board members Eduardo Ilao and Mike Benito and former board chairman Daniel Tydingco commending them for their service at the presentation.

Tydingco said yesterday that he was reluctant at first to join the board, as he was unfamiliar with the department. “I don’t use the port like Mike Benito does, don’t supply it like Ed Ilao does, so when I came in here alongside some great people ... well, let’s see how we can make things work for the benefit of the port and the community,” he said.

After day two, Tydingco said he realized he had some extensive work to do.

“Not everybody was paddling in the same direction, and that was a tall order,” he said. At the start of his term, he realized there was no alignment between the employees, management, the federal government and the local government, Tydingco said.

At the end of Tydingco’s leadership role, “notable milestones came to fruition,” the commendation resolution stated. The acquisition of the commercial cranes, repairs to wharves, lighting upgrades at the container yard, and phases one and two of marina site improvements are some of the accomplishments at the port during Tydingco’s time as chairman.

Former members Mike Benito and Eduardo Ilao were also recognized for their contributions during the planning of critical projects, including the port modernization plan.

Respect

Benito said he gained a lot of respect for the people he worked alongside with. “I know that there were times that were tumultuous and a lot of things happened that maybe not everybody agreed with,” he said. “But the one thing that never changed, the one thing that never wavered was the professionalism each and every one of you put to your job.”

Ilao said he was looking forward to serving on the board again at the end of his term. However, since this did not happen, he is now looking forward to serving the port as a contractor for future projects. Ilao, who had served on the port board since 1995, was nominated for another term by Gov. Eddie Calvo, but he was not confirmed by the Guam Legislature.

“The three board members have provided their leadership and service at a critical time during the transition of the port from an antiquated operation into a modern, competitive and efficient port,” Joanne Brown, PAG general manager, said in a statement.

According to the port, the three members contributed to ensuring a merit system and standard operating procedures were implemented as a benefit to the employees and the public.

Current board members include: Francisco Santos, chairman; Christine Baleto, vice chairwoman; Mary Michelle Gibson, secretary; and Timothy Kernaghan, member.

11 dead, 10,000 infected in Fiji dengue outbreak

Thursday, 13 Mar 2014 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

FIJI (PacNews) – Fiji's Health Department has confirmed 11 people have died and more than 10,000 others have been infected during an outbreak of dengue fever.

The department has already launched a major campaign to get rid of possible breeding areas for mosquitoes which carry the disease.

The Health Minister, Dr. Neil Sharma, says the outbreak involves the type-3 strain of dengue fever which has never been seen before in the country.

"The outbreak was detected in mid-December. This is a dengue type-3 outbreak and this is new for Fiji," he said. "But we know we are endemic for dengue infections periodically. Every five years we tend to have a surge."

There are also fears the number of people infected may be actually closer to 15,000 with under-reporting a major concern.

Sharma said current testing procedures need to be strengthened.

"We had well over 10,000 infections already and this is probably an underestimate as the reporting system needs to be strengthened a lot more," he said. "And of course some patients have a higher pain threshold and remain at home for mild illnesses, they don't get tested. When the testing does take place in patients, they miss that window where the test would be positive, so they come back negative."

As part of the Fijian Health Department's campaign, people are being encouraged to report their neighbors, if they suspect them of not cleaning up their properties correctly.

Sharma said communities need to work together otherwise this latest outbreak has the potential to go on for many more months to come.

"We are looking at the previous outbreaks in 1979 and we are looking at trends and patterns," he said. "If the rainfall subsides and our active intervention advocacy programs of spraying and clearing domestic and commercial areas continues, then we hope we can stop it much earlier.

"However, if it gets delayed because of increased rainfall and stagnant water and if we don't do anything until the weather changes, then we could be here in strife until July."

Role of media in Freedom of Information Council stressed

Thursday, 13 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

SEN. Rory Respicio has stressed the importance of having media representation in the "Guam Legislative Freedom of Information Advisory Council" to ensure transparency and timeliness in the provision of requested documents from government of Guam agencies.

Respicio recently introduced a legislative rules resolution creating the council which he said would act as an advisory body in the legislative branch to encourage and facilitate compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

“This council will be able to give advisories and updates but the only thing that we can rely on to require these agencies to reply is through the power of the people and by having the members of the media as part of this council,” the senator said in an interview with Variety.

According to Respicio, the media – as a watchdog – would help highlight what requests were made to the agencies and what requests these agencies were not responding to.

The council shall consist of 12 members including the attorney general of Guam, representatives of the media, the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, as well as members of the community.

Respicio said the plan is to put the council in place within one month to offer more access to the government.

Under the proposed resolution, a member of the public can seek redress from the council. The advisory body can also identify which government of Guam agencies are not in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Government Law. In addition, it will issue advisories and opinions as well as provide public training on the local sunshine laws.

The council will also publish documents and guidelines as needed as well as review all local sunshine laws and make suggestions for changes in legislation "to make our government more open and transparent" to the people of Guam.

“I am excited with this opportunity and I am sure that the governor, since he prides himself with being transparent, would embrace the concept,” Respicio said.

 

Comments  

 

0 #1 Mathew 2014-03-13 13:19

Sen. Respicio has quite a heavy burden to carry when he talks about the need for transparency from the Calvo administration since folks tend to equate him, Respicio, with the Gutierrez administration and the 'gag-order' days. But they, the critics and the cynics, are forgetting one thing: there is no need for gag orders if you know that you have to toe the line, as Republicans tend to do, anyway. In other words, if it is -- ingrained -- in your DNA that you have to behave in a specified or predetermined manner, why do you need a gag order?

Consolidated mass transit plan may be scaled back

Friday, 14 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Sen. Aline Yamashita, standing, presided over the Mass Transit Expansion Planning Team’s meeting yesterday with community members. Yamashita led the meeting by first introducing details of a pilot program that the team will need to finalize before giving the floor to residents to voice their concerns. Photo by Jasmine Stole / Variety

THE upcoming pilot mass transit program, initially proposed to operate as a 24-hour consolidated bus system, will not operate as such, Sen. Aline Yamashita said yesterday.

Instead, Yamashita said, she was advised by Guam Regional Transit Authority officials that it would be more manageable for the system to operate from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. Additionally, Yamashita said the Department of Public Works and GRTA officials told her federal regulations restrict mass transit from using school bus shelters.

“When we talked about merging lines, they showed the (regulations) and those (regulations) say that mass transit buses cannot access school bus stops,” the senator said.

Yamashita said there will also be 14 buses that will arrive on island within the year that will be accessible for individuals with disabilities. However, she stressed that the pilot program is not looking to put the Paratransit system out of business because it is not on the pilot program’s agenda.

“We respect what Paratransit does for our community and we’re not taking steps to put it out of business,” Yamashita said. “What we hope to do is get the transit system in a condition where if they need to go somewhere, they can get on the bus or if they still want to call Paratransit, they may.”

The Mass Transit Expansion Planning Team met with community members for the first time yesterday afternoon. Yamashita led the meeting by first introducing details of a pilot program that the team will need to finalize before giving the floor to residents to voice their concerns.

Not viable

Ginger Porter, Guam Cedders instructor for disability studies, said the idea of including shopping buses and tour buses, as suggested by Yamashita, is not a viable option because such vehicles are not ADA-compliant.

Porter said a more robust transit system is a large concern for residents. Porter described a robust system as being one that would reduce the time between bus pickups as well as reduce the noon to 2 p.m. midday break that transit operators currently take.

Residents with disabilities brought up issues of accessibility and reliability with the current system at yesterday’s meeting. Frank “Kool-Aid” Ungacta said he was told the road to his house was inaccessible by the Paratransit bus because it was unpaved. When he moved to an area with a paved roadway leading to his house, he was told it was still inaccessible.

Ungacta said he forwarded his complaints to DPW and GRTA and has not heard back from officials since 2010.

Ken Leon Guerrero, a resident of Santa Rita, said the pilot program, as it serves only the northern population, would not be as successful as it could be if it also served residents in the south. “The number one thing that is going to make this system work is ridership,” Leon Guerrero said. “By focusing only on the northern side of the island I think you’re shooting yourself in the foot.”

Leon Guerrero suggested having the transit system travel between the northern and southern military bases and increasing the ridership among the workers who live in the south but work in the north.

More willing

He added that residents who live in the north who would drive 7 miles to work would do so without taking the transit, as opposed to residents who may live in the south and need to travel 19 miles to work. Those residents would be more willing to take the bus if it was reliable, he said.

 

GEDA transmits GMRC QC app to DRT

Posted: Mar 12, 2014 by Ken Quintanilla kuam

Guam - Three months after its board of directors approved the request, the Guam Economic Development Authority has finally transmitted the qualifying certificate request for the Guam Regional Medical City to the Department Of Rev & Tax. Business development manager Tina Garcia says the delay in transmittal was due to both GEDA and GRMS's legal  counsels approving the language in the terms and conditions agreed upon in December last year. She adds while the hospital isn't expected to open until October this year, the effective date for the tax benefits will be on January 1, 2015 almost three years since the new hospital filed a letter of intent with GEDA.  Once signed off by DRT, it will be forwarded to the Attorney General's Office and then to the Governor's Office.


NEWS FLASH! - Black bags first national construction award for Guam

Tue, Mar 11th 2014

HARMON, Guam – After years of Guam construction industry submissions to the Associated Builders and Contractors national awards, a Guam company has received the region's first U.S. national level recognition.

Black Construction Corp. received an Excellence in Construction award in the "Institutional under $5 million" from ABC for its general contracting work on the $1.8 million Kosrae State Correctional Facility.

The project was completed on April 16, 2013 and recognized locally, which qualified Black Construction to submit for ABC's prestigious and competitive national level awards.

According to a March 11 release to the Journal, the jailhouse remained functional during the total construction period.

Leonard K. Kaae, senior vice president and general manager, expressed the company's pride and gratitude at the award to the Journal. Project Manager Joselito Gutierrez accepted the award on behalf of Black in Hawaii in February. – For further details, see the Marianas Business Journal of March 24.


Audit of land program tax credit urged


Thursday, 06 Mar 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


VICE Speaker Benjamin Cruz has called for a detailed audit of a tax credit program that allows property owners to elect to receive tax credits in exchange for cash owed for publicly acquired private lands.

In a letter sent to Public Auditor Doris Brooks yesterday, Cruz stated that the tax credit program in question had already been flagged as “dormant,” citing a performance audit of Government of Guam Tax Credit Programs issued in November 2007 (OPA Report No. 07-15).

The report held that the Tax Credit in Lieu of Cash Payment program created by Public Law 14-69 in 1977 was “never implemented” and that the authorizing agency, the Department of Revenue and Taxation, was “unable to produce any documentation of tax credits granted under this 30-year-old program.” Additionally, the OPA recommended the repeal of the program, as well as other dormant and unimplemented tax credit programs identified in the report.

In an attempt to establish evidentiary data, Cruz filed a Freedom of Information Act request with DRT Director John P. Camacho on Feb. 24, seeking a list of all recipients of tax credits under the Tax Credit in Lieu of Cash Payment program, the applications for those credits, and the certifications required indicating government acquisition of privately held land.

According to Cruz, DRT’s response explained that tax statutes render the agency “unable to provide a listing of all recipients of tax credits as allowed under (11 GCA § 38101), nor provide copies of the applications for such tax credits.”

Evasive

Cruz said that while he fully expected a statement confirming the dormancy of the program and that no such list existed, DRT’s response seemed purposefully evasive.

“Consequently, the very nature of this denial begs the question: If the program is truly inactive, why is DRT purporting that there are tax credit recipients to protect? Why are there applications to be kept confidential?” the vice speaker asked.

Cruz’s letter goes on to explain that the provisions of 11 GCA § 38101 “may be abrogated by, or in conflict with, another provision of law found within the same title.” Title 11 GCA §15101(b) states that no real property or property other than money “may be received by the government of Guam pursuant to §38101 of (GCA) without prior specific statutory authority for the transaction.”

While Cruz denies knowledge of “specific statutory authority” permitting the issuance of tax credits under 11 GCA §38101, he stressed that GovGuam should not be subject to massive revenue losses because of conflicting laws or statutory ambiguity.

“Given the absence of a ceiling on tax credits issuable under this program, the potential impact of unbudgeted tax credits on the government’s already-struggling cash position, and the discretionary basis by which this authority may be exercised, I request that you conduct a detailed audit of the Tax Credit in Lieu of Cash Payment program,” Cruz urged in his letter to Brooks.

The vice speaker also plans to introduce legislation to repeal the program and to revoke or void tax credits issued under 11 GCA §38101 since the OPA’s 2007 audit.


 



Groups to stress the importance of green energy to affordable housing

Wednesday, 05 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE presence of industry professionals such as the members of the Guam Renewable Energy Association (GREA) and the Affordable Housing Coordinating Council at this afternoon’s legislative housing committee roundtable is expected to facilitate the “nexus” between affordable housing and renewable energy, according to committee chair Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes.

The roundtable meeting, entitled “Bridging the Gap Between Affordable Housing and Renewable Energy,” is set for 2 p.m. this afternoon and various private and public entities are expected to present potential programs that could facilitate the achievement of this goal.

“We are bringing together the additional goal of clean renewable energy to the Affordable Housing Coordinating Council, emphasizing that affordable housing and sustainable clean energy are both keys to the war on poverty,” Muña-Barnes said.

Currently, Muña-Barnes serves as co-chair of the housing council along with fellow co-chair Martin Benavente, president of Guam Housing Corp.

PACE

GREA has been vocal in its plans to introduce the Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, program on island, stressing that it has the potential to facilitate an affordable financing option for commercial and residential property owners who want to try renewable energy.

GREA – a nonprofit corporation comprised of industry professionals ranging from solar contractors and engineers to energy auditors – will be presenting the concept, among other initiatives, at this afternoon’s roundtable, according to the senator's office.

PACE, as a renewable energy financing initiative, would require zero down from the property owner. More than 20 states, including Hawaii and New Jersey, have already passed enabling legislation or have been implementing the program.

Gov. Eddie Calvo created the Affordable Housing Coordinating Council via Executive Order 2012-09 with the intent of bringing together government agencies, the Legislature, and other entities to develop and enhance affordable housing programs to meet the housing needs of the community and aid in improving the quality of life for the citizens of Guam.

The housing council members include private and public entities such as the Guam Economic Development Authority, the Department of Land Management, Guam Power Authority, Guam Waterworks Authority, University of Guam-Center for Island Sustainability, and the Guam Chamber of Commerce, among others.

“We looked at opportunities for bettering the life of our community by providing housing, job opportunities. When we provide affordable housing, then we provide that better quality of life and an opportunity for the community to build a sustainable future,” Muña-Barnes said.

The senator said they are going to explore successful renewable energy-affordable housing initiatives undertaken by other jurisdictions, tweak them, and then adopt them for Guam.

“Both GHURA and Guam Housing have been very receptive to the idea, and being part of the Guam Affordable Housing Council with Martin Benavente, we would like to bring those ideas and move them forward,” she said.

    

Russia visa waiver concern

Tuesday, 04 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF



THE Guam Visitors Bureau remains attentive to the international crisis on the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine as it may impact a growing segment of the island’s tourism industry, according to a statement  yesterday from Karl Pangelinan, GVB general manager.

“We are closely monitoring the situation,” Pangelinan said. “Of course Guam’s tourism industry wants to continue welcoming Russian visitors and our island is certainly benefiting from this new market.”

Pangelinan added that situations like these show the increasing need for the island to continue to diversify its source markets. “For now, we will continue showing our Russian visitors the Hafa Adai spirit Guam is famous for,” he said.

Observers are concerned that tensions between Ukraine and Russia could result in political and economic sanctions that may impact the flow of Russian visitors to Guam.

Reports from the bureau show a steady increase in the number of Russian visitors since January 2012 when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security granted visa parole authority allowing Russian tourists to visit Guam. Last year, about 8,000 visitors from Russia traveled to Guam.

According to a report from GVB, during fiscal 2013, Russian tourists spent an average of $1,500 per person, per trip while on the island. Eighteen percent of Russian travelers interviewed last fiscal year were repeat visitors, and stayed for an average of 13.62 days.

Motivation

The top motivation for choosing to travel to Guam was the island’s beaches and “natural beauty.” Russian tourists were also attracted to the island because of the visa waiver and for “relaxation and pleasure,” the report stated.

Moreover, the Q1 data from fiscal 2014 shows 91 percent of Russian tourists who arrived on Guam were first-timers, and 9 percent had been here before. The average length of stay for the first quarter is about 11.8 days.

Similarly, Russian tourists who visited Guam during this time period spent about $1,600 per person, per trip.

By comparison, visitors from Japan – Guam’s largest source market – stay on Guam for only about three days and spend about $480 per person.

Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Crimea earlier this week, taking control of Crimea’s airspace and airports, highways, ports, television stations and regional government, according to Michael Kelley of the Business Insider. Crimea is part of Ukraine, although a large part of its population speaks Russian.

A report from Washington, D.C. stated that President Obama “condemned Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and warned that it could face further political and economic isolation.”

Gov. Eddie Calvo said he and Lt. Gov Ray Tenorio pray for providence over the decisions coming from Obama and Russian and Ukrainian leaders. “We hope their decisions are made in the best interests of our freedom, ever mindful that the price of freedom is paid with the blood of the brave,” Calvo said.



GWA to spend $21M for additional water reservoirs


Tuesday, 04 Mar 2014 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


AS PART of its 2013 bond-financed projects, the Guam Waterworks Authority intends to spend approximately $21 million for additional water reservoirs to address the deficiencies in the water authority’s water storage capacity, according to a report filed at the Public Utilities Commission

According GWA, adding the new reservoirs would ensure its ability to continue providing adequate capacity and pressure “for fire and customer supply.”

The utilities commission recently approved GWA’s petition for its 2013 bond projects. With the go-signal from the PUC, approximately $140 million worth of capital improvement projects will be undertaken by the water authority to comply with the requirements of the November 2011 amended stipulated order, as well as to address the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Significant Findings for Water and Wastewater report.

The amended stipulated order requires that the water authority complete the construction of at least seven storage tanks and reservoirs to address deficiencies and upgrade the system, according to the report.

Around $7 million will also fund a new 2-million-gallon reservoir for the Ugum Water Treatment plant. According to GWA, the new reservoir would allow the existing reservoir to be taken offline, refurbished, and repaired.

The water authority estimates it would also require $13.5 million to repair the deteriorated steel tank in Mangilao and replace their tanks in Yigo and Astumbo with concrete tanks.

Other projects

GWA also intends to address leaks within their system by spending $12 million on 13,500 feet of pipe replacement per year until 2015. After 2015, the water authority plans to replace 2,000 feet of pipe per year.

GWA also plans to use $19 million for the construction of a new wastewater treatment facility at the existing site of the treatment plant in Agat/Santa Rita.

To support organic growth and in anticipation of the U.S. military rebalance policy for the Asia-Pacific, $4.2 million out of the $140 million will support the construction of new wells to produce an estimated 5 to 7 million gallons of water per day.

Aside from the construction of the new wells, the funding will also support aquifer studies and water demand system analysis. It will also cover the replacement of components at existing wells.

During a recent PUC meeting, legal counsel Frederick Horecky said the Consolidated Commission on Utilities determined in a resolution that the projects are prudent and necessary and thus gave the approval for GWA to seek authorization from the PUC.

Horecky said the 2013 GWA bond projects also received legislative support because GWA has to comply with court mandates.

“The administrative law judge, for this reason, recommended that the PUC approve those projects as well as the cost estimates, to be funded under the 2013 bonds,” Horecky said.

P.L. 32-69, which was recently passed by the Legislature, authorized GWA to borrow up to $450 million worth of bonds in three separate bond floats – one in 2013, another one in 2015, and the third one in 2017. These bonds will be supported by rate increases and operational efficiencies implemented by GWA.




Bill 278 lapses into law, top Hay pay rolled back

Wednesday, 05 Mar 2014 03:00am BY FRANK WHITMAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


GOV. Eddie Calvo announced his decision yesterday to take no action on the legislation rolling back the Hay plan pay raises of elected officials, except mayors and vice mayors, and agency heads. With no action from the governor, Bill 278 became law yesterday.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Ben Pangelinan and passed by a vote of 11-4 on Feb. 20. All Democratic legislators and Republican Sens. Chris Duenas and Michael Limtiaco voted in favor of it. The measure sets the salaries of the governor, lieutenant governor, senators, attorney general, public auditor, and the appointed heads of the departments and agencies of the executive branch to Oct. 1, 2013 salary levels.

Salary increases for the officials were included in the Hay pay plan enacted by Calvo on Feb. 14 along with increases for classified employees and the mayors and vice mayors.

While there was no opposition to salary adjustments for the classified employees, legislators attempted to block the increases for themselves, the governor, lieutenant governor, the attorney general, public auditor and the appointed heads of the executive branch agencies when they passed Bill 268 on Feb. 1.

Bill 268 also mandated that administration officials provide an explanation of the methodology used to determine the Hay salary scale. The administration’s refusal to provide such an explanation had been a source of frustration for the legislators.

Vetoed

Calvo vetoed Bill 268 and implemented the Hay plan on Feb. 14 over senators’ objections. He claimed the Legislature had not taken action on the plan, and under the law it became effective on Valentine’s Day – 30 days after he had submitted it to the Legislature.

With yesterday’s announcement, Calvo released a letter explaining that though he was allowing the bill to become law, “it disappoints me that senators have denied just compensation to the people’s Cabinet. I’m talking about the agency heads of the executive branch, to include their elected public auditor and attorney general.”

He said the opposition to the raises for top officials was political, “nothing more, nothing less,” and that he was allowing the bill to lapse into law in hope that the members of the Legislature would move on to “more important matters.” He asked senators to cooperate with him on the 10-point agenda he set out in his State of the Island address on Feb. 20.

The full text of the governor’s letter can be found on page 11 of today’s Variety.

Women firsts celebrated for Women’s History Month

Wednesday, 05 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

TO KICK off Women’s History Month, the Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce unveiled its “Women Firsts” project at Government House yesterday.

Various women organizations gathered at the Agana Heights government residence to celebrate 12 significant women who made island history. “These are women, who in their own area of expertise or profession, from health care to education to law to social activities, are the first and they have paved the way,” said Lou Leon Guerrero, GWCC president.

Leon Guerrero said the chamber wanted to start a tradition of honoring and recognizing women firsts.

The first of these “Women Firsts” were presented yesterday and include women who presently hold significant positions in the community, as well as prominent local women of the past.

Leon Guerrero announced each of the 12 women in alphabetical order to the packed house, providing a brief overview of each honoree’s accomplishments. As each woman was recognized, a flower bouquet was given to them or to family members who attended the event on their behalf.

Katherine Bordallo Aguon, Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Doris Flores-Brooks, Rosa Roberto Carter, Olivia Torres Cruz, Agueda Iglesias Johnston, Alicia Garrido Limtiaco, Mary Young Okada, Rosa Aguigui Reyes, Frances Tydingco-Gatewood, Sister Mary Inez Underwood and Judith Perez Won Pat were honored yesterday.

Leon Guerrero added that the chamber will continue to honor women who have paved the way in local history, as their research has revealed there are many women firsts to be recognized.

Additionally, Executive Order 2014-18 was signed by Gov. Eddie Calvo proclaiming March 2014 as Women’s History Month. “It’s time to also reflect on all the power women that have impacted our island,” Calvo said.

Denise Mendiola-Hertslet, secretary of the Rigålu Foundation and the event’s mistress of ceremonies, also quickly recognized the women of local organizations in attendance yesterday. Mendiola-Hertslet called on members to stand to be recognized as she called out the names of about 14 organizations present, including the Soroptimist International of Guam, Guam Women’s Club, the Chinese Ladies Association of Guam, the Korean Women’s Club of Guam, the Rigalu Foundation, and the National Association of Women in Construction.

Moreover, Mendiola-Hertslet noted that keeping with the theme, the event was catered by a business owned by a woman, Carmen’s Cha Cha Cha Mexican restaurant.

“Don’t ever underestimate our power as women,” Leon Guerrero said. “We need to use that power collaboratively so that we can improve our island.”

Awardees

  • Katherine Bordallo Aguon: First Chamorro Woman to earn a PhD;

  • Madeleine Zeien Bordallo: First Woman Lieutenant Governor of Guam, First Woman Congressional Representative of Guam;

  • Doris Flores Brooks: First Chamorro Woman Certified Public Accountant, First Woman Elected Public Auditor of Guam;

  • Rosa Roberto Carter: First Woman President of the University of Guam;

  • Olivia Torres Cruz: First Chamorro Woman to Earn a Doctorate Degree;

  • Agueda Iglesias Johnson: First Chamorro Woman Inducted into the Guam Education Hall of Fame, First Woman Principal of George Washington High School, First Chamorro Woman Creating Liberation Day as a Holiday;

  • Alicia Garrido Limtiaco: First Woman elected Attorney General of Guam, First Woman United States Attorney of Guam and the Northern Marianas;

  • Mary Young Okada: First Woman President of the Guam Community College;

  • Rosa Aguigui Reyes: First Woman Elected to Public Office (Guam Congress);

  • Frances Tydingco-Gatewood: First Woman Chief Prosecutor, First Woman United States District Court Judge of Guam;

  • Sister Mary Inez Underwood: First Chamorro Catholic Nun; and

  • Judith Perez Won Pat: First Woman Speaker of the Guam Legislature.



 

 

GSWA reports $7.5M shortfall

Tuesday, 04 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY GINA TABONARES-REILLY | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Board wants receiver role limited

(Second in a two-part series)

THE Guam Solid Waste Authority is operating annually with a $7.5 million funding shortfall. The solid waste authority has about $11.5 million in operating expenses and $12 million in debt service while it is generating about $16 million in operating revenue.

This was disclosed by the GSWA board to District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood while asking the court to isolate the role of the receiver to the closure of Ordot Dump and compel the receiver to start the search for a general manager and the hiring of a lawyer.

In a seven-page letter signed by board members Andrew Gayle, Jon Denight, Joseph Duenas, Alexandra Taitano and Elyze Iriarte, the board expressed its intention to start its role as oversight of parts of GSWA’s routine operations including the new Layon landfill operations, the hauler-only transfer station operations, and the residential collection and transfer stations operations.

The board expressed concern about how to operate an autonomous agency which is not truly financial autonomous.

According to the board, the receiver has proposed a rate increase of 50 percent for both residential and commercial rates but the receiver warns that a 50 percent increase in rates will only cover 75 percent of expenses, which does not allow GSWA to reach self-sustainability.

Currently, the $12 million debt service payment for the 2009 bond is not being covered and the board is questioning why the increase does not cover all the obligations.

No answers

“The board has not found answers from the receiver and believes time is running out. It seeks the immediate guidance of a financial professional as it starts to understand GSWA’s financial future, and that professional be able to work with the receiver to obtain the answers to what the GSWA board believes are the overwhelming holes in the GSWA financial picture,” the board stated in its letter.

Based on the proposed timeline submitted by the receiver to the court, the board is to act in advisory capacity to the receiver until December 2015.

The procurement of board legal services should be done from April to December 2013, according to the timeline, but according to the board, the approval of the request for proposals is still pending at the Office of the Attorney General. The board said that when the Office of the Attorney General stated it doesn’t need to review the RFP, the receiver disagreed and has stalled the procurement.

The board also disagreed with the receiver’s idea that the board would have to first obtain the receiver’s approval before they could proceed with each and any legal service.

The board also informed the court that the transition of employees that should have begun in April 2013 has not started the process.

The board asked the court to revise the receiver’s timeline and proposed to hire a general manager right away and isolate the closure of Ordot Dump as the receiver’s remaining function.

Judge Tydingco-Gatewood issued an order yesterday and instructed the receiver to respond to the board’s letter not later than March 24. The government of Guam was also ordered to respond by March 31 while the United States response is due by April 7.

The court said that it will address the concerns raised in the next status hearing set on May 21, unless the court believes an earlier hearing is warranted based on the briefings.

Comments  

 

+1 #1 Mathew 2014-03-04 16:03

The GSWA Board is not unlike other government boards and commissions in that it is comprised of political appointees. As such, their collective opinion should not differ very much from the opinion from Adelup, and that is that the receiver is the 'fall person' in this consent decree saga. Or, rather, it is the receiver, it is the federal government and every one's fault except Gov Guam. To wit: "spread the blame", which is what local officials and their cronies are adept in doing, and that is something to be celebrated after about 44 years of self-government.

Roundtable set on affordable housing, renewable energy

Posted: Mar 03, 2014 by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

Guam - The Committee on Housing will hold a roundtable meeting this week on efforts to bridge the gap between affordable housing and renewable energy.

Guam Housing Corporation president Martin Benavente says while the cost of owning a home was once the biggest hurdle, it appears the rising costs of utilities has also become a challenge.

"So if we can do that and we can bring the price of houses down, that means the next thing that we need to do for sustainability is we need to be able to bring the cost of living there that means power, water and other things that cost a typical household so what we're trying to do in this roundtable discussion is bring together people that will talk about how we insert into the new homes the renewable energy concept 1036 any kind of renewable energy," he said.

Benavente says some ways to bridge the gap would be to focus on areas such as rebates, recycling, installing solar panels and water catchments. The roundtable is set for march 5 at 2pm.

Procreate opens in Agana Shopping Center

Posted: Mar 03, 2014 by Krystal Paco  KUAM

Guam - It's the newest addition to the Agana Shopping Center. Procreate held its grand opening over the weekend. The store features trendy clothes and gear for infants, toddlers and mommies to be.

According to their Facebook page procreate features exclusive fashion brands from New York, Paris, Los Angeles, Italy and Japan.  Procreate is located on the second floor of the Agana Shopping Center next to Hairdresser by Kimberly.

Bill approves Port upgrade report

Posted: Mar 03, 2014 3by Ken Quintanilla KUAM

Guam - Legislation has been introduced to approve and adopt the Port Authority of Guam's 2013 Master Plan Update Report. Committee chairperson Senator Tom Ada and Senator Rory Respicio introduced Bill 283.

According to Ada, the plan update sets a strategy for the port's development over the next 20-years.

He says its guided by goals to meet the service demands of Guam's expected economic growth, assuring the long-term sustainability of the Port's facility, reasonably anticipating the implementation of a reduced military-buildup, and recommends the scale back of capital improvements at the port.

The port master plan also proposes increases to the tariff over the 20-year planning horizon specifically an annual increase of 4% in the first five years followed by an increase of 3.9% from years 6 to 20. A public hearing has been set for March 13.

GVB reports success with diversified markets

Posted: Mar 03, 2014 by Krystal Paco KUAM

Guam - It's good news for Guam's number one industry as more Korean, Russian, and other tourist markets continue to make the island their choice destination. This increase has helped replace the losses as a result of a global decline in Japanese travel.

According to GVB general manager Karl Pangelinan, thanks to the diversified markets, Guam's tourism industry is not taking a big hit.

A look at the numbers shows the island welcomed over 109,000 visitors for the month of February with the federation of Russia up 168%, Korea up 25%, the Philippines up 36%, and U.S. mainland arrivals up 17%.


     

GEDA looking at Oka Point for next big hotel development

Posted: Mar 03, 2014 by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

Guam - Its considered one of the most attractive Government of Guam properties yet its been sitting idle for years. However that could all change as a determination of need was recently submitted expected to finally move the development of Oka Point forward.  

"Oka Point is obviously one of the jewels of the Government of Guam in terms of real estate and over the years there's been discussion of developing Oka Point for economic benefit," said GEDA chairman E.J. Calvo.

But before any of that can happen, island leaders are taking the necessary steps to ensure the approximately 38 acres of property can be developed. Just last month, the Governor's Office submitted to the Guam Legislature a determination of need for the exceptional term contract for the property that once housed the old Guam Memorial Hospital. "The determination of need is required by the recent law in order to lease property for over five years regarding CLTC property so its part of the process in seeking approval from the Governor's Office as well as the Legislature before we officially go out for RFP," he said.

The Chamorro Land Trust Commission is proposing a lease term of up to 50 years with one or more options to extend the term for an additional 49 years. The property is likely to require an investment of more than $180 million. Calvo says the agency is working closely with CLTC on uses that will not only generate revenue but draw new investment to the island.

"Obviously the proximity to Tumon and Hotel Row calls for potential hotel development and perhaps other attractions that will be vital in our hotel industry," he said.

Another selling point is its proximity to a Chamorro cultural center and possibly using the property as a venue for large scale events like regional and international meetings, conventions and entertainment. GVB general manager Karl Pangelinan said, "It's adding to the opportunity for development it's not set in stone that it's going to be a hotel room, there's a very good likelihood that whomever chooses to develop it will make a hotel facility and we've been very, very loud about the need for additional rooms here on Guam so anything adding to that opportunity we're very, very supportive of."

It was late last year, when GVB and GEDA presented Oka Point to hundreds of members from the premier hotel investment community during the hotel investment conference Asia Pacific in Hong Kong. It was considered the first step in marketing the property.

"We haven't been contacted by any specific investors, but we are aware of several potential hotel developments looking at Guam," he said.

Calvo says he doesn't anticipate any major challenge in working with lawmakers as for over a decade, it was actually the legislature who supported development at Oka Point.

      

GovGuam website woes

Monday, 03 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

IN HIS 2011 State of the Island address, Gov. Eddie Calvo said the conversion and integration of GovGuam services into information technology platforms would be one of the “critical solutions” the administration would implement to help reduce the $349 million debt the government faced at the beginning of his term.

“Our long-term goal is to offer more government services through agency websites, cutting down traffic on the roads and lines in the agencies,” Calvo said in his 2011 speech. Thus, three years ago, the administration created about 30 websites for the agencies under its jurisdiction.

The governor’s website is one of the few agencies that produce timely, relevant content. As of yesterday, its most recent post was dated Feb. 28, 2014.

In contrast, the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency site has no current posts, and has yet to upload a recent staffing pattern. The most recent staffing pattern available online is from fiscal 2011. Meanwhile, there is no current or prior Guam Police Department staffing pattern on its website and as of yesterday, its organizational chart was also unavailable.

Of the 70 websites listed on the directory on www.guam.gov, the Office of Technology is responsible for oversight and maintenance of about 30 agencies’ websites. However, William Castro, Office of Technology acting chief technology officer, said his office is not responsible for the content. Each individual agency is responsible for what is published on its pages.

The Office of Technology was established just last year.

Intent

The intent of the office is to advise and make recommendations to government agencies regarding their information systems as well as to oversee the coordination of the government’s technical infrastructure.

However, the Office of Technology’s jurisdiction is extended only to the agencies under the executive branch, excluding the legislative and judicial branches, as stated in Section 20201 of P.L. 32-10.

P.L. 32-10 is the same law responsible for the creation of the Office of Technology as a division of the Department of Administration. Sens. Tommy Morrison, Benjamin Cruz and Tony Ada sponsored the bill to establish the office.

For fiscal 2014, $2 million was appropriated to the office as stated in P.L. 32-68. According to DOA’s staffing pattern, 17 positions are listed under the Data Processing agency – the Office of Technology – which has also been referred to as the Bureau of Technology. The same staffing pattern notes that $984,000 in salary wages is paid to the 17 employees.

According to Michael John, co-founder of www.guamhost.com, a local web design and hosting company, the cost of website hosting is dependent on how much space and bandwidth a website needs. “Costs depend on the limit you have on your web hosting space and web hosting bandwidth,” John said. “Bandwidth is a space consumed by the visitors who viewed your website.”

A basic web-hosting plan with 100 megabytes of data space would limit a company. Only a certain number of files could be uploaded, or a certain number of emails could be received before the 100 megabytes of allowed space is used up. “Therefore you have to upgrade your plan eventually or else you won’t be able to upload anything or receive any email, unless you delete some of your content or upgrade your plan,” John added.

Moreover, traffic, or the number of people who visit a website, could also influence the cost of web hosting. Increased traffic would require a larger amount of bandwidth space, John said.

Cost

The cost to host a website differs among companies. GuamHost charges $5.95 a month for a basic plan with 500 MB of data space, while Docomo Pacific charges $25 a month for its basic plan. The average cost to host a website, however, is about $10, John said.

Based on these costs, yearly rates could range from about $72 to $300 to host a single website.

Castro confirmed about a third of the 30 government websites under his office’s jurisdiction are hosted on the Office of Technology servers, while other agencies opt to outsource their website design and maintenance to private companies.

Additional costs to website hosting include the cost of a server and a domain name.

Currently, GuamHost does not host any GovGuam websites, John said.

Phone calls and messages from the Variety to the Office of Technology about the government websites were not answered.

As of yesterday, all but six of the 70 links to government websites listed on the GovGuam web directory were in working order.

Links to the Guam Contractor’s License Board and Guam Preservation Trust pages revealed that these sites had expired domain names.

Links to Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo, the Port Authority of Guam and the Guam Office of the Attorney General directed visitors to incorrect pages.

Of the 30 sites under the authorized scope of the Office of Technology, the only website that remained inaccessible due to a server error was the Office of Technology.

Transparency

In the same State of the Island address three years ago, Calvo said his chief of staff “instituted a transparency policy through the government, removing any existing gag orders and (directed) the release of timely public information.”

As of yesterday, clicking the “Transparency” tab on the www.guam.gov menu directed the visitor to an empty web page.

Additionally, many of the GovGuam websites have the same interface. Castro said the sites are created with a template, which accounts for their near-identical design. Of the 70 websites listed in the web directory, some government sites open to the same welcoming remarks co-signed by the governor and lieutenant governor, the same remarks published on the home page of www.guam.gov.

“Welcome to the government of Guam. We are proud of the initiatives we are undertaking to make the government work better for you,” it states. “The web site you are about to navigate is evolving based on our vision to bring services closer to you. You can find news about financial data, information on programs and a list of who works in your government.

“The Bureau of Information Technology is improving websites government-wide at our direction. We want you to have access to more services online.”

The same remarks are posted on about 18 government websites.

 

OAG supports suit against feds

Monday, 03 Mar 2014 03:00am

BY GINA TABONARES-REILLY | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

Says CERCLA is not new idea

(First in a two-part series)

THE Office of the Attorney General has expressed its support for the intent of Bill 281-32 which would appropriate funds to hire environmental experts that will determine whether there is a viable claim against the U.S. government under the Comprehensive Environment Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) or Superfund.

Bill 281, introduced by Sen. Chris Duenas, seeks the appropriation of $350,000 to retain qualified legal services of a private law firm that will establish if there are justifiable claims for a government of Guam lawsuit against the federal government.

“We stand ready, willing and able to work with the executive and legislative branches to effectuate the intent of Bill No. 281-32 to pursue an action against the federal government for Superfund or other federal monies for the cleanup of the Ordot Dump, if viable claims exist,” the Office of the Attorney General stated in written testimony they submitted to the Office of Sen. Ben Pangelinan, the chairman of the committee that will handle the proposed measure.

Not noble

In an interview with the Variety, Deputy Attorney General for Civil Litigation J. Patrick Mason and Assistant Attorney General Kat A. Fokas explained that the idea of suing the U.S. government under CERCLA was not a novel idea and, in fact, was the subject of research and a number of consultations by the Office of the Attorney General for years.

Fokas said in 2010, former AG Alicia G. Limtiaco, now U.S. attorney for Guam and the CNMI, sought the help of the National Association of Attorneys General to circulate an inquiry and request assistance for research as to whether GovGuam can access the Superfund program to support the closure of Ordot Dump.

In a letter dated May 10, 2010, the former AG mentioned that the issue of using CERCLA for the costs of closing Ordot Dump “has arisen several times over the years.”

Belying accusations that the OAG did not pursue the claim against the U.S. government, Mason said that for years they researched, consulted and even sent one assistant attorney general to attend an environmental law seminar in Bethesda, Md., and spoke with environmental lawyers about the likelihood of success in a suit against the federal government for Superfund monies.

Mason said letters were sent to different conference speakers discussing Guam’s situation, copies of which were provided to the Variety.

Fokas wrote letters to Bill Shafford, the manager of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Voluntary Cleanup Program; to Edward Hammerberg, chief of the Technical Services Division of the Maryland Department of the Environment; and to Raymond Leclerc, the assistant deputy director of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control in an attempt to explore potential claims against the U.S. Navy.

Responding to claims by the Office of the Governor that the OAG failed to pursue the CERCLA, the AG’s office said that in addition to legal research, they consulted with an environmental law professor at the Florida State University College of Law in Tallahassee, Fla.

In a filing before the District Court of Guam in September 2013, the OAG told the court that they consulted with Robin Kundis Craig, attorneys’ title insurance fund professor at FSU. She specializes in the Clean Water Act and is the author of “The Clean Water Act and the Constitution” and “Environmental Law in Context: Cases and Materials.” Craig is also an author of more than 40 law review articles and book chapters and serves as chair of the American Bar Association’s Constitutional Environmental Law Committee.

Not viable

According to Fokas, based on their extensive research and consultation, it was concluded that the government of Guam does not have a viable counterclaim for contribution against the United States and based on available evidence, they concluded that GovGuam does not believe that a separate claim against the U.S. would be successful.

Fokas and Mason said they met and discussed a possible suit against the federal government with the governor’s former legal counsel, Maria Cenzon, now a Superior Court judge. And on Oct. 9, 2013 they talked with the governor‘s current legal counsel, Sandra Miller, and the governor’s chief policy advisor, Arthur Clark, and shared their legal research and the bases of their conclusion.

During the meeting, Fokas presented their findings wherein the Clean Water Act was deemed to be best suited when Ordot Dump was an operating municipal landfill and it was an active waste disposal area.

“Now that the dump is closed, maybe the claim for Superfund monies is now ripe,” Fokas added. She said they shared all their findings with the governor’s counsel and suggested that if the governor’s office has contrary research or information supporting a justifiable claim, they would review it and work with Adelup.

However, the OAG said it has not heard anything from the governor’s office since October 2013 about the matter.

“The AG completely agrees that if there’s a viable claim, it should definitely be pursued. We agreed that before spending the full amount of Bill 281 proposed appropriation, it may be prudent to seek a preliminary evaluation from the private law firm retained as to whether justifiable claims exist against the federal government and, if so, the likelihood of success,” Mason said.

Complexity

The OAG said the complexity of the federal environmental statutes requires the legal specialization of a private law firm specializing in environmental law.

The OAG added that it has no objection to the Office of the Governor hiring a private environmental law firm for as long as the Guam procurement laws and regulations are complied with and the final contract is submitted to the OAG for approval.

The OAG suggested some additional language to the proposed measure including its appearance as co-counsel with the law firm selected, especially if the selected firm is from off-island.

The attorney general recommended a two-part process wherein the private law firm should provide an evaluation of potential viable claims and if the government of Guam decides to pursue any claims then a contingency-fee agreement may be entered into. (Tomorrow: The attorney general’s relationship with Adelup and the receiver)

 

    

Guam Regional Medical City hosts wellness workshop

Friday, 28 Feb 2014 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

GUAM Regional Medical City hosted a three-part wellness workshop yesterday evening at the Heavenly Veggies eatery in Upper Tumon.

In celebration of National Heart Month, the hospital decided to hold a workshop centered on heart health.

Dr. Edwin Supit led the first part of the workshop, speaking to attendees about general wellness, with his presentation entitled “Practical Approaches to Winning Health Success for Guam.” Supit is owner of Heavenly Veggies and an internal medicine physician at the FHP Clinic.

The second part of the workshop was led by partners from Guam Memorial Hospital. Renee Veksler, a health educator at GMH, spoke about managing time for wellness, according to Carlos Pangelinan, GRMC communication and community relations officer.

“She (spoke) about managing your time so that it’s conducive to doing healthy-heart activities,” Pangelinan said.

The third part of the workshop was conducted by a GRMC staffer who is a registered aerobics instructor. Charlotte Huntsman, who was announced as the human resource manager last month, conducted a light aerobic exercise session for 10 to 15 minutes.

GRMC decided to conduct the workshop to showcase just how the hospital fulfills its motto of patients being partners, Pangelinan said.

The event was open to the public, with the first 30 participants receiving a free $25 gas card. All participants walked away with a GRMC tote bag filled with information about health and wellness.

“This is (our) first (wellness workshop). We’ve got a lot of people here. We got a response that is at a level I didn’t expect,” Pangelinan said. “I think we’re going to have to schedule a couple more.”

Pangelinan added that Supit is not an employee of GRMC. “He’s just teaming up with us because he’s been doing this for a long, long time and he’s been very good at it.”

The new hospital is slated to open later this year. “These are the kinds of activities that people should be engaging in and as a hospital we want them to be engaging in these kinds of activities because wellness is a very important thing and that’s our business,” Pangelinan said.

         

‘DOD budget plans won’t affect Guam’

Friday, 28 Feb 2014 03:00am

BY MAR-VIC CAGURANGAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Pentagon’s budget-related plans to adjust forces and modify defense priorities will have no impact on the planned relocation of Marines from Okinawa to Guam at this point, according to Rear Adm. Tilghman D. Payne, commander of Joint Region Marianas.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday announced his department’s plans to shrink the U.S. Army to pre-World War II levels, eliminate the A-10 aircraft and reduce military benefits in order to meet the new spending caps imposed by Congress for 2015.

“The Air Force is reducing a little bit and the Navy is about where we are going to be. The Army is drawing down almost below pre-World War II levels. That’s hard but I don’t think the other services are going to see that,” Payne said, adding that the Marines will not see as much reduction as the Army.

“The Marine Corps is coming down from 200,000 to about 182,000,” he said.

Hagel said the Pentagon plans to reduce the size of the Army to between 440,000 and 450,000 soldiers, from the current force of 520,000.

“I don’t think it will affect us very much but it all depends on how that plays out and how it’s going to be implemented,” Payne said.

A two-year bipartisan budget agreement reached by Congress in December alleviated some of the funding pressure on the Department of Department. However, the deal still leads to spending cuts for the department by $31 billion in 2014 and another $45 billion in 2015.

For fiscal 2015, the Pentagon's budget is pegged at $496 billion, about the same level as the current fiscal year.

When asked how the defense budget slash may affect funding for Guam, Payne replied, “I think that remains to be seen and how we’re going to execute the plan.”

As for the Marines who will be stationed on Guam from Okinawa, Payne said he expects at least of half them to live off-base.

“Of all the things that we need to build to accommodate the Marine Corps, the housing is one that is really expensive,” Payne said.

He noted that the cost of building housing facilities on Guam is about two and a half times more than the amount incurred in the mainland.

“If we need to build 750 homes, that’s a huge bill. I don’t think we can afford that. I don’t think we have other alternatives but to have folks live out in town,” Payne said.

Such an option, he added, is not all that bad, considering it would help facilitate the service members’ integration into the host community rather than keeping them in a military-exclusive neighborhood.

   

Chamber planning to build network in Asia

Thursday, 27 Feb 2014 03:00am

BY MAR-VIC CAGURANGAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE Guam Chamber of Commerce is seeking to enhance business relations with Southeast Asian countries, lured by the promising opportunities offered by the world's fastest expanding marketplace and rising middle class.

"Guam is the U.S. in Asia and we should be taking advantage of opportunities in the periphery," said David Leddy, president of the Guam Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber is building a Regional Business Alliance to try to spot the region's best investment scenes that Guam businesses can tap into, Leddy said.

The world's economists and market analysts have been tracking Southeast Asia's economic boom. Investors have identified the region as one of the few sparkling spots for investment returns. Forbes magazine refers to Southeast Asia as "the scene of a modern-day gold rush as international companies clamor to get a piece of the action."'

"We are right in the proximity of these economies," Leddy said. "This is one of the reasons why we are collaborating with Asian businesses, American chambers and other trade organizations. We want to see what opportunities we can identify for Guam businesses in Asia, where we can form possible business partnerships."

He said the commerce chamber is trying to build networks "from the ground up to connect business to business directly."

Leddy is heading to Manila next month for the Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce's 2014 Spring Summit scheduled for March 20 and 21.

The Asia-Pacific chamber, which consists of 26 American chamber members in 19 economies in the Asia-Pacific region, holds the conference every year to gather executives for in-depth discussions of key issues facing the multinational business community and networking.

According to the Asia-Pacific chamber's website, this year's theme is "Asia's Resurgence and America's Role."

Rising tigers

The Philippines is one of Southeast Asia's fast emerging economic tigers, with an economy that expanded by 7.4 percent last year. Economists attribute its growth to strong consumer demand that continues to make up the bulk of the country's gross domestic product.

The devastation caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan requires rebuilding efforts that are expected to further prop up the country's economy.

Morgan Stanley also focuses on Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, projecting a collective growth of 4.5 percent that will outpace the 3.1 percent global growth estimate in 2013.

Of particular interest to the Guam Chamber of Commerce is Vietnam, which is in construction mode.

Peter Sgro, chairman of the Guam chamber's board, recently returned from Hanoi and said the total value of infrastructure projects prepared for development at both the central and provincial government levels in Vietnam is more than $40 billion.

The chamber's board recently approved a motion advocating for a visa waiver program for Vietnam.

 done at the end of this month."


Solid waste racking up millions in debt

Wednesday, 26 Feb 2014 03:00am

BY GINA TABONARES-REILLY | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

 (Last in a three-part series)

WHEN the government of Guam floated the 2009 bond series dedicated to solid waste consent decree projects, the Guam Solid Waste Authority under the receiver was expected to reimburse the government for the debt service and operating expenses of the island’s waste management program.

David Manning, principal for federal receiver Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc., earlier told Variety that GSWA started its reimbursement in December 2011 with $375,000 a month or $4.5 million a year but did not confirm how much had been contributed to the government’s  coffers.

The Department of Administration confirmed yesterday that through the end of fiscal 2012 the total shortfall for the expected reimbursement to the general fund was $6 million and $13.5 million through the end of fiscal 2013.

The governor’s office said it anticipates that at the end of fiscal 2014, the shortfall will be $19.8 million.

“The shortfall figure is how much the waste-management program set up by the receiver is coming up short on the debt service reimbursement, which has to be subsidized by the general fund and the taxpayers of Guam,” said Arthur Clark, chief policy advisor of the governor’s office.

Clark said the receiver designed a financial plan that will raise waste collection rates by 50 percent over current rates with the intention of only covering 75 percent of the total debt service and operating expenses of GSWA.

Up front

“Mr. Manning has been up front in saying his financial model was never intended to be self-sustaining. The receiver has no plans and has made no recommendations to the government on how to bridge the 25 percent gap. As you can see from current plans, going forward, the program will be running a deficit of about $6 million to $6.5 million annually,” Clark said.

The receiver, in its Feb. 19 filings, stated GovGuam has been making erroneous arguments – that the receiver, through GSWA, has been imposing tens of millions of dollars in additional liabilities on Guam resulting in a negative impact on Guam’s public finances.

“Yet the government of Guam has no interest in the settlement agreement or the underlying dispute in which hundreds of thousands of GSWA dollars are clearly at stake. This position is clearly at odds with its own recent arguments with GovGuam’s responsibilities under the consent decree as well as numerous orders of the court,” the receiver said.

In the same filing, the receiver informed the court that it will temporarily stop GSWA’s current payments to GovGuam for the debt service and apply the fund to the completion of the unfunded projects, currently estimated to require an additional $19.9 million.

“This would not imperil the bonds since the bonds are paid entirely from Section 30 funds, but it would have an effect on GovGuam’s general fund,” the receiver said.

The receiver added that it can fund the projects, but it would mean a delay of two to three years to the transition timeline, meaning the receivership will be extended and GSWA will take over around 2018 and not in 2015 as originally planned.

Off assessment

The high price of having clean water could have been avoided if the right measurement report was not ignored, according to Clark.

He said GovGuam was sued for violations of the Clean Water Act, alleging environmental contamination of the river because the original projection were parts per million instead of parts per billion.

The Ordot landfill is located in the Lonfit River valley in the central part of the island. It is unlined and continually discharges leachate into the adjacent watershed. The leachate is heavy metal enriched and its impact on the edible quality of aquatic resources in the area has been a longstanding concern of local residents.

However, a 2007 report of an environmental study conducted by Gary Denton, Morten Olsen and Yuming Wen of the Water and Environmental Research Institute of the Western Pacific (WERI) stated that a chemical analysis of abiotic and biotic components within the watershed failed to find any evidence of metal enrichment. Rather, the data suggested that climactic and topographic conditions continually conspire to produce natural cleansing processes that prevent metal accumulation in the area.

The study described the Lonfit and Pågo Rivers as relatively clean from a heavy-metal standpoint, and sediments show little enrichment apart from the leachate streams themselves around their points of confluence with the Lonfit River.

WERI noted that a mild lead enrichment discovered at the southern end of Pågo Bay was the site of a disused military firing range and presumably linked to past military activities.

And because Guam has a tropical, wet-dry climate, WERI said the metal inputs from the landfill into the Lonfit River are seasonally dependent.

“During dry weather, low stream flow conditions prevail and metals entering the river from the landfill tend to accumulate in bottom sediments close to zones of leachate impaction. During the wet season, the Lonfit River, like most narrow steep-banked streams that drain the volcanic uplands of Guam, is periodically subjected to flash flooding. Under such conditions, stream flow is of sufficient to scour debris from the river bed, erode embankments and dislodge trees and other vegetation,” WERI reported.

Leachate

WERI added that pockets of contaminated sediment that accumulate in the leachate streams and at points of confluence with the river are swept downstream into the Pågo River and out into the bay.

“This process naturally cleanses the Lonfit-Pågo river system of potentially persistent contaminants that might otherwise accumulate in bottom deposit and impact aquatic food chains in these waters,” WERI concluded.

So what does this study mean to taxpayers? Clark said a solution to the Ordot Dump problem can be accomplished less expensively.

“I have engineers telling me that the only thing being addressed in the Clean Water Act is the water, and if it’s contamination coming out of the dump, the way to fix is to cap it, put a big tarp over the dump and you won’t have water running through it. If you won’t have water coming down through it you won’t have leachate coming out of the dump,” Clark said.

He reiterated that the Ordot Dump closure is inevitable and the administration supports the idea of closing the 60-year-old dump; but now that the dump is closed and the dumping of garbage is over, the administration does not understand the receiver’s decision to rush the awarding of the contract for the environmental closure of the dump to Black Construction Corp.

“What’s the rush? The dump is closed and while we are trying to pursue a case to recover past and future costs of closing the landfill, the receiver rushed the awarding of the contract,” Clark said.

Tomorrow, the District Court of Guam will hear the receiver’s complaint about the lack of legal help from the law firm hired to represent the governor’s office.

The hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m.


Chamber eyes Vietnam visa waiver

Wednesday, 26 Feb 2014 03:00am     BY MAR-VIC CAGURANGAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

IN LINE with Guam's efforts to diversify the tourism market and enhance trade relations with Asian neighbors, the Guam Chamber of Commerce is now seeking to tap into the Vietnamese traveler market.

David Leddy, president of the chamber, said the board of directors recently approved a motion to advocate for a visa waiver program for Vietnam.

Leddy said the board's action is "in keeping with the Guam Chamber's Regional Business Alliance efforts to promote greater collaboration, investment and economic opportunities between Guam and Asia-Pacific."

Board chairman Peter Sgro said he recently met with William Marshak, commercial attaché for the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, and discussed the possibility of a visa waiver for travelers from Vietnam.

"Mr. Marshak was very receptive to a Vietnam visa waiver program," Sgro said in a report to the Chamber from Hanoi.

"He identified several points he felt reduced risks. We both agreed that if a Russia visa waiver program was approved for Russians, then an application for a Vietnam visa waiver program also had merit," he said.

The country's flag air carrier, Vietnam Air, is expected to meet Federal Aviation Administration guidelines soon.

Sgro said if there is sufficient demand for direct flights to Guam, the federal government may likely support a Guam-only visa waiver for Vietnamese travelers.

Economists have noted the signs of Vietnam's economic recovery, with gross domestic product growing 5.42 percent last year from 5.25 percent in 2012.

But traveling abroad can be a challenge for Vietnamese. During a tourism conference in Hanoi last month, industry stakeholders noted that several countries and territories have tightened their visa policies for Vietnamese tourists due to the large number of tourists overstaying their visas to work illegally.

Support

Sgro cited the following points that he said can possibly support a proposal for Vietnam visa waiver program:

The United States is now selling non-lethal military armament to Vietnam, with at least one transaction worth $450 million involving the purchase of satellites from Lockheed Martin, patrol helicopters and sea border patrol planes;

  • Vietnam is marking the 20th anniversary of the United States lifting the trade embargo this month;

  • Full diplomatic relations began five years after the lifting of the trade embargo;

  • Bilateral trade agreement between the United States and Vietnam already exists and;

  • Vietnam is one of the 12 Pacific Rim countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks, in which 12 country negotiators are currently discussing issues including tariff elimination and intellectual property rights.

    Multi-billion projects



    Sgro also noted considerable investment into Vietnam, which he said also creates economic opportunities for Guam.

    "Some private companies investing (in Vietnam) with large infrastructure funds in place maintain significant cash reserves to invest in other countries, including the United States," he said in an email to Chamber members.

    Sgro said his meeting with Marshak mainly involved discussions relative to private financing for very large infrastructure projects.

    "One highway project alone for its construction, maintenance and operations is estimated at $4 billion and will be completely privately financed," Sgro said.

    "The total infrastructure projects prepared for development at both the central and provincial government level is in excess of $40 billion. We discussed the final phase of the Vietnam government establishing Build-Own-Operate and Build-Own-Transfer laws. It is expected that the final drafts of these laws will be

  • New recycling bill
  • Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014 03:00am

    BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    Based on recent estimates, the expected life of the landfill will only be from 35 to 40 years with the military as a customer, and 45 to 50 years without the military. Variety file photo

    Bill 279 to divert glass bottle waste from Layon

    A NEW recycling bill has been introduced in the Legislature which seeks to recycle discarded glass bottles and divert them from being dumped at the Layon landfill.

    Introduced by Sens. Tina Muña-Barnes and Aline Yamashita, Bill 279 also provides for a sustainable materials management study and a one-year operationally based pilot project that will assist in the development of beneficially re-using glass bottles.

    Currently, the Guam Solid Waste Authority has successfully developed and implemented an islandwide system that is engaged in capturing recyclable products like paper, cardboard and aluminum. However, glass is not yet being recycled on Guam due to the lack of economies of scale. This despite the broad array of options involved in the recycling of glass products, Muña-Barnes said

    The solid waste agency estimates that approximately 120,000 pounds of glass bottles are disposed of each month at the Layon landfill. At this rate, Muña-Barnes warned that in less than 10 years, Guam could have more than 1 million pounds of glass taking up precious space in the island’s only landfill.

    Given Guam’s limited and valuable land resource and its fragile environment, the senator stressed that an effort must be made to foster the recycling and beneficial re-use of glass. She pointed out that Bill 279 can serve as a companion to both the Bottle Bill Law and also to Zero Waste Resolution 189 that was adopted by the Legislature.

    Bill 279 provides support for a private company to develop a solution for glass recycling. Muña-Barnes said it has been demonstrated over the years that public-private partnerships work when it comes to recycling and Bill 279 creates a “policy nexus” for a public-private partnership to resolve the long standing issue of recycling glass on Guam.

    Bill 279, which is envisioned as a pilot project that will only last for a year, takes its lead from Zero Waste Resolution 189, which was a bipartisan policy resolution introduced by Muña-Barnes, Yamashita, and Sens. Rory Respicio, Tony Ada, Benjamin Cruz and Brant McCreadie.

    Resolution 189 found that based on recent estimates, the expected life of the landfill will only be from 35 to 40 years with the military as a customer, and 45 to 50 years without the military. In addition, the life span of the landfill can be extended only with effective implementation of waste reduction, recycling, resource recovery, and beneficial re-use programs.

    The guiding principles of the resolution’s zero waste vision are: managing resources instead of waste; conserving natural resources through waste prevention and recycling; turning discarded resources into jobs and new products instead of trash; promoting products and materials that are durable and recyclable; and discouraging products and materials that can only become trash after their use. Resolution 189 also called for the Guam Environmental Protection Agency to recognize the zero waste philosophy by embracing the idea of "sustainable materials management” rather than “solid waste management.”

    Muña-Barnes said she recognizes and supports Guam EPA’s move in this direction through their recently announced Zero Waste Pacific Regional Conference that will take place this May.

    “The road to developing environmental justice for all who call Guam home through meaningful and productive public policy requires hard work and a great deal of diligence. Bill 279 is an important part of pursuing sustainability for our island,” Muña-Barnes said.

    “My commitment to the cause of preserving our environment for future generations is as strong today as it was in the beginning, and I look forward to working with the members of the Legislature and the governor to make Bill 279 a public law,” she added.

    Comments  

     

    +2 #1 Paul Tobiason 2014-02-25 15:33

    I like the wording in "Guiding Principles". what we think of as waste is really a resource. Local craftspersons could create lamps and tables using crushed glass. Andersen AFB is still operating their glass pulverizer.

    Inspirational author to speak tonight on leadership lessons

    Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014 03:00am

    BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    BUSINESSWOMAN and author Herta von Steigel will be at the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa to discuss her book “The Mountain Within—Leadership Lessons and Inspirations for your Climb to the Top” tonight at 6 p.m.

    The Seventh Day Adventist Guam Clinic organized and sponsored tonight’s event which will feature dinner with von Steigel and a screening of a documentary about her. The proceeds derived from the event will go toward the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

    The founder and CEO of Ariya Capital Group, a fund management firm that focuses on sustainable ventures and private equity investments in Africa, von Steigel also spearheaded a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro, which is the inspiration behind the lessons in her book and the focus of the documentary.

    Tonight, von Steigel will address the obstacles and achievements she experienced as she was part of the troupe that trekked up Kilimanjaro and her experience as it pertains to the making of the film and writing her book.

    The book was published in 2011, following her Kilimanjaro experience. In it, von Steigel writes of 16 leadership lessons for business professionals.

    The film, titled “The Mountain Within,” was released in 2009 in the United Kingdom. It follows 28 people, seven of whom are individuals with disabilities, as they climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. The premiere tonight will be the first screening in the Pacific Rim area, a letter from SDA stated.

    The film won three film festival awards and has been recognized by other festivals. At the Mountain Film Festival in California, it secured the Best Documentary award, as well as Official Selection Rossland award and the Official Selection award at the Beach Film Festival.

    She was also recognized as a Truly Amazing Woman, a multimedia project that recognizes the notable achievements of modern women from all over the world. Creator Hope Katz Gibbs recognized von Steigel for her book and her business ventures. Prior to founding the Ariya Capital Group, von Steigel worked in leadership positions at Citibank, JP Morgan and AIG Financial Products.

    She received her master of law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan before beginning her career as a tax lawyer. In 2008, she established Ariya Capital with 25 years of experience in international finance under her belt.

    Bickering causing more solid waste woes

    Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014 03:00am

    BY GINA TABONARES-REILLY | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

     (Part two of a three-part series)

    THE 12-year-old solid waste case now in its 10th year under a consent decree is a complex case involving a lot of parties, personalities and lawyers all playing important roles in pursuit of resolving the garbage crisis.

    When the case was brought against the government of Guam in 2002, the main players in the case were the Office of the Governor and the Solid Waste Management Division of the Department of Public Works as respondents. The respondents’ legal representative was the civil prosecutor of the Office of the Attorney General.

    The complainant, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was represented by the U.S. attorney’s office.

    After years of noncompliance, lack of financial commitment and no cooperation between executive and legislative branches to meet the mandates of the consent decree, the federal court appointed a receiver, Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc. (GBB), which took the place of the defendant, making large and small decisions, including financial decisions to ensure compliance with the court's decree.

    The receiver, who collects a service fee out of a 2009 bond, works hand-in-hand with the OAG and Guam EPA for all procurement processes for projects outlined in the closure of Ordot Dump and the opening of the Layon landfill.

    After a while, parties were added to the case, particularly former landowners of the Layon landfill property who are still trying to collect $28 million for the condemnation of the land.

    When a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship between the OAG and Office of the Governor was recognized by the court, Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood ordered the substitution of the OAG with private law firm the Cabot Mantanona LLP.

    Break off

    The issues and accusations manifested in legal briefs surrounding the battle between the Office of the Attorney General and Adelup.

    Until now, it is not clear when the break between the two elected offices actually started and whether it was political or a clash of legal execution over policy decisions.

    The OAG said the indifference toward them began in May 2013 when Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio perceived that the OAG was reluctant to agree with the release of bond proceeds to pay $25 million owed to the former landowners of Layon that includes the family of the governor.

    “It has quickly escalated in the last few months. The court finds that there is a lack of communication between the OAG and the lieutenant governor and this lack of communication has led to a relationship clouded by an atmosphere of noncooperation,” the OAG said in a press statement sent by OAG spokeswoman Carlina Charfauros.

    The receiver insisted on not paying the former landowners using the remaining bond money, declaring a shortage of funds to complete all the remaining consent decree projects including the closure of Ordot Dump.

    GBB’s decision got the ire of the former landowners who called the receiver biased and partial.

    “GBB has been treating the consent decree funds as its own personal bank account,” Jay Trickett, attorney for one of the landowners, stated in his July court filings.

    Arthur Clark, the governor’s chief policy advisor, said the “break-off” started when the OAG declared that its client is the receiver and not the Office of the Governor.

    He said the OAG's declaration elicited reactions from off-island lawyers saying it was “unheard of and unprecedented.”

    “When I was in private practice we dealt with receivers before. The party in receivership always has its interest in the proceedings because at one point in time he will be out of the receivership. His interests do not merge with the receiver. The receiver’s job there is basically to hit the party over the head because they won’t do or are not doing some work,” Clark said.

    There is a natural adversarial relationship between the receiver and the party in receivership, according to Clark. That’s why the party in receivership needs to get an independent lawyer to make sure that the receiver is not pushing them too far.

    “The problem here is the OAG is jumping on board for the receiver and will do whatever the receiver will ask them to do. Isn’t it interesting that the receiver never had a single counsel of its own in this whole process. Why? Because they’ve been relying on the AG’s office services,” the policy advisor said.

    According to Clark, when he spoke with the OAG lawyers, he was told that the government lawyers believe there is a CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act) law. However, when the OAG consulted some environmental lawyers, they were told that there’s no way they can bring a lawsuit against the U.S. Navy.

    “The attorney general’s office has just expressed that they don’t have the interest in going forward with it – that’s why we really have to take the litigation away from them to move forward,” Clark said.

    Carte blanche

    “When the court appointed the receiver I spoke with a lawyer of the past administration and told them that if you don’t challenge this decision in the court, it was like giving somebody unrestricted power and unconditional authority, a ‘carte blanche’ (like giving a signed blank check),” Clark said.

    “They get to avoid procurement. The receiver says we only have to follow the procurement if we have to and if we don’t we don’t. They don’t have to go through the standard procurement, they only do it for window dressing. The receiver said he gets to decide when he wants to follow the procurement law,” he said.

    No accountability

    Citing a court record during a condemnation action to build a Dandan road, Clark said that road design created by the receiver’s contractors entailed a long access road around the NASA tracking station only to find out that the lease was amended previously before the road construction, costing the project $20 million instead of having a straight road for a few million dollars.

    The expensive road project was also mentioned by Trickett in one of the former landowner’s filings saying the receiver’s contractors created a road design based on a wrong  map which resulted in an inaccurate depiction of the size and location of the NASA tracking station. As a result, Trickett stated in a court filing that the access road and utility lines were significantly extended in order to avoid crossing a property line that was actually several hundred feet away.

    “This was professional incompetency. Who will be held responsible for that? Who’s going after the engineers? Who is going after the land surveyor? It should have been the attorney general’s office or the receiver but he doesn’t see that as his job. His job is just to spend the money. They know all of this; they’re not doing anything about it because the receiver doesn’t want to,” Clark said.

    Comments  

     

    0 #1 Mathew 2014-02-25 16:49

    Arthur B. Clark, the Governor's chief policy advisor, said in a news item in the PDN that the lawsuit against the Federal Government over the Dump could not have been pursued in an earlier period because it was still open. That sounds like a reasonable argument, but how come this lawsuit idea, which has bi-partisan appeal across party lines -- it always does when it comes to suing the Feds -- is initiated during the "waning days" of the Calvo administration's first 4 years in office, when the Dump was already closed for some period of time? The timing is highly suspect especially given the coincidental raging debate over the job performance of the Receiver, which I believe is a red herring. In other words, it is easy to beat up on the Receiver for no good reason, which also has bipartisan appeal, since the Receiver is appointed by the Courts, which local politicians see as an affront or challenge to their, the elected officials, credibility and job performance skills.




    AG conflicting roles

    Tuesday, 18 Feb 2014 03:00am

    BY GINA TABONARES-REILLY | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    In gambling machine licensing case

    THE Office of the Attorney General is caught between upholding the law and performing its task as counsel for government of Guam agencies in the pending lawsuit filed by Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas against the governor of Guam and the Department of Revenue and Taxation in relation to the licensing of some 300 gambling machines.

    Rapadas also sued several owners and operators of the gaming machines including Atlas Amusement Enterprises, Guam Music Inc. and Darryl Styles.

    Yesterday, Sandra Miller, the chief legal counsel of the Office of the Governor, argued with Deputy Attorney General Patrick Mason before Judge Arthur Barcinas in an attempt to disqualify the OAG from representing either of the parties. She argued the OAG’s representation had conflicts of interest.

    Miller said the issue of gambling devices had been brought to the court previously and the AG’s office represented the government against Guam Music.

    “Based on Guam rules, a lawyer cannot represent both a plaintiff and the defendant, it is a strange type of relationship; if the AG represented the defendant before, he could get information that can be used against DRT,” Miller said.

    Because of the conflict, Miller said the AG’s office cannot represent Rapadas and DRT, or the court can use the conflict as grounds for dismissal of the case.

    Own counsel

    When Barcinas asked Mason about the rules when conflicts in legal representation occurred, the government attorney argued that DRT can get its own counsel.

    Mason insisted that the licenses of the gambling machines are illegal and the AG’s major role is to uphold the law.

    “When the court issued an order to follow the law, the governor’s office chose to ignore the law and now they are being inconsistent. All they have to do is question the role of the AG. You cannot defeat the statutory powers of the attorney general,” Mason said.

    Barcinas, however, expressed concern about the ambiguity of the rules and what procedure the OAG follows when conflicts happen.

    “It affects the entire government. The AG cannot just pick which one to defend. What will happen if DRT has no counsel to represent them? How do you choose which one you are going to represent? The OAG should have a procedure,” the judge said.

    Barcinas pointed out that the OAG has three conflicting roles in the gambling case – its role to enforce the law, as plaintiff, and as the lawyer of the line agency.

    Mason said it had happened in other cases and with the issuance of a waiver, the line agency can hire a different counsel.

    “When dual role collides, the court upheld that the public interest takes the precedent,” Mason explained.

    Miller responded by saying that the governor did not ignore the law because the question of whether the gambling machines are legal or not is not established yet.

    “When the two cases were dismissed, everything went away. The question of whether the gambling devices are illegal has never been answered. When the Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court it did not determine that they are illegal. Those machines are not illegal because there is no determination yet,” Miller said.

    Barcinas took the motion under advisement and has 90 days to issue a decision on the disqualification motion.


    Committee reviewing FY2015 budget proposal

    Posted: Feb 17, 2014 by Ken Quintanillakuam

    Guam - It was a few weeks ago when Governor Eddie Calvo submitted his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2015. The budget plan proposed $863.8 million in total revenue projections - an increase of approximately 7.3% compared with the amount identified in FY2014.

    Speaker Judi Won Pat says proposal is under review by the Legislature's Budget Committee. "Of course every time you have a higher budget it sounds good but we need to verify those numbers especially because there's some new things that is included there that we're not sure because if we can't even take care of some of our existing agencies then to start already implementing new programs and more money elsewhere to something we haven't done before, we just really need to look at the numbers carefully," she said.

    She adds on a lighter note that the governor's budget proposal makes a nice picture book.

    State of the Island Address Thursday at Plaza de Espana

    Posted: Feb 17, 2014 kuam

    by Ken Quintanilla

    Guam - Later this week Governor Eddie Calvo is set to deliver his last State of the Island Address for this term.

    Last year Governor Calvo said the Government of Guam was better than its been in 20 years. He even announced that the deficit was gone. So what we can expect in this year's address?  "There will definitely be groundbreaking announcements 0402 that really put the emphasis on where we're going," he said.

    And according to the governor's deputy press secretary Phil Leon Guerrero, while previous addresses have focused more about how the past shaped our present situation, expect a different story this year. "And so really we feel that we're at a point where the governor can really just focus on the future to let people know that we've come so far together and we can go even further now that we can invest in our future and invest in programs that we know will help the people of Guam generations from now," he said.

    Some of these programs include initiatives Governor Calvo has already announced in his Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal such as a universal pre-k program and a new teacher incentive program that would give teachers bonuses if their students have high achievement and high learning. Leon Guerrero says expect Calvo to roll out even more initiatives this Thursday.

    "Initiatives maybe that in the past we thought we could only dream about, but because we are where we are, because the deficit is gone, because we're managing our cash, because we're paying tax refunds now we're finally in a place financially for is to invest in the future to truly invest in the future," he said.

    Meanwhile residents can expect a change of venue this year as Governor Calvo will be delivering his State of the Island Address in the heart of Hagatna at the Plaza De Espana. "And we're really excited because the change of venue will just mean that are not only are public funds not going to be spent on this address, but also it's a chance for the island to come to the State of the Island Address," he said.

    But burning question remains though, just how long will the address be? "I think it will relatively shorter than prior speeches," he said.

    The state of the island takes place this Thursday at 6:30pm.

    Speaker Judi Won Pat meanwhile thinks it's unfortunate that the governor has decided to take the address out of the legislature. For as long as she can remember, the address has always been delivered from the legislature evening using the Session Hall, the Public Hearing Room and even the parking lot to accommodate people. "But I'm hoping that the State of the Island Address will be exactly what it is, the state of the island and I hope it's not going to be anything political. We want to know what the economy is like, what the financial state of affairs right now, how are we doing in every department and agency that he has oversight of," she said.

    Won pat also wants to hear about the accomplishments and challenges.

    In partnership with PBS Guam, KUAM will be broadcasting the governor's address on KUAM-TV11 and webcasting it live on KUAM.com.