Class action Tiyan land suit moves through federal court


Posted: Feb 26, 2015  by Krystal Paco  kuam

Guam - A class action case filed against the governor, Guam Ancestral Lands Commission, and Guam International Airport is moving through the District Court. A scheduling conference has been set for April 16th. On behalf of all other Tiyan ancestral landowners, Benny Crawford in January filed a class action complaint seeking compensation for the airport's continued use of their land which he says they were never compensated for.



Calvo: Federal funds available for clean water, clean air


Friday, 27 Feb 2015 03:00am


BY ROBERT Q. TUPAZ | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


WITH the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency breathing down the government of Guam’s neck regarding compliance on a host of issues, Gov. Eddie Calvo told Variety that the U.S. Department of Agriculture may be a godsend.


Earlier in the week, Calvo was in Washington attending the annual meeting of the Interagency Group on Insular Affairs (IGIA) where he had the opportunity to sit with USEPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

Calvo said he spoke with McCarthy and Vilsack about the looming debt of an estimated $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion, which the government of Guam will have to absorb in the coming years to come into compliance with USEPA regulations relative to the Clean Air and Clean Water Communities Act and other requirements.

Vilsack informed the governor that the Department of Agriculture might be able to assist with funding of sorts. “He (Vilsack) did make mention that there were some types of loans, and loan guarantee, particularly with water and wastewater,” Calvo said. “We are going to try and do a little more research with this.”

He said that upon his return to Guam, he looked forward to meeting with the Consolidated Commission on Utilities to explore this possibility further, instead of floating another bond.

The governor said he had asked McCarthy in her capacity as the USEPA administrator to pay particular attention to the host of mandates USEPA is requiring the government of Guam to address almost all at once.

“I advised her of some of the concerns that we had, obviously with the Clean Water and Clean Air Act, with the $1.4 billion to $1.5 billion financial burden that the people of Guam have to bear in regard to compliance of clean water and clean air communities,” Calvo said.

The governor said he urged McCarthy to instead take into account the aggregate of compliance.

“I did advise the administrator to look at the aggregate – the dump, because for example our judge is focusing only on Ordot and Layon, and nothing else, and she wants to complete that case, and it costs a lot of money,” he said. “The same way EPA wants us to comply with the Clean Water Act for the wastewater facility and some folks are looking at just that. ... And there are other folks at EPA looking at the Guam Power Authority for the Clean Air Act, and the emissions coming out of our smokestacks and that’s their focus.”

He said the message he wanted to hit home with McCarthy was that with all the mandates required of the island community which is home to more than 170,000 people, the community cannot afford the estimated $10,000 to $11,000 per person to pay for collective mandates.

“We are working toward seeing how they can be more understanding in terms of how we work these agreements with compliance so that the people of Guam can be able to afford the necessary rehabilitation, construction or capital improvement projects to come in compliance,” Calvo said.

“I want them to be fully aware that they have to look at everything and what it means to the consumer on Guam, and they have to make sure that in getting to full compliance, they don’t price this island and our people out of existence,” he said.


CCU: Renewable energy supplements power grid


Friday, 27 Feb 2015 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


  • THE days of Guam Power Authority having a monopoly of the energy market on the island are over, said Simon Sanchez, Consolidated Commission on Utilities member.

    Sanchez said plans to provide energy to the public in the future will have to include a combination of renewable resources and burning clean fuel. Sanchez addressed members of the Rotary Club of Guam at the club’s weekly luncheon at the Pacific Star Resort & Spa Guam.

    “The days when GPA was the monopoly provider, where we’re the only ones providing energy, are over,” Sanchez said. “We are going into the phase where we are a co-generator of power with renewable energy providers.”

    Sanchez said 200 people on Guam are already creating their own energy through private resources. By 2020, Sanchez estimated 120 megawatts would be generated by renewable energy.

    “Even with 120 megawatts of renewable energy, we need 250 megawatts of energy a day. We need it 24/7. Renewable energy can’t give 24-hour energy yet,” he said.

    It takes 150 acres of land to generate 25 megawatts of renewable energy, Sanchez said. Guam doesn’t have the space for those specifications.

    “You still have to burn something,” Sanchez said.

    In order to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clean air standards, territories and states are required to pursue clean fuel for energy resources, Sanchez said. Like Hawaii, Guam utility experts are eyeing liquefied natural gas (LNG) as an alternative fuel source to oil. Guam burns oil as a fuel source now and since oil prices have gone up, so have electricity rates.

    LNG

    Sanchez said electricity prices on island have risen 140 percent in the last 12 years and it is because of the increased oil prices.

    LNG is less expensive, Sanchez said. It would take a $600 million investment, but over 30 years, experts estimate LNG would save Guam $1 billion, he said. He compared power bills for ratepayers and said the average residential bill is about $300 with GPA burning oil, but if the power authority burned LNG, the average residential power bill would be about $288.

    Sanchez also said Guam has the option of purchasing LNG from Asia or the U.S.

    Solar-powered renewable energy seems to have more potential for growth for Guam. The potential for Guam is pointing in that direction over other renewable resources like geothermal resources and wind-powered energy, Sanchez said.

    Additionally, Sanchez said that in May, NRG Solar will open its plant on Guam, providing 25 megawatts of electricity from solar panels.

    According to the NRG website, the company acquired the project from Quantum Guam Power Holdings LLC last year. The plant is in Inarajan and was originally anticipated to open in the first quarter of this year.


Calvo meets with other governors

Wednesday, 25 Feb 2015 03:00am

PRESS RELEASE

ADELUP) – The governors of U.S. territories and commonwealths convened in Washington, D.C. to discuss federal policies and mandates that impact their communities and other concerns specific to their islands.

Gov. Eddie Calvo invited Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla, American Samoa Gov. Lolo Moliga and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Lt. Gov. Ralph Torres to join the meeting.

The governors, who are in the nation’s capital attending the National Governors Association annual meeting, took advantage of the opportunity to participate in the first meeting of its kind in more than 12 years.

The governors discussed some of the federal regulations affecting the five U.S. territories and commonwealths, including the Jones Act, Cabotage Laws, the Affordable Care Act and the impact of unfunded federal mandates in their respective jurisdictions.

“As U.S. jurisdictions without voting representation in Congress, we have a great opportunity now to join the governors of the other territories and commonwealths on issues unique to our islands,” Calvo said.

“We are going to strengthen the alliance we have with the other territories and commonwealths and create this caucus to push for better federal consideration,” he added.

There are 55 states, territories and commonwealths in the United States. The governors of the island territories and commonwealths make up close to 10 percent of U.S. governors.

“This caucus has the potential of being a very powerful voting bloc in one of the most influential governmental associations in Washington,” Calvo said. “Together with the other governors of the territories and commonwealths, we will have a stronger voice and greater input into

federal policymaking.”

Renee Jasmin sentenced for embezzling from UOG

Posted: Feb 24, 2015 by Krystal Paco  KUAM

Guam - A woman caught embezzling thousands of dollars from the University of Guam Endowment Foundation is sentenced in District Court.

Renee Jasmin worked at the Foundation as an account manager where she fraudulently obtained close to $107,000 from November 2012 to June 2014.

Along with fifteen months behind bars, she must pay back all the funds and write an apology letter to the Foundation.

 

Calvo, Bordallo attend IGIA meeting

Posted: Feb 25, 2015 by Sabrina Salas Matanane  kuam

Guam - Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia'aina joined Governors and Congressional representatives from each of the U.S. Insular Areas at their annual meeting of the Interagency Group on Insular Affairs (IGIA) at the U.S. Department of the Interior today in the nation's capitol. Governor Eddie Calvo and Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo were in attendance. Discussions focused on major issues of importance to the territories, including climate change adaptation, workforce development, tourism, and compact impact aid.  More than 100 participants, including policy-level representatives from federal agencies with program responsibilities in the U.S. Insular Areas, discussed issues and considered interagency collaboration to address these concerns. This was the fifth meeting of the IGIA since President Obama reestablished the group in 2010 with the White House as Co-Chair to address policies for the U.S. insular territories. 



US Dept of Labor investigating Verona Resort & Spa


Posted: Feb 24, 2015  by Jolene Toves  KUAM

Guam - Guam Department of Labor Administrator for wage and hour Roman Quinata says the US Department of Labor is conducting an investigation with Verona Resort & Spa.

Imagine reporting for work on time regularly then comes pay day and you don't get paid. Well, that is the issue reportedly being faced by employees at the Verona. This has prompted an investigation by the federal government over the issue of employees not getting paid on a timely manner. "With Verona," said Quinata, "the main issue with them is not paying the employees on time you know get calls from them and every time we start the process of doing something they suddenly come up with paying the employees. So the main thing is them just being behind on the payments and it's been a habit with them and we see most of the time when employees do call here its late payment or lack of funds in the account when they do go cash their check."

He says Guam DOL has received calls from Verona employees in the past about not getting a paycheck. "That trend has been going on for a while its mostly employees that are not being paid on time most of the employees if they do give them their checks they are told to cash it at a certain time because there is no funding in the account," he added.

In response, the Guam office has made attempts to call management but Quinata says because USDOL is now handling the matter, the Guam office cannot interfere, instead only provide any assistance needed. Messages were left with USDOL assistant district director on Guam Patrick Candoleta. KUAM News has learned that Verona Resort & Spa president David Su left off-island this morning. Messages were left for general manager Dennis Regnier as well.

According to an employee from Verona, not getting paid timely has been an ongoing issue. For instance, payday was on Friday, but staff did not get their paychecks until this morning; however they were advised by management that they were not allowed to cash it until given the "go ahead". The employee, who wished to remain anonymous, notes that this has been ongoing for at least a year, with staff, sometime, only getting half of their payroll. The employee added when staff are actually allowed to cash their check, they have a hard time finding a place to do so, as Verona checks have been "banned at certain places because too many have bounced before or they get turned away from some banks."

The employee notes banks have indicated insufficient funds in the company's accounts. The employee added that some people have quit or in some cases have been terminated because they have reported the matter to the Department of Labor.


Organization seeks to create official bike path


Posted: Feb 23, 2015  by Isa Baza  KUAM

Guam - Not only has running taken off in recent years, but cycling has, as well.  In fact, both sports face the same problems of a lack in suitable infrastructure. iBike is a grassroots cycling organization that has taken this issue into its own hands.

Chairman Tom Renfro told KUAM News, "We have this big project called the Central Bike Route 58 and the central bike route basically goes from Dededo, past Micro Mall, all the way down Tumon, to the hospital circle, over to Marine Drive and then down all the way to Adelup." Last year iBike implemented over 85 sharrows - or shared bike and car lanes - along this route. It did all of this independent of government support, relying on volunteers and contributions from the community.

Although Guam has a law mandating the implementation of bike lanes with all new road construction, the Department of Public Works struggles to actually implement this because of the increased costs associated with implementing the lanes. However Renfro says iBike will continue to work towards creating a usable central bike route, and currently has plans for what he calls the route's crowning jewel.

"The crowning jewel of the entire central bike route would be this three mile stretch along the ocean, which would be a standalone bike path, similar to what Saipan has had for over, I believe over a decade," he explained.

The standalone bike path would span from East Agana all the way to adelup. Renfro says he has spoken to both Lieutenant Governor Ray Tenorio and several senators regarding the issue. While all seemed sympathetic to the cause, some concerns included pedestrians as well as funding. "The government as far as I know already owns most 90% of that land," Renfro said. "It would take quite a big grant to do it right, and that would of course take some grant money, but there is that money available."

In fact, iBike has identified several grants which could be used to fund the project, including a safe pathways to school grant and scenic byways grant. However, Renfro said to get the momentum for this project going, it needs greater community and government support, noting, "We would need to sit down with the L.T. and maybe some of these senators and maybe have a roundtable."

Expertise and collaboration from Government of Guam grantwriters and decisionmakers could be all that is needed to bring this project to fruition. 


Medical breakthroughs aide treatment of lung cancer


Posted: Feb 24, 2015  by Jolene Toves  KUAM

Guam - More people in the United Sates die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. Likewise on Guam, lung cancer accounts for the highest amount of death amongst men and women, therefore it is important to detect lung cancer early so that it may be cured with surgery and treated through personalized treatment.

Cedar Sinai Medical oncologist Ronald Natale told KUAM News, "You have to understand that cancer is a disease of mutations in which carcinogens in the environment or in the case of smokers that get lung cancer the carcinogen is in cigarette smoke." Natale says that cancer damages the DNA of normal cells in the body converting them to cancer cells. Those mutations are often the driving force of the cancer. But hope is not lost as over the last few years there have been breakthroughs and increasing success in finding the specific mutations that are responsible for each individual's cancer.

"And developing medicines that target those mutations they are much more effective and much less toxic than standard chemotherapy," said Natale.

Another breakthrough has also been made in trying to get the immune system to fight the cancer. This has been an effort that has been over 30 years in the making, as he added, "In the past we try to vaccinate the body what we didn't know until recently is that the body is already vaccinated against many cancers but the cancers have a way of evading the immune system by blocking the ability of the immune system to fight the cancer."

But now they understand how the process works and have developed new medicines that can block the process of evading the immune system allowing the immune system to attack the cancer more effectively. Natale says that when someone develops signs and symptoms of lung cancer - that's when it unfortunately too late as 90 percent of those who have symptoms of lung cancer won't survive the key in fighting lung cancer is prevention and early detection. If cancer is caught early the cure rate through surgery and medicine is greater than 50 percent. 





Do museum right


Wednesday, 25 Feb 2015 03:00am


VARIETY NEWS STAFF


WE ARE encouraged to hear that construction of the Guam and Chamorro Educational Facility – the Guam museum – is progressing. The museum has the potential to serve as the prime source of information about Chamorro culture and about the history of Guam and the region. It can also be a major attraction for tourists and for residents in Hagåtña, particularly as an integral, and perhaps most high-profile, part of the efforts to revitalize Hagåtña.

But to meet its potential as a community resource, it must be done correctly, and that means a long-term commitment of resources. Based on the informational briefing held Monday at the Guam Legislature, there is reason to be concerned that funding may be inadequate to get the facility operating as planned.

Of $27 million appropriated for the facility, all but $791,000 has been either spent or committed. Officials said on Monday that construction is 46 percent complete and they anticipate change orders beyond the $1.1 million set aside for such expenses. The $26 million that has been, or will be, spent does not include the cost of media production services or the procurement of equipment for the interior of the museum.

The educational facility is also expected to be the repository of the island’s historical and cultural artifacts, which are currently stored in a number of locations on and off island. We understand storage of the complete collection will require substantial space, which will need to be appropriately secure and climate controlled.

Completing the main museum building will just be the first step, and it appears the funds appropriated for that will be barely enough. We are concerned that enough funds be appropriated for long-term upkeep and operation of the facility. One need look only as far as the Manuel Guerrero Administration Building a block away from the new museum to see the consequences of facilities neglect. Similarly, failure to pay attention to the conditions of the island’s public schools has resulted in a $100 million bill to remedy problems resulting from “deferred” maintenance. The police crime lab is suffering from neglect with implications for the protection of evidence in criminal prosecutions.

If the museum is similarly neglected, Guam risks losing or damaging artifacts, and depriving future generations the opportunity to study and share a significant portion of the island’s history.

In addition, sufficient numbers of competent personnel trained in museum operations will need to be on staff for the edification of visitors as well as the protection of the museum and its contents.

We commend Speaker Won Pat for holding the informational briefing on the museum. We hope she will continue to call such meetings as needed to stay abreast of the progress and the needs of the museum. The island has committed to building the museum; officials must consider funding its operational and long-term needs.



Sports, cultural tourism benefit locals


Tuesday, 24 Feb 2015 03:00am


VARIETY NEWS STAFF


AMONG the advantages of living in a tourist destination is that residents have access to attractions and facilities that would not exist if it were not for the patronage of visitors. Guam residents, for example, can choose to eat at any of a multitude of restaurants of all types, from American fast food, to Korean barbecue, to Chinese fine dining.

Of course, restaurants exist in locations without a vibrant tourist industry, but the number and variety of Guam restaurants is supported by the million-plus visitors the island welcomes every year. The same is true of shopping opportunities, night clubs, golf courses and even telecommunications providers. This is in addition to the employment tourism provides and the revenue that makes its way into government tax coffers and flows throughout the economy.

Similarly, among the benefits of sports tourism is the opportunity for local athletes to compete against those from elsewhere. Among the challenges of sports programs in developing top-level athletes on Guam, especially in smaller programs, is finding competition with a range of ability levels against whom to develop skills. In terms of sports development, that is the value of traveling off island for competition – to test athletic mettle against the unfamiliar.

While off-island travel is one way to increase athletic exposure, it is expensive. It is much more economical to attract athletes from elsewhere to Guam. In terms of visitor arrivals, few sporting events, outside of road races, actually attract – or can accommodate – large numbers of competitors. But local athletes benefit from the opportunity to challenge the visiting competition, or as sometimes happens, just being able to observe or interact with top-level athletes and coaches.

And to the extent that sports generates media attention, the island’s tourism industry benefits from the type of publicity that might otherwise cost millions.

Local athletes also benefit as facilities are built, maintained and improved in order to promote events and attract visitors.

Similarly, local cultural programs benefit from visitors to Guam attracted by the island’s culture. Those engaged in dance, visual arts, music and the culinary arts are more able to capitalize on their art. Cultural dancers and musicians, for example, are a staple of many Tumon hotels, some of whom actually employ performers.

So we see merit in Bill 39-33, introduced by Sen. Tommy Morrison to create a sports and cultural ambassadorship program fund. To the extent that travel by sports and cultural “ambassadors” generates publicity about Guam’s culture and the sports opportunities on Guam, it will attract visitors and benefit both the tourism industry and the local sports and cultural communities. We hope, however, that guidelines will be in place to ensure such funds are used judiciously for travel that will actually benefit the island.


Police crime lab closed


Wednesday, 25 Feb 2015 03:00am


BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


http://www.mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/022515/top_200_200.jpgEMPLOYEES at the Guam Police Crime Laboratory in Mangilao were instructed to vacate the building at noon yesterday because conditions at the building posed health problems for workers.


According to a statement from police, personnel were “given the option to leave at noon if it was too hot.” Experts from International Hygiene Professionals Inc. will be testing air quality today for possible mold growth as a result of the broken air-conditioning system.

Guam Police Department Capt. Kim Santos said discussion with International Hygiene Professionals after an initial walkthrough indicated no airborne mold and no visible mold growth. Police said employees interviewed did not complain of musty odors that are related to mold growth.

The air-conditioning system at the laboratory has been inoperable for two months and employees were forced to use standing mechanical fans to keep the environment cool enough for them to work.

A.J. Balajadia, GPD spokesman, said the AC system at the crime lab was not functioning and the building was too hot for workers to be productive.

Balajadia also confirmed that the department will test for asbestos at the evidence lab building in Tiyan. Balajadia said before GPD can begin repairing and addressing issues at that building, they have to make sure it is safe by testing for asbestos and checking the air quality.

Tests

Yesterday, Santos, who is assigned to address concerns raised at the crime lab and evidence control section, was at the Tiyan evidence control section at 2 p.m. A police officer assigned to that section told Santos he was worried about asbestos, according to a statement from Balajadia. Santos decided to call Industrial Hygiene Professionals and made arrangements for environment testing, the statement said.

Tests for possible airborne asbestos will be done today.

Two chillers at the Mangilao facility are not working and the air ducts that connect to individual rooms at the crime lab are not of adequate quality, according to a source. A short-term fix would be to install split-unit air-conditioning systems in the administrative area of the lab, but more assessment is needed to repair the chillers and air ducts on the laboratory side.

Police department officials are scheduled to meet with lawmakers today for an oversight hearing at the public hearing room in Hagåtña. Legislative public safety chairman, Sen. Frank Aguon scheduled the hearing for today in order to receive testimony from GPD Chief Fred Bordallo, Col. Maurice Sayama, Santos and other personnel on an administrative plan of action for the crime lab.

Aguon oversees the Committee on Guam U.S. Military Relocation, Public Safety and Judiciary.

At 4 p.m. yesterday, the crime lab was vacant except for a few vehicles and personnel parked inside the security gate at the Mangilao facility. The main doors were open and mechanical fans were seen facing employees’ cubicles.

Also on the agenda for today’s hearing is the status of the remaining balance of the law enforcement retroactive payments, payment of overtime for 13 GPD personnel and other concerns.

Over the past five years, $100,000 from the Judiciary has been set aside annually for the upkeep of the crime lab, but only $17,996 worth of reimbursement for maintenance had been paid by the Judiciary to GPD since 2009.

According to Joshua Tenorio, Judiciary director of policy, planning and community relations, the Judiciary was directed to fund the construction of the crime lab pursuant to law.

Each year, the Judiciary sets aside $100,000 in its budget specifically for the crime lab, Tenorio said.

“Each year we set aside this $100,000 (in the Judicial Building Fund budget) to help GPD’s crime lab. ... Sometimes they draw down these monies, sometimes they don’t,” Tenorio said.

If the money is not used to reimburse GPD for the crime lab, the remaining balance cannot be rolled over to the following budget year unless the funds are encumbered, Tenorio said.



Senators concerned about unanticipated Guam museum costs

Tuesday, 24 Feb 2015 03:00am

BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

  • DURING yesterday’s informational briefing conducted at the legislature on the status of the Guam and Chamorro Educational Facility (Guam museum) project, senators expressed concerns about the unanticipated costs related to the project which could exceed the $27 million cap imposed by law.

    The museum is funded with proceeds from hotel occupancy tax (HOT) bond revenues.

    The committee on cultural affairs conducted the informational briefing on the Guam museum during which Speaker Judith Won Pat sought updates on the status of all costs associated with the acquisition, construction and procurement of equipment for the facility.

    According to John Rios, Guam Economic Development Authority general manager, the fund balance after encumbrances and actual expenditures is approximately $791,000. More than $26 million has already been encumbered or spent for construction and consulting costs, among others. This amount still does not include the cost for media production services as well as the procurement of equipment for the museum.

    GEDA just released a request for proposal for media production services, and proposals are due March 17.

    Larry Toves, GEDA real property division manager, said approximately $15 million was allocated for the construction of the main building; $2.1 million for professional design services; and $1.9 million for construction management.

    Change orders

    Moreover, around $1.1 million has been set aside for project change orders.

    “The change orders noted were the ones that we agreed to,” Toves said. He added they had rejected seven change orders submitted after careful review. However, the division anticipates additional change orders as the project progresses.

    Won Pat questioned GEDA on how it will address the additional change orders, given the statute restricts spending to $27 million.

    In response, Rios said, “We will not allow it because the law prohibits us from going beyond the $27 million.” He said GEDA had wanted to include language in a recently introduced bill that would allow the use of savings from other projects for the museum.

    “The law is very clear that we cannot exceed $27 million,” he said.

    There are 23 projects funded by HOT bond revenues, including the Guam museum.

    Unanticipated costs

    According to Toves, most of the change orders were submitted halfway through the project, noting these orders address unforeseen issues related to construction.

    One of these issues involved the damaged piles which delayed contractors from pouring the foundation in June.

    According to Toves, project completion is at 46 percent.

    Construction on the museum broke ground in February 2013 at the Skinner Plaza in Hagåtña, signaling the start of construction of the three-story facility. It will take up 27 percent of the Hagåtña park.

    Originally, Fort Santa Agueda was suggested for the museum's location; however, the area is protected by the Guam Historical Preservation Trust. Officials also said the foundation will be saving $7 million by building the museum in Hagåtña.

    The museum will feature a café, bookstore, theater, a changing exhibits gallery, an atrium, and outdoor activity spaces.



  • Governor informing Capitol Hill about Guam's issues


    Posted: Feb 23, 2015 by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

    Guam - Governor Eddie Calvo is in our nation's capitol this week taking a more aggressive approach with informing federal officials on the issues affecting our island. And he's not alone. 

    It's been a busy week for the island's chief executive in chilly Washington, DC. In just the past few days, he had the chance to meet with governors from Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the CNMI. "We had our initial discussions with each other and we all agreed that we put together a formalized association and there's so much areas of common ground in particular to areas where we believe the federal government through a lot of regulatory action is causing some major problems with the territories and the commonwealth and other areas where we believe where we can work collaboratively in regards to economic development as well," Calvo told KUAM News.

    Governor Calvo not only is in town for the National Governors Association Meeting but the senior plenary session of the Interagency Group on Insular Areas. And while Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell is co-hosting the IGIA meeting later this week, Governor Calvo got to meet her beforehand. He said, "I discussed issues in this meeting first and foremost the Compact impact and of course we common ground with the state of Hawaii on this where we do believe that we've reached a critical point where the impacts are placing such a heavy burden on our General Fund and this community that it endangers the viability of many critical services here on Guam."

    Along with Compact impact, other areas regarding federal regulations that have affected Guam and the other US territories and commonwealths include the Jones Act, cabotage laws, the Affordable Care Act and of course the visa waiver program for China. In fact, Governor Calvo relayed the concern to new homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson during a dinner at the White House hosted by President Barack Obama and the First Lady.

    "He's fully aware of it, too, and he is working on it because he was aware of it when he was the lead counsel of the Defense Department when we were working on the programmatic agreement," he said.

    And with these issues going on for years, some even decades, Governor Calvo says the best approach is being more aggressive. "They may even mean legal action, so this is what's important - coming out here to Washington, DC, looking for those folks and representatives that can be either friends or allies with like-mind in focusing on like issues," he shared.

    And if it wasn't at the top of the feds priority list, he hopes it is now. "But when the governor of Guam and meets them face-to-face, eye-to-eye, then it raises the awareness and hopefully it brings up those priorities even higher on their list of other priorities so some action could occur," added Calvo.

    The governor is set to attend the IGIA session on Tuesday along with the Office of Economic Adjustment. He's also trying to secure a meeting with Senator John McCain's office. 


    GEDA continuing to enforce Guam Product Seal compliance

Posted: Feb 202015  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

Guam - It's been more than a year and a half since the Guam Economic Development Authority implemented new mandates and rules for the Guam Product Seal program. While this enforcement is aimed at ensuring quality control, just how compliant have businesses been?

While the Guam Product Seal has been in existence for more than 28 years, GEDA since 2013 has been the enforcement arm of ensuring products that carry the "Made In Guam" label are in fact made here on island. "It's to protect the local manufacturers, there are goods and products out there that are not made on Guam and visitors are out there buying things they believe is made on Guam and they're not," explained GEDA compliance supervisor John San Nicolas. He says there are nearly 60 permit holders of the Guam Product Seal, some of which have run across some compliance issues. "There are some out there that we found but we work with them to get into compliance and there was a time when we issued violation letters and they came into compliance," he said.

Within the first year that GEDA took over the program, San Nicolas says there were 44 letters sent out to GPS permit holders - that number however has decreased to just five most recently. "The minimal fees starts around $2,500 and it ranges between $2,500 and $5,000 per product," he said.

And while there are close to five dozen Guam Product Seal permit holders, there are probably even more products on the shelves that bear the Guam name. "I think one of the biggest confusions out there is that the usage of Guam or Chamorro on the packaging," said San Nicolas, "because it's not illegal to use Guam or Chamorro but if you do use it on your packaging then you comply with the labeling law and that you state the country of origin if the product is not made on Guam."

He says GEDA continues to field calls from residents over concerns about certain products including alcoholic beverages bearing the Guam name. "We became aware of that a little while ago, but that was for alcohol and spirits, and the law only pertains to nonperishable commodities and our interpretation is alcohol is not a perishable commodity as it does not have a limited shelf-life," he said.

GEDA in the meantime encourages businesses who have products made on Guam yet do not bear the Guam Product Seal to join the program as it holds several benefits including linking the products to off-island buyers to expand it's market share. For more information on the Guam Product Seal program or to report any products you believe are in violation, visit investguam.com or call 647-4332. 



Guam International Marathon is more interactive than ever


Posted: Feb 20, 2015  by Jolene Toves  KUAM

Guam - Are you getting ready for the Guam International Marathon? If you are, here are a few important things you need to know.

Taking the lead as the largest international sporting event with over 29,000 participants last year, you may think that in order to participate you have stand in line to register which can be daunting - but in reality registering is easier than ever. Just visit guaminternationalmarathon.com. "You can register online," said Jacob Leon Guerrero, event manager. "It's a fairly easy process accepts all credit cards you get to select your race where you are from and then it gets everything set up for you."

Fees for entry vary according to race. For the marathon, Guam residents, CNMI and military is $90 the half-marathon is $80 and the 10K and 5K fee is $35. The fee schedule in its entirety is available on the website, with Leon Guerrero adding, "By doing so registering online you will receive a link to our virtual diddy bag which is an added benefit for registering for the marathon so you are getting more than just entry into the event."

By registering online you are not only saving yourself a road trip but you'll be getting special offers from marathon sponsors and partners. "Anyone can register online as long as you've got Internet or WiFi access, just go to our website and you are set for that," said Leon Guerrero. While everyone can register for the race there are age restrictions for the half-marathon and full-marathon. "The only age restrictions will be for the marathon and the half-marathon you have to be at least 14 years old to register for those events 14 years old race day but the 5K and 10K is open to all ages whether you are 2 riding in a stroller or 99 just trying to make it to the end," he added.

And once you are registered GIM reminds participants to share photos of your road to GIM pre-race training regimen.  "We are on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, so we have weekly contests weekly promotions our hydration station promotion come visit us take picture anything about your training and progress with #gimtraining or #gim2015 and you are automatically entered to win," Leon Guerrero added.

There is no limit on entries and participants can enter their pictures into all three media sites for a chance to win a 2015 GIM t-shirt. So don't forget to register online and let everyone know you are participating in the 2015 Guam International Marathon by tagging/sharing your pictures on social media. 



Employment down slightly, wages up at end of 2014


Monday, 23 Feb 2015 03:00am


BY FRANK WHITMAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


THE number of employed people on Guam decreased slightly between September 2014 and December 2014. In September of last year, a total of 62,550 people were employed; that number dropped to 62,480 in December, according to the December 2014 Current Employment Report published Feb. 16 by the Guam Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The decrease in total workers was 70, which is about a tenth of a percent.

Average hourly earnings for production workers, however, increased from $12.81 in September 2014 to $13.20 in December. Production workers, on average, were paid for working 36.9 hours in December, decrease from 37.2 hours three months earlier. With the increase in hourly wages, the average weekly earnings for production workers in December were $486.82, up 2.2 percent from $476.25 in September.

The number of workers in the private sector decreased by 380 from 47,110 in September to 46,730 in December, also a slight decline of about eight tenths of a percent. Government of Guam employment, though, increased by 310 from 11,310 in September to 11,620 in December, an increase of 2.7 percent.

Employment in hotels and other service industries increased by 130 from 17,030 in September to 17,160 in December. Other industries that increased in the three months from September to December were finance, insurance and real estate which was up by 30 workers, retail which was also up by 30 employees and agriculture up by 10.

The industry with the largest decrease was construction which was down by 520 workers from 7,060 to 6,540. Also seeing a drop in employees was manufacturing which decreased from 1,420 to 1,380 a drop of 40 workers.

Compared to the previous December, the total number of employees was up about .9 percent from 61,910. In December 2013, there were 46,320 workers in the private sector and 15,590 employees in the public sector – both of which increased by the final month of 2014.


Lotte to add brands to airport location


Monday, 23 Feb 2015 03:00am


PRESS RELEASE


GIAA) – A global contemporary brand will make its debut at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam. Lotte Guam will be opening its first Victoria’s Secret boutique in an airport location at the Guam International Air Terminal. The boutique is offering its popular, high-appeal, line of products that include chain signature products of lingerie, cosmetics, body products, fragrances, leather goods and bags. The Victoria’s Secret boutique will be an in-line store within the concourse at the Guam International Airport, and will be opening in March.

Adjacent to this storefront, a Marc by Marc Jacobs airport boutique will also open March. This luxury brand is known for high fashion men and women’s watches, shoes, clothing, accessories and more. The airport boutique will feature the latest collection pieces for purchase by departing passengers.

“Airport shopping is one of the last activities our visitors get to enjoy. We congratulate Lotte Guam for bringing these brands and providing duty-free value for our customers. These goods are world- class, and to offer them for purchase to take home right before departure enhances our passengers’ experience and leaves a positive impression of the island and what it has to offer, ” said Charles Ada, executive manager of the airport





Second unexploded ordnance found

Wednesday, 18 Feb 2015 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

FIVE days after a construction worker uncovered a 5-inch naval ordnance round at the Songsong housing development in Yigo, another 5-inch naval round was found in another part of the construction site not too far from where the first one was found.

Firefighter Kevin Reilly, Guam Fire Department public information officer, said GFD fire engine 10 responded to the housing development at 1:27 p.m. yesterday after they were notified of the unexploded ordnance.

Guam Homeland Security public information officer Jenna Gaminde said the ordnance was found at the same construction site. The Yigo Mayor’s Office was also notified of the ordnance.

By 2:44 p.m., Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5 arrived on scene and was able to safely transport the ordnance to Naval Base Guam at 2:51 p.m., according to Gaminde. The site was then given the all-clear and workers were able to continue working on the lot.

As with the ordnance found at the site on Feb. 11, no injuries or equipment damage was reported related to the ordnance's discovery.

Big bullet

Last week, Senior Chief Brian Fitzgerald, of Navy EOD Mobile Unit 5 Detachment Marianas, said the 5-inch navy round, in layman’s terms, is a big bullet.

Construction company Giant Construction Co. is working on the site in preparation for a housing development. According to the sign outside the entrance to the lot, 72 new homes are planned for the area and it is being developed in partnership with Macks Realty.

Yesterday’s unexploded ordnance is the second ordnance discovery reported by Guam Homeland Security this year.

Previously, Fitzgerald said Navy EOD typically fields about 150 calls a year from people finding ordnance around the island and most were from World War II.



Amendment guts pay raise rollback bill


Wednesday, 18 Feb 2015 03:00am


BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


AN AMENDED version of Bill 4-33, which seeks to restore salaries for elected officials and Cabinet members to levels established prior to the enactment of P.L. 32-208, was moved to the third reading file during yesterday's session, but not before legislators passed an amendment removing Section 1 of the measure which contains the provision rescinding the pay raises.


The measure, introduced by Sen. Michael San Nicolas, not only seeks to rescind the raises, but also prohibits the waiving of the public hearing requirement for any legislation that would raise the salaries of elected officials.

According to San Nicolas, the removal of Section 1 “essentially killed the attempt to repeal the pay raises, despite overwhelming public testimony in favor of the repeal.”

Sen. Tommy Morrison proffered the amendment removing Section 1, which he said "discriminates" against elected officials.

The Morrison amendment passed on a vote of 9 to 5.

Aside from San Nicolas, Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, Sens. Tom Ada, Frank Aguon and Nerissa Underwood voted against removing the section. Sen. Brant McCreadie was absent from session.

According to Morrison, despite previous efforts of the legislature to allow the Competitive Wage Act of 2014 to include all employees of the government of Guam, Bill 4-33 seeks to divide the government as was the case with P.L. 32-136 in February 2014.

P.L. 32-136 allowed pay adjustments for rank-and-file employees, and for mayors and vice mayors. However, it rolled back the pay raises of the other elected officials and the agency heads to the level that was in effect Oct. 1, 2013.

Disregards

“Bill 4-33 disregards the compensation recommendation of the Hay Group and DOA for elected and appointed positions,’” Morrison said, adding the measure disregards the tremendous work that went into developing the Competitive Wage Act of 2014, which modernizes the government’s unified pay scale.

“Bill 4-33 accepts a policy that supports a group of employees while discriminating against a group of elected and appointed officials,” Morrison said.

In response, San Nicolas, in a statement released to the media, said: "What Sen. Morrison calls discrimination against elected officials is just the opposite. Can teachers vote themselves a raise? Can nurses? Where in the private sector do you see someone being able to give themselves a raise besides owners of businesses? The owners of this government are not senators or the governor, it is the people and the people have spoken loud and clear that they want these raises repealed. The question to my colleagues is this: How can you willfully ignore the voice of the people?

“The work of the legislature moves on, but there are other avenues to achieve change. The people will have their say.”

Prioritize

As the 33rd Guam Legislature was inaugurated on Jan. 5, San Nicolas introduced the measure which mirrors legislation written and passed by the Guam Youth Congress on Dec. 27, 2014.

In January, a public hearing was held on the measure in which dozens of people packed the legislature’s public hearing room and entrance hall to listen and provide testimony on the bill.

“We have an overwhelming amount of testimony from the community with respect to how the raises were given out on Nov. 21. A lot of them don’t necessarily object to anybody entertaining the question of raises. But they do have a problem with the way those raises were given out. And they do have a problem with the idea that we were prioritizing pay raises over all of the issues that we have to deal with in our community,” San Nicolas said.

“With all the testimony, it behooves us to understand that if we pass this amendment and we take out the repeal of the raises, we are basically going to be ignoring every single testimony that was provided during the public hearing of this bill, which says they want us to repeal these raises, they want us to go back to the drawing board and start over,” he said.



Tax settlement final


Wednesday, 18 Feb 2015 03:00am


BY GINA TABONARES-REILLY | FOR VARIETY


  • http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/021815/tax_200_200.jpgTHE six-year-old tax case between the government of Guam and Asuncion and Dennis Rodriguez Sr. is over after a stipulated agreement to end the court battle was filed Monday for both parties.

    The one-page document, signed by attorneys Rawlen Mantanona and G.Patrick Civille, ended the series of filings for the complaint and counterclaims that started in 2009.

    A stipulation for dismissal with prejudice did not elaborate the settlement agreement information including the amount that was accepted.

    The amount of the settlement was not disclosed in the filing, and according to attorney Arthur Clark, chief policy advisor of the governor, such information is not privileged.

    He said there are existing rules that allow the nondisclosure of the amount in tax cases, describing the amount as evidence that is not privileged information in an offer in compromise.

    Those who are interested to know the exact amount can still get the information through a FOIA request to the Department of Revenue and Taxation, Clark said.

    With the stipulation by the parties before the court, Clark said the settlement is final and does not require any further action from the court.

    The amount became a topic of conversation in the community after an initial offer of $40,000 was made by the Rodriguez couple to settle $2.7 million in unpaid tax obligations from 1996 to 2001.

    Challenged

    The couple challenged the Department of Revenue and Taxation through a counter lawsuit in 2009, arguing they filed a compromise offer in October 2006 based on doubt as to the amount of the liability as they disagreed with the assessed amount and said they did not believe they owed as much as the tax department claimed they did.

    The case stemmed from Rev and Tax’s request for a summary judgment to authorize the government to foreclose on the property of the couple, who owed GovGuam unpaid taxes plus $950,903 in accrued interests and penalties.

    Between court hearings, the parties tried to settle the case. At one point, the case became a conversation topic again when Clark became a part of the negotiations, creating some dispute with lawyers from the Office of the Attorney General representing the government.

    Every bogged down negotiation led the parties back to the federal court until the first week of February when Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood checked the status of the case.

    The lawyers of both parties hurriedly complied to file a stipulation ending the complaint and the counter-complaint.

    Respicio endorses governor's State of the Island address

    Wednesday, 18 Feb 2015 03:00am

    BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

    SEN. Rory Respicio, usually a strong and vocal critic of Adelup, has this time endorsed many of the points made in Gov. Eddie Calvo’s State of the Island address, including the governor's announced goal of reducing Guam's unemployment rate.

    The governor, in his State of the Island address Monday night, said his administration will work hard to bring down unemployment to 6 percent by the end of the year and 4.5 percent by the end of his term.

    "We haven’t seen numbers that low since 1993. Getting them back there is going to take a lot of work," the governor said.

    Describing this goal as "ambitious," Respicio nonetheless said it is attainable.

    “The progress we’ve seen, driven by gains in tourism and the speed-up of the military buildup, make this much less of a dream and something we can expect to see achieved,” Respicio said in response to the governor's address.

    Respicio said he was also pleased by the governor’s support of efforts to revitalize Guam’s traditional capital of Hagåtña, which he said are proceeding with bipartisan support, including the ongoing construction of the Guam Museum of Culture, Art and History, the Fishermen’s Co-op Fishing Platform and the soon-to-begin renovation of the Guam Congress Building.

    “I am glad the governor highlighted the work we are doing to revitalize Hagåtña because these projects are important not only for revitalizing the capitol city but also boosting our economic growth and therefore job opportunities for our people,” Respicio said.

    Guam First

    Respicio, whose legislative committee responsibilities include relations with the federal government, also praised Calvo’s announcement of a new executive order expanding the Guam First Advisory Commission’s authority to advise him on federal issues.

    “Convening the Guam First Commission is important for strengthening Guam’s voice on federal issues by bringing the community together so we speak with one voice. By working together we can achieve more progress on Compact-impact, the military buildup, tourist visa waivers, war reparations and a host of other federal issues important to all of us,” Respicio said.

    “We are always stronger when we are united. The governor’s address is certainly evidence of the commitment he made to leave the divisions of the past election behind and move forward to unite our people and build real progress,” he added.

    Respicio said he was also "gratified" that the governor was “taking decisive action” on a number of other issues relating to the Guam-federal government relationship including the long controversial Jones Act, the military buildup, Compact-impact and the Ordot Dump cleanup.

    “I certainly will be doing what I can to support him in standing up for our rights as a community within the American family,” Respicio said, adding he also supports the governor’s strong commitment to moving forward with resolving Guam's political status.







      • Governor to take on feds

        Tuesday, 17 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        Hints anew at lawsuit in State of the Island address

        GOV. Eddie Calvo, in his State of the Island address yesterday, promised to be more aggressive in ironing out issues with the federal government, hinting once more that he is not averse to taking legal action against the feds if necessary.

        In an almost hour-long speech punctuated by numerous applause, Calvo touched on a number of topics ranging from the island's economy, education, military buildup and a promise to further lower the island’s unemployment rate.

        But one of the most applauded parts of his speech came toward the end of the address when the governor touched on Guam’s relationship with the federal government, stressing that Guam’s political status needs to be answered now.

        “Any status is better than the status quo – an unincorporated territory. Whether it’s statehood, free association or independence, I believe that a change will put us in control of our destiny,” Calvo said.

        Describing the current situation as “colonialism in the 21st century,” Calvo said the federal government is forcing its will on the people of Guam through unfunded mandates enforced by the federal courts.

        The governor then announced Adelup will be re-introducing a bill originally submitted to the legislature last year that will authorize the administration to hire lawyers, possibly through the Office of the Attorney General, to represent Guam in a lawsuit against the federal government and hold the feds responsible for dumping toxic waste and other contaminated material into Ordot Dump for years.

        Jones Act

        The governor said he will also focus on federal policies that restrict Guam's economy and impede the island's efforts to become more self-sustaining.

        "Policies like the Jones Act weren’t meant to have a negative impact on the economy, but it has. And despite many requests for this to be repealed, the federal government hesitates. And in its hesitation, our people are made to pay higher costs for goods that have to be shipped in a jagged line from Asia to the West Coast of the United States, to Hawaii, to Guam and the Micronesian region," the governor said.

        Calvo said he plans to marshal Guam's friends and supporters in Congress and the executive branch to help address this cause.

        "I’m meeting with federal officials in a trip that I’ll be taking to Washington, D.C. soon. Among the things I’ll be discussing is this decades-old act that has increased not only the cost of doing business on Guam, but the cost of everything, from rice to furniture. It’s also created a monopoly," Calvo said.

        The governor cited President Obama, who said during his State of the Union address last month that he’d like to ease laws and policies that hinder growth of the nation’s economy.

        "I believe this may be the opportune moment to free our island and our region from this policy," Calvo said.

        Compact-impact

        The governor said one mandate that has been the topic of disagreement for decades is Compact-impact reimbursement. For several years, Calvo said Guam received $16 million a year for providing health, education and safety services to migrants from the freely associated states.

        But in fiscal 2015, that amount decreased to $14 million and remains the same in fiscal 2016, Calvo lamented.

        "Let me make it clear – this debate is with the federal government, which forged an agreement with the FAS governments without any input from us or other states and territories that host our Micronesian neighbors,” Calvo said. “The disagreement on Compact-impact costs is based on the federal government’s inability to live up to its promise to help us provide services to the increased population."

        Calvo said that for last year alone, $144 million is owed to Guam, 10 times what GovGuam is actually receiving. Calvo said the federal government says the disparity in numbers is due to a faulty formula but despite repeated requests, the feds have yet to provide an acceptable formula.

        "I don’t know if discussion is something we can continue to do on this front,” Calvo said. “We need to be more aggressive. We need to push the federal government to recognize that their failure impacts the lives of everyone on Guam. If necessary, and if legally sound, we’ll be working with our attorney general to take this matter to court – to force the hand that signed this policy to live up to its side of the agreement."

        The governor also announced an executive order, amending an earlier executive order establishing the Guam First Advisory Commission, to expand that commission’s authority to advise Adelup on federal issues.

        "I will send a letter to convene the commission in March. I am asking the commission to establish separate committees or task forces to initially deal with the Guam buildup and with Compact-impact," Calvo said.

        Finally, the governor said he will also work to have Guamanians attain the same rights that have been granted to the different states, including the right to vote for offices in the mainland U.S.

         

        Calvo urged to release law enforcement retro payments

        Tuesday, 17 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        SEN. Frank Aguon Jr. has urged the governor to release the remaining balance of the law enforcement retroactive payments as it pertains to the 40 percent raise for law-enforcement officers.

        In a letter to Gov. Eddie Calvo, Aguon said that while the governor mentioned the delay of the remaining law enforcement retro payments was due to the “reconciliation between the agencies and the Department of Administration,” Guam's law enforcement officers and their families need the retro payments.

        "They loudly demand the most fervent exertions of every person of weight and authority, to ensure these complications are rectified in a timely manner,” Aguon said. “Although you may not be able to personally contribute to the process, you can perhaps do something towards it, and any assistance, however trifling in itself, will be of great significance,” the senator said. He added that the payments should be given out as early as the upcoming government of Guam pay period.

        Earlier, Aguon introduced Bill 27, which seeks to unfreeze 2002 merit bonuses, allowing public employees with superior performance evaluations during that fiscal year to finally receive the payments promised to them.

        The measure has a provision which authorizes the governor, via transfer authority, to identify funds necessary to support the merit bonus payments.

        P.L. 23-45 and 26-35 froze merit bonuses for employees during fiscal 1996 and 2002, resulting in a large number of government employees not receiving merit bonus payments.

        According to Aguon, the two fiscal years were directly impacted because of the financial condition of the government of Guam at the time. Aguon’s proposed legislation seeks to authorize the merit bonus payments to be released to public employees who received superior performance evaluations in FY 2002.

         



        Shutdown at West Coast ports announced


        Friday, 13 Feb 2015 03:00am


        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


        Matson exempt; wholesaler says shipments timely

        YESTERDAY, the Pacific Maritime Association announced it would suspend vessel operations at West Coast ports for four days and suspend weekend and holiday pay for port workers, according to a statement from the association.


        PMA spokesman Steve Getzug said domestic carriers, including Matson Navigation Co. Inc. (the only Jones Act carrier serving Guam) military vessels and cruise ships are exempt from the operations suspension.

        “But they may be impacted or delayed by congestion at ports of origin because of the ongoing (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) slowdowns,” Getzug told Variety. “The negotiations are set to continue to tomorrow but there’s still work to do on a couple of very important issues.”

        Bernadette Valencia, Matson general manager for Guam and Micronesia, said yesterday that the action from PMA will not apply to Matson and other domestic carriers. “As with last weekend’s West Cost suspension of operations, which did not impact Matson’s operations in Long Beach or Seattle, Matson plans to continue to work this weekend,” Valencia said.

        Matson is continuing to watch the issue closely, Valencia added.

        Christine Baleto, general manager of Market Wholesale Distributors Inc. on Guam, said the company was notified of the possibility of a West Coast port shutdown and that it was good news that Matson operations will continue.

        Baleto said Market Wholesale will likely get an update from U.S. suppliers tomorrow. “The load shipping from Long Beach this Saturday is definitely a concern,” she said. “Hopefully, it will sail before any action is taken.”

        Fortunate

        Other than Saturday’s shipment, Baleto said MWD has been fortunate in that they have not experienced delays in shipping due to the West Coast slowdown.

        Baleto said Matson has kept MWD updated regarding negotiations and about potential fallout and that she is confident that should any impact to shipping schedules occur because of disputes on the West Coast, MWD would be notified quickly.

        Yesterday, Joanne Brown, Port Authority of Guam general manager, said there has not been any noticeable slowdown in activity at the Guam port. “No major concerns yet at this point for us,” Brown said.

        PMA member companies said it would suspend pay for Thursday, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, which is President’s Day.

        “PMA members have concluded that they will not conduct vessel operations on those dates, paying full shifts of ILWU workers such high rates for severely diminished productivity while the backlog of cargo at West Coast ports grows,” the association said in its statement yesterday.

        The union posted a video message on its website hours after PMA’s announcement yesterday. ILWU President Robert McEllrath encouraged union workers to stick together. McEllrath said PMA is seeking to divide the union with lies and tactics.

        “We want to go to work and they’re blaming us,” he said. The PMA’s suspension of operations for the four days later this week is another tactic to divide the union, McEllrath said.

        The union and PMA have been negotiating a labor contract for about nine months.



        Community shows support for Sgro's nomination to airport board


        Posted: Feb 12, 2015  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

        Guam - Kathy Calvo Sgro went up before the Guam Legislature for her appointment as a member of the Guam International Airport Authority. Sgro, who is the executive vice president of Pay-Less Markets Inc, says she can bring energy of teamwork, leadership and progressive foresight to the GIAA board.

        "Not unlike the aviation industry, the grocery business is a dynamic industry with no room for stagnation and strict adherence to public law and regulations are paramount," she said. "I am confident that my ability as a businesswoman with over 30 years in the retail industry will be an asset to the Guam International Airport Authority."

        Sgro previously served on the University of Guam's board of regents from 2006 to 2013.


        Preliminary count for island homeless population is in


        Posted: Feb 13, 2015  by Jolene Toves  KUAM

        Guam - The preliminary count for our island's homeless population is in and according to Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority director Michael Duenas the detailed analysis is expected to be released in about two months.

        "Preliminary count is showing that we have 347 households out there with a total of 1,195 individuals there are a total 165 families with children and of course that would be in the areas of priorities to give in terms of trying to develop programs and to help families," he said.

        Duenas says the results show that improvements in several areas are needed such as enhancing the ability of homeless individuals to work with mainstream service providers to help obtain medical care, and employment. 


        Port gets new high-tech gear to inspect containers


        Posted: Feb 12, 2015  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

        Guam - Every year the Port Authority of Guam moves an average of 100,000 containers a year. And today, new state of the art equipment was unveiled that will help officials detect and inspect what arrives in those containers.

        "Those who break the law be aware: we will ultimately catch the drugs you bring in, or the illegal contraband that you bring in and we will find it with this device," warned Lieutenant Governor Ray Tenorio.   That device is the AS&E ZBV Backscatter van delivered just yesterday and unveiled today at the Port Authority of Guam. The state of the art mobile cargo container vehicle screening system is set to bring the Port of Guam into compliance and to the same level as other strategic ports in the US.

        Port general manager Joanne Brown said, "So in terms of our security, in terms of our protection for not just national security, contraband and other weapons, the kind of things we don't want coming into Guam, to have this additional capability really enhances that." So along with inspecting, detecting and preventing any illegal contraband coming in and out of the Port, what else does the screening system do? The Port's security grant program manager Joe Javellana explained, saying, "The one good thing about this is because its mobile, if homeland security requires the resource to be taken to Tumon because of a suspicious package or any suspected vehicle that needs to be inspected, anywhere around the island or even a the airport, this can be deployed and go that site."

        Javellana helped secure the $759,000 federal grant for the equipment. Guam Customs and Quarantine director Pedro Leon Guerrero says the vehicle will help fill another gap in ensuring security of our island, saying, "In a couple of years, we'll be taking over servicing the equipment we do have our own team that is going to be in charge of all our x-ray machines so that we make sure it's working right, trained right, maintained right and we have some accountability for overseas so they so we look forward to it."

        Management note it took four years to see the screening system to fruition as it went through some procurement challenges. Training will be conducted on the screening system later this month. Brown hopes they'll start operating soon thereafter. 


        Bill that would demolish building taken off agenda

        Thursday, 12 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        AT A public hearing yesterday at the Guam Legislature, Sen. Rory Respicio announced that Bill 32-33, a measure which would authorize the demolition of the Manuel F.L. Guerrero Administration Building in Hagåtña, will be taken off the committee on rules’ agenda to allow for more discussion on the  environmental, mechanical, safety and structural issues affecting the building.

        The committee on rules convened the public hearing for several bills yesterday morning and Bill 32-33 was included in the agenda.

        The measure amends statutes to add the demolition of the Administration Building to a list of projects funded under the Guam hotel occupancy tax bond law, which are intended to revitalize the historic capital of Hagåtña.

        Respicio, the committee chairman, authored the measure and said the decision was made to allow further discussion on the issues affecting the building and also to determine what other use could be made of the building and its site.

        During the public hearing, Respicio said the bill authorizing the demolition of the building was introduced at the request of the Guam Economic Development Authority, which described the building as having “serious structural, mechanical, electrical and environmental issues that create serious safety hazards and render the building unfit for further occupancy.”

        He said that in light of the need to confirm the structural integrity of the building, “the most prudent thing to do” is to take the bill off the agenda.

        Following the decision, Respicio announced that a series of roundtable meetings with GEDA, the administration, the Hagåtña Restoration and Redevelopment Authority, the legislature, and members of the community will be held to determine the best route is to go regarding the building.

        Significance

        “We have the utmost respect for the history that has unfolded in this well-utilized building and for the legacy of Gov. Manuel F.L. Guerrero and other governors who have served there, and we want the final decision on the disposition of the building to reflect this historical significance,” Respicio said in a release.

        The building, which was named for Guam’s governor from 1963 to 1969, once housed the Office of the Governor, the Department of Administration, the Department of Education, and many other executive branch offices.

        In that building, driver’s licenses were also issued, payments made to the government of Guam, and policies were set for the Department of Education, as well as for the Departments of Labor, and Land Management.

        Last year, GDOE relocated its operations from the Hagåtña building to Tiyan. Meanwhile, DOA relocated its offices to the ITC building in Tamuning in 2013.

        According to the proponents of the bill, the cost of rehabilitation to bring the building to current uniform code standards does not warrant the significant investment of public funds necessary to extend the useful life of the facility.



        'Total analysis' reduces power consumption by half


        Posted: Feb 11, 2015  by Jolene Toves  KUAM

        Guam - The average family on Guam living in a three-bedroom home can pay up to $400 a month in power assuming they consume about 8,876 watts of electricity. But Pacific Renewable Energy Solutions president Tommy Tanaka says that can be reduced almost in half by taking the "total analysis approach" before investing in solar paneling.   

        "You can look at your savings in lights solar water heater and efficient air conditioners," he explained. "If you go and look at savings you can get from lights water heater and efficient air conditioners you can reduce the total consumption to about $4,600 and that's a 48% savings."

        Tanaka says it's as simple as switching from a 20-watt compact florescent light bulb to a 7-watt LED lightbulb, changing out older air conditioning units to energy efficient A/Cs like inverters or solar assisted units and getting rid of your electric or tankless water heaters and invest in a solar water heater. He says a solar water heater will save anywhere between $50 and $100 a month. Tanaka says this is the first step all residents should consider before purchasing solar panels, adding, "And the reason why this is important is because if you base it on your original wattage now without replacing the lights or solar or air conditioners you will be needing a 5-kilowatt system and that costs you around $32,000."

        However if utilize the total analysis approach and focus on these three energy eaters you will see savings. Tanaka said, "You'll be using 48% less so then the cost of solar panels can be reduced to about $16,000."



        Central village resident gets creative to deal with feral pigs

        Posted: Feb 09, 2015 by Isa Baza  KUAM

        Guam - One village resident has come up with quite the creative solution to address a continuing pig problem in Ordot-Chalan Pago. Although closed since 2011, residents of the central villages are still facing ramifications from the Ordot Dump. One in particular is the ongoing feral pig problem.

        Ordot-Chalan Pago mayor Jessy Gogue told KUAM News, "When the dump was open we had wild pigs coming through the village actually making home in the village because there was just an unending supply of food for these pigs. When the Ordot Dump closed they kind of said, okay, I have to look for a new supply source."

        So they began moving into the village area to look for food. While on the surface this problem may not seem serious, it has had tragic consequences. "We've had pigs coming into yards, ripping up yards, I've gotten some reports where pigs have gotten into fights with domestic pets at people's homes. You know, the accident that occurred New Year's Eve, or New Year's Day, involving a pig. I mean, it is a problem," the mayor said.

        Chalan Pago resident Camella Ramirez said, "Every now and then you see them crossing the street, you have to stop immediately because they just jet out not me, but I know neighbors have had problems with them going through trash even their vegetable and fruit plants, that's a problem, too."

        In an effort to combat this problem, one village resident has stepped up and volunteered his time and effort. Edward Cruz makes pig traps for village residents interested in doing their part to address the pig issue: "When the mayor came up with that situation prior to the Camacho situation, I said, 'Hey, sure, I'll volunteer!' You know, help the community," he recalled.  He said this provides a dual solution, adding, "People are reaping the benefits from it, not necessarily me but my children, they're learning how to do things, with their hands and people are getting free meat."

        At the same time he said it's also reducing the amount of pigs roaming free through the village. If you are interested in putting a pig trap on your property, you can contact the Chalan Pago Mayor's Office 477-1333. 

        MOU signed to improve healthcare for vets

        Posted: Feb 10, 2015  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

        Guam - In the next few months, veterans will be able to avail themselves of health services at all ends of the island.   Today a memorandum of understanding was signed kicking into gear an initiative considered a "bold new concept in healthcare" for those who served our country.  

        The gaps in health services for veterans across the United States has made national headlines and some would say here at home, it's even more challenging. "Being in Guam a territory, far away from the 48 contiguous states, that those gaps are even wider just because of our geography and distance from the high population centers," said Governor Eddie Calvo.

        However a memorandum of understanding between the Department of Public Health and the Veterans Affairs Pacific Island Health Care System may help bridge those gaps in healthcare for our veterans. Calvo signed the MOU Tuesday afternoon, saying, "I want to thank everyone here for their cooperation, working collaboratively toward improving the quality of services for our veterans this is very monumental."

        The only primary care veterans currently receive is at the Agana Heights Community Based Outpatient Clinic. The veterans clinic is considered too small and at times, cannot accommodate all the VA patients on island. Guam VA clinic nurse manager Bernadette Santos said, "The purpose of this project is open up access to care to veterans who live in more rural areas as you know, people who live in the central area is already covered with the CBOC which is in Agana Heights so for them to be able to access care in the northern and southern area will be great we will have VA employees who will be providing this primary care and not only primary care, but mental health services as well, we are looking to getting a psychiatrist on board so we will have a medical doctor for primary care, supported by a registered nurse, and a medical support assistance and also a psychiatrist."

        A security guard will also be a part of the team.

        Under the agreement, Public Health will let the PIHCS use two of its examining rooms and a bathroom at both the Northern and Southern Health Community Centers for four days each week free of charge to render medical care to veterans. PIHCS will in return, furnish a rural health extension care team to provide primary and mental health care services to veterans at no cost to the PIHCS. Public Health director James Gillan said, "We owe these veterans a debt that sometimes our veterans' administration forgets about and we're going to do it somehow for our community health center."

        This effort is funded through federal money estimated around half a million dollars. The rural health extension care team expects modest numbers at first around 30 within the first quarter. However, that number could climb as a recent uniformed data system report shows that at least 70 veterans are currently being serviced by Public Health. Most of the team has already been hired with operations set to start at the end of April. 

        First batch of tax refunds going out on Wednesday

        Posted: Feb 10, 2015  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

        Guam - Have you filed your tax return yet? The Department of Revenue & Taxation announces the first batch of tax refunds of the year will be mailed out Wednesday. The refunds total $1.8 million accounting for about 500 people. The refunds are for those who filed up to January 15 together with a mix of filers from the previous tax years. The deadline meanwhile to file your taxes is on April 15.

        Matson assures cargo will flow to Guam

        Wednesday, 11 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        Despite West Coast shipping delay

        MATSON General Manager for Guam and the Micronesia Region Bernadette Valencia said the shipping carrier has been impacted by the shipping slowdown resulting from the labor disputes between West Coast port owners and port employees, but the impact is less than on international carriers.

        “We may be delayed because of labor allocations in the West Coast and weather delays, but not to the extent of several days,” Valencia said. “The domestic carriers have been exempted by the (Pacific Maritime Association) to ensure goods continue to flow to Guam and Hawaii.”

        According to the PMA website, Matson Navigation Company Inc., the only Jones Act carrier that ships to Guam, is one of the 72 company members of the PMA.

        What the exemption will mean in practice has yet to be seen, said Hawaii Shippers Council President Michael Hansen. “Just because employers’ organization exempts the domestic noncontiguous U.S. flag carriers, doesn’t mean the union – the (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) – will work the ships,” he said.

        The union and PMA have been working on negotiating a labor contract for employees at the 29 West Coast ports along the U.S. for about nine months.

        This past weekend, the PMA suspended loading and unloading operations.

        “In light of ongoing union slowdowns up and down the coast which have brought the ports almost to a standstill, PMA member companies finally have concluded that they will no longer continue to pay workers premium pay for diminished productivity,” the association said in a statement dated Feb. 6.

        Settlement

        Vessel operations were scheduled to resume on Monday. The union said in a statement on Monday that it remains focused on reaching a settlement as quickly as possible with the PMA and talks to resolve remaining issues are ongoing.

        Last week, PMA President Jim McKenna said a full lockout at the West Coast ports was possible if contract negotiations did not conclude soon.

        This lockout, Hansen said last week, could mean no ships discharging or loading cargo at U.S. West Coast ports and carriers bound for Guam and Hawaii could not deliver any cargo.

        According to Hawaii news agency KHON2, Hawaii port workers did not show up to work last Sunday to unload ships, which is an option the local labor contract allows.

        Hansen said another issue that domestic carriers, including Matson, may face if there is a lockout is the congestion at West Coast terminals. “Is the congestion in the West Coast terminals so great that the exemption will be essentially meaningless? We just don’t know the answers to these questions,” Hansen said.

        In a statement released Friday, the PMA said the union continues to limit operations by withholding crane operators or operating slowly.

        On Feb. 5, the union president, Robert McEllrath, said port owners and employers are “worsening the existing congestion crisis to gain the upper hand at the bargaining table.”

        McEllrath also said in the statement that the association is leaving ships at sea and claiming no space on the docks but there are acres of asphalt for containers that are on the ships at sea.

         

        US attorney initiative to address challenges faced by Micronesians

        Wednesday, 11 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        IN LIGHT of the challenges faced by migrant communities on Guam, an initiative has been launched to create a “balance” – aimed not only to highlight the positive faces of the migrants, but to assist them in becoming contributing members of society.

        In a stakeholders’ meeting yesterday, U.S. Attorney Alicia Limtiaco unveiled her office’s diverse communities outreach projects, which aim to improve the relationship between law enforcement personnel and the community.

        Among the attendees at yesterday’s meeting were representatives of the island’s faith-based sector, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and members of the island media – all providing input and ideas to achieve the project’s goals and objectives.

        According to Limtiaco, forming a community-based group that would discuss issues affecting and impacting the lives of the migrant communities on Guam is a way to address the stigmatization of the Micronesian community.

        "We can find ways to maybe balance the scales a little bit to find projects or programs so that we can talk about the positive contributions that all of us as a community make,” said Limtiaco, citing such concerns as tension between groups, discrimination and potential violence.

        Limtiaco pointed out that one of the goals in creating a community-based group is to highlight the positive acts and contributions of the Micronesian community on island.

        But the U.S. attorney admitted that the task is not that easy because it would require a unified effort from stakeholders.

        Key

        Monty McDowell, owner of Advance Management Inc., one of the largest employers of migrants from the freely associate states, said education and training are key in accomplishing the goal.

        McDowell told members how he helped transform many of his employees – through educating them. He said almost 100 percent of the FAS migrants failed in their employment in the past years.

        McDowell said to better understand the reason behind these failures, he asked the Chuuk government for help. And from then on, the Center for Micronesian Empowerment and the Chuuk government have been collaborating on many efforts to best serve and help its citizens on Guam.

        McDowell said from 100 percent failures years ago, his company is now recording 0 percent failure on its FAS migrant workers.

        The businessman, citing his firsthand experiences with migrant-community workers, said the failures of these individuals were mainly the result of their lack of knowledge about Guam’s culture, norms and other aspects of Guam life. The living conditions in their own island were without amenities such as power, which is also a factor.

        McDowell told members that if the objective is to create balance and provide help to the Micronesian community on island, he said there’s a need for Guam itself to make an effort to better know about these migrants – where they are, what they need, and how they can avail of the offered help.

        "One thing was, we on Guam, for those of us who have been here most of our lives, we're somewhat ignorant of the people in the region. ... Guamanians know more about people from California than their own island neighbors,” said McDowell.

        A large portion of the inmates at the Department of Corrections is reportedly comprised of Chuuk nationals.

        One component of the project is the workforce development re-entry which targets these individuals as they rejoin the community after incarceration.

        Partnership

        Limtiaco said partnership is in the works with not only the government but the private sector as well in providing training and conferences to achieve the goal of helping these individuals to succeed after incarceration.

        Louis Torres, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Guam Micronesian Mission, said providing education at the frontline will help Micronesian migrant groups to become more productive citizens in Guam. He lauded the goals behind the creation of the group and committed his support to its mission. He also cited the need to reach out to citizens in their own lands.

        • Mathew 3 hours ago

          Well said, Monty. But it is not just being ignorant about outer islanders. It is also being ignorant about Filipinos and Koreans, two of the larger ethnic minorities. The difference is that the latter communities take care of their own, for the better and for the worse. The better would be the integration part into the community (the dos and the donts), the worse would be protecting or shielding illegal immigrants.



        NOAA awards $878,000 for GovGuam


        Tuesday, 10 Feb 2015 03:00am


        PRESS RELEASE


        OMZB) – Guam Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo announced recently that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has awarded the government of Guam $878,000 in federal grant assistance.


        The grant will be used to support Guam’s Coastal Management Program, which is a voluntary federal-state partnership that protects, restores and responsibly develops our nation’s coastal communities and resources.

        The funds will support jobs and provide continued assistance to the Guam Coastal Management Program to address many important coastal issues, including coastal hazards, water quality and habitat protection.

        The funding also supports outreach and education, responsible coastal development and programs to involve the public in resource management.

        Additionally, the grant will provide training opportunities for the local construction industry to promote best management practices for stormwater management.

        “Guam’s coasts are an important resource to our culture and daily lives, and educating the public and local industries is crucial to ensuring that our coastal resources are protected,” Bordallo said. “Each year, I work diligently with my colleagues in Congress to ensure that federal resources are appropriated for coastal management programs, and I am pleased that NOAA continues to prioritize these initiatives. These funds will help ensure that the Guam Coastal Management Program has the resources it needs to continue its important work, and I look forward to these programs benefitting our community,” Bordallo said.



        Navy issues letter on increasing water rate

        Posted: Feb 09, 2015  by Jolene Toves  KUAM

        Guam - An issue that's dominated utility headlines and captivated local ratepayers has been the U.S. Navy's 40% rate hike to the Guam Waterworks Authority. Now, we hear Uncle Sam's take on the matter.

        Over the weekend the Navy issued an open letter to the people of Guam explaining the reasons behind its implementation of a rate hike - one that apparently has been in effect since October 1.

        It was on Saturday Joint Region Marianas regional engineer and commanding officer of Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marianas Captain Glenn Shepherd issued an open letter to the people of Guam explaining the Navy's 40% rate hike. GWA purchases water from the Navy from Fena, which supplies water to customers in Santa Rita, Agat and parts of Piti. According to Shepherd, although the Navy is subject to the same USEPA and Guam EPA regulations as GWA, the Navy is different from most municipal utility companies as the Navy cannot sell bonds to raise money for major repair and modernization projects.

        Shepherd wrote that the Navy must break even in cost and revenue and as a result recover money it needs for operating costs and repairs through its rate structure.

        Consolidated Commission on Utilities chairperson Joseph Duenas says the explanation was what he expected, saying, "It points out several things - one of the things it points out is that the Navy does not run a municipal water utility like the traditional municipal water utility. They don't access the bond market, so therefore they for what is called capital assets: long-term assets with short-term money. They pay for it with cash."

        And that cash apparently will come from the Navy's customers such as GWA. As we reported however the Guam Waterworks Authority has begun lessening its reliance on water from the Navy by diverting water from the northern aquifer to these southern customers.  "200 gallons a minute or less okay I think we were as high as a 1,000 a minute so we have cut back significantly I think we have cut back to the point that even with their rate increase which is in the neighborhood of 40% if I remember the numbers correctly I don't think we are going to pay the Navy any more than we paid them last year," he explained.

        GWA admits however because the lines are antiquated the water agency has experienced some problems which has resulted in low to no water pressure for some southern villages. Spokesperson Heidi Ballendorf is hoping those problems should be resolved by 7pm.

        In the meantime Captain Shepherd wrote that implementing the rate increase for GWA was not an easy decision, and that the Navy plans to work closely with GWA and the CCU to look for ways to minimize impact while delivering safe and reliable drinking water to our island community.  "Like Captain Shepherd mentions we are going to continue to work closely with GWA and CCU and that's what our intention is the CCU; I am sure is going to want to work closely the Navy and see how we might set a plan to get to one water and one wastewater system," he stated. 



        Transasia Airways crash may stall launch of Guam service


        Posted: Feb 10, 2015  by Sabrina Salas Matanane  KUAM

        Guam - Last week's crash of a Transasia Airways aircraft in Taipei reportedly has cast uncertainty over its plans to launch services to the territory.  Taipei media report that the airlines was looking at launching flights to Guam as soon as the second quarter of 2015, but the Civil Aeronautics Administration said that might not happen as a result of the crash which killed at least 40 of the 58 people onboard. The CAA also reported the carrier had not yet applied for flights to Guam yet.  Last week's Transasia airways crash was the second within a year.


        GVB rolls out events calendar


        Posted: Feb 10, 2015  by Jolene Toves  KUAM

        Guam - An air of excitement pulsed through The Sheraton this afternoon with the release of the Guam Visitors Bureau's 2015 events calendar. GVB general manager Nathan Denight told KUAM News, "I think Guam is getting better and better at hosting these events and delivering a great experience, and then the next step is to go ahead and let the world know about the events so we can get the visitors coming here."

        GVB is marketing to countries including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, and Russia through a diverse pool of cultural, music, art, and sporting events. Some notable events this year include the second annual Guam live concert and the new Koko Race in December.



        GHURA gets $1.3M from HUD


        Posted: Feb 10, 2015  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

        Guam - The Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority is in receipt of over $1.3 million in multiple grants from HUD. The grants were awarded through HUD's Continuum of Care Program, which promotes communitywide commitment to ending homelessness. The program provides funding for nonprofit providers and local governments to quickly rehouse homeless individuals and families while minimizing trauma while promoting access to programs that assist the homeless. Additionally, the COC program seeks to optimize self-sufficiency among families and individuals experiencing homelessness. 



        Hotel opening welcome

        Tuesday, 10 Feb 2015 03:00am

        VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        • THE upcoming, much anticipated opening of the Dusit Thani Guam Resort is indeed good news for Guam. It promises to be a true luxury hotel with the requisite food and beverage outlets, and the island’s first convention center. As such, it has the potential to advance the island’s visitor industry’s goals of attracting tourists with a higher spending profile and of developing the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) segment of the tourism markets.

          The island obviously has the climate, beaches and natural beauty to develop a million-plus-visitors per year tourist industry. The new facilities will help the island boost both the revenue per visitor that comes into Guam and the number of visitors during the parts of the year that generally have fewer arrivals.

          We also remain hopeful that the increase in the number of jobs in tourism will mean workers see an increase in pay.

          At first glance, having more than 3,000 job seekers show up to apply for 350 jobs would, and does, bode well for the hotel but less so for potential employees – based on supply and demand. But the Dusit Thani, will no doubt want the best employees – the most experienced, the most competent, the most reliable, the most hospitable. These, of course, are the employees the other hotels would most like to keep. By the rules of the market, salaries will rise and employees will work where they are best paid. The island economy will benefit, as will the individual staff members and their families.

          Individuals intent on building their careers in the visitor industry will identify a field they enjoy and become proficient in it so that they can meet the needs of their employer. And good employers will recognize their value and compensate them accordingly.

          And increased, high-spending visitor arrivals will mean more business for retail stores, eateries, day tours, golf courses and a host of other tourism-related businesses.

          As island residents know too well, success is never guaranteed and there are any number of events that can negatively impact the best laid plans. But the new hotel is opening at a time when the island is welcoming record numbers of visitors and is looking at the development of the Chinese and Russian markets. With fingers crossed, we see the opening of Dusit Thani as a harbinger of continued economic growth.



        • Tire shredder facility opens


          Tuesday, 10 Feb 2015 03:00am


          BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


          A LOCAL recycling company has introduced a solution to Guam’s growing stockpile of end-of-life tires, processing the rubber into landfill material and other purposes.


          In December, Guahan Waste Control, which does business as Mr. Rubbishman, received its permit to operate its tire shredding facility in Harmon.

          For the facility, the company purchased a Columbus McKinnon Corp. dual-speed shredder. According to Robert “Bob” Perron, president and general manager, at a slow speed the equipment can shred passenger tires at a rate of about 1,200 tires per hour, and truck tires at a rate of 300 per hour. The machine reduces the tires to 2-inch rubber chips.

          About $1 million was invested in the entire facility, which went into the procurement of the tire shredding equipment and the construction of shelter, with proper plumbing, filtering and drainage infrastructure.

          The shredder was manufactured for Guahan Waste Control by CM Tire Recycling Equipment Solutions of Sarasota, Florida.

          Although Guahan Waste Control is looking at the possibility of baling and shipping the chips off-island, at present they are providing the materials to Black Construction Corp. to be used as filling material for the Ordot dump.

          Black has been awarded the contract for the construction of the environmental closure of the Ordot Dump.

          First of its kind

          “On Guam, this is the first of its kind on island. Right now, we are delivering (the chips) to Ordot dump for their closure project. They are using them to fill in some trenches that are there for pipes,” Perron said.

          Federal solid waste receiver Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc. has been exploring the use of the rubber chips as an alternative cover material for the Layon landfill.

          In fact, the receiver has sent a letter to Guam Environmental Protection Agency to begin discussion on this option, Perron said.

          Although most of the material goes to the dump, he said, the company is setting up a deal with a waste-to-energy plant in Japan to take the materials.

          “We will always have a market for it, either locally or off-island, to Japan or Korea, as a fuel source,” he said.

          According to Perron, by shredding the tires down to 2-inch chips, the material can be turned into a commodity and sold off-island as a replacement for coal to be used in waste-to-energy facilities or for cement kilns.

          Perron said they are still waiting for the approval of the government of Japan to ship the shredded tire material.

          Thousands of tires

          “Guam has a tremendous problem disposing of used tires,” according to a statement from Guahan Waste Control. “The primary reason is tires are now sent whole off-island and there is a limited market for whole tires. Witness the piles of tires at the major (tire) outlets in Guam.”

          Perron said Guahan Waste has been coordinating with most of the tire outlets on island. “We are talking to most of them,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting to all of them because there are so many tires backed up right now. We are going around and telling people that we can take them. A couple of thousand tires are being processed every day.”

          The tire shredding operation has been integrated into Guahan Waste’s ongoing municipal solid waste transfer station and recycling center.

          Residents wishing to dispose of tires can take them to the Guahan Waste Control facility on Rojas Street in Harmon. There is a $4 per tire disposal fee for passenger tires.



        DFS: Airport needs independent monitor to supervise RFP

        Monday, 09 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY MAR-VIC CAGURANGAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        THE A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority needs an independent monitor to supervise the airport’s future bidding process, DFS Guam L.P. said in the latest of its series of protests against the award of the concessionaire contract to Lotte Duty Free Guam LLP.

        “The GIAA's conduct throughout the course of the current (request for proposal) process, including its response to DFS's proposal protest, has been characterized by bad faith, prejudice against DFS, and a clear bias in favor of Lotte,” DFS said in an appeal filed Jan. 21 with the Office of Public Accountability.

        “The appropriate remedy to ensure that future proceedings in connection with a new RFP process are conducted fairly and transparently is to appoint a truly independent monitor, selected by an independent administrative or judicial officer, and to empower that monitor to supervise and oversee the GIAA in relation to this matter,” DFS said.

        Lotte Duty Free has been operating at the airport terminal since the airport authority awarded the contract in June 2013, following a court decision upholding the contract award. The retail company has since completed $55-million worth of renovations and construction of facilities it promised under its agreement with the airport.

        In its latest filing with the OPA, however, DFS asked that the airport contract with Lotte be declared void and a new request for proposal be instituted.

        “Because all of the foregoing facts establish that, as it now stands, this RFP process has been irrevocably tarnished by a litany of fatal flaws, DFS requests that the OPA hereby mandate that the results that were obtained through this flawed process be voided in their entirety, and that a new RFP process be pursued in a timely fashion,” DFS said.

        DFS also is urging the OPA to bar Lotte from participating in any future bidding, saying it “is a non-responsible proposer and the source of many of these fatal flaws.”

        “The contract effectuating the RFP that GIAA and Lotte purportedly entered on June 12, 2013 is void under Guam law because the contract was entered into in contravention of the mandatory automatic stay provided for by statute,” DFS said.

        DFS brought the appeal to the OPA six days after the airport management denied its latest appeal.

        Bright prospects for airport in fiscal 2015

        Monday, 09 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        THE global airline industry will continue to record substantial profits going into 2015 and the prospects for the Guam airport are bright as well, according to an independent audit report prepared for the A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority.

        Ernst & Young LLP prepared the report, which covered the airport authority’s financial statements and supplementary information for fiscal years 2014 and 2013.

        According to the report, “utilization of fuel-efficient aircraft, downsized seat capacity and ancillary fees all were factors for the airlines' resurgence.” In addition, the report also noted the downward slide of oil prices, which, if sustained, could result in the Guam airport achieving fuel savings.

        The report noted that the Guam airport's passenger projection of 1,788,116 enplanements reflects a more aggressive outlook year-over-year, with a 7 percent growth for fiscal 2015.

        However, Japan’s share of Guam’s visitor market is expected to diminish further due to a consumption tax that has reduced disposable income as well as the continued devaluation of the Japanese yen, the report stated.

        The outlook on direct charters from eastern Russia being resumed in the near term is also not too bright following international sanctions and declining oil prices which have weakened Russian currency.

        Most positive

        The airport authority expects the South Korean market “to have the most positive and immediate impact" in fiscal 2015. According to the report, the number of airlines servicing the South Korean market is expected to increase from three to five and potentially six during the course of the year.

        The report also noted the reinstatement of daily service to Seoul by a U.S. carrier, new and expanded air services from Pusan, and numerous charters and extra sections from all operators.

        In addition, a new carrier is expected to inaugurate service from the Philippines in the second quarter of this year.

        The airport also forecasts positive developments with the Chinese market, following the U.S. government’s decision to extend the validity period of a U.S. visa from one to 10 years.

        China

        Meanwhile, the Guam airport expects to continue receiving frequent charters from China and it is currently engaged in "discussions" with three Chinese airlines.

        The airport plans to continue consulting and planning more effectively with its airline partners to reduce operational cost through efficiencies gained from various capital improvement projects.

        The airport also intends to sustain the budgeted $15.80 as the cost per enplaned passenger for fiscal 2015 as compared to the fiscal 2014 cost per enplaned passenger of $16.11 representing a 2 percent decrease.

        Fort Bliss THAAD unit to deploy to Guam

        Monday, 09 Feb 2015 03:00am

        VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        ABOUT 20 soldiers from Delta Battery, 2nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment (THAAD), 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, are on their way to Guam as an the advance party to help with the air defense transition, the El Paso Times reported Friday.


        El Paso Times said an additional 80 soldiers from the battery, nicknamed the Dragons, will arrive in Guam sometime this spring, battery commander Capt. Candace Hill said.

        “They will replace sister unit, Alpha-2, which has been in Guam for the past year. This will be the third year of THAAD unit deployments from Fort Bliss to Guam,” the paper reported.

        A THAAD battery at Fort Bliss has been training for more than a year and is ready to be the next unit for Guam deployment,” the El Paso Times said.

        Delta-2 stood up as a unit in October 2012 and this will be the first time it is deploying, Hill said. It will be gone about a year.

        "Our personnel are extremely excited," El Paso Times quoted Hill as saying. "Hopefully, nothing happens where they have to actually engage (with an enemy) but obviously they are ready for it and prepared for it."

        He said this will be a new experience for many of the soldiers in the unit who are new to the Army or previously had served in Patriot units.

        According to El Paso Times, the Dragon Battery started training more than a year ago with classroom instruction on the THAAD equipment.

        Hill told the paper the Dragon Battery has regularly been out in the field since June 2014, culminating with a two-week Mission Rehearsal Exercise at McGregor Range last November.

        Since then, the unit's soldiers have been doing additional training in the battery motor pool area to keep sharp.

        "If you don't practice it and continuously go through it, it is easy to forget," Hill said.

        Hill is the first woman to command a THAAD battery, but said she is just focusing on making sure the mission is a success.

        THAAD units have been sent to Guam since April 2013 after North Korea started making threats toward the United States and its allies.

        Forever 21 to open next month

        Monday, 09 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        New shop to open 65 jobs

        AMERICAN fashion retailer Forever 21 will open its first store on Guam sometime in March, according to Rimma Kronfeld, supervisor of international new store openings and public relations and marketing for the company.

        Kronfeld said the Tamuning store at Guam Premier Outlets will offer a large selection of merchandise including Forever 21 Contemporary, 21 Men, Forever 21 Girls, shoes, lingerie, basics and denim along with the Forever 21 line apparel and accessories.

        “We are very excited about our first store in Guam,” Kronfeld said.

        With an upcoming grand opening, the retail company is looking to hire about 65 employees to work at the store. Open interviews will be held this Wednesday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the GPO food court next to the Froots outlet. After an hour break, open interviews will resume from 2 to 6 p.m.

        The interviews will take place for four days, from Feb. 11 to 15.

        Kronfeld said candidates should make sure they have applied online before going to the open interviews at GPO this week and they should also bring along copies of their resume.

        Two Forever 21 employees will be conducting interviews in the space.

        The GPO location is 20,835 square feet and has been under construction since November. According to the building permit from the Department of Public Works, the space was estimated to cost about $975,000 at the time the permit was issued last year.

        Kronfeld said Forever 21 does not release financial information.

        Forever 21 originally opened in 1984 as Fashion 21 store. Since then it has expanded to become the fifth largest specialty retailer in America, according to its website.



        First generation trust fund bill public hearing today


        Monday, 09 Feb 2015 03:00am


        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


        THE committee on public education will conduct a public hearing today at 4 p.m. for Bill 35-33, relative to creating the “First Generation Trust Fund Initiative,” in support of public high school graduates wanting to obtain a post-secondary education.

        Sen. Nerissa Underwood introduced the measure, which involves establishing a trust fund account for each eligible ninth grade student in Guam’s public schools to be used upon high school graduation for attendance at the University of Guam or the Guam Community College.

        The $500 account is designed to jump-start enrollment and provide a personal incentive for students to plan and envision their future.

        Speaker Judith Won Pat and Sen. Rory Respicio co-sponsored the measure, which is supported by a combined effort of the Guam Department of Education, Foundation for Public Education Inc., the University of Guam and Guam Community College.

        As proposed by the measure, the foundation is to have custody of the funds, including the development and manage the fund’s portfolio. GDOE, UOG and GCC are to commit investments which will be carved out of their annual appropriations starting in fiscal 2016.

        Should the bill become law, GDOE will appropriate $75,000 annually from its budget beginning in fiscal 2016. UOG will appropriate $250,000 and GCC will appropriate $150,000.

        Financial contributions may also be made to the fund by participating businesses and organizations on behalf of students that perform community service. Additionally, individual family members may also deposit into the student’s fund.

        Any amount not used for registration and enrollment fees for college is to be returned to the fund. If the student’s fund is not used within one year of graduation from high school, the student’s account will be closed and the money reserved for the next group of eligible ninth grade students.

        Sunset provision

        The measure also has a sunset provision – the initiative shall come to an end by the eighth year of its existence unless new legislation is passed authorizing its continuation.

        During a press conference for the bill, Underwood said that with the cooperation of GDOE and its foundation board, UOG, GCC and the general public, the initiative would enhance the chances of the next generation to pursue higher education.

        GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez said the investment is worth it, adding that the students would end up in the island’s institutions of higher learning, and eventually, back in the community, with a degree and ready to be productive.



        Andersen personnel strengthen Korea bonds with capstone visit


        Monday, 09 Feb 2015 03:00am


        PRESS RELEASE


        •  (AAFB) – More than 100 Republic of Korea senior military leaders received a first-hand look at Andersen Air Force Base and other military installations on Guam during a Korean National Defense University capstone event.

          The visit, supported by the U.S. Pacific Command, is designed to educate newly selected generals and admirals on key issues and capabilities as well as strengthen the U.S.-ROK alliance.

          Split between two days on Jan. 23 and Jan. 30, the visit provided ROK flag officers a chance to view B-52 Stratofortress bombers and ask maintainers and pilots questions in order to gain a better understanding of the role Andersen airmen play in maintaining stability in the region.

          "(It was great to have the opportunity for the ROK military leaders) to see the strategic mission that is enabled by the airpower stationed at Andersen and the Naval base ... which directly affects and improves the ROK and U.S. alliance and also our combined defense readiness posture," said Lt. Gen. Seung Ho Wee of Korea.

          Korean flag officers also met with Andersen leadership.

          "It's an honor to have our ROK partners here," said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Andrew Toth, 36th Wing commander. "Hosting this capstone tour offers military members from both our nations the opportunity to meet face-to-face, build relationships and learn more about our partners' capabilities."

          The ROK leaders later noted the unique capabilities Andersen brings to the Pacific theater.

          "I think (the tour) will have a great impact on the ROK and U.S. alliance," Wee said. "Our future leaders of Korean military, the 41 flag-level officers and the officers selected to be flag-level officers are here to directly witness and see for themselves the assets of the Air Force and Navy stationed on Guam."

          ROK leaders also visited various sites in Hawaii before they arrived in Guam. While in Hawaii, they visited the Punchbowl National Cemetery, Pacific Warfighter Center, Pacific Aviation Museum and the Navy's USS Missouri, as well as tour Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. (By Staff Sgt. Robert Hicks, 36th Wing Public Affairs)



        • Thousands attend Dusit Thani job fair


          Monday, 09 Feb 2015 03:00am


          PRESS RELEASE


          •  (DTGR) – The Dusit Thani Guam Resort hosted a recruitment job fair Saturday as it looks to fill positions in all departments of the resort as well as the six food and entertainment outlets and Devarana Spa. More than 3,000 people filled the University of Guam Calvo Field House. Applicants applied and were screened for the 350 open positions at the island’s newest five-star luxury resort and first convention center.

            “We had an incredible showing at today’s job fair. We are excited to begin bringing the people and talent on board who will be part of our world-class team, dedicated to bringing a new level of service to the island, ” said Dean Huntsman, general manager.

            Applications will be reviewed over the next few weeks with candidates to be contacted for additional interviews.

            Those who missed Saturday’s job fair are still welcome to apply. Applications can be picked up and turned in at the resort’s pre-opening office on the second floor of The Plaza in Tumon.

            Applicants can also find a list of open positions and applications at www.dusitguamresort.com.

            The Dusit Thani Guam Resort is slated to have a soft opening in April that will include the opening of the main areas, one or two restaurants and more than 200 hotel rooms. Additional rooms, banquet facilities and convention center will open up in a phased approach through June.




        Modifying the Jones Act

        Thursday, 29 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY SEN. MARY CAMACHO TORRES

        FOR more than 20 years, island leaders and national politicians have advocated for an exemption from the Jones Act’s application to Guam, with little success. Most recently, Sen. John McCain proposed an amendment to the Keystone XL Pipeline Act which would essentially repeal the domestic build requirement of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (commonly known as the Jones Act). Inasmuch as many are encouraged by the resurgence of this topic in the U.S. Senate, immediate opposition by 32 members of Congress plus the poor track record of prior attempts suggests passage of a repeal is far from certain. The Jones Act is a politically charged national issue that has been vigorously debated by the U.S. House and Senate members for many decades and the arguments for and against repeal continue.

        Many have expressed that repeal of the Jones Act or granting an exemption from the Act’s application for insular areas of the U.S. will open the market to foreign competition and result in lower shipping costs. Subsequently there will be the realization of lower cost of consumer commodities for residents of Guam, Puerto Rico and Hawaii. Others, however, submit that Guam is already serviced by three foreign vessels that transport cargo from points in Asia and Australia to Guam and not all commodities that originate from non-U.S. export countries are exceptionally lower priced than U.S. exported goods. This, they argue suggests that prices are determined to a significant degree by economies of scale and market demand and not solely by (higher) shipping costs.

        Guam will see continued growth in tourist arrivals and construction projects, so an affordable, reliable and adequate shipping service to our island is vital to sustain our local economy and ensure delivery of critical supplies to our citizens. Many believe that the Jones Act provides these assurances for Guam and should not be repealed or amended. Meanwhile proponents emphasize that exempting Guam from the Jones Act will provide immediate relief from high shipping costs and open the market to added shipping providers. A 2013 U.S. General Accountability Office Report which evaluated the characteristics of island maritime trade and potential effects of modifying the Jones Act, highlighted that the consequences of modification are uncertain.

        During my tenure as general manager of the Port Authority of Guam, it was apparent that the volume of cargo that passes through our island on the sole U.S. flagged vessel servicing Guam is limited. About 30,000 TEUs (20-foot containers) are shipped through Guam annually, which pales in comparison to the more than 13 million TEUs shipped throughout the Pacific. A modification to the Jones Act may not necessarily translate into lower shipping costs if the supply and demand is insufficient to support additional carriers or if foreign shippers become bound by laws and regulations imposed by the Department of Transportation. Of course, the present landscape of carriers to Guam may change altogether with an amendment or repeal of the Jones Act. Because certainties still exist, we must carefully examine, monitor and contribute to the ongoing discussion to better anticipate the consequences that flow from any modification of this almost century-old law.

        Past history and expenditure of hundreds of thousands of GovGuam taxpayer dollars on legal fees combating application of the Jones Act teaches us that modifying the Act transcends Guam and suggests that we should not bank on a solution that may be beyond our national political clout. While the national and local debate over the Jones Act continues, we must not lose sight of what relief can be implemented locally. Sound policy making warrants that we continue to explore tax and other incentives to help lower the consumer costs on Guam, increase competition and create new industries. As vice chairwoman of the Committee on Finance and Taxation, General Government Operations and Youth Development, I look forward to working with committee Chairman Michael San Nicolas in exploring incentives, tax policies and reforms that promote true savings to our consumers. Increased consumer demand and improved economies of scale are also in the foreseeable future with continued tourism and organic and military growth on Guam which may provide further relief.

        Guam’s water supply: A human right for all?

        Thursday, 15 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY SEN. MARY CAMACHO TORRES

        THE right to water is a human right under international law yet it is estimated that nearly one in every six people globally does not have access to clean water. Many international organizations work to mitigate injustices in the control and profit of water systems, prevent skewed consumption and ensure fair distribution to vulnerable communities. Although Guam is blessed with an annual rainfall of 85 to 115 inches and an abundant supply of ground water in our northern aquifers, the heated topic of water rights and unreasonable rates often surfaces in our small community over management of the Fena Reservoir.

        The Navy controls the Fena Reservoir located in the Naval Munitions Site and restricts access to the general public. The Guam Waterworks Authority purchases water supplied by the Navy from Fena to service civilian consumers in the southern villages of Agat and Santa Rita. Previously, GWA purchased close to 73 million gallons a month from the Navy but reduced the quantity to 41 million gallons as a cost savings measure following a 40 percent rate hike by the Navy. The existing supplier/customer relationship between the Navy and GovGuam over the commodity of water is a recurring point of contention by members in our community.

        Use-based rights to water normally rely on whether the user has legal access to the water source. Generally, use-based rights are fully transferable, but this scenario may not easily apply to the Navy and GovGuam because of the restricted access to the Fena Reservoir. Nonetheless, one could argue that despite its control of the production and distribution of water from Fena, the Navy should have provisions that are reasonable and beneficial to the entire community. Fundamentally, access to water should not be so restrictive (or cost prohibitive) that it becomes unattainable to the civilian distribution system and the common citizen.

        Over the past few decades, we’ve realized the transfer of management and assets from the Department of Navy to GovGuam, and some have suggested that the operation of the Fena Reservoir and treatment facility should similarly be transferred. The GWA is, after all, operating the vast majority of water wells on Guam already, and at a cost per production well below the rates being assessed by the Navy for Fena water. But is it merely a matter of price and distribution of this precious natural resource, or should we instead by asking ourselves why we are still in this unusual commercial relationship, given the history of transfer of Naval Air Station, the airport and Guam Power Authority?

        As a community that looks forward to continued growth in our population, whether through natural organic growth, the military buildup or transient population swells in tourism, we must set our sights not only on expanding access to more water sources but equally as well to conservation measures. The sustainability of our small island imprint requires that we as individuals begin to look at conservation of our natural resources. We should focus on reduced utility consumption as zealously as we pursue cost reduction. Now that we’re coming to grips with compliant waste water disposal, we should turn our attention to green energy alternatives and gray water technologies to recycle usable waste water.

        The water retail business is a world entirely on its own and separate from the basic human right to water. I am not suggesting that there exists grave injustices in the treatment and distribution of water on Guam, or that people in our community are denied the fundamental human right to access this precious natural commodity. I do believe, however, there exists a debatable practice that allows for a military entity to sell a natural commodity to a civilian population at a price many consider unreasonable and cost prohibitive for the underprivileged consumer. I look forward to any discussions about future transfer of assets and management, but in the interim remain optimistic with the utility commission’s objective to wean itself from the Fena Reservoir water source.

        Shipping shortage possible

        Friday, 06 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        • http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/020615/top_200_200.jpgIf West Coast ports proceed with lockout

          MONTHS-LONG negotiations between port owners and port employees over employment conditions at ports along the U.S. West Coast caused a slowdown in operations last October and it is possible a full lockout could happen soon with a sizable impact on Guam and Hawaii.

          According to Michael Hansen, president of the Hawaii Shippers’ Council, disagreements between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU)  “appear to be coming to a head and may lead to a lockout in the next five to 10 days.”

          PMA President and CEO Jim McKenna told mainland media at a press conference yesterday at 8 a.m. Guam time that the low productivity and congestion at the ports could translate into a lockout in less than two weeks. McKenna said it is the last thing the association wants.

          PMA represents the port owners and ocean shipping companies, while ILWU represent employees. The lockout would mean an end to cargo movements through 29 U.S. West Coast ports and since both Hawaii and Guam depend largely on cargo that come through those ports, a lockout could mean both places will experience a shortage of supplies.

          While international carriers would still be able to carry cargo to both Hawaii and Guam, Hansen said the two islands are highly dependent on U.S. cargo and without shipments, there will likely be shortages.

          Effects

          American Samoa is already feeling the effects of the slowdown, Hansen said. Last week, Radio New Zealand International reported that ships to American Samoa were delayed, causing a shortage in eggs and milk on the island and fresh produce prices were jumping in light of the shipping delay.

          Hansen said the union agreed to continue to work domestic U.S. shipping to Alaska and that agreement might be extended to Hawaii and Guam. “However, if the West Coast container terminals and ports are fully congested, it may not be possible to continue working the cargo unimpeded,” Hansen said.

          Hansen estimated it would take about a week for Hawaii and two weeks for Guam to register the lockdown’s effect on delivering merchandise. However, that timeline is dependent on which ships were able to load and pull out of the West Coast ports before the lockdown, if it happens.

          Even before the Coast Contract between port employers and employees expired in July 2014, PMA and the union began negotiating a contract and after it expired, port workers continued working without the contract, Hansen said.

          “The employers have conceded to most union demands with their last offer, and according to the reporting, the union raised a half dozen new demands and bringing the PMA to the point where they are seriously considering a lockout,” Hansen said.

          The union seems to be unwilling to wrap up negotiations and created congestion at the port, Hansen said. Port employees are withholding labor and bringing up more issues late in the negotiation talks, which could be a tactic to generate support among the rank-and-file employees to reinforce the union’s ability to exercise control over the work they consider their jurisdiction, Hansen said.

          Hansen added that the lockout could cost the U.S. $1 billion to $2 billion a day. The best solution would be for the parties to agree on terms so port operations can continue or President Barack Obama may be forced to invoke the provisions of the Taft Hartley Act of 1947, Hansen said.

          Then-President George W. Bush invoked the act in 2001 in response to a lockout between PMA and ILWU. The act, also called the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, is a federal law which provides an 80-day injunction against strikes that endanger public health and safety. It bans closed shops, boycotts and certain other union practices.

         

        Defense officials include Guam in budget media briefings

        Friday, 06 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY FRANK WHITMAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        THE $126 million live-fire training range planned for the Northwest Field area of Andersen Air Force Base is considered part of the infrastructure for the military’s “rebalance” to the Pacific, according to Rear Adm. William Lescher, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget.

        Lescher spoke Wednesday to the media at the Pentagon in Washington about the proposed fiscal year 2016 Navy budget that was part of President Barack Obama’s budget proposal submitted to Congress on Monday.

        “A live-fire range on Guam is funded to support the training of 4,700 Marines planned for relocation at Guam by FY 2021,” Lescher told reporters as he presented the Navy’s proposed military construction projects.

        The goal of the rebalance is to have 60 percent of the Navy’s aircraft and 60 percent of its ships into the Pacific region by 2020, Lescher said. That will include an increase from 52 ships in the Asia-Pacific region to 65 ships in five years. “From an infrastructure perspective, so with investments in Guam and Iwakuni, et cetera, are all again focused and consistent with that strategic direction on the transition to the Pacific,” he said.

        In a separate Department of Defense media briefing also about the proposed fiscal 2016 budget, Vice Adm. James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said his agency would “continue the support for the TPY-2 radar as part of our forward deployed THAAD battery in Guam.”

        The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery was deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in April 2013 in response to North Korean threats directed at Guam. The TPY-2 radar “provides surveillance, track, discrimination and fire control support for the (THAAD) weapon system,” according to the MDA website.

        Commitment

        In a third Pentagon media briefing on the proposed budget, Under Secretary Of Defense (comptroller) Mike McCord, in response to a question assured reporters that the budget reflected a continued commitment to the rebalance.

        “Shifting the assets we have, say the naval assets, from being 50/50 Atlantic Pacific toward the 60/40, that continues,” he said. “Some of the major construction and modernization footprint moves that we've had anywhere – anywhere in the world the last couple of years – have been at Camp Humphreys ... and then the movement with the government of Japan that in concert from Okinawa to Guam, those continue.  And we certainly, as you know, have some progress to report on that front, and since Mr. Hale presented this budget last year with General Ramsay, in terms of landfill permit and other political progress, as well as environmental studies being completed.”



        Doctor estimates more than 30,000 residents have diabetes


        Thursday, 05 Feb 2015 03:00am


        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


        ENDOCRINOLOGIST  Dr. Tim Arakawa said Guam data show a high prevalence of diagnosed diabetes cases but considering how many cases go undiagnosed, that number may be higher.


        At Tuesday’s luncheon meeting of the Rotary Club of Tumon Bay held at the Pacific Star Resort & Spa, Arakawa and Dr. Ana Leigh Ursales, spoke to Rotarians about diabetes and infectious diseases on Guam.

        Ursales and Arakawa are physicians with the Seventh-day Adventist Guam Clinic.

        Arakawa said based on the annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey, there is a 12 percent incidence of diabetes in America, which includes the number of people who might have diabetes but do not know it.

        In Guam, Arakawa said the latest available data shows the diabetes rate is about 14 percent. This number does not include how many people have not been diagnosed by a doctor and also have the disease.

        “If you extrapolate how many cases of diabetes there might be of people both diagnosed and undiagnosed, we’re talking about a rate of about 20 percent,” Arakawa said. “And a lot of people actually think that’s a very conservative number.”

        There are a lot of potential diabetes cases in Guam as well, the doctor said. “Based on the current population of 160,000, we’re looking at about 30,000 (people) who have diabetes,” he said. With less than a handful of endocrinologists on island, that amounts to a few thousand patients for each endocrinologist Arakawa said.

        Study

        Arakawa said he read about a medical study that examined the effects of medication and lifestyle change on decreasing a person’s risk of developing diabetes. The study revealed that while medication did help, changing eating habits and regular exercise was a much better prevention method to reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

        The study involved more than 3,000 people who were overweight and determined to be “pre-diabetic,” Arakawa said. Doctors use the term “pre-diabetes” to describe people who are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and for heart disease and stroke.

        “When we address the diabetic population in Guam, we want to use the most effective means and ones that will address the root cause,” Arakawa said.

        Chronic diabetes occurs at a high rate on Guam, Arakawa said. People who are obese have a higher chance of developing the disease and in Guam about 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 5 children are considered obese.

        Arakawa said this does not include people who are considered overweight.

        Early detection is key to preventing more individuals from developing the disease, said Ursales.

        In addition to Arakawa’s presentation on diabetes, Ursales presented on infectious diseases common on Guam.

        Ursales said tuberculosis, whooping cough, HIV, leprosy and staph infections are common on the island. Most of the leprosy cases are from migrants who come to Guam from neighboring islands, she said.

        Since the 1980s, there have been about 200 cases of HIV reported on Guam, but some health providers question if there is enough screening done for the disease, Ursales said. She also said some people prefer to be tested for the disease off-island and that there is not a dedicated HIV clinic in Guam.



        Students speak out on issues


        Thursday, 05 Feb 2015 03:00am


        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


        • Importance of civic engagement stressed

          AT LEAST 200 students from the different public high schools let the public and island leaders know what matters to them as they converged yesterday afternoon in Hagåtña, urging action on issues such as the recent pay raises, better education, and improvements in public safety.

          Motorists traversing Marine Corps Drive honked their horns while students – mostly seniors from Simon Sanchez, John F. Kennedy, Tiyan, and Southern High Schools – held up signs which read: “Less Talk, More Action,” “Why Raise? What Have You Done for Us?”

          Another student took inspiration from Martin Luther King, carrying a placard that read: “I have a dream ... Sharks will have a better home!”

          According to SSHS teacher Andri Baynum, the objective of the outreach was to promote Black History month and also, more importantly, civic engagement.

          “Civic engagement was used by our civil rights leaders. They engaged their leaders and they engaged the public into the issues that were important to them. So we need to start doing the same thing,” Baynum said.

          “The issues represented here today run the gamut – everything from rebuilding our schools, roads, to streetlights, safety, and the raises. All of these issues are a part of the civic engagement movement that we are trying to do,” he added.

          Shared thoughts

          Several SSHS seniors shared their thoughts on the outreach, in particular, issues which they believe should be prioritized by island leaders.

          For Shaina Dado, the conditions of most roads on Guam need to be addressed as well as the need for more cops ensuring public safety.

          Meanwhile, Luke Fernandez said better education and addressing crimes rank high on his list. “We really want to make the issues known in our community,” he said. “We see it in the news but there seems to be no push to make things better, or for the quality of living to be better.”

          Chelsea Nauta said, “We are just really looking for a safer community.”

          Speak up

          According to “Civic Responsibility and Higher Education,” edited by Thomas Ehrlich, “civic engagement is "working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes."

          For Kat Valencia and the other students, it is important for the youth to speak up and get involved. “If you get the youth to speak up, we can get the adults and other people to speak up, too,” she said.

          “The more people that are involved, the more chances there will be change in the community,” Dado said.

          “Because this is our island and we are trying to make a better place for our future and everybody else,” Nauta said.

          For Baynum, the outreach served as a platform for students taking ownership of their future.

          “This is their island. We need to do the best for them and make sure that they understand that in order for the government to work, they need to take ownership of their island. Their leaders don’t own this island, the governor doesn’t own it. The senators do not own this place. The future belongs to these kids. We need to teach them to engage the people who are in power,” he said.

          NOAA grants Guam more than $870,000

          Posted: Feb 05, 2015  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

          Guam - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has awarded the Government of Guam $878,000 worth of federal grant assistance.

          Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo announced the grant which will go to support guam's coastal management program. The funds will specifically support jobs and provide continued assistance to the program along with providing outreach and education, responsible coastal development and training opportunities for the local construction industry to promote best practices for stormwater management.

           


        Completion of runway project eyed

        Thursday, 05 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        A THREE-PART project at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport is expected to be fully completed within the year.

        Included in the project is the runway rehabilitation that was granted an additional federal grant of $800,000 as announced by the airport on Monday.

        According to Elfrieda Koshiba, Guam International Airport Authority program coordinator, the runway rehabilitation project is one component of the three-part project that includes the runway rehabilitation work, the closure of Central Avenue (which currently serves as entrance to, and exit from, Tiyan at Route 8) and the installation of precision approach path indicator (PAPI) system for runway 24L/6R.

        “Currently, we are working with the (Federal Aviation Administration) to secure additional funding to complete these three projects. We are anticipating another grant award in the summer months, to finish everything off,” she told Variety.

        Koshiba said the bulk of the funding received for the projects was sourced from the FAA. The federal agency shoulders the 90 percent of the cost while GIAA is assigned to cover the remaining 10 percent as its co-share.

        Work on the three projects, Variety was told, began in 2013 and all should be completed by the latter part of this year.

        The recent $800,000 award was a reimbursement for the work completed on the primary runway which has been extended.

        The Runway 6L/24 previously measured 10,000 linear feet. It was extended by 1,000 linear feet on both ends – extending the entire runway to 12,000 linear feet in length.

        According to GIAA, funding utilized for the runway rehab project was sourced from multiple FAA grants.

        Closer

        Chuck Ada, executive manager of the airport, said that the latest grant will bring the agency closer to the opening of the runway for full operation.

        “Guam has been given a unique opportunity not only to extend our runway for increased capacity and loads, but also to strengthen and rehabilitate our primary runway for the safe operations of long-range, fully loaded aircraft and even newer aircraft models,” said Ada.

        Ada said the runway is expected to be operational during the summer of this year.

        “This brings us one step closer to open the full runway for operations, key to our ability to meet the demands of the future and attract new business that will economically benefit the whole island. We appreciate the FAA’s full support for the airport’s improvement efforts and projects,” he said.

        In July 2014, GIAA received $4.55 million from FAA’s airport improvement program grants for the continuation of the runway project.

        During that time, it was announced that nearly $12 million in federal funds has been received for the runway rehabilitation works and final funding is expected this fiscal year.



        Telo tapped as GVB deputy GM


        Thursday, 05 Feb 2015 03:00am


        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


        http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/020515/telo_200_200.jpgTelo Taitague


        GUAM Visitors Bureau General Manager Jon Nathan Denight announced yesterday he has chosen former Sen. Telo Taitague to serve as his deputy general manager.


        Denight took on the general manager role on Feb. 1 after working under former GM Karl Pangelinan for four years. Pangelinan announced his resignation Dec. 15, 2014; it was effective Jan. 31.

        Taitague previously worked as the governor’s special assistant for external affairs.

        The bureau announced Taitague’s new position in a news release. Taitague will help manage the Destination Development Department at GVB, said Josh Tyquiencgo, GVB public information officer. The division oversees sports and events tourism, tourism industry relations and cultural heritage efforts.

        Denight said Taitague is a welcome addition to the bureau. “With her years of experience as a former lawmaker and a private business owner, she has the skills needed to help us continue to diversify arrivals and enhance our visitor experience,” Denight said in a statement.

        Taitague most recently worked as the governor’s liaison to the Guam Legislature, Judiciary of Guam, Mayors’ Council of Guam and foreign affairs.

        Taitague is a graduate of George Washington High School and attended the University of Guam and North Carolina Fayetteville Technical Community College.

        The new deputy general manager said she is looking forward to working with Denight, the staff of GVB, the governor and the legislature to propel the tourism industry forward.

        “Tourism is the lifeblood of our economy and GVB continues to play a vital role in promoting everything that makes our island a great place to live, work and visit,” she said in a statement.



        AG supports in-house counsel bill with some modifications


        Thursday, 05 Feb 2015 03:00am


        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


        • DURING a public hearing for Bill 31-33, which was introduced by Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz pertaining to the hiring of in-house attorneys, Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson testified that she wants the process of hiring in-house counsel to be placed under the Office of the Attorney General to ensure consistency in legal opinion.

          Cruz re-introduced the legislation to end what he described as “exorbitant” legal billing for government agencies. The bill provides a 10 percent differential pay for full-time classified in-house attorneys, with maximum additional credit for seniority and experience.

          The measure also has a provision facilitating accessibility of tax records.

          Barrett-Anderson said she supports the legislation’s intent to cut cost. “I agree with the vice speaker wholeheartedly. You can get a very experienced attorney for about $120,000 or a little less. That is good money nowadays for an in-house counsel. No problem that it is classified,” she said.

          However, her one concern with the measure is its extra 10 percent provision.

          “I do know that if this bill does pass, line agencies who are authorized to hire their own lawyers like GDOE will turn to the ranks of the assistant generals in my office who have the experience in the areas of personnel, procurement, etc, and offer them that 10 percent and I will lose them,” she said.

          System

          The attorney general recommended putting a system in place, especially for the line agencies, wherein the attorney general’s office provides the in-house counsel through a service agreement.

          The in-house counsel will be under the purview of the OAG for consistency and will also conform to the attorney general’s requirement for cognizance over all legal matters.

          “This is needed so we will have consistency in opinions, interpretations, procurement and personnel laws,” Barrett-Anderson said, noting that the attorney general’s office has expertise on these legal areas.

          “With regard to autonomous agencies, we can still do the same thing, as we do with line agencies,” she said. “I would like to see any opinion issued by an in-house counsel that is not under the charge of the AG. I want to be able to review any opinion issued, not daily things, just opinions in the event I disagree with the opinion of a totally independent in-house counsel.”

          Barrett-Anderson said retainer agreements can be limited to areas and fields of law that the OAG has no expertise in.

          Solicitor’s division

          The attorney general also said she is in the process of rebuilding the solicitor’s division, which functions as GovGuam’s legal department and provides legal assistance to the various executive branch agencies, boards and commissions.

          During the current budget submission and review cycle, the OAG will be submitting a request to bring up the number of attorneys to 12.

          “The solicitor’s division is the core of daily legal operations,” she said. By rebuilding the division, Barrett-Anderson said complaints regarding the lengthy wait time for legal requests would be addressed.

          “I have walked back to that office after 20 years and I have heard every government agency complain that it takes so long to get anything out of the AG’s office. I recognize that and I intend to correct it. By rebuilding the solicitor’s division, contracts should have a return time of an average of 10 days, if there are a little bit more issues, maybe 30 days. An opinion, maybe 60 days, or even less than that,” she said.

          Necessary

          According to Cruz, who convened the public hearing, the legislation is necessary in light of the “outrageous” legal fees racked up by the Port Authority of Guam.

          “Good legal counsel is essential but taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars when a more cost-effective option exists. Under this bill, taxpayers save money and agencies still receive sound legal advice,” Cruz said.

          Currently, GovGuam agencies are permitted to retain counsel other than the attorney general and they have no limitations on the amount paid for outside legal services.

          The new bill will require the Office of the Attorney General to certify the need for outside counsel in writing to the speaker of the Guam Legislature and the governor.

          In addition, the outside counsel must have at least five years’ experience in the relevant subject matter or specialized area under litigation.

          Cruz said he has been a staunch opponent of excessive legal billing within the government of Guam. In response to mounting legal fees of more than $800,000 for the Guam International Airport Authority for fiscal 2008, Cruz introduced legislation in 2009 relative to designating the airport’s staff attorney to represent the agency during litigation.



        GovGuam estimates $144M impact from Compact agreement

        Wednesday, 04 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        THE Office of the Governor released its annual Impact of the Compacts of Free Association report for the island, outlining how health, education and public safety departments were affected as a result of providing services for migrants from the freely associated states.

        In the latest annual report, the government estimated that various government agencies spent $144.3 million in fiscal 2014 for services related to FAS citizens and the Compact of Free Association.

        The Guam Department of Education is the single most “impacted” agency, based on the government’s cost estimates. In fiscal 2014, the education department estimated it spent $47.9 million for 6,818 students from the freely associated states. The FAS include the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau.

        “The Guam Department of Education continues to be the largest single agency on impact cost,” the report said. However, compared to data from fiscal year 2013, the government requested $6.5 million less money for Compact-impact reimbursements this year for the education department for the same number of students.

        In addition to the $47.9 million reportedly expended by GDOE, the government calculated that bus operations, Guam Community College and the University of Guam also incurred costs as a result of the Compacts of Free Association. In total, education reimbursements amount to $53 million for last fiscal year.

        Second largest

        The Department of Public Health and Social Services reported it spent $44 million in fiscal 2014, the second largest reimbursement amount requested from a government of Guam agency.

        “For FY 2014, the Department of Public Health and Social Services expended a total of $44,441,798 for services to FAS citizens,” the report stated.  This is about $1 million more requested over fiscal 2013.

        The breakdown provided by DPHSS did not include how many FAS citizens were served in fiscal 2014.

        The government also requested $3 million more in Compact-impact reimbursement for Guam Memorial Hospital for fiscal 2014, estimating about $17 million was spent to service 9,329 FAS citizens the entire fiscal year.

        FAS citizens make up 20 percent of all the patients admitted to the hospital in fiscal 2014.

        “The emergency room reported 5,406 FAS admissions at a cost of $5,830,173. In-patient costs were reported at $22,197,709 for 2,836 FAS admissions,” the report said. “Out-patient cost was $715,235 for 1,087 FAS admissions.”

        Overall, GMH reported $28.7 million in gross charges were billed to FAS citizens and about 60 percent, $17.6 million, remained unpaid.

        Combined, GovGuam estimated the impact to DPHSS and GMH to cost $61 million, $8 million more than was estimated for education Compact-impact expenses for FY 2014.

        Like health and welfare costs, the government reported more costly impacts to the public safety agencies last fiscal year compared to fiscal 2013. The police, fire and correctional departments reported more than $1 million in extra expenses related to the Compacts of Free Association in fiscal 2014.

        OAG

        Also, despite not reporting Compact-impact costs since fiscal 2008, the Office of the Attorney General submitted a report for last year, citing $2 million in expenses related to servicing FAS citizens.

        “In FY 2014, the cost for cases involving FAS clients totaled $2.6 million. The Prosecution Division reported the largest expense of the attorney general’s office for cases involving 934 FAS caseload participants at $1.2 million,” the report said. “No reports were submitted by the Office of the Attorney General between FY 2008 and FY 2013.”

        Additionally, last fiscal year, the Superior Court of Guam spent $5.6 million on 1,261 cases involving FAS citizens out of a total of 7,827 cases.

        The Department of Interior said in a statement yesterday that the federal government will grant $31 million for Compact-impact reimbursements to be shared among Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and Hawaii. Last year, the federal government appropriated $30 million to be divided among the four entities.

        Guam received $16 million of that $30 million in Compact-impact reimbursements. The money was divided among 12 government agencies.

        In 2013, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report suggesting that the estimated costs of supporting migrants from the freely associated states in Guam, Hawaii and the CNMI are unreliable.

        Former Senator Telo Taitague Chosen as GVB Deputy General Manager



        (February 4, 2015 – Tumon, Guam) The Guam Visitors Bureau has announced today that former senator and Governor Calvo’s special assistant for external affairs Telo Taitague has been officially selected as its next Deputy General Manager.

        As a seasoned policy maker and government expert, General Manager Nathan Denight chose Taitague to help him lead the Bureau as the public and private sectors work together to achieve the goals of the Tourism 2020 plan.

        “Telo is a welcome addition to our GVB family. With her years of experience as a former lawmaker and a private business owner, she has the skills needed to help us continue to diversify arrivals and enhance our visitor experience,” said GVB General Manager Nathan Denight.

        Taitague most recently served as the governor’s liaison to the Guam Legislature, Judicial Branch, Mayors Council and Foreign Affairs. She was elected to the 30th Guam Legislature and recognized by the U.S. Congress for passing legislation mandating the use of ultra low sulfur diesel fuel.  Additionally, the George Washington High School graduate was the director of the Women’s Bureau where she advocated for young women incarcerated for a better life. She also attended the University of Guam and North Carolina Fayetteville Technical Community College in the paralegal program. Taitague has been a professional musician and vocalist for over 23 years and is the owner of Telophoto, Inc.

        “Tourism is the lifeblood of our economy and GVB continues to play a vital role in promoting everything that makes our island a great place to live, work and visit. It’s important for us to maintain our cultural identity to promote what sets us apart from the rest of the world,” said Taitague. “I look forward to working with General Manager Nathan Denight, the staff of GVB, Governor Calvo and the legislature to propel the tourism industry forward.”

         

        Obama requests $267M in military construction for Guam

        Wednesday, 04 Feb 2015 03:00am

        PRESS RELEASE

        OMZB) – Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo yesterday issued a statement following the release of preliminary details of the president’s budget proposal for fiscal 2016.

        The president’s budget requests $266.97 million for military construction projects in Guam to support the Marine realignment and bolster Guam’s strategic importance in the Asia-Pacific region. The president’s budget includes $34.4 million in appropriations for a Corrosion Control Repair Facility at Andersen Air Force Base that was authorized last year in the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.

        The president’s budget has also requested $99.66 million to support Guam and the other territories through the Office of Insular Affairs, including $24.24 million in technical assistance, $3 million for brown tree snake control, and $1 million for coral reef initiatives.

        The president’s budget also anticipates $71 million for Section 30 remittances to Guam for fiscal 2016. However, the budget requests a decrease to discretionary Compact-impact funding from $3 million in FY 2015 to $1.34 million.

        Bordallo successfully fought this decrease last year and will again work with her colleagues to maintain level funding for discretionary Compact-impact at $3 million; the $30 million in mandatory Compact-impact funding remains intact.

        “I am pleased that the president’s budget eliminates the harmful cuts of sequestration and makes significant investments in education, infrastructure, national defense and job creation,” Bordallo said.

        “I am also pleased that the president has requested $267 million in military construction projects for Guam. The president’s budget builds on the progress that we have made in past years to move forward with the realignment of Marines from Okinawa to Guam, and it reinforces Guam’s strategic importance in the Asia-Pacific region,” she added.

        Bordallo said she also appreciates that the president continues to support funding to the territories through the Office of Insular Affairs. The president’s budget requests $24.2 million for technical assistance to the insular areas and anticipates $71 million in Section 30 remittances to the government of Guam.

        “I also applaud the president’s emphasis on climate change and commend the administration for requesting $7 million for a new Resilient Insular Areas program to help plan and prepare for the impacts of climate change. However I am disappointed that the administration has again requested to decrease funding for discretionary Compact-impact assistance to the territories. While the $30 million in mandatory spending for Compact-impact remains intact, the department has requested a $1.7 million decrease from FY 2015 levels. We should not decrease federal funding for Compact-impact, which is already significantly underfunded. I continue to believe that the administration must make this issue a higher priority, and will work with my colleagues in Congress to again maintain level funding for this account,” Bordallo said.

         

        Variety has new ownership

        Wednesday, 04 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY FRANK WHITMAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        Guam Times LLC to enhance newspaper’s operations

        MARIANAS Variety-Guam has been purchased from Younis Art Studio Inc. of Saipan by Guam Times LLC. The companies announced the purchase yesterday.

        Guam Times said it is excited about the newspaper’s growth potential under the continuing leadership of its publisher, Amier Younis, and his team.

        “Guam has seen the growth of the Variety over the past 10 years,” Younis said. “We’re excited Guam Times LLC wants to help the Variety do what it takes to grow even more. Our readership and advertiser base has been growing because our readers know we are committed to journalism, the truth and community development. Variety’s growth will mean the growth of journalism and accountability on Guam.”

        Guam Times is owned by Ho S. Eun. Eun also is the founder and owner of Core Tech International Corp.

        “The publisher, the newsroom and the staff all are committed to a higher standard of journalism,” Eun said. “What makes the Variety so successful is the independence of their newsroom. It’s a great operation. We see the potential and the value of investing in this market. We are a local company that wants to engage residents with great journalism backed up by local ownership. We’re excited to give it the local support it needs to flourish.”

        Previous owner Younis Art Studio is a Saipan-based corporation that publishes Marianas Variety News & Views. The company has been publishing in the CNMI for more than 40 years. Younis Art Studio entered the Guam market about 15 years ago as Guam Variety before relaunching the Marianas Variety-Guam Edition in 2004.

        Balance

        “Our Guam operation grew into a newspaper of general circulation and a member of mainstream media that gave balance to the field of print journalism on Guam,” said Laila Younis-Boyer, president of Younis Art Studio. “The CNMI is entering a new economic era, and our company wants to focus where we started, on our core. We are happy with the direction Guam Times LLC wants to take the Guam operation, and we look forward to the newspaper’s success.”

        Guam Times officials assured subscribers and vendors there will be a seamless transition in ownership. They need not worry about making any changes to their relationship with Marianas Variety-Guam. Operations will continue as normal without interruption. Guam Times and the Variety staff are handling all transition matters.

        Core Tech was founded by Eun in 1991 as Sun Woo Corp., a Guam construction company focused on commercial, office, retail and residential projects. In 1999, Sun Woo was reorganized into Core Tech International to specialize in civil and infrastructural works.

        • Mathew 4 hours ago

          Core Tech got that sweetheart deal with the Calvo administration for the Tiyan facility. Does that mean that Marianas Variety will be gun shy in critiquing Core Tech from here on out? Real journalism involves spending lots of man hours conducting investigative work, and not being a water carrier for the powers-that-be. (Right, Travis?)

        Administration appoints new top officials

        Wednesday, 04 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        THE Office of the Governor announced eight new Cabinet members to serve as directors and deputy directors of six government agencies in a press release sent yesterday.

        As of Monday, Feb. 2, Felix Benavente was designated deputy director of the Department of Public Works, under recently appointed Director Glenn Leon Guerrero.

        At the Department of Youth Affairs, Peter Alexcis Ada will be deputy director under Director Adonis Mendiola. William Reyes was assigned to work as deputy director at the Department of Parks and Recreation under Director Raymond Blas.

        Starting next Monday, Anthony Blaz will serve as director of the Department of Administration and Alfred Duenas will be his deputy director.

        Jose Calvo was assigned to head the Bureau of Budget and Management Research as director with Lester Carlson Jr. to be deputy director.

        At the Department of Corrections, Gov. Eddie Calvo assigned Carleen Borja as deputy director under Director Jose San Agustin.

        Borja, according to a statement from the governor’s office, was most recently the chief of staff for Sen. Brant McCreadie.

        Borja has a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from Chaminade University and also served as a probation officer with the Judiciary of Guam and the U.S. District Court.

        Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio said a lot of work will be done in the coming weeks and months at the prison. Officials said they expect Borja will play an important role in the recently formed working group to help the prison address its serious problems.

        Best people

        Calvo said in a statement that as he and Tenorio start their second term, they want to ensure they are placing the best people where they are needed to fulfill an aggressive agenda set for the next four years.

        “Some of these names you’ve probably heard before, others you may not be so familiar with. They all bring years of experience and knowledge into these positions,” Tenorio said.

        Benavente and Leon Guerrero ran unsuccessfully as candidates during the November 2014 election for senator in the 33rd Guam Legislature.


        Forever 21, Dusit Thani hosting upcoming job fairs

        Wednesday, 04 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        • AS CONSTRUCTION work on the much-anticipated Forever 21 Tamuning location continues, efforts to recruit employees have ramped up.

          Guam Premier Outlets announced the retail store will host open interviews at the GPO food court next to the Froots outlet.

          The open interviews will take place next week from Wednesday, Feb. 11 through Sunday, Feb. 15, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 6 p.m.

          Forever 21 encouraged interested applicants to apply for jobs on its website. As of yesterday afternoon, nine positions were open to applicants for the Guam location.

          The Dusit Thani Guam Resort is also still under construction but is seeking to hire employees this month. On Monday, the resort announced in a news release that it would be hosting a job fair at the University of Guam Field House this Saturday, Feb. 7 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

          Dusit Thani is looking to hire 350 people for 100 positions in various departments including the kitchen, purchasing, information technology, sales and marketing, human resources/training, housekeeping, laundry, engineering, front office, recreation and spa, and food and beverage.

          Mindy Aguon, Dusit Thani Guam Resort public relations manager, said 20 positions at the resort have already been filled and the company “absolutely” anticipates that there are enough individuals on Guam to meet its employment needs.

          Soft opening

          Aguon said the resort will likely hold a soft opening in April with about 250 hotel rooms, the main areas and one or two restaurants open. Eventually, more guest rooms, banquet rooms and function rooms will be open for a grand opening anticipated in June.

          The 30-story resort will have 417 hotel rooms including 381 standard rooms, 29 one-bedroom suites, five premium suites, a presidential suite and a 10,000-square-foot entertainment suite. O.A. Coloma is the architect behind the resort’s design.

          Aguon said construction material delays were the primary cause of the delayed hotel opening and said the resort is on track for its opening and is on budget.

          Guam Premier Outlets officials confirmed last year that Forever 21 would open a location in the space that used to house California Mart.

          In November, contractor Isagani Baluyut Construction was granted a building permit from the Department of Public Works allowing interior alteration of the 20,292-square-foot space. According to the building permit, the cost is about $975,000.

        Cruz asks Adelup to help lobby for COFA money

        Wednesday, 04 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        To help fund water systems integration

        VICE Speaker Benjamin Cruz has asked the governor to help lobby for Compact-impact funds to help fund the integration of the island's water system.

        According to Cruz, the U.S. government continues to be "mum" about the $300 million in Compact-impact obligation to Guam already acknowledged by federal law.

        In a letter to Gov. Eddie Calvo, Cruz said the Compact-impact funding can be used for the cash purchase of the Fena Reservoir, which the Navy currently owns and from which the Guam Waterworks Authority continues to buy water for the southern villages.

        In his letter, Cruz particularly decried the lack of federal response to the 40 percent hike to the water rate the U.S. Navy charges GWA.

        “While this glaring disparity seeded significant concern throughout our community, no federal entity has concretely agreed to roll back the rate increases to a more reasonable figure or adopt an adequate phase-in period,” said Cruz, who stressed the inordinate difference between the current GWA rate of $2.91 per 1,000 gallons versus the Navy’s rate of $7.59 per 1,000 gallons.

        Having previously appealed to Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther P. Kia’aina in December 2014, Cruz reiterated that the reimbursement of the impacts of the Compact of Free Association – a federal obligation – is aligned with a congressional provision signed into law as the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011, which allows for the offset of unreimbursed Compact costs owed to Guam.

        ‘Admitted liability’

        “I believe that the federal government, by acknowledging that its $300 million debt to the people of Guam can be offset by the return of Fena, has admitted liability for this longstanding obligation and, in so doing, left itself vulnerable to court action – an action I am willing to authorize and fund with the support of my colleagues in the legislature,” said Cruz.

        He added that there has been little in the way of real commitment from the federal government despite having written to Kia’aina and the U.S. Department of the Interior more than a month ago.

        “In simple terms, governor, the federal government’s reticence on this matter is deafening,” the vice speaker said in his letter.

        Cruz has also requested the administration to prioritize the security of fresh water resources in the south as the center of its federal agenda for the upcoming State of the Island address.

        “If the federal government is truly committed to a ‘One Guam’ approach, surely we can agree to operate one water system for the benefit of all concerned,” said Cruz.

        “In the absence of such an agreement, I humbly request your public support of a legislative proposal authorizing litigation to obtain $300 million in unreimbursed Compact costs already acknowledged under federal law,” he said.

         

        Bill seeks to track and set aside buildup-related revenue

        Wednesday, 04 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        SEN. Michael San Nicolas has introduced Bill 36-33 which seeks to identify, track and set aside nonrecurring buildup-related revenue to ensure the government of Guam's budget is not artificially inflated.

        According to San Nicolas, the bill is needed and timely because the U.S. Congress is now finally providing authorization to move forward with the Guam military buildup.

        The senator said his Responsible Guam Build-Up Fund Act will protect Guam from overspending and ensure military buildup money is spent wisely. If passed into law, San Nicolas said his bill will ensure nonrecurring buildup money will be separated from recurring money so it does not artificially inflate the government's budget projections.

        If this separation does not occur, San Nicolas said the projected budget of the government will incorrectly assume the same amounts in future fiscal years, resulting in future appropriations that would not have the money to support them.

        “During the 1980s, we saw a tourism buildup boom that eventually cooled off and our budgeting did not anticipate such a rise and fall in revenue. As a result, our people had to endure a painful period of sharply lower revenues.

        “With the military buildup, we know that there will be a similar revenue rise and fall, and we need to make sure that the temporary and substantial increase in revenue during this period is spent to provide long-term benefits to the community without increasing our long-term liabilities,” San Nicolas said in a statement about the bill.

        Separated

        If the bill is enacted, nonrecurring buildup money will be separated and authorized for expenditure on limited areas, including:  court-ordered mandates of the government of Guam, unpaid wages and benefits of government of Guam employees, vendor payments outstanding and payable, the repair of island roads, medical supplies for the Guam’s health care system, education expenses for the Adequate Education Act, advance payments to retire government debt and capital investments in long-term assets strictly for education, health, public safety and services for individuals with disabilities.

        The military's supplemental environmental impact statement projects Guam’s tax revenue to increase by at least $40 million annually, peaking as high as $86 million. San Nicolas said this $46 million variance is temporary, and needs to be budgeted in a way that does not result in permanent liabilities.

        "Without this special fund, nonrecurring military buildup related revenues would be spent on the general operations of the government of Guam. If this type of money is not disentangled from the general fund, the government of Guam may be spending these additional revenues on permanent personnel or projects whose funding may not be available in subsequent years," San Nicolas said.

        He added that his legislation is intended to spend buildup money wisely with long-term investments in schools, health care systems, roads, public safety agencies and paying down financial obligations.

        "The Responsible Guam Build-Up Fund is a necessary step to ensuring that the people of Guam sustainably benefit from the military buildup,” San Nicolas said.

        Discussions continue on Navy's proposed water rate increase

        Posted: Jan 30, 2015  by Jolene Toves  KUAM

        Guam - As the Navy does not seem to be giving Waterworks a break, talks about options are on the table.    

        According to Senator Frank Blas, Jr. a 40% rate increase is "ridiculous" but that is exactly what the navy intends to charge GovGuam for water purchased from Fena.

        "I think anybody in wanting to think that we can afford a 40% increase automatically in that fashion is ludicrous," he said.

        As we reported, GovGuam purchases water from Fena to service residents in Santa Rita and Agat and since word was received by the Consolidated Commission on Utilities that the Navy proposes to charge an additional 40% on top of the 260% increase which has occurred over the last seven years. They have been looking at their options. "First of all the Department of Defense should not be in the business and should never be in the business to create or make water or power for that matter," the senator said.

        The CCU along with Blas question why the increase is necessary and whether the Navy is having challenges controlling it costs of water since they are charging far more than what GWA charges. According to CCU chairperson Joseph Duenas his talks with the Navy have led him to believe that the Navy will not give waterworks a break, this has opened discussions of a possible merger of the systems it is an idea that Blas appreciates.

        "So let's go back to this whole idea of merging the systems I would appreciate a merged system but I don't think that we need to pay as much maybe there are costs but I don't think it warrants the 40% and I don't think it warrants that we are going to use all the monies owed to us for compact costs to pay for this," he said.

        Also on the table is the idea of purchasing Fena. Congresswoman Madeline Boradallo had authored legislation passed by Congress to have the navy turn over Fena, but Congress requires GovGuam to pay the fair market value for that asset. "The federal government in the law basically acknowledged we believe they acknowledged that there was money that was owed to us for our Compact costs and there was a suggestion that we use that money that was owed to us a as a means for us to pay for the purchase of Fena," he explained.

        However Duenas does not believe that Compact impact funds should be used for the purchase of Fena and while Blas agrees he says the admittance of the federal government that they owe money to GovGuam for its Compact costs could warrant a law suit. A suit that GovGuam can successfully win as to this day money is still owed by the feds. He said, "It never was its still something that's still in the books it's a discussion that I think we still need to have with the department of interior and the Obama Administration based on this admittance and so I am still looking at this at being able to further this discussion."

        He says that he would like to have conversations to avoid the law suit. Meanwhile the CCU continues to find ways reduce the amount of water consumed from the navy and entertains the idea of jointly operating Fena.  

        SDA physicians profile prevalent island diseases

        Posted: Feb 03, 2015  by Jolene Toves KUAM

        Guam - Guam Seventh-Day Adventist doctors presented to Rotarians this afternoon regarding diseases prevalent in Guam and steps you can take to prevent them. Several illnesses are more prevalent in Guam than other parts of the world.

        Seventh-Day Adventist doctors Tim Arawkawa and Anna Ursales detailed ways we can treat or even prevent these diseases through simple lifestyle changes. Dr. Ursales said about tuberculosis, "I found an article where the rates of TB here are actually six times higher than that of Hawaii and twelve times higher than that of the US mainland."

        She says higher rates in Guam may be due to limited land space and closer contact between individuals, hence the importance for screening, not only for TB, but for sexually transmitted diseases as well as human immunodeficiency virus.

        Dr. Arawkawa, on the other hand, is an endocrinology specialist, and says one major disease facing Guamanians is diabetes. SDA has many programs to help combat this issue, as he said, "We have some lifestyle programs that help people with diet, help them with exercise, give them the tools that they need in order to take better care of their diabetes. And in fact, if they start early enough, they can prevent diabetes from even occurring."

        Lorraine Aguon was a participant in the last detox program, and said, "I lost nine pounds and then the following day I lost another pound. My clothes started to fit me and then I realized that my joints, my pains are gone."

        Aguon had been suffering from weight gain and arthritis and because of her positive results, decided to continue following the program. To learn more about disease prevention, screening or wellness programs, you can contact the SDA Clinic at 646-8881. 

        Appropriations chairman concerned about budget

        Posted: Feb 04, 2015  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

        Guam - The chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz is, raising concern over the recently-submitted budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2016. The projected gross revenues for the next fiscal year for the General Fund is pegged at $851.7 million - about 8.6% more than the previous fiscal year.

        "In what he transmitted on Saturday night, I note of the $67 million increase in the overall budget, about $53 million of that is going to increase the budgets for executive agencies; $12 million is going to go to paying down the debt service and most of that probably will go to paying for the new Tiyan lease. The balance of $364 million is to be split between DOE, UOG, GCC, the mayors, the Legislature, the Judiciary, the Attorney General, Public Defender. That's hardly enough to be able to take care of anything. If, as he says in his letter, that education is the vehicle by which we can address all the social wills in the society, the $364 million isn't going to be able to cut it," Cruz said.

        The vice speaker says he is still waiting for reports from the Department of Administration of the revenue collections for 2014 in order to fully digest the budget.

        Calvo signing MOU between Guam and Japan

        Posted: Feb 04, 2015  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

        Guam - Governor Eddie Calvo is in Sapporo, Japan to witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Guam Visitors Bureau and the Sapporo Tourist Association. The MOU reflects the bond between the two organizations and their efforts to increase the flow of visitor arrivals between Sapporo and Guam. While on the trip, Governor Calvo will address tourism industry professionals at a ceremony hosted by Sapporo Tourist Association.  


        Cruz calls for special revenue fund reports

        Tuesday, 03 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        VICE Speaker Benjamin Cruz has given the Bureau of Budget and Management Research until Feb. 4 to produce the Special Revenue Fund (SRF) tracking reports that detail the actual collections for specific special funds.

        A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was filed by Cruz, who has called on BBMR Director Anthony Blaz to produce the tracking reports for each month following the BBMR’s last submission to the Guam Legislature in September 2014.

        “I don't want to believe this administration is hiding something from us, but when directors repeatedly refuse to comply with the law, I am forced to ask why,” said Cruz, whose latest FOIA request joins several others filed this year in what he calls a "protracted" effort to pursue required reports currently withheld from the legislature.

        “Regardless of the administration’s rationale for nonreporting, the means to which this Committee must resort to gather information is highly disruptive to the budget process; the stonewalling has to stop,” he said.

        Cruz’s FOIA request notes that the law requires the BBMR director to report, no later than 20 days after the end of each month, the revenue tracking for the Tourist Attraction Fund, the Solid Waste Operations Fund (tipping fees), the Territorial Educational Facilities Fund, the Guam Highway Fund, the Healthy Futures Fund, and the Customs, Agriculture & Quarantine Inspection Services Fund.

        Cruz, in his letter, also reminded Blaz that failure to submit the fund tracking report carries a $250 fine per missed deadline. The deadline for the submission of the special reports should have been no later than 20 days after the end of each month of the fiscal year.

        To date, Cruz said the director has missed four such deadlines: September, October, November and December 2014.

        Earlier, Cruz issued Freedom of Information Act requests for Department of Administration reports which he said are vital to the legislative budget process.

        Specifically, Cruz asked for information on revenues, expenditures and changes in the general fund balance, as well as financial statements provided to independent auditors for fiscal year 2014.

        According to Cruz, who is chairman of the legislature's finance committee, DOA missed its deadline for submitting these reports.

        “Although it is unfortunate that agencies are unable to comply with a reporting requirement meant to uphold fiscal transparency and accountability, the committee is determined to keep government’s finances open and subject to review by not only the committee, but also the people of Guam,” Cruz said.


        Bill seeks to unfreeze 2002 merit bonus payments

        Tuesday, 03 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        AS HE promised a couple of weeks ago, Sen. Frank Aguon has introduced Bill 27-32, legislation that would unfreeze 2002 merit bonuses, allowing public employees with superior performance evaluations during that fiscal year to finally receive the payments promised to them.

        The measure has a provision which authorizes the governor, via transfer authority, to identify funds necessary to support the merit bonus payments.

        Should the governor be unable to identify a funding source and implement the provision contained in the measure by July 1, he is to present to the speaker and the chairman of the committee on appropriations a written plan highlighting a course of action and/or recommendation for addressing the intent of the legislation.

        P.L. 23-45 and 26-35 froze merit bonuses for employees during fiscal 1996 and 2002, resulting in a large number of government employees not receiving merit bonus payments despite Gov. Eddie Calvo’s 2013 executive order to pay outstanding merit bonuses from 1991 through 2013.

        According to Aguon, the two fiscal years were directly impacted because of the financial condition of the government of Guam at the time. Payments were restricted by statutes due to the implementation of cost containment measures.

        According to Aguon’s proposed legislation, more than 1,200 outstanding public employees may have been directly affected by the legal restriction outlined in the law.

        The intent of the bill is to authorize the merit bonus payments to be released to public employees who received superior performance evaluations in FY 2002.

        In mid-January, Aguon announced that his office was working on legislation to address the issue following concerns raised by affected personnel such as Percy Manley, a former police officer.

        Manley said he has approached Aguon and other legislators as well as administrators at the Department of Administration multiple times since 2013 regarding the issue.

        Aguon said his office was formulating legislation to rectify this inequity in pay in order to compensate public employees whose evaluations merited a bonus.


        GPA plans to change 2,000 streetlights soon

        Tuesday, 03 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        IN RESPONSE to concerns raised by the community, the Guam Power Authority has announced a three-year change-out plan for all 15,000 streetlights, starting with 2,000 non-functioning units on critical routes.

        The Consolidated Commission on Utilities unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the power authority to proceed with the plans which involved a change-out of high-pressure sodium (HPS) existing streetlights with more efficient light emitting diode or LEDs.

        According to Art Perez, GPA communications manager, although the power authority will address the first 2,000 units, it has a target of 5,000 change-outs per year until project completion.

        "We have a goal of changing 5,000 streetlights per year. That's going to cost us about $1.3 million to replace the lights, including labor," he said.

        But even with that cost, GPA expects to reap savings of about $400,000 in operating and maintenance costs, he said.

        "So those types of savings can be reinvested into additional lights. And we hope that at the end of the three-year period, with the savings reaped, and with the customer of record, in this case, the Department of Public Works, we will be able to relocate or add more lights to the existing inventory," he said.

        Perez said the power authority is not expecting to raise rates to finance the project. Instead, GPA will utilize existing funds from the streetlight fund. A portion of vehicle registration fees goes to this fund.

        John Benavente, Consolidated Utility Services general manager, said GPA recognizes that there are a significant number of lights throughout the island which are not currently working.

        Crews

        "We are tasking three crews to repair or replace these lights quickly and apologize for the delays. This program coupled with the LED streetlight conversion will ensure streetlights become more reliable for years to come," Benavente said.

        “GPA is currently replacing existing (sodium) lighting fixtures with the new LED lamps. Over the next three years, the change-out of existing (sodium) streetlights to more efficient LED streetlights is expected to save in significant energy costs and in operating costs because LED lights last longer,” Benavente said.

        In 2013, the CCU authorized the power authority to pursue a project to install 15,000 energy-efficient LED lights throughout the island.

        The CCU also authorized the power agency to develop legislation necessary for the authorization of financing and the creation of a special purpose entity, or SPE, through which streetlighting projects can be financed.

        Perez said they will not utilize the SPE for the three-year change-out since existing funding source can adequately support the project.

        GVB increased marketing activities

        Tuesday, 03 Feb 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        THE Guam Visitors Bureau closed fiscal year 2014 with a $735,000 net loss due to increased marketing and public relations activities needed in the China and Japan markets.

        According to the latest report released by the Office of Public Accountability, GVB’s operating expenditures increased by $2.4 million, from $15.4 million in FY 2013 to $17.8 million in FY 2014.

        The increase in GVB’s operating expenditures was made up mostly by the $2.2 million increase in professional services, up from $9.7 million in FY 2013 to $12 million in FY 2014.

        In addition, GVB had a $297,000 increase in personnel expenses (from $2.1 million to $2.4 million) and a $294,000 increase in travel costs (from $503,000 to $797,000), as well as a $291,000 decrease in grants (from $547,000 to $255,000) and a $232,000 decrease in pass-through appropriations (from $669,000 to $437,000).

        According to the OPA, professional services continue to be GVB’s largest line item expenditure, increasing by 23 percent to $12 million, compared to last year’s 24 percent increase to $9.7 million.

        The increase in professional services was attributed to an increase in GVB’s marketing activities in Guam’s source markets, aimed at steadying the declining Japan market, expanding the Korean market, and advancing opportunities in China.

        Adding to GVB's expenses were new marketing events, such as the second Shop Guam Festival campaign, Shop Guam/Taste Guam event, the #GuamLove campaign, 2nd Guam International Marathon, and Guam BBQ Block Party.

        GVB’s $297,000 increase in personnel costs to $2.4 million was primarily due to hiring four additional staff in its Guam and Japan offices and salary increments.

        Other Tourism Attraction Fund (TAF) expenditures administered by GVB totaled $1.4 million for items such as Tumon landscaping maintenance, Tumon Bay lighting improvements, Island beautification, beach cleaning and maintenance, and holiday illumination.

        Revenues

        GVB’s revenues are primarily appropriated from the TAF and in FY 2014, GVB received $18.1 million in appropriations, with $15.5 million allotted for operations, $2.1 million for special projects, and $437,000 as pass-through appropriations. This total appropriation represents an increase of $1.9 million from the $16.2 million in appropriations received during FY 2013.

        Other revenue sources, which included in-kind contributions and memberships, increased $252,000, going from $852,000 in FY 2013 to $1.1 million in FY 2014.

        Clean

        Independent auditors Deloitte & Touche LLP rendered an unmodified, clean opinion on GVB’s financial audit.

        According to the OPA, FY 2014 marks GVB’s fifth consecutive year that the auditors have not identified any material weaknesses and/or significant deficiencies in its Report on Internal Control over Financial Reporting and Compliance.

        OPA also said this is the earliest that GVB has completed its financial audit and GVB is the second earliest agency to release its report. "GVB is to be commended for these accomplishments," the OPA stated.


        $851M budget proposed


        Monday, 02 Feb 2015 03:00am


        BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


        THE government of Guam wants a higher budget for fiscal year 2016 to the tune of $851.7 million – an 8.6 percent increase from the current fiscal year appropriation.

        The budget proposal was submitted to the Guam Legislature on the Jan. 31 deadline by the Bureau of Budget and Management Research.

        In the proposed budget, Adelup assigned $125 million for tax refunds.

        According to a statement from GovGuam, it proposed an increased budget for the Department of Public Health and Social Services amounting to $157 million which reflects a 10.4 percent hike from the current appropriation.

        Additionally, to assist the Guam Memorial Hospital Authority, the administration increased the percentage allocation to the Pharmaceuticals Fund from 4 percent to 6.9 percent.

        This increases the total appropriation to the hospital to $18.5 million, an increase of 87 percent over the fiscal 2015 level. The Pharmaceuticals Fund was created to provide a separate funding source for the hospital’s pharmaceutical, drug, medical supplies, medical equipment, blood and blood product needs. The business privilege tax is the funding source for the fund.

        The Guam Police Department was also recommended to receive bigger budget than the current fiscal year, with a $133.6 million proposal. The figure is a 13.3 percent increase from FY 2015 budget.

        The Department of Education and other education agencies, submit their proposed budgets directly to the legislature.

        Another balanced budget

        According to Gov. Eddie Calvo, what the administration submitted to the legislature is a balanced budget and the revenue levels reflect increased economic activity.

        “This is the fifth fiscal year we’ve submitted a balanced budget to the legislature. It’s not just balanced in terms of ensuring that our proposed spending equals the projected revenue. This budget reflects increased funding for services for the people of Guam. That’s why we work so hard to improve our economy and stabilize our finances. While we’ve seen improvements, our work isn’t done yet. We’re on the cusp of more growth and we must be diligent to harness that growth so we ensure our people continue to benefit,” said the governor in a statement yesterday.

        In his transmittal letter to Speaker Judith Won Pat, the governor noted how Guam’s economic growth of the last few years is expected to continue. He said he welcomes the members of the 33rd Guam Legislature to work with the administration to ensure Guamanians continue to benefit from that growth.

        “The collaborative efforts of this administration, the legislature and the government agencies have not gone unnoticed. Over the past few years, Guam’s credit ratings have steadily improved while other territories’ rankings have declined. Guam’s municipal bond ratings have increased to their highest levels in over a decade, with our business privilege tax credits rating a strong A and A- from Standard and Poor’s and Fitch Ratings, respectively. In fact, the global financial market has an overall positive outlook for Guam, mainly contributed to this government’s commitment and success at stabilizing its finances,” the governor stated.




        Discussions continue on Navy's proposed water rate increase

        Posted: Jan 30, 2015  by Jolene Toves KUAM

        Guam - As the Navy does not seem to be giving Waterworks a break, talks about options are on the table.  

        According to Senator Frank Blas, Jr. a 40% rate increase is "ridiculous" but that is exactly what the navy intends to charge GovGuam for water purchased from Fena.

        "I think anybody in wanting to think that we can afford a 40% increase automatically in that fashion is ludicrous," he said.

        As we reported, GovGuam purchases water from Fena to service residents in Santa Rita and Agat and since word was received by the Consolidated Commission on Utilities that the Navy proposes to charge an additional 40% on top of the 260% increase which has occurred over the last seven years. They have been looking at their options. "First of all the Department of Defense should not be in the business and should never be in the business to create or make water or power for that matter," the senator said.

        The CCU along with Blas question why the increase is necessary and whether the Navy is having challenges controlling it costs of water since they are charging far more than what GWA charges. According to CCU chairperson Joseph Duenas his talks with the Navy have led him to believe that the Navy will not give waterworks a break, this has opened discussions of a possible merger of the systems it is an idea that Blas appreciates.

        "So let's go back to this whole idea of merging the systems I would appreciate a merged system but I don't think that we need to pay as much maybe there are costs but I don't think it warrants the 40% and I don't think it warrants that we are going to use all the monies owed to us for compact costs to pay for this," he said.

        Also on the table is the idea of purchasing Fena. Congresswoman Madeline Boradallo had authored legislation passed by Congress to have the navy turn over Fena, but Congress requires GovGuam to pay the fair market value for that asset. "The federal government in the law basically acknowledged we believe they acknowledged that there was money that was owed to us for our Compact costs and there was a suggestion that we use that money that was owed to us a as a means for us to pay for the purchase of Fena," he explained.

        However Duenas does not believe that Compact impact funds should be used for the purchase of Fena and while Blas agrees he says the admittance of the federal government that they owe money to GovGuam for its Compact costs could warrant a law suit. A suit that GovGuam can successfully win as to this day money is still owed by the feds. He said, "It never was its still something that's still in the books it's a discussion that I think we still need to have with the department of interior and the Obama Administration based on this admittance and so I am still looking at this at being able to further this discussion."

        He says that he would like to have conversations to avoid the law suit. Meanwhile the CCU continues to find ways reduce the amount of water consumed from the navy and entertains the idea of jointly operating Fena.  

         

        Mixed reactions to handover of property to UOG

        Friday, 30 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        BILL 1-33, which would transfer government of Guam cliffline property to the University of Guam, had a public hearing yesterday and got mixed reactions from people who testified on the measure.

        The legislation seeks to transfer the cliffline property to UOG to increase the university’s revenue sources and foster sustainability and capacity-building, while establishing the conservation area originally intended by statutes, according to the bill’s author.

        But Celestino Aguon, chief of the Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources at the Department of Agriculture, said the department opposes the bill as written.

        “Our main concern is the property. The bill itself mentions a pristine forest within that area. In the same token, the bill allows UOG to develop the area. Our concern is for the pristine forest. DAR – under the Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources, and Forestry, Soil, and Resources Division – is mandated to manage all the conservation lands,” he said. “We are concerned that once the bill is passed, we may lose control. We understand that UOG President Dr. Robert Underwood and his staff currently will probably do what is right in the conservation of lands, we have no problem with that.”

        However, Aguon said the department is concerned with what would happen with a change in administration at the university because the decision on how the land will be used may change.

        Aguon said the department wants a provision in the bill that would designate the property as conservation land.

        Mike Borja, director of the Department of Land Management, also testified, notifying the legislature that the property is actually in Mangilao, not Barrigada, as stated in the measure.

        Borja also suggested that the title and ownership of the property remain with UOG for a period of 10 years. Moreover, in the event the title and ownership for the property be conveyed and transferred to another entity, such title and ownership shall revert to the Chamorro Land Trust Commission.

        Borja said DLM supports UOG in its realization of plans, goals and objectives, and does not object to the title transfer. However, in order for the title transfer to occur, Borja said there has to be concurrence and consultation with DLM, the Department of Agriculture and Department of Public Works.

        “With all three concurrences in place, if the bill is written with that suggestion from (the Department of Agriculture), then we will have the ability to transfer the property to UOG,” Borja said.

        Support

        For his part, Underwood said the intent to transfer the property to UOG is something the university wholeheartedly supports. Underwood said the university recognizes that the area is one of the most pristine on Guam.

        “We do think that we have the academic resources and environment, which I think will help in making that conservation area more useful, more available for further research,” he said.

        Currently, the lot holds the university's marine laboratory, marine laboratory visitors’ facility and the Water and Environmental Research Institute.

        According to the measure, in the future, UOG plans to continue using the lot's natural features for education, research and accommodating the construction of new facilities at the marine lab and WERI.

        The measure further noted that if the lot were transferred to the university, UOG would be free to proceed with specific projects and plans.

        Essential component

        Bill 1-33 transfers Lot No. 5397 – otherwise known as the "Cliff Line Property” – to the exclusive control of the University of Guam, noting it is an essential component of the university’s strategic goal.

        Currently, the property is jointly controlled by UOG, the Department of Agriculture and Department of Parks and Recreation.

        Pursuant to a petition for registration, the Superior Court granted the title in the name of GovGuam on March 29, 1999.

        Administration of the property as a conservation area was approved in Jan. 1966 by the director of Land Management. Administration and control of the lot was given to the then College of Guam in conjunction with DLM, the Department of Agriculture and Public Works.

        Later, P.L. 22-18 designated the lot as reserved land to be managed jointly by UOG, Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Parks and Recreation for the marine lab expansion, conservation reserve and prehistoric site.

        According to the measure, the "lot holds perhaps the best preserved tract of limestone forest on Guam, resulting from the inaccessibility of the area due to the difficult tower karst terrain that pervades it."

        Speaker Judith Won Pat, author of the measure, said: “The university will continue to be responsible stewards of the land of the lot and any development will be consistent with the intent of the conservation reserve.”

        Yigo76 11 hours ago

        Don't worry about the cliff line. UOG is very good at not altering their property. For example, when you drive into UOG, the first thing you notice is a good-sized pothole that rattles your car. That pothole has been there for at least 10 years. I don't think it will ever be fixed.

        Mathew 10 hours ago

        It is part of UOG's grand physical master plan that it will be a sustainable, accessible campus over the long haul. Maybe that is why they are not keen on fixing that good-sized pothole that jars your vehicle. Just like the Governor's 'Imagine Guam' 2050 vision statement. Don't worry about the small things now, as the big brains on Guam are working toward a 'master plan' for your children and grandchildren. (Or, is it for their children and grandchildren?)



        Power rate cut approved


        Friday, 30 Jan 2015 03:00am


        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


        http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/013015/top_200_200.jpgRatepayers to see significant savings

        THE Public Utilities Commission last night released an order authorizing a reduction in residential customers' fuel surcharge rate, increasing potential rate savings to up to $45 per month.


        The PUC reviews the power authority's fuel surcharge – officially known as the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause or LEAC – periodically which GPA adjusts based on world oil prices. Worldwide, the price of crude oil has been falling significantly since June, resulting in lower fuel costs for the Guam Power Authority.

        According to PUC legal counsel Frederick Horecky, the reduction approved by the commissioners was from $0.146666 to around $0.102 per kilowatt hour (kWh).

        This means a residential customer utilizing an average of 1,000 kWh per month will see an 18.2 percent decrease in the total bill or savings of around $45 per month.

        Horecky said “this is an almost 30 percent reduction since November.”

        Prior to the current rate decrease, the PUC in November approved a decrease from $0.176441 per kWh to $0.146666 per kWh or a 16.88 percent decrease in the LEAC factor.

        This represents a reduction of 10.99 percent in the total bill or savings of around $29.77 per month.

        “Normally the LEAC is set in August till the end of January then February till the end of July. But last November, GPA came in for an interim reduction. This time, the PUC has set a factor for Feb. 1 until July 31st,” Horecky said.

        Fuel prices down

        GPA initially requested for a reduction of around 10 percent from $0.1466 per kWh down to about $0.12 per kWh, according to Horecky.

        But even after GPA filed a petition in December, Horecky said fuel prices decreased further by $13 to $16 per barrel for low and high sulfur fuel.

        “So the consultants recommended that the LEAC could go down potentially to $0.096 per kWh,” he said.

        “Then there was a discussion with GPA after which it was decided that it was too drastic a reduction. Instead, the reduction approved was around $0.102 per kWh – that represents an 18.2 percent in overall reduction to the average ratepayer’s bill,” he added.

        The combined reduction will continue at least until the end of July next year. The fuel surcharge reduction from Nov. 1 continues in addition to the reduction in February.

        The total reduction stays in place at least until the end of July. The next LEAC adjustment period will be in Aug. 1, 2015.

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

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

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

        The rate savings will be reflected starting in the February billing period.



        PUC holds off decision on GPA’s combined cycle units


        Friday, 30 Jan 2015 03:00am


        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


        Commissioners want more answers

        THE Public Utilities Commission last night decided to postpone a decision on a petition filed by the Guam Power Authority for its proposed combined cycle unit.


        The decision to hold off action on the GPA petition was due to commissioners’ concerns over the whopping $600 million cost to construct and finance the planned facility.

        The proposal questioned by the commissioners last night is part of the compliance schedule plan which GPA intends to submit to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today.

        “We need more information,” PUC legal counsel Frederick Horecky said.

        He added that the commissioners determined it would cost $120 million to $140 million just to construct each of the two to three plants within the facility, not counting other costs.

        “And that’s through financing. If you are going to finance these with bonds, there are a lot of added expenses such as capitalized interest and bond finance charges,” he said.

        “Normally, a utility would request for more generation capacity if you have more customer demand. But that is not the case here. In fact, GPA’s figures show customer demands is going down. Overall, the trend during the last four or five years definitely has been a decrease,” Horecky said.

        Alternatives

        Since the main driver for the construction of the new units was the need to comply with USEPA requirements, Horecky said PUC consultants had recommended looking at less costly alternatives.

        These alternatives range from prolonging the use of Cabras 1, 2, 3 and 4; utilizing different kinds of fuel; or bringing plants into USEPA compliance.

        “Right now, we are going to start a process working with GPA and PUC consultants to determine what the next step is,” Horecky said. Since the cost of financing the facility could potentially impact rates, Horecky said the commissioners wanted to ensure the project goes in the right direction.

        John Benavente, general manager of the Consolidated Utility Services and GPA interim general manager, said they will be coordinating with PUC and its consultants to ensure all concerns are addressed.

        “We will be communicating more and running more scenarios until both parties are satisfied,” he said.

        Benavente confirmed he will be submitting the compliance plan, as scheduled today.

        USEPA has required GPA to comply with two USEPA-issued regulations, including the Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engine-Maximum Achievable Control Technology (RICE-MACT) and the Electric Generating Utility-Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (EGU-MATS) rules.

        RICE-MACT regulations took effect in May 2013 but GPA was able to negotiate a deadline extension. Meanwhile, EGU-MATS has a compliance date of April 2015.

        According to Joseph Duenas, CCU chairman, the commission is planning to achieve the proposed components of the plan and be compliant with USEPA regulations by 2020.

        GPA’s proposed compliance plan would bring new compliant power generation online over the next five to eight years.

        This involves the procurement of the new 120-megawatt combined cycle capacity facility of dual-fired combined cycle generation by 2019. The units could potentially run on ultra-low-sulfur diesel or potentially, liquefied natural gas.

        In October, the commission approved a resolution authorizing GPA to petition the PUC for the procurement of the combined cycle capacity facility, which is planned for construction in the Harmon area near the GWA’s northern wastewater treatment plant.




        CCU approves plan to get GPA into USEPA compliance

        Thursday, 29 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        Plan includes new combined cycle facility, closure of units

        THE Consolidated Commission on Utilities has approved a plan drafted by the Guam Power Authority to bring generating units into compliance with regulations set by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency.

        GPA needs to comply with two USEPA-issued regulations, including the Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engine-Maximum Achievable Control Technology (RICE-MACT) and the Electric Generating Utility-Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (EGU-MATS) rules.

        RICE-MACT regulations took effect in May 2013 but GPA was able to negotiate a deadline extension. Meanwhile, EGU-MATS has a compliance date of April 2015.

        According to Joseph Duenas, CCU chairman, the commission is planning to achieve the proposed components of the plan and be compliant with USEPA regulations by 2020.

        GPA’s proposed compliance plan would bring new compliant power generation online over the next five to eight years.

        This involves the procurement of a new 120-megawatt combined cycle capacity facility of dual-fired combined cycle generation by 2019. The units could potentially run on ultra-low-sulfur diesel or liquefied natural gas.

        In October, the commission approved a resolution authorizing GPA to petition the Public Utilities Commission for the procurement of the new combined cycle capacity facility, which is planned for construction in the Harmon area above Tanguisson.

        Draw up plans

        The resolution also authorized GPA to draw up siting and engineering plans for the facility as well as procurement plans to determine whether any additional legislation will be required to get the project started.

        The 120-megawatt capacity may be further expanded to 180 megawatts since the resolution provides for an option for an additional 60 megawatts of dual-fired combined cycle generation.

        Duenas said the Harmon site, located near the Northern Wastewater Treatment Plant, is the best site for the new facility.

        He said this would allow GPA to utilize wastewater to cool the combined cycle facility, noting that some units such as Cabras 1 and 2 utilize potable water for this purpose.

        “When the combined cycle plants are in place, we will deactivate Cabras 1 and 2 that is using potable water. If we retire those units, we can use the potable water for future population growth,” he said.

        Another aspect of GPA’s compliance plan is the closure of non-efficient plants or conversion of units to burn cleaner sources of fuel.

        According to Duenas, they plan to convert MEC 8 and 9, all impacted by RICE-MACT, into compliance.

        Moreover, he said the power authority has moved forward with the closure of the Tanguisson Power Plant which is the least efficient of GPA’s baseload units.

        GPA said that it would deactivate the Tanguisson Power Plant prior to May 2015.

        Regulations

        During a GPA work session, Consolidated Utility Services General Manager John Benavente said that should USEPA decide to impose noncompliance penalties – at $37,500 per day for each of the eight noncompliant power generating units – the total would add up to around $108 million annually.

        “Now, the way it works is, USEPA could start to fine us the $37,500 for at least the four units but they have chosen not to do that,” Duenas said. “They are relying on getting a plan from us.”

        GPA has to submit its plans to the federal environmental agency this

        New utilities complex combines technology, art, sustainability

        Thursday, 29 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        THE Guam Power Authority and Guam Waterworks Authority officially opened the sprawling 118,000-square-foot Gloria B. Nelson Public Service Building in Fadian, Mangilao yesterday. The energy-efficient facility is adorned with more than 100 contemporary art pieces by local artists.

        The building is named after the late Gloria B. Nelson, a dedicated community advocate, educator, leader and member of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities.

        Many of the island’s prominent leaders graced the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was highlighted by the unveiling of a painting of Nelson made by local artist Arman Germar.

        Gloria Nelson’s husband, former Sen. Ted Nelson, and other family members also attended the ceremony

        Gov. Eddie Calvo fondly remembered Nelson – who was known for her service to the community: “When Lola speaks, everybody listens.”

        Addressing the former senator, Calvo said, “I got the opportunity to know your wife really well as a senator and governor. As a senator, I remember Mrs. Nelson coming to the legislature on so many issues, education or the utilities, or our retirees. What struck me most was even when she was having medical issues, she would be there at the legislative hall fighting for issues that were so important.”

        Gloria Nelson served as secretary of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities from 2005 to 2012, commission member in 2011, and secretary and chairwoman for the committee for employee development and relations from 2007 to 2011.

        Soul

        In his keynote address, CCU commissioner Simon Sanchez said: “Like a person, a building needs a soul. The building is more than the people and the person is more than just a body. Many of us believe that each of us has a soul, the essence of who we are.”
        Sanchez said they sought out inspiration through local artists.  In total, 18 local artists were commissioned to provide artwork for the new facility, each conveying the importance of water and energy in the island’s past and future.

        “This building now houses the finest collection of contemporary art on Guam,” Sanchez said.

        Arthur Manglona, Austin Domingo, Donald Reyes, Frank Perez, Herman Crisostomo, Jacqueline Sablan, Monica Baza and Rolando Zepeda, are some of the artists whose pieces are displayed in the facility.

        Progressed

        After years of brownouts and rolling blackouts, Calvo said the power authority has progressed dramatically over these past few decades. “And now we have a building that befits the quality of work of GPA and GWA employees and also that befits the importance of our island’s utilities.”

        Sanchez added, “We celebrate over two decades of effort of finding a permanent home for the headquarters of the Guam Power Authority and now the Guam Waterworks Authority. These two utilities, owned by you, the people, to serve you, the people, are charged with continuing the mission of ensuring that our water and energy needs are met without compromising our precious natural resources.”

        Sanchez said the CCU wanted the building to be a model of efficiency and environmental design and to be LEED-certified. “Our cooling and lighting plan has to be energy-efficient. We wanted a sustainable site and we wanted to conserve our use of water with low-flow plumbing and landscaping that does not require permanent irrigation,” Sanchez said.

        Consolidated center

        The new building incorporates both GPA and GWA administration into one consolidated office and is expected to increase the two agencies’ operational efficiencies and provide an improved customer experience.

        The new building also houses the power system control center, the backbone of communications and system operations for GPA. Additionally, ample parking is provided for both customers and employees. The facility houses more than 300 utility professionals.

        According to Sanchez, the total cost of constructing the facility was brought down from $36 to $34.5 million for a savings of more than $1.5 million.

        GPA expects to own the building at the end of a 30-year timeframe for bond payments.

        “This building is a permanent home for our people to obtain the power and water services that they need. This building is a permanent home for the energy and water professionals who work very hard 24/7 to ensure that we have clean water and reliable power as affordably as possible,” Sanchez said.

        Summer groundbreaking eyed for maternity ward makeover

        Thursday, 29 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        WITH the governor’s signature now affixed to the contract for renovations to the Guam Memorial Hospital maternity ward, contractors can begin designing the renovations to the labor and delivery sections of the Guam Memorial Hospital’s maternity ward.

        According to project chairman and local obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Thomas Shieh, the plan is to break ground on the renovations sometime in June.

        Over the weekend, Shieh wrote a Facebook post lamenting the lack of action on the maternity ward renovations, an issue he publicly advocated for last year. Shieh offered free 4-D ultrasounds at the Guam Legislature building and conducted a tour of the ward for politicians in an effort to bring public attention to the need for a modern maternity department.

        On Monday, the governor’s office announced that the contract had been signed. GMH will be able to move forward with the first phase of the project, the architectural and engineering design process.

        Shieh said RIM Architects has been awarded the design phase and will oversee the project. Overall, Shieh estimates it will cost $7 million to $9 million to revamp the hospital’s maternity wing.

        “Operations will continue as usual and we have plans for temporary labor and delivery (areas),” Shieh said. “All is well and may I add that this is going to be great for moms and their babies.”

        GMH is hoping to gain eight labor/delivery/recovery rooms, four labor/delivery/recovery and postpartum rooms, 15 postpartum-only rooms, two nurses’ stations and an additional breast feeding education and conference room.

        Shieh has said more than 200 babies are born at GMH every month.

        Triage

        Typically, pregnant women come through the triage room at the maternity ward after admittance to the hospital. They are then moved to a labor room until ready to deliver, after which they are moved to the delivery room. After the baby is born, mother and baby are moved to the recovery room and then the postpartum room, Shieh said.

        “How can you possibly do that to moms when they are in labor?” Shieh said in August, during the politicians’ tour of the maternity area. “(There are) too many movements.”

        While Shieh also pointed out that GMH’s maternity staff is well-trained and careful, he told Gov. Eddie Calvo last year that transferring a woman in labor from room to room is not the standard. He said most hospitals keep the woman in one room after they are admitted to the hospital.

        “Our staff at GMH is the best on Guam in maternity care. We manage and we do these movements safely,” Shieh said. “But it is not the real standard in today’s birthing experience.”

        Calvo said the maternity ward modernization project is welcome news to pregnant women and hospital staff. “This project puts moms at the center of the services, so they revolve around her and the baby,” he said in a statement.

        Earlier this month, Calvo highlighted the maternity ward as one of his top five projects this year. In addition to the renovated maternity ward, Calvo said he and his team are focused on repairing roadways, revitalizing Hagåtña, integrating online government services and revamping the Workforce Education program.

        Airport unveils $26M baggage handling system project

        Thursday, 29 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        THE luggage screening capacity at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport is expected to double by next year in anticipation of the completion of a new project that would speed up the process.

        Guam International Airport Authority officials on Tuesday unveiled a $26 million project that would install a new inline baggage handling system at the airport. The undertaking has a target completion date of 2016 and will greatly improve the experience of passengers traveling through the Guam airport.

        Through the new system, GIAA will be able to double the capacity of baggage handling and screening while freeing up valuable floor and ticket-counter space in the air terminal.

        The current manual system screens up to 200 bags an hour on each machine. The new system’s throughput capacity enables the screening of up to 680 bags an hour for each machine.

        The new system is also designed to meet additional capacity needs and allow for future growth. The elimination of the X-ray pods from the ticket lobby will improve the passenger experience, freeing up space for movement. Additionally, valuable space will be opened up to new carriers in need of dedicated ticket counter space, according to a statement from the airport.

        “(This year) is going to be busier than ever before here at the airport. This new baggage handling system has been long in coming and we’re proud of our strong partnerships with federal regulatory agencies, namely the (Transportation Security Administration) and (Federal Aviation Administration), in funding some of our critical capital improvement projects that increase our efficiency and safety,” said Charles Ada, GIAA executive manager.

        Contract

        The contract for the $26 million project was awarded to Siemens Postal, Parcel & Airport Logistic LLC. The company will replace the baggage handling system with the upgraded state-of-the-art system with three new pods featuring automated screening technology.

        GIAA, in its statement, indicated that since July 2014, the airport authority has been coordinating with its key airlines and airport stakeholders on the smooth installation of the project. This is in addition to the times GIAA has scouted for the project funding.

        All U.S. airports compete for limited federal funding from TSA and FAA which is normally granted to U.S. large hub airports.

        “Ever since the original TSA baggage screening pods were installed and began operations in the ticket lobby, the A.B. Won Pat International Airport Authority, Guam has been persistently lobbying for funding assistance,” the release said.

        According to the statement, TSA funds were available weeks before fiscal 2012 ended. The airport authority said it acted quickly to secure a grant for a recapitalization study of the screening equipment. The study was expedited and resulted in a justifiable case for optimizing of the TSA screening system.

        The airport authority was ready, and ahead of other airports in terms of preparation, so it was awarded the TSA grant at the end of FY2013 over other airports in the nation.


         Won Pat to work on development of more sustainable farming

        Thursday, 29 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        • SPEAKER Judith Won Pat is pushing for more sustainable farming on Guam to lessen the island's reliance on imports and to promote healthier food.

          In her weekly speaker's address, Won Pat said she plans to meet with farmers and farming experts to discuss what can be done to promote sustainable farming.

          "For thousands of years, our island provided our people with all that we needed to survive. It has only been since World War II that we have stopped living off the land and sea, and have become dependent on ships for our food," Won Pat said.

          As a result of this reliance on imports, Won Pat said a majority of families on Guam today eat mostly imported and processed foods high in sugar and sodium.

          "Imagine what would happen if a natural disaster or other unforeseen threat damaged the port and the ships could not come.  We would run out of food in days. Just a few months ago there was a shipping delay and the produce shelves in our grocery stores were empty. We need greater food security," Won Pat said.

          Guam must return to growing and eating its own food supply, not only to be self-reliant but to be healthier since about 60 percent of the deaths on Guam are caused by diseases that could have been prevented with better dietary and lifestyle choices, she said.

          "The top four leading causes of death on Guam are heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes,” Won Pat said. “All of these diseases were not prevalent on our island before the war and are the negative consequences of the shift away from subsistence farming to a reliance on imported, processed foods. In fact, the World Health Organization declared a crisis in our region because of the high rates of death due to noncommunicable diseases."

          Community gardens

          The speaker has already met with the director of the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority about the possibility of implementing community gardens in GHURA properties that will be maintained and harvested by GHURA tenants.

          "I also intend to work with the Guam Department of Education and other community partners to expand community gardens in our schools. And as we explore ways to improve rehabilitation efforts at the Department of Corrections, I am hoping to work with the prison to expand their farming program. They have 18 acres of land that could easily be farmed," Won Pat said.

          The speaker has also met with Roland Quitugua of the University of Guam Cooperative Extension Service, which supports Guam’s farming community in many ways including providing technical assistance for community gardens and agriculture projects. During the meeting, Won Pat said Quitugua expressed the need for coordination and a master plan to move forward with a sustainable farming initiative.

          "With farmers, our island’s agriculture experts, other key stakeholders and my colleagues who chair the legislative committees with oversight of agriculture and the government entities that I have mentioned, I intend to spend this year developing a master plan for advancing agriculture and food production on our island. I will continue to update the community," the speaker said.

          "Farming is an integral part of our culture that we must keep alive, because it will keep us alive. We are blessed with all the land and resources we need to sustain ourselves into the future. We simply have to use them," she said.

          Randall Wiegand named new UOG vice president

          Thursday, 29 Jan 2015 03:00am

          PRESS RELEASE

           (UOG) – The University of Guam has announced the hiring of Randall Wiegand as its vice president of administration and finance.

          Wiegand was selected after an extensive search process which included candidates from Guam and off-island. Wiegand brings many years of executive leadership experience, most recently serving as the chief financial officer of the Guam Power Authority.

          “Randy Wiegand has a record of success as the chief financial officer of GPA,” said UOG President Robert Underwood. “His leadership abilities are matched by an impressive array of qualifications as a financial manager and leader. We look forward to his service.”

          Wiegand has worked extensively in finance and administration in both the public and private sectors. Before joining GPA as chief financial officer in 2003, he worked for three years as the audit manager at the then Guam Office of the Public Auditor.

          He also served as underwriting manager for Pacificare Asia Pacific, and spent nearly five years as comptroller for GPA and five years as audit supervisor for Deloitte & Touche LLC.

          Wiegand holds credentials as a certified public accountant, a certified government financial manager and a certified fraud examiner.

          Wiegand received his bachelor’s degree in business finance from Seattle Pacific University and his MBA from the University of Washington.

          Outgoing vice president, David O’Brien will return to the faculty after more than a decade of stellar service.

          “Mr. O’Brien brought the university financial stability and was a vital part of the executive team during the university's recovery from accreditation issues and its greatest period of growth,” said Underwood.

          GCC English faculty, local filmmakers focus on talent

          Thursday, 29 Jan 2015 03:00am

          PRESS RELEASE

           (GCC) – The Guam Community College English Department has teamed up with successful local filmmakers Don and Kel Muña to sponsor showings of their documentary, “Talent Town.” The film looks at the intersection of local talent and culture on Guam and develops themes discussed in many English classrooms on the GCC campus.

          The “Talent Town” screenings will take place Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 4 and 5, at 4 and 6 p.m. in the GCC Multipurpose Auditorium (Bldg. 400).

          The screenings are open to all GCC students.

          The GCC English Department plans to incorporate elements of “Talent Town” into studies this semester to inspire students to identify and develop their talents, according to Dr. Lisa Baza-Cruz, GCC English Dept. chair.

          Vera DeOro, an assistant professor of English at GCC, spearheaded the effort.

          “Many students attend GCC to explore possible career paths, and one of the jobs of faculty is to help them develop their talents and strengths to prepare them for the workforce and academia,” said DeOro. “Talent Town is a great example of how we can turn our talents and interests into successful careers that benefit the community,” she added.

          Filmmaker Don Muña applauds GCC professors for incorporating “Talent Town” as part of their curriculum.

          “GCC's faculty are utilizing local talents and investing a lot of their passion in creating new and progressive ways to teach students – school doesn't get any better than that!" said Muña.

          In April, the English Department will host a showcase in which students display their creative talents through a variety of mediums, according to project co-coordinator and GCC English instructor Tressa DelaCruz.

          The English Department houses the Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Program, which aims at developing well-rounded students with a broad base of academic and life experiences.

          It is through partnerships with creative talents like the Muña Bros. that GCC is able to bring the community into the classroom, and offer the highest quality education to its students, added Dr. Baza-Cruz.

        GDOE to seek more money

        Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/012815/top_200_200.jpgGEB OKs $328M budget for FY2016

        THE Guam Education Board last night approved a $328 million Guam Department of Education budget for fiscal 2016, which is a 40 percent increase from appropriations approved in FY2015.

        GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez told education board members last night that the FY2016 request represents a 40 percent increase over the FY2015 appropriations.

        “This comes to around $93 million over what we proposed in FY2015,” Fernandez said during last night’s GEB meeting.

        According to Fernandez, GDOE requested around $234 million in FY2015.

        Board member Ken Chargualaf, who chairs the board’s committee on finance and budget, said the development of the FY2016 budget was shaped by hearings and work sessions involving GDOE management, school principals and various stakeholders.

        Chargualaf said the budget hearing process also included discussions on the 14 points of the Adequate Public Education Act, a supplemental budget to cover the department’s shortfall, the provisions of the Competitive Wage Act and its impact to FY2016 operations, and funding for the charter schools, among others.

        “The request of $327,988,389 million is adequate to meet the department’s core mission,” Chargualaf stressed.

        Critical

        Fernandez said there are several critical items which the FY2016 budget needs to fund, including a $20 million allocation for capital improvement projects addressing safety and deferred maintenance requirements at the schools.

        The GDOE superintendent referred to the Department of Interior-funded assessment report by the Army Corps of Engineers which identified approximately $90 million in deferred maintenance costs throughout the GDOE school system.

        Fernandez said GDOE is also working on a request for proposal for at least $100 million in school construction and repairs. He acknowledged the work that Gov. Eddie Calvo and the legislature have put out to ensure financing is available to address school facility concerns.

        He also said the department is requesting around $21 million to make up for the operational shortfalls in FY2015 appropriations.

        The GDOE budget request also includes appropriation for textbooks. Fernandez said the department will be requesting around $15 million on top of the regular annual appropriation for textbooks.

        Around $8 million of the budget will also go toward personnel needs, primarily for school-based support staff requirements.

        Part of the budget request, according to Fernandez, will also fund security alarm installations as required by the Secure our School Act, as well as the remaining air-conditioning installations not covered by GDOE’s ARRA funding, among others.

        The charter schools are not included in the budget request.

        The budget will be submitted to the legislature during the FY2016 budget sessions.



        Local economist sees positive economic outlook for Guam


        Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015 03:00am


        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


        A LOCAL economist sees good prospects for Guam in 2015 with positive developments in tourism arrivals as well as military, public and private construction activities.


        “Things are looking pretty good for Guam," said Joseph Bradley, chief economist of the Bank of Guam, during his presentation at the Rotary Club of Tumon Bay meeting at the Pacific Star Resort & Spa yesterday.

        Bradley noted several construction projects which are either completed, ongoing or in the planning stages.

        “We have one new hotel that is about to open, another in the design phase. Those are two good things. Guam’s business cycle has always been driven by construction activity,” he said.

        Bradley also outlined infrastructure utility projects initiated by the Guam Power Authority and Guam Waterworks Authority such as the proposed wastewater treatment facility in the south.

        The $60 million plant, according to GWA, would meet the current and future wastewater loading requirements for Agat and Santa Rita, with the ability to expand and handle wastewater from other treatment plants.

        Meanwhile, GPA has an ongoing project in Dandan, Inarajan, which is a combination of solar- and wind-generating energy. The power authority has also announced plans to procure a new 120-megawatt combined cycle capacity facility of dual-fired combined cycle generation. According to the presentation, the units could potentially run on ultra-low-sulfur diesel or liquefied natural gas (LNG).

        “When there is a lot of construction activity it means there are a lot of outside investments coming into Guam, whether they are federal or private expenditures. That creates a lot of jobs during the construction phase,” he said.

        NDAA

        Bradley also noted that the U.S. Senate has finally approved funding for the relocation of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

        The body recently passed the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes funding for military construction projects on the island, including $51 million to support steps to establish a fully capable Marine Air-Ground Task Force on Guam.

        The congressional funding includes an additional $34.4 million, above President Obama's budget request, for a corrosion control facility at Andersen Air Force Base that was added as a top priority project for the Air Force.

        “The appropriation of $168 million for military construction on Guam this year sounds like a lot of money except it was a third of what they usually appropriate for military construction on Guam,” Bradley said.

        Tourism

        Although not as high as 1997 figures, Bradley said visitor arrivals were up in 2014 over 2013 by almost 9,000. “Pretty good for an island with a population of 160,000 to 165,000.”

        According to reports, visitor arrivals during 2014 totaled 1,342,377, which is 7,880 more visitors than 2013’s banner arrivals of 1,334,497.

        Korean arrivals during 2014 also grew by 25.4 percent, while arrivals from mainland China rose by 45 percent and Russian arrivals increased by 101.5 percent. Additionally, sea arrivals for 2014 increased by 115.7 percent.

        With regard to prices, Bradley said consumer prices are relatively stable, with the fourth quarter Consumer Price Index for Guam just 1.8 percent higher than it was in December 2013.

        With oil prices now reduced to just over $45 a barrel, he said the prices of consumer goods might also fall.

        “It is a good thing. It takes a while to transfer that in shelf prices to go into effect. It would take two to three months before there is kind of a ripple effect on the economy,” he said.

        Matson has already announced another decrease in its fuel surcharge as a result of the oil price reduction, according to Bradley.

        Matson recently lowered its fuel surcharge to 32 percent from 36 percent for Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.



        What's GovGuam doing to address affordable housing?


        Posted: Jan 27, 2015  by Isa Baza  KUAM

        Guam - With homelessness a continuing issue locally, organizations such as the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority are working to increase affordable housing and give struggling families a step-up.

        GHURA executive director Michael Duenas said, "As part of the governor's goal to build 3,000 affordable homes by the year 2017 is we've been awarding funds, credits under the low income housing tax credit program."

        So far this has created an additional 154 new homes. Other successes include GHURA's Self-Sufficiency Program, which works with families in the Section 8 program to enhance their earning potential and skills. "We help them through things like finding educational opportunities, training opportunities, job opportunities," Duenas stated.

        As their income increases, so does their rent, with the excess money contributed to an escrow account. At the end of the five-year program they can then use this for a downpayment.  He says the program has successfully created many new homeowners. However, demand for GHURA's programs far outnumber available slots. "Right now our Section 8 program is not accepting new applications, we closed the wait list in February of 2011," he said.

        In fact, over 1,600 people are on the waiting list for roughly 100 vouchers, coupled with an 8% turnover rate, means the wait will be staggering.

        "We don't want families to be out there on the wait list for 2-3 years thinking that any time soon they will be housed, when in reality, the turnover rate we have, it'll be seven years or more before they can be reached," he said.

        GHURA's Public Housing Program, however, is still accepting applications, despite the fact that there are already 1,400 people on a wait list for only 30 vacancies of its 750 housing units.

        Duenas says unless resources increase or the economy improves, homelessness will remain an endemic community issue. 


        Government financial information must be shared

        Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 03:00am

        VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        WE SUPPORT Vice Speaker Cruz’s Freedom of Information Act request for the government’s fiscal year 2014 revenue, expenditures and changes in the general-fund balance, and we are concerned that the Department of Administration has not complied with his request.

        It seems not only reasonable but necessary for the chairman of the legislature’s committee on appropriations to have access to information about the government’s income and spending.

        After all, by the Organic Act, the legislature holds the government’s purse strings and the legislators come into office no less than any member of the executive branch, by virtue of their election by Guam’s people – to whom the money being accounted for belongs. We expect, and to some extent accept, partisan bickering over the use of government funds, but that is not the same as denying access to information about the people’s money. When information about government finances is provided to the legislature, it is also provided to the people.

        Transparency, such as providing complete information about government revenue and spending, only builds trust in government institutions. Declining to provide such information accomplishes the opposite.

        The government meets its payroll and has, as we have been reminded, paid recent-years’ income tax refunds in a timely manner. It has also paid out pay raises and overdue overtime pay along with merit pay and various other forms of compensation that were promised but delayed.

        But at the same time residents are told the government’s finances are in good shape, the island’s public schools are in need of $100 million of repairs and do not have enough teachers, textbooks and support staff. The mass transit system recently discontinued an apparently successful expanded service program because it could not afford it; island roadways are in need of repair; there are shortages of personnel at Guam Memorial Hospital; the police department does not have enough officers patrolling the island; more manpower is needed at the Department of Youth Affairs and the Department of Revenue and Taxation; the main branch of the public library has been closed for more than four months; the University of Guam announced it will be raising its tuition and cutting programs so it can meet expenses; the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority does not have enough funds for housing vouchers for all homeless families on Guam; and the island’s prison facilities are not adequate to safely accommodate all inmates.

        The people have a right to expect that when legislators pass the government’s budget – that is, when they spend the people’s money – they will be able to make informed decisions. We encourage the administration to provide the legislature with the requested information.

        Respect the taxpayer

        Monday, 26 Jan 2015 03:00am

        VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        MOST people have full sympathy for the hard working, responsible single mother working two low-wage jobs to support her family. No reasonable person expects that she, or other blue-collar workers in low-skill jobs, will be paid the same as the engineer who designs safe highways or the scientist who makes sure the island’s drinking water is safe, or the attorney who prosecutes thieves, rapists and murderers.

        But she – as do other members of the community – has a reasonable expectation that her hard-earned contribution to the government coffers will be treated respectfully. She undoubtedly could use the money that is paid to the government – for example, when she makes a purchase at any retail store – for some necessity that seems to be a little more expensive every time she sees it in the store.

        During the public hearing on Bill 4-33 last week, high school teacher Andri Baynum, a vocal opponent of the raises for government officials that Bill 4-33 proposes to roll back, responded to statements from government officials opposing the bill, with the above description of the single mother. “She works hard; she works hard,” he said, with emphasis on “she.” We would not presume to talk for Baynum, but will borrow his unnamed, and all-too-real character.

        The single mother – and all taxpayers – struggling to meet expenses have the right to expect that her tax dollars will be used to put enough police officers in the neighborhoods where she and her children live, work and play; to ensure her children’s schools are well-maintained and have enough teachers, aides and textbooks; to subsidize the mass transit system and the public hospital; and to run a safe prison. These are not being done, but tax money is being used to boost the pay of elected and appointed government officials.

        If Baynum’s single mom were to ask for a raise – which would likely be well-deserved, and which she may or may not get – she would probably not be taken seriously if she asked for a 40 percent raise or to be paid the same rate as the second-highest paid person in her field of work in the nation. One can imagine the response if she included a request that the pay be retroactive to a year previous.

        She is not able to decide on her own that she deserves a raise and help herself to the money, at least not legally. The politicians that asked the single mom to vote for them before the election did not mention their plans to implement the hefty, retroactive raises, which would have been another reasonable expectation.

        We encourage the members of the Guam Legislature to vote in favor of the bill, which was introduced by Sen. Michael San Nicolas. Rolling back the Nov. 21 pay raises will be a first step in getting the new legislature started on the path of using the people’s money to benefit the island’s people.

        Farmers market a welcome project

        Friday, 23 Jan 2015 03:00am

        VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        WE ARE encouraged to hear that the new Farmers Co-op facility in Dededo is on schedule and on budget for completion in June. The benefits of developing the local food-growing industry are numerous. Local produce is fresher, more nutritious and tastier than that shipped thousands of miles. And money spent on food grown on Guam will stay on Guam and benefit the local economy.

        There is not much doubt that the consumers of produce would choose that grown locally, if it is available and affordable. In addition the superior quality of fresher food, it is increasingly popular to make purchasing decisions that take into account the environmental impact of the product. Food grown on Guam makes its way to Guam tables with less fuel-burning (and costly) transportation and storage.

        Cuisine based on local tastes with local ingredients is also trendy – and traditional local dishes will never cease to be in demand and require local ingredients.

        As we have noted, the University of Guam Pacific Center for Economic Initiatives reported last year that Guam imports $8.25 million worth of fruits and vegetables a year, $41 million worth of meat and $14 million in fish and seafood. The center study pointed out the benefits of replacing just 10 percent of imported food with locally produced food.

        Given the advantages of locally grown food, it would seem growing the local-food market shifting would not only be feasible, but should happen without much effort.

        We are hopeful that the new farmers market will be a stimulus for farming on Guam. If it is successful as a conduit for famers to get their produce to customers, hopefully it will help farmers see potential for financial success. It may also serve as a means for customers to provide feedback to farmers, so they can improve their service and product selection.

        Since the market facility will be operated by the Guam Farmers Cooperative Association, it will no doubt serve as a hub for that organization to be in regular contact with farmers. Hopefully, that too will better help farmers meet the needs of the market – what is needed, what will command the best price and so on.

        Often farming is cast in a romantic light – it has a long tradition that included the ancestors of most people, it requires knowledge of and reliance on nature, and it can be rewarding. But it is hard, risky, often dirty work, especially on a scale to earn a living. We are hopeful that those involved in Guam agriculture are successful in growing that industry, and we see the coming market facility as a step in that direction.


        Doctors to practice, train on Guam


        Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 03:00am


        VARIETY NEWS STAFF


        LAST week, the American Medical Center welcomed experienced family physician Dr. Rumi Iqbal, to the island from Puyallup, Washington.


        Iqbal was recruited to come to Guam by her former medical colleague, Dr. Hieu Campus, who himself set up his island family practice a little more than a year ago.

        Simultaneously, family physician Dr. Mariana Cook-Huynh, a St. John's School alumna arrived last week to complete her medical residency rotation with Dr. Hoa Van Nguyen and other local doctors. Cook-Huynh is the daughter of attorney Jeff Cook and Lourdes Leon Guerrero, Bank of Guam president and board chairwoman.

        To make things even more encouraging for the care of children on our island, pediatricians Dr. Amanda Del Rosario, also a St. John's School alumna and her husband, Dr. Michael Um, will be visiting the American Medical Center this week as part of their pediatric residency training at the University of California at San Francisco, Children's Hospital Oakland.

        AMC continues to actively recruit more physicians and support staff to be part of our growing family.


        Cruz re-introduces bill on tax records, in-house counsel


        Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 03:00am


        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


        VICE Speaker Benjamin Cruz has re-introduced legislation pertaining to the use of in-house attorneys and the accessibility of tax records.


        Cruz re-introduced the bills last week to facilitate compliance audits on hotel occupancy tax (HOT) assessments and to end what he describes as "exorbitant" legal billing for government agencies.

        Bill No. 31-33 allows the Public Auditor to access certain tax records provided the U.S. Internal Revenue Code does not specifically privilege such information. Cruz introduced the measure last year after the Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation denied a request from the Office of Public Accountability relative to a compliance audit of HOT data.

        Reintroduced as Bill No. 30-33, Cruz's in-house counsel bill mandates the use of unclassified internal counsel for government agencies and autonomous public corporations permitted to retain outside counsel.

        According to the vice speaker, the legislation is necessary in light of the "outrageous" legal fees racked up by the Port Authority of Guam.

        “Good legal counsel is essential, but taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars when a more cost-effective option exists. Under this bill, taxpayers save money and agencies still receive sound legal advice,” Cruz said.

        Currently, GovGuam agencies are permitted to retain counsel other than the attorney general and they have no limitations on the amount paid for outside legal services.

        Certify

        The new bill would require the Office of the Attorney General to certify the need for outside counsel in writing to the speaker of the Guam Legislature and the governor. 

        In addition, the outside counsel must have at least five years’ experience in the relevant subject matter or specialized area under litigation. 

        Furthermore, the bill provides a 10 percent differential pay for full-time classified in-house attorneys, with maximum additional credit for seniority and experience.

        Despite Gov. Eddie Calvo's veto of the in-house counsel bill last year, the vice speaker said he is confident that the composition of the newly installed 33rd Guam Legislature will allow the bill to secure the necessary votes for an override.

        Cruz said he has been a staunch opponent of excessive legal billing within the government of Guam. In response to mounting legal fees of more than $800,000 for the A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority for fiscal year 2008, Cruz introduced legislation in 2009 to designate the airport’s staff attorney to represent the agency during litigation.


        Legislation introduced to fund Festival of the Pacific Arts


        Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 03:00am


        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


        AS GUAM prepares to host the 12th Annual Festival of the Pacific Arts (FestPac) in 2016, legislation has been introduced temporarily allocating funds derived from the one percent for the arts law to the festival account until June 1, 2016.


        Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes introduced Bill 19 to amend current statutes relative to arts in buildings and facilities, noting that funding and resources need to be raised to ensure the success of the festival.

        As finance chairwoman of the committee involved in FestPac, Muña-Barnes noted that with less than two years until the festival date, they found out that the island has to come up with $13 million to host the event.

        “Right now, the trust account has a little over $2.7 million. The event is in May 2016,” she said during the public hearing for the measure.

        “We are already heading into February. We have our work cut out for us. This is why the introduction of this bill is necessary,” she added.

        Monica Okada Guzman, CAHA board chairwoman, said they are 100 percent in support of the bill.

        After 15 to 20 years of being stagnant, the one percent for the arts program has been revived after the approval of its implementing rules and regulations, according to Guzman.

        DCA support

        Joseph Artero-Cameron, president of the Department of Chamorro Affairs, said that DCA, as the umbrella entity for CAHA, also supports the proposed legislation.

        Current laws require that at least one percent of the overall construction, remodeling or renovation cost of a public building or building supported by public funds shall be reserved for the purposes of the design, construction, mounting, maintenance and replacement, and administration of works of art by the Guam Council on the Arts & Humanities Agency (CAHA) in the public area of the building.

        The developer can also give the amount to CAHA, to be placed in a grant fund for artists.

        Guzman said they would like to remove the grant cap, which is currently set at $3,000.

        “We found out in the last few years that this cap is way too low. Through that vehicle, we may be able to support the festival,” she added.

        As set in current statutes, the Department of Public Works shall ensure that no construction, remodeling or renovating of a public building or building supported by government of Guam funds is granted an occupancy permit without the law being complied with.

        FestPac

        FestPac will bring together artists and cultural practitioners from around the Pacific region for two weeks of festivities.

        The festival is recognized as a major regional cultural event and is the largest gathering in which the people of the Pacific unite to enhance their respect and appreciation for one another.

        Some 27 Pacific island nations and territories with more than 2,500 performers, artists and cultural practitioners, in addition to the thousands of visitors from Asia and festival followers, are expected to attend the event in 2016.

        According to a release from CAHA, FestPac was conceived by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community to help guard against the diminishment of traditional practices of Pacific nations and to exchange culture.

        The festival has already garnered significant support from local agencies. According to a FestPac news release, the Bank of Guam and United Airlines have pledged $100,000 of support for the event.

        “As the body knows, Guam will be hosting the FestPac regional event. Because Guam will be hosting this event, we will be able to highlight traditional performance, arts, cultural displays, and demonstrations inclusive of cultural storytelling and other activities. Guam will also have an opportunity to see over 10,000 tourists in that month. These are people who usually follow the festival of the arts,” the senator said.


        Young Professional of the Year chosen


        Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 03:00am


        PRESS RELEASE


        http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/012715/young_200_200.jpgRegine Biscoe Lee, an account manager and public relations practitioner, has been chosen as the 2014 Reina A. Leddy Guam Young Professional of the Year. Contributed photo


        (GCOC) – The Guam Chamber of Commerce has announced that Regine Biscoe Lee, an account manager and public relations practitioner, has been chosen as the 2014 Reina A. Leddy Guam Young Professional of the Year.


        The announcement was made at “The Event of the Year” held last Friday, Jan. 23, hosted by the Guam Young Professionals, a committee of the Guam Chamber of Commerce, at the Lotte Hotel Guam.

        "The Chamber is pleased to present its fifth Guam Young Professional of the Year Award honoring an individual who exemplifies professionalism and integrity in all aspects of her life, from the office to the community. Ms. Lee's attitude of ‘service before self’ drives her to promote and ensure the welfare and well being of her place of work, her home life and the community organizations she has been intimately involved in.

        “As a champion for small business, Ms. Lee consistently seeks ways to support our local Guam economy through her personal and professional commitment to the Chamber's Buy Local Movement and the Guam Visitors Bureau's Hafa Adai Pledge Program. Ms. Lee's dedication to helping Guam's youth and underprivileged is underscored in her involvement in programs such as Santuary, Inc., Salvation Army, Sugar Plum Tree and the Guam Women's Club, which makes her a role model for all professionals on Guam," said Chamber President David Leddy.

        "Regine has been an avid supporter of the Guam Young Professionals and has dedicated numerous volunteer hours to the group's various activities," said 2015 GYP Chairman, Logan Reyes. "Her professionalism and overall desire to make a contribution to our local community and our organization are motivating examples of what every young professional should aspire to. We congratulate Regine on this well-deserved recognition."

        Leddy added the Chamber would also like to recognize each of the following nominees and their respective businesses, as they are deserving of this esteemed recognition: Kishin Advani, Realtor, The Real Estate Professionals; Joaquin Cook, Executive Vice President/Chief Sales Officer, Bank of Guam; Maria Leon Guerrero, Vice President, Business Services Division Manager, Bank of Guam; and Judy Rosario, Business Sales Manager, Docomo Pacific Inc.

        “We would like to encourage other young business professionals in the community to consider membership with the Guam Young Professionals for the various opportunities for growth and enrichment," Leddy said.

        For more information about the Guam Young Professionals, visit the Chamber website: GuamChamber.com.gu or visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/GYPconnect. You may also contact the Guam Chamber of Commerce via email: gyp[at]guamchamber.com.gu or info[at]guamchamber.com.gu.


        Bill seeks demolition of administration building


        Tuesday, 27 Jan 2015 03:00am


        PRESS RELEASE


         (ORR) – Last Thursday, Sens. Rory J. Respicio, Tina Muña-Barnes and Speaker Judi Won Pat introduced a one-line amendment to Guam law which will authorize the demolition of the Manuel F.L. Guerrero Administration Building in Hagåtña. The building is named for Guam’s governor from 1963 to 1969.

        During its more than 60 years of service, the old building once housed the Office of the Governor, the Department of Administration, the Department of Education, and many other executive branch offices. In that building, driver’s licenses were also issued, payments made to the government of Guam, and policies were set for the Department of Education, as well as for the Departments of Labor, and Land Management.

        According to Respicio, "the past 60 years have not been kind to the old administration building, and structurally it is far better to level the entire structure and pursue other options."

        Bill 32-33 says the building, “has serious structural, mechanical, electrical, and environmental issues that create significant safety hazards and render the building unfit for further occupancy such that all government of Guam agencies that were utilizing the building have relocated to other offices.”

        The amendment adds the demolition of the Administration Building to a list of other projects funded under the Guam “Hot Bond” law, which are intended to revitalize the historic capital of Hagåtña.

        Respicio credited Gov. Calvo's support to use remaining proceeds from the HOT Bonds for this demolition project, and pledges continued partnership with the administration on determining the most appropriate use of the property, taking into consideration the historical perspective and any available financial means for financing this significant undertaking.

        Calvo, in is weekly address said, “I was glad to hear that (the Guam Economic Development Authority), in partnership with Sen. Rory Respicio, is moving forward with efforts to demolish the old administration Building in Hagåtña. As you know, my goal is to build the governor’s palacio as part of an overall plan to make Hagåtña the center of culture and history on Guam.”

        Hospital billings delayed

        Monday, 26 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        As $30,000 spent to re-train GMH staff

        REPRESENTATIVES from NTT Data, the health care technology company that developed Guam Memorial Hospital’s new computer system, are back on Guam for two weeks to re-train GMH staff to iron out problems with the revenue-cycle system.

        In December, information technology staff told hospital board members that there were issues with the revenue system, which slowed down employee progress.

        With the slowdown because of the new revenue system, bills have been delayed. GMH Administrator Joseph Verga said not all the bills have been sent out. This could stall revenue collection.

        Verga said billing will be delayed for four to six weeks.

        The hospital’s business office productivity has been slowed because there are large amounts of information the staff has to sift through for simple tasks that has affected billing and generating reports.

        Board members were not given billing information for last November and December because the business office was already overwhelmed with other tasks.

        “Of course when the conversion happened we’ve been unable to mine out the data,” Verga said.

        Last month, interim chief financial officer Benita Manglona said inputting information into the new system takes more time than it did with the old system. “There are some major challenges with the system that need to be addressed,” she said.

        Trainers

        Verga said at Thursday’s monthly board meeting that the NTT Data staffers arrived on Guam last week and will stay for two weeks. The trip will cost the hospital about $30,000.

        After the new system was installed and went live in October, NTT data representatives were on Guam for three weeks and also conducted web training months before the system was switched. This will be the second time since the system was installed that the representatives will be on island to assist GMH staff.

        Trustee Valentino Perez said this trip was outside the original scope of work, which explains the additional $30,000.

        “NTT is here and the expectation is that all of this will be resolved,” Verga said to board members. “They’re here, after much wrangling, they’re here.”

        Verga said he and Manglona agreed on the cost.

        While staffers are re-trained for the revenue system upgrade, the hospital will begin work to upgrade its clinical software system. Verga said this time, the new clinical software will run parallel with the old clinical software to work out any kinks.

        Verga said in December that the old revenue software system was not running parallel with the new revenue software, which was a lesson learned.

         

        GMH waiting for Compact-impact funds to pay for loan

        Monday, 26 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        • GUAM Memorial Hospital has yet to receive the $2 million promised to it to pay for the $25 million loan it received from the Bank of Guam last February.

          Jun Infante, general accounting supervisor, said at Thursday’s Guam Memorial Hospital Authority board meeting that GMH has not yet received $2 million in Compact-impact funding for the loan.

          Joseph Verga, hospital administrator, said the hospital expects to receive the money at some point from the Department of Administration.

          In the meantime, Infante said about $166,000 is paid every month to the Bank of Guam for the loan.

          “We pay what we can and we’re still dealing with our vendors,” he said. “Vendors continue to pressure the hospital for payments. That’s also eating on our cash flow,” Infante said. “We’re using our own funds to pay.”

          Verga said Benita Manglona, DOA director and interim chief financial officer at the hospital, is working on the $2 million in compact-impact funds.

          Last year, the Bank of Guam lent GMH $25 million, which the hospital said it would use to pay its vendors.

          GMH said it expected that over the next 10 years, $2 million of Compact-impact funding would be given to the hospital to help pay off the $25 million loan.

          Promised

          Verga said last February that the money had been promised by Gov. Eddie Calvo in addition to other funds GMH receives from the Compact-impact agreement. Another $1 million will be allocated to GMH from the Healthy Futures Fund for the loan.

          Verga explained that of the $25 million, $10.5 million was used to pay off an existing debt owed to the Bank of Guam for a loan GMH had previously taken out.

          Additionally, another $4.3 million was used to pay the vendor Perry Point, a medical supplier affiliated with the federal government which had the hospital’s Medicare payments garnished in 2013.

          This garnishment led to what Verga called a “cash flow crisis,” wherein hospital operations were halted or restricted due to the lack of funding from Medicare payments.

          The remaining $10 million of the $25 million loan was paid to other vendors, including the software vendor NTT Data, last year.

          More than half of new hospital's staff hired

          Posted: Jan 25, 2015 by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

          Guam - 53% of the total workforce for the new Guam Regional Medical City has been hired. According to the new hospital's communications officer Kevin Kerrigan, GRMC continues to aggressively hire with more than 100 open positions that still need to be filled. There are currently 382 hired employees including pending offers to some who have later start dates. As part of the terms under the qualifying certificate contract, which was signed by the governor earlier this month, 75% of all employees must be US citizens and permanent resident aliens. The hospital in the meantime is set to open at the end of the first quarter or start of the second quarter of this year. For the list of jobs, go to themedicalcity-grmc.com.

          Vice speaker: DOA ‘stonewalling’ on critical financial reports

          Monday, 26 Jan 2015 03:00am

          BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

          ·         Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz has sent Freedom of Information Act requests for general fund reports which he said are vital to the legislative budget process.

          THE Department of Administration has still not submitted crucial financial information requested through a Freedom of Information Act request, Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz said.

          On Jan. 12, Cruz issued Freedom of Information Act requests for general fund reports which he said are vital to the legislative budget process.

          Specifically, Cruz is asking for information on revenues, expenditures and changes in the general fund balance, as well as financial statements provided to independent auditors for fiscal year 2014.

          According to Cruz, who is chairman of the legislature's finance committee, DOA missed its deadline for submitting these reports.

          The vice speaker gave the agency until Jan. 16 to furnish the requested information, however, Cruz said DOA has not yet complied with his earlier FOIA request.

          In a response to Cruz dated Jan. 16, DOA Director Benita A. Manglona stated that DOA “[has] no documents responsive to (Cruz’s) FOIA request,” adding that she is citing the same justification she gave in a letter to the speaker of the Legislature dated Nov. 4, 2014.

          “Although it is unfortunate that your department is unable to comply with a reporting requirement meant to uphold fiscal transparency and accountability, the committee is determined to keep government’s finances open and subject to review by not only the committee, but also the people of Guam,” Cruz said in response.

          ‘Too comprehensive’

          In her November 2014 letter, Manglona argued that the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), with which the report must comply, “is too comprehensive for the purpose” of the quarterly report, and that “under this provision, GovGuam generally uses a 90-day accrual for revenues.” 

          Manglona said that revenues reported “as is” at that time, prior to adjustments, “would be understated and in noncompliance with GAAP.”

          Cruz, however, said he is determined to get the information he needs and has filed a new FOIA request.

          In his latest FOIA request, Cruz noted that since more than 60 days have passed since the Nov. 4 letter and more than 90 days since fiscal 2014 ended, the Committee of Appropriations and Adjudication is requesting revenue information in addition to general fund figures for fiscal 2014.

          “While adjustments to accounting … are anticipated, the committee will not accept such excuses for non-reporting as DOA should have the requested information recorded to-date,” Cruz said.

          “Moreover, the Committee demands full transparency through your compliance with this request, lest we have a recurrence of issues like one that surfaced last year relative to $15 million in Section 30 revenues mistakenly recorded in FY 2013 that remained unchecked until much later – but not before information had to be sought after under FOIA and scrutinized,” he stated.

           




        Summertime opening likely for new Farmers Co-op facility

        Friday, 23 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        THE new Farmers Cooperative Association of Guam facility in Dededo is expected to be completed by early June this year, according to Diego Mendiola, real property division assistant manager for the Guam Economic Development Authority.

        Mendiola and Larry Toves, project coordinator, updated board members yesterday about the progress of several hotel occupancy tax bond projects, including the Dededo farmers market.

        “The completion date is end of May, early June, that’s our target,” Mendiola said. “Currently, the structure is only pending inspection from (the Department of Public Works) of their roof forms and rebars. They will be pouring the roof for the farmers facility next week.”

        The new Farmers Co-op building is near the intersection of Marine Corps Drive and Santa Monica Avenue. It will feature a retail farmers market, dry and cold storage, a community kitchen, dining area, stalls for flea market sellers and a parking facility, according to the scope of work provided by the Guam HOT bond project website.

        Construction on the 6.9-acre lot began last year and the new facility will serve as a central place for island farmers from the Farmers Co-op to sell produce.

        Bill McDonald, president of the co-op, said at the start of the construction that he and the other farmers were looking forward to using the facility.

        There will also be a space for cleaning, sorting and packing, features which some farmers do not always have readily available to them, McDonald said.

        The facility will also house the Dededo Flea Market, which is currently at the intersection of Route 27 and Marine Corps Drive.

        HOT bond

        The farmers market is one of several HOT bond projects, funded by the hotel occupancy tax revenue bond series, which was established under P.L. 30-228 in December 2010.

        The project cost about $2.5 million, with the contract awarded to Mega United Corp. The Guam Economic Development Authority is the contract administrator; however, the facility will be operated by the Farmers Cooperative Association of Guam.

        Architects Laguana LLC designed the project and Cha Consulting Inc. is listed as the program manager.

        Mendiola told board members yesterday that the farmers market project is “definitely on target and on budget.”

        Denight succeeds Pangelinan at visitors bureau

        Friday, 23 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        • GUAM Visitors Bureau board members yesterday announced GVB General Manager Karl Pangelinan’s successor at its monthly board meeting.

          Jon Nathan Denight, GVB deputy general manager, will assume the general manager position effective Feb. 1, when Pangelinan steps down.

          “Karl Pangelinan will be departing us after two really strong years that we greatly appreciate,” said Mark Baldyga, GVB board chairman. “The search for the general manager was not difficult.”

          Denight’s appointment was unanimously approved by the board yesterday, after which Baldyga said to GVB staff, “Team, you have a great general manager coming up. He’s very supportive of you. He’s going to work closely with all of us and carry forward with Tourism 2020.”

          Baldyga said he is confident about Denight’s abilities and looks forward to working with him.

          Denight has more than a decade of private-sector marketing experience for companies including MCV, IT&E and Pepsi, according to a GVB bio. He was appointed GVB deputy general manager in July 2011.

          Denight holds a bachelor’s degree in commerce from Santa Clara University in California and returned to Guam, working up to a position as business development manager to operations manager at Mark’s Motor Corp. before opening his own company, Revolution Productions in 2004.

          Denight was the creative director of the Denight Marketing Group and launched Uno magazine and the television video magazine, RevTV.

          A new deputy general manager will be appointed by Denight at a later time, according to Josh Tyquiengco, GVB public information officer.

          Pangelinan announced his departure a month ago and said he plans to return to the private sector.

          “I've not been shy about my intention to go back to the private sector. It's where my roots are and I'm extremely thrilled about the opportunities ahead for me,” Pangelinan said in December.

        GPA faces $108M in penalties

        Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/012215/gpa2_200_200.jpgTHE Guam Power Authority is facing a potential $108 million in penalties per year for noncompliance with two USEPA regulations, but the body has already identified components of a plan that would bring its units into compliance.

        John M. Benavente, Consolidated Utility Services general manager, presented the plan in a work session with the Consolidated Commission on Utilities this week, notifying the body that a compliance schedule has to be submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency soon.

        The plans – which are subject to the approval of the CCU – outline what the power authority intends to implement to address USEPA regulations.

        GPA has until the end of January to submit the schedule outlining plans to comply with regulations set by the agency.

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

        During the presentation, Benavente said that should USEPA decide to impose noncompliance penalties – at $37,500 per day for each of the eight noncompliant power generating units – it would add up to around $108 million annually.

        Joey Duenas, CCU chairman, said: “USEPA has not chosen to invoke the penalties but they could at any time. Now, the way it works is, USEPA could start to fine us the $37,500 for at least the four units but they have chosen not to do that. They are relying on getting a plan from us.”

        Deliberating

        Duenas said commissioners will be deliberating on the plan during the next CCU meeting.

        GPA’s slow-speed diesel generators as well as its small diesel generators had a compliance date of May 3, 2013 under RICE-MACT rules.

        The power authority applied for an extension to comply with the requirements and spent approximately $4.1 million for stack emission equipment to bring the units into compliance with the new regulations.

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

        Meanwhile, the EGU-MACT rules impact the operations of GPA’s steam-generating plants – Cabras 1 and 2, and Tanguisson 1 and 2 – and GPA estimated the cost of bringing these units into compliance would be approximately $220 million. Generating units covered under EGU-MACt have a compliance date of April 2015.

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

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

        GPA is working on the eventual closure of the Tanguisson power plant before May 2015.

        Meeting

        GPA representatives already met with USEPA's Air Enforcement Division on Nov. 24 in San Francisco as had been scheduled.

        According to Benavente, the meeting allowed GPA to communicate what actions Guam has taken so far with respect to compliance with the applicable regulations.

        “It avoided having USEPA issue a consent decree without our input which could have made negotiations quite challenging," he said.

        As a result of discussions, USEPA has asked GPA to submit a compliance schedule which would be reasonable and appropriate for their consideration, Benavente said.

        Part of GPA’s proposed compliance plan is the procurement of a new 120-megawatt combined cycle capacity facility of dual-fired combined cycle generation. According to the presentation, the units could run potentially run on ultra-low-sulfur diesel or liquefied natural gas (LNG).

        Solar experts partake of renewable energy training

        Posted: Jan 22, 2015  by Jolene Toves  KUAM


        Guam - Professionals from the solar industry and government agencies such as the Guam Power Authority and the Guam Energy Office are receiving training that will advance their expertise on Guam's fastest growing renewable energy. Participants gained knowledge on how to apply National Electrical Code standards and industry best practices to residential and commercial grid direct solar electric systems to ensure safe, code compliant design and installation. According to photovoltaic instructor Brian Mehalic with Solar Energy International, completion of this training will allow the participants who have successfully completed the exam to become certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. 

        Islanders sound off on repealing pay raises

        Posted: Jan 22, 2015  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

        Guam - It was late last year when lawmakers, elected officials and political appointees received raises and retro pay, a public hearing is being held tonight at the Guam Legislature on legislation to rescind the raises and repeal the public law. So what do the people of Guam think about it?

        Just weeks after legislation was shot down that would revoke the pay raises senators approved for themselves in November, another bill is again before the Guam Legislature. "I think it's a wonderful thing to repeal them," expressed Ginny Godsoe.

        Bill 4 introduced by Senator Michael San Nicolas seeks to rescind the pay raises for elected and appointed officials by repealing Public Law 32-208. Godsoe, from Mangilao, supports the bill's intent, saying, "Why? because they keep giving themselves raises and then they keep taking from other things that should have the money secondly when you don't pass things in congress and in the senate, you should not be paid for that."

        San Nicolas has long opposed raises for elected leaders and even introduced similar legislation late last year but it failed on session floor. For some like Barrigada resident Ben Taisapic, he asked lawmakers a questioned posed at a recent hearing on similar legislation. "What makes them so special on a small population and a small island and making more?" he challenged.  "They want to fatten their belly up first and they consider the people homeless or whatever (some people are hurting too). For a small island, population 159,000 or 170,000 at the most, they're making more than people in the States with the population at 11 million, what is their responsibility?"

        But it's not just raises that caused uproar, but retroactive payments given to senators and the Executive Branch. Dededo resident Theodore Abella said, "They may deserve the increase, but it's big, can you imagine, that's a lot of money and to top it off, I think it should not be retroactive not even anywhere I heard that raises are retroactive for almost a year it's ridiculous," he said.

        along with reducing the salaries of elected and appointed officials to the level before raises were given, Bill 4 would also prohibit the waiving of the public hearing requirement for any legislation that would raises salaries of elected officials. Tamuning resident Tim Rock believes Bill 4 is more upfront for the people. "Nothing ever came before the public for any sort of input, it just happened after the election and I think there should be more public input as far as giving people quite a bit of money out of pockets and maybe we want to have some say in it," Rock said.-BUTT-

        Along with Bill 4, a public hearing will also be heard on Resolution 2-33 which asks Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo to introduce legislation in Congress to amend the Organic Act to prohibit elected officials from enacting pay raises until an election has intervened. 

        Former homeless woman seeks to help those without a place to stay

        Posted: Jan 22, 2015  by Isa Baza  KUAM

        Guam - One Guamanian woman was once homeless but is now working to address the issue of homelessness on the island.

        "People in Guam don't have their own place to sleep at night," said Esther Taijeron. Just a few short years ago, she was one of these individuals. "I Came to Guam in October of 2012 I entered Oasis in July of 2013. I'm a recovering alcoholic, so when I came out here my family didn't want me 26 so I became homeless," she explained.

        Without income or family to support her, she was left to the streets. However, when Taijeron found Oasis, it changed her life. "I found Oasis and they provided me with housing for over 15 months," she recalled. "They hired me on after my 6 months, when I completed residential."

        She is now a caseworker trying to give back and help others in similar situations. Guam Homeless Coalition vice chair Diana Calvo says the situations vary: "Substance use, individuals are furloughed from their job because of downsizing or projects are completed, sometimes divorce or separation from family, sometimes domestic violence," she explained.

        But who can help? Calvo says organizations to contact include Catholic Social Services, Oasis, Sanctuary, Lighthouse Recovery Center, or the Guam Homeless Coalition liaison at 475-1406. "The services that are provided include financial assistance to prevent homelessness, or to also assist in obtaining more permanent housing," she added.

        Calvo stresses that homelessness is actually a community issue, interrelated with everything from our schools to our healthcare system and economy. "One of the challenges that we have in the coalition is that we are maxed out really in our ability to meet the demand," she added.

        Because of this organizations struggle to meet the needs of the homeless community, and she urges both the community and government to work together to address the issue. 


        The future is under the ground


        Monday, 19 Jan 2015 03:00am


        BY PAUL ZERZAN


        HONG Kong’s Development Chief Paul Chan Mo-Po suggests creating more space for Hong Kong’s expansion by construction underground. He made this suggestion on a recent blog after touring extensive European underground construction (especially in Paris and Switzerland).

        Chan Mo-Po visited Paris in late October with a delegation from Hong Kong’s Civil Engineering and Development Department, and the team was impressed with one project in particular that uses underground space for commercial and transportation purposes. Reaching five levels below ground, this project has a mall on three levels and a railway station on two levels. This station handles 750,000 passengers daily.

        Prior to the Paris tour the department made a separate visit to Switzerland where many sports and recreational facilities as well as conference halls and exhibition venues are subterranean. Underground spaces are also used for sophisticated industrial and scientific work such as chip-making and radioactive nuclear experiments because the surrounding rocks provide ideal stability and insulation.

        I think Guam should pay close attention to these developments because it offers a way of preserving open spaces on our island’s limited surface area as inevitable population growth and industrial-type development occur.

        In addition much of Guam’s infrastructure could be protected from storms, bombs and solar flares by going underground and well-stocked underground warehouses would decrease Guam’s vulnerability to any temporary shutdown in world commerce from pandemics, wars, etc.

        Guam is fortunate in that underground construction could actually pay for itself. The limestone of Guam is soft and easily mined. It is a valuable commodity with a myriad of uses (from water purification to cement). China is a large and very close market (more cement has been used in China in the last 10 years than has been used in the U.S. in the last 200 years).

        Once exposed to air, limestone hardens and becomes waterproof. The underground caves of Guam show such constructions are immune to earthquake damage. With underground malls, theaters, parking and roads Guam could continue to function during and after typhoons. The University of Guam could be expanded downward without impairing its open and scenic campus.

        Tunneling and mining technology has been greatly improved in the last few decades and I think Guam should look into the local implications and applicability of these developments. Last month (Dec. 28, 2014) a large 5,000-year-old underground city was discovered near Nevselir, Turkey. I think it would be nice if we left a similar archeological wonder for our descendants to marvel at 5,000 years from now. I think the future is under the ground.


         


        Mathew 4 days ago


        Good op-column, Paul Z. My engineer cousin told me that his instructor back in the day (like 40 years ago) said that for every 7 storeys up, you can build 2 downward, to maintain structural integrity, with mitigation for drainage issues. (A real engineer like Dave Davis can expand on this, if he cares to.)



        Museum construction ‘moving along’ but likely over budget


        Friday, 23 Jan 2015 03:00am


        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


        ABOUT 47 percent of the overall construction of the multimillion-dollar Guam and Chamorro Education Facility has been completed, according to Larry Toves, project coordinator with the Guam Economic Development Authority.


        Toves updated GEDA board members about the museum’s construction at yesterday’s board meeting. In August 2013, Toves said about 30 percent of the construction was complete. Damaged piles delayed the project since the damage prevented contractors from pouring the foundation of the building last summer.

        Of the 266 piles, there is still one damaged pile that needs to be worked on and that is being addressed, Toves said yesterday.

        “Where we’re at today, basically, we’re just about complete with the theater building. We have the starter walls up already. In the next couple of weeks we’ll be starting on the roof,” Toves said. “We have starter walls along the main building already going up. To date, we’ve had approximately 1,400 cubic yards of concrete already poured. The total volume for this project is about 5,000 cubic yards (of concrete.)”

        Toves did not have a project completion date, but told board members he would consult with the contractor and give more information later.

        “We’re moving along. At this point it’s starting to look like we’ve gone vertical now. We’ve gone past the piles and stuff,” Toves said.

        Over budget

        Toves said the project will likely be over budget.

        The museum was originally priced at $27 million and expected to open in December 2014, but with the facility still under construction, the opening date has yet to be determined.

        The project broke ground in February 2013. In June 2014, Toves said that 60 of the 260 piles turned out to be damaged or potentially damaged. The contractor, Inland Builders, had driven the piles into the earth and many were damaged or potentially damaged, which was an unforeseen circumstance, Toves said.

        The museum is among the projects being funded by the government’s $90 million hotel occupancy tax bond.

        The museum includes an elevated design to protect the artifacts that will be inside, since the area where it will stand is prone to flooding, according to Variety files.

        The facility museum is being built at Skinner Plaza in Hagåtña and will be three stories high. It will feature a café, a bookstore, a theater, changing exhibits, an atrium and outdoor activity spaces, according to projected scopes of work.


        Summertime opening likely for new Farmers Co-op facility


        Friday, 23 Jan 2015 03:00am


        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


        THE new Farmers Cooperative Association of Guam facility in Dededo is expected to be completed by early June this year, according to Diego Mendiola, real property division assistant manager for the Guam Economic Development Authority.


        Mendiola and Larry Toves, project coordinator, updated board members yesterday about the progress of several hotel occupancy tax bond projects, including the Dededo farmers market.

        “The completion date is end of May, early June, that’s our target,” Mendiola said. “Currently, the structure is only pending inspection from (the Department of Public Works) of their roof forms and rebars. They will be pouring the roof for the farmers facility next week.”

        The new Farmers Co-op building is near the intersection of Marine Corps Drive and Santa Monica Avenue. It will feature a retail farmers market, dry and cold storage, a community kitchen, dining area, stalls for flea market sellers and a parking facility, according to the scope of work provided by the Guam HOT bond project website.

        Construction on the 6.9-acre lot began last year and the new facility will serve as a central place for island farmers from the Farmers Co-op to sell produce.

        Bill McDonald, president of the co-op, said at the start of the construction that he and the other farmers were looking forward to using the facility.

        There will also be a space for cleaning, sorting and packing, features which some farmers do not always have readily available to them, McDonald said.

        The facility will also house the Dededo Flea Market, which is currently at the intersection of Route 27 and Marine Corps Drive.

        HOT bond

        The farmers market is one of several HOT bond projects, funded by the hotel occupancy tax revenue bond series, which was established under P.L. 30-228 in December 2010.

        The project cost about $2.5 million, with the contract awarded to Mega United Corp. The Guam Economic Development Authority is the contract administrator; however, the facility will be operated by the Farmers Cooperative Association of Guam.

        Architects Laguana LLC designed the project and Cha Consulting Inc. is listed as the program manager.

        Mendiola told board members yesterday that the farmers market project is “definitely on target and on budget.”



        Former AG sued over contract

        Wednesday, 21 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        • http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/012115/top_200_200.jpgFORMER Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas is being sued for allegedly approving an unlawful independent contract for an attorney in the Office of the Attorney General during his four-year term as AG.

          The contract cost Guam taxpayers more than $157,000 annually, or $590,000 for nearly four years.

          Besides Rapadas, Chief Deputy Attorney General Philip Tydingco and then-acting Attorney General John Weisenberger were also named defendants of a lawsuit filed by Guam taxpayer William Bischoff at the Superior Court. Bischoff is a former assistant attorney general.

          Rapadas assumed the AG position in January 2011. Since that time, Bischoff alleged that Rapadas approved an independent contract for John Patrick Mason who filled the position of deputy of the OAG Civil and Solicitor Division.

          Mason’s contract amounted to $157,186 per year. The contract was renewed annually from Jan. 3, 2011 through Sept. 17, 2014.

          Bischoff alleged that the position Mason occupied at the OAG was not authorized to be filled by an independent contractor.

          Bischoff said Mason, during the years of serving the OAG under contract, was double-dipping which is a violation of the law. Mason, he claimed, was receiving an annuity of approximately $52,000 per year under the Government of Guam Retirement Fund Defined Benefit Plan.

          ‘Impracticable’

          Under the budget law for four fiscal years – P.L. 30-196, 31-77, 31-233 and 32-068 – the OAG was permitted to enter into contracts, such as Mason’s, for attorney’s services only for areas in which it is “impracticable and impossible” for the OAG to use its employed attorneys.

          These laws, Bischoff said, also required that such contracts with the OAG were to be in accordance with procurement laws of Guam.

          “At all times while defendant Rapadas was the attorney general of Guam and Mr. Mason's independent contractor's contract with the OAG was in effect, the contract was not let in accordance with the procurement laws of Guam, and Mr. Mason was not providing attorney's services to the OAG in areas in which it was impracticable or impossible for the OAG to proceed with its employed attorneys,” the complaint stated.

          Nevertheless, the complainant said, Rapadas at least once either personally or through Tydingco signed a re-certification for Mason's contract, certifying that Mason was providing services to the OAG in areas in which it was impracticable or impossible for the OAG to proceed with its employed attorneys.

          Bischoff alleged that since Rapadas became AG in January 2011, he illegally expended taxpayers’ money to pay for Mason’s unlawful contract without proper appropriation or authority.

          In keeping with the Proper Government Spending Act, Bischoff is seeking a personal judgment against Rapadas for the return to the government of Guam of all money paid to Mason for his contract in the years Rapadas was responsible for government money being paid to Mason.

          A personal judgment against Weisenberger was also sought by Bischoff for the three months – Oct. 1, 2010 to Jan. 3, 2011 – that he served as acting attorney general. The amount being sought from Weisenberger is $39,250. Additionally, Weisenberger, Bischoff said, must also return an additional $117,775 in additional expenses incurred from Jan. 3, 2011 through September 2011.

          Bischoff is seeking a personal judgment against Tydingco for the return to the government of Guam, along with Weisenberger and Rapadas, the amounts that the two are found liable.

          Bischoff is also seeking judgment for attorney's fees and costs of the lawsuit, to be assessed jointly and severally against all of the defendants.

          Scoff filed the lawsuit on Dec. 30, 2014.

        Support for the homeless

        Tuesday, 20 Jan 2015 03:00am

        VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        WE COMMEND Gov. Eddie Calvo for his efforts to address the island’s homeless problem. Gauging from the last two homeless surveys conducted by the Guam Homeless Coalition, there are between 1,000 and 1,500 homeless individuals on the island, and about 180 households with children. Last week, the Variety reported on two families that have pitched tents in a pavilion at the Paseo de Susana; those families each have 1-year-old babies.

        Last year, the coalition also reported that 13 homeless individuals were mentally ill; 15 were substance abusers, and six were victims of substance abuse. These individuals are in need of support from programs whose resources are already stretched.

        In addition, the survey lists 67 people as “chronically homeless.” So the vast majority of those living on the street, or the beach, or in the jungle or abandoned buildings, have apparently fallen on hard luck and would benefit from the opportunity to support themselves. Some, such as those the governor met and the Variety reported on, are in need of medical care.

        Others need the type of job-finding and training programs the government offers.

        We are also mindful of the gap between Guam’s low wage structure and the high cost of suitable housing. Programs, such as the affordable-rent, federal-tax-credit subsidized Ironwood and Summer homes are welcome and helpful, but we are told they fill quickly. And they clearly are not meeting the needs of those who remain homeless.

        Other initiatives would benefit the homeless and others living in poverty. Finding a job is not much help if the would-be employee cannot get to the job site. The benefits of a reliable mass transit system, for example, have been expounded on. Such a system would enable people to get to work, medical appointments, shopping, job interviews and training, and elsewhere without the expense of owning a vehicle. We support the reinstatement of the expanded route schedule even if it requires a government subsidy. Such a subsidy would function as an investment if it allows residents to access the job market.

        We are particularly concerned about the long-term effect on the children in homeless families who may not have access to proper nutrition or health care.

        The universal pre-school initiative, when implemented, will be especially helpful for children who are disadvantaged. Children are able to gain the pre-school skills and background that will help them enter kindergarten at a level more on par with classmates who may have a more stable home life.

        We are encouraged that the government has committed to increasing its help to the homeless. We particularly favor the programs that will give a boost to those in need of help to get back some financial footing, and those that address the long-term needs of children so that all can break out of whatever cycle of poverty they may be in.

        • Mathew 2 days ago

          It is the main stakeholders of Guam, but specifically the Calvo administration, that is chiefly responsible for the increase of homelessness. Weren't FAS folks kicked to the back of the line for GHURA housing by the Feds, upon Guam's insistence? Was not the Gov. opposed to the $10.10 hike in the minimum wage, along with his then go-to-guy at the Legislature, former Sen. Chris Duenas, who has found himself with a cushy gig now at Adelup, which would have helped a whole lot of working class families? If Guam is going to progress economically, it has to reject red state politics and red state supply side voodoo economics. States -- and territories -- are laboratories for policy making and economic growth models. California, often derided by the right-wingers is now the 7th largest economy in the world, given its economic diversity and immigrant assimilation while red state economies that relied primarily on one major industry, like some 3rd world despotic nations, are now in trouble.

        Speaker stresses importance of critical thinking

        Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        ON THE occasion of Monday's commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Speaker Judith Won Pat called on the Guam Department of Education to also emphasize the importance of public service and learning outside the classroom.

        In her weekly address, Won Pat called on GDOE to promote critical thinking and public service in emulation of King, whose words and actions led to social change.

        "He believed in the power of education and in the power of service. He once stated that 'Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?’ As we remember him this week, let us ponder this question and explore its relevance to our lives today," the speaker said.

        Won Pat said she was especially moved by King's dedication to learning and his call for educators to teach their students to think intensively and to think critically.

        "Critical thinking often involves a careful examination of one’s life and one’s community. It is essential that our teachers and school administrators remember this when setting priorities in our island’s schools. Our students must be able to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and the integral role they play in our island community," the speaker said.

        She added that a commitment to critical thinking and service doesn’t only apply to children: "We are all students of life and must be open to learning and growing every day. Dr. King also stated that we must 'look calmly and honestly at ourselves.' As we honor him, I ask you to do just that. Take a look at your life and all the wonderful things you have learned, and discover how you can share your gifts with others to make our community a better place."


        Safety enhancements for roads leading to Layon excluded in Guam’s master plan

        Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        TWO Guam Department of Public Works officials yesterday said that the safety enhancement measures for Route 4 were not included in Guam’s Transportation Improvement Plan, or GTIP, which listed the priority projects that the Guam government planned to build in the years ahead.

        The plan was initiated in 2012. This document was described as the master plan of all priority road and highway projects for Guam.

        According to Joaquin Blaz, DPW highway administrator, the list of priority projects in the plan were based solely on the decision of the DPW director with the concurrence of the federal highway administration which provides most of the funding for the projects.

        Blas said the transportation improvement plan listed the priority projects to be built by the Guam government until 2030.

        The plan, he said, had undergone two revisions: one in 2013 and one in 2014.

        In these modifications, the recommended safety enhancements on Route 4 remained excluded from the plan, Blaz said yesterday.

        If an amendment to the plan incorporates the Route 4 safety enhancement measures, Blaz said it will take some time – maybe six months to nearly a year – before they can be added. He explained the several steps in the process of amending the plan.

        Yesterday’s hearing at the U.S. District Court of Guam was to address the proposed financing plan submitted by the government of Guam on Sept. 30 relating to the projects and issues surrounding the closure of the Ordot Dump.

        In this financing proposal, GovGuam seeks to remove certain requirements previously included as consent decree projects and to provide financing for other project requirements.

        Specific improvements

        The federal consent decree calls for specific improvements along Route 4 in order to address traffic safety issues related to the continuous use of Route 4 by large, heavy commercial trucks hauling solid waste to the Layon Landfill.

        The proposed financing plan was opposed by the court-appointed solid waste receiver, Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, citing the safety issues at risk if no improvements will be made.

        In yesterday’s hearing, District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood said that upon seeing in actuality the situation during a tour of Route 4 last Friday, she cited her concerns about what she saw.

        Tydingco-Gatewood said she was surprised by what she saw compared to statements made by the federal highway administration that Route 4 is no more dangerous than other roads in Guam, as reported by GovGuam.

        “I am kind of shocked by that statement. I just drove there on Friday and ... my definition of safety seems different from the definition of the federal highway administration (official),” she said.

        Tydingco-Gatewood said that in the six-day weekly operation in Harmon, as many as 20 trucks a day have been traveling back and forth on these “unsafe roads.” She also cited the danger posed to residents.

        The trucks carry 24 to 25 tons of waste, 10 or more times each workday, and are required to negotiate 18 curves that they cannot navigate without invading the oncoming lane of traffic.

        Temporary measure

        While the escort vehicles initiated by the receiver have been an effective short-term safety measure, they are intended as a temporary measure only, officials said.

        Tydingco-Gatewood reminded GovGuam yesterday that the full transition timeline has already been approved by the court which ends the receiver’s role in December. She said it is now a question of whether or not it will happen since several requirements for the full transition have not yet been satisfied by GovGuam.

        According to GovGuam yesterday, funding to do the recommended measures and projects remains the big challenge for the government. That’s why, it said, it submitted a proposed financing plan.

        GovGuam is seeking to amend the consent decree to delete the planned improvements to Route 4 in order to gain $6.4 million in savings, which the administration hopes to be able to have available to use for other government expenditures.

        But Tydingco-Gatewood said GovGuam had 10 years to get its act together, even before the consent decree and the receivership.

        How projects become ‘priority’

        Concerned that safety measures on Route 4 never made it to the transportation improvement plan, the court was curious to hear what criteria were used by DPW in identifying “priority” projects for the plan.

        According to Phillip Slagel, DPW chief engineer, several factors are considered in prioritizing a project. Among these are the design speed, geometric design, traffic and congestion, accident history and clear zone.

        For Route 4 to be prioritized, these criteria would have to be satisfied.

        Slagel said that although the Route 4 safety enhancement was identified in the plan for 2030, he described this as not a comprehensive plan.

        The federal highway administration, to provide funding assistance for the road enhancements, will need to look at many more aspects of the roadways.

        However, the chief engineer said that by instituting “interim measures,” such concerns can be satisfied.

        The hearing on the government’s proposed financing plan will continue on Jan. 22.

        Impact statement to be released this year

        Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        Cmdr. Daniel Schaan, Joint Guam Program Office Director, said the supplemental environmental impact statement is expected to be released in the early part of this year but the exact release date has not been determined. Photo by Jasmine Stole / Variety

        JOINT Guam Program Office Director, Cmdr. Daniel Schaan, said the supplemental environmental impact statement is expected to be released in the early part of this year but the exact release date has not been determined.

        Schaan met with the Mayors’ Council of Guam yesterday morning and encouraged the mayors to engage JGPO. The main concern mayors brought up at yesterday’s meeting with Schaan was the timing of the military buildup. The mayors at the meeting wanted to know when the relocation of thousands of U.S. Marines to Guam would happen, Schaan said.

        “The SEIS is going to be released in early 2015. Concurrently with the SEIS being finalized is consultation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. Those two are precursors to the record of decision which is going to identify and affirm which of the alternatives – if any – are going to be selected as places where the buildup is going to actually occur,” Schaan said.

        The National Environmental Policy Act is a deliberate process and multiple agencies are involved in the NEPA process working to ensure all interest is properly vetted, recognized and documented, Schaan said.

        NEPA is a federal act that requires a federal agency to employ a systematic approach to analyze the environmental impact on a proposed action, consider alternative actions and make an informed decision when considering taking a major federal action. In this case, the major federal action is the proposed relocation of 5,000 Marines and about 1,300 of their family members to Guam.

        Hearings

        The U.S. military will soon release a final supplemental environmental impact statement. Last spring, public comment hearings for the draft SEIS were held in the northern, central and southern parts of the island, drawing hundreds of residents in favor and opposed to the buildup.

        Schaan said prior to yesterday’s meeting with the mayors’ council, he also met with Dededo Mayor Melissa Savares and Yigo Mayor Rudy Matanane.

        “We want to make sure we have a good relationship with Dededo because that’s one of the alternative reserves in that location. We met with Mayor Rudy Matanane, he’s a strong partner with the military being adjacent to the military base,” Schaan said.

        The military’s goal is to be good partners with Guam leaders and residents for ‘one Guam’,” Schaan said.

        “The JGPO office is transparent. Our goal is to be open and clear about what we’re doing and we operate on the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment,” he said.

        The draft SEIS included an evaluation of alternatives for construction and operation of a live-fire training range complex, a main base and family housing, as well as a new assessment of impacts on Guam’s civil infrastructure. The draft is available online.


        Landowners sue airport


        Tuesday, 20 Jan 2015 03:00am


        BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


        http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/012015/top_200_200.jpgGovernor, ancestral lands commission also sued

        THE Guam International Airport Authority, Gov. Eddie Calvo and the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission are facing a class action lawsuit after ancestral land owner Vicente Palacios “Benny” Crawford, on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated, filed the suit against them in the U.S. District Court on Friday.


        Crawford is the landowner of a lot in Tiyan. His family's ownership of the lot dates back to before World War II, according to documents filed in court.

        In addition to being the heir to the lot, Crawford is also the administrator of his mother's estate which is currently being used by the airport authority for its operations.

        Crawford’s lot is on the eastern edge of the airport property, adjacent to the runways. Pursuant to law, Crawford filed an ancestral title and compensation application with the GALC and a claim of interest with the Department of Land Management asserting his ancestral claim to this lot.

        The lands commission has verified Crawford's claim to the lot and his name appears on GALC's list which identifies all of the landowners who have claims to the property currently being used to operate the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, according to the documents.

        Crawford said he has never received compensation from the airport or the government of Guam for the use of his land for airport operations. This prompted him to file the suit on behalf of himself and other individuals who are similarly situated.

        Empty-handed

        In his complaint, Crawford claims that while Guam and the GIAA enjoy millions of dollars in airport revenue each year, class members remain empty-handed.

        According to the 24-page document, Crawford indicated four specific claims.

        The first claim is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief for the denial of procedural due process.

        Under Guam law, the plaintiff and class members have valid claims of entitlement to their ancestral lands, including the "ancestral property right" recognized by statute. As a result, class members are entitled to either the return of their land or full compensation for the government's use of it. Despite numerous laws enacted, this didn’t happen for the class members.

        The second claim on the lawsuit is for declaratory and injunctive relief under denial of equal protection to cease the differential treatment of the plaintiff and class members and to implement policies and practices that will ensure all Tiyan ancestral landowners are given an opportunity to recover their land or its full value.

        The third claim is for breach of contract against the defendants.

        According to Crawford’s complaint, P.L. 26-100, 30-06 and 30-158 constitute an agreement between the government of Guam, GALC, the plaintiff and class members. Under this agreement, the government of Guam and the GALC agreed to provide the landowners with compensation for their lands. In exchange, the class members agreed to transfer their ownership of the Tiyan ancestral lands to the government of Guam and end their ancestral land claims.

        “The government of Guam and the GALC have breached their agreement with plaintiff and class members by failing to provide them with the compensation they agreed to provide,” stated the document.

        Unjust enrichment

        Crawford is also claiming unjust enrichment against the defendants. According to the complaint, the airport has enjoyed substantial economic benefits from its continued use of the ancestral lands in the form of revenues, rent and other financial benefits it has received through its airport operations.

        In his filing, Crawford asked the federal court to certify his filing as a class suit against the defendants and appoint him and his counsel to represent the class members.

        Crawford is also requesting the court to enter an injunctive and/or declaratory relief as requested or as otherwise may be appropriate.

        The court is also asked to order the airport to disgorge the revenues and other financial benefits it has received as a result of its use of class members’ ancestral lands, and award him attorney fees and the costs of the suit.

        Lastly, Crawford also demands a trial jury on all issues that might be tried in court.

        Crawford is represented by attorney Ignacio C. Aguigui. The defendants include the airport authority, its board chairman Edward Untalan, the governor, and ancestral lands chairwoman Anita Orlino. Five other John Does are included as defendants and are as-yet unknown insurers who may be providing liability coverage for any of the defendants.

        During World War II, Japan occupied Guam and many landowners were forced off of their property. When the war ended, the United States regained control of Guam, placed it under the control of the United States Navy, condemned and converted large areas of the island into military bases, and many of the original Chamorro landowners did not have their lands returned.

        On Nov. 15, 1945, the United States Congress passed the Guam Land Transfer Act which authorized the return of lands to Guam for the benefit of ancestral landowners, according to the complaint.


         

        Jeju begins new twice-weekly nonstop Busan flight service

        Tuesday, 20 Jan 2015 03:00am

        PRESS RELEASE

         (GVB) – Jeju Air has launched its new twice weekly nonstop flight service between Busan, South Korea and Guam, the Guam Visitors Bureau announced.

        An inaugural ceremony was held Jan. 8 at the Gimhae Aiport in Busan for the new flights.

        A Guam delegation consisting of Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio, GVB Deputy General Manager Nathan Denight, Miss Guam Chanel Jarrett and other GVB staff attended the event.

        They also met with Jeju Air CEO Kyu Nam Choi, Busan Regional Aviation Administration Chief Administrator Jongguk Lee and other Korean transportation and airport executives.

        The inaugural flight from Busan arrived in Guam in the early morning of Friday, Jan. 9, with passengers treated to a welcome reception.

        “This is great news for Guam and we applaud the efforts of Jeju Air in helping us to grow and diversify our Korea market, which translates into more jobs and opportunities for our island people,” Tenorio said.

        “Our administration and GVB continue to welcome all visitors to Guam, especially as we move forward with the Tourism 2020 goal of bringing in two million visitors,” he added.

        “Jeju Air’s confidence in Guam as a premier destination is definitely going to help us achieve even greater visitor arrival numbers going forward,” said GVB General Manager Karl Pangelinan.

        “This past year alone, we received nearly 310,000 Korean visitors, which exceeded our initial 2014 goals. GVB has been working closely with the governor’s office and A. B. Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority to encourage Jeju Air to pursue more routes to Guam. This inaugural flight is a clear demonstration of the airline’s commitment to grow our Korean tourism market and we just want to thank them for their support,” Pangelinan added.

        The new seating capacity with Jeju Air’s 737-800 aircraft has the potential to bring more than 18,000 additional travelers out of Busan and will help GVB reach its 2015 goal to bring in about 375,000 Korean visitors to Guam.

        Jeju Air is a Korean low-cost carrier affiliated with the Aekyung Group. The airline also operates daily flights to Guam out of Seoul, which began in 2012.



        Joshua Tenorio appointed court administrator

        Posted: Jan 15, 2015 ? by Sabrina Salas Matanane  kuam

        Guam - He's been serving in the position in an acting capacity for a year and now it's official. The Judicial Council of Guam today unanimously appointed Joshua Tenorio to serve as the Administrator of the Courts for the Judiciary of Guam. Tenorio was initially hired in November 2011 as the Director of Policy, Planning and Community Relations.

           

        Korean investors attend Real Estate Construction Expo

        Posted: Jan 16, 2015  by Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

        Guam - Close to 70 investors from Korea are on island. The investors attended a special Guam Real Estate Construction and Economic Expo late this afternoon at the Pacific Star Hotel. The Guam Pacific Danulim Company hosted the expo in order for the investors to meet with government agencies to learn more about possible development on island.

        Managing director James Young Kim explains some of the ideas for development on Guam, saying, "Development from the hotel to leisure to water parks, to townhouse and condominiums and construction, too."

        The participating government agencies included the Guam Visitors Bureau, the Guam Economic Development Authority, the Department of Land Management and the Governor's Office. The nearly six dozen investors will be touring the island on Saturday before leaving on Sunday.

               

        Guam Homeless Coalition to conduct annual homeless survey

        Monday, 19 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        • THE Guam Homeless Coalition is scheduled to conduct its annual survey of homeless individuals and families on Friday, Jan. 30.

          Since 2005, local authorities kept count of the island’s homeless population. With the help of volunteers, the coalition conducts an islandwide survey to find and count individuals without homes or those living in substandard conditions.

          The Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority, which oversees the coalition, is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to conduct the homeless population count, said Amor Say, a planner at GHURA.

          GHURA Executive Director Michael Duenas said the coalition is also looking for adults to volunteer on Jan. 30 to help with the count. Volunteers will also be expected to undergo a day of training.

          “We are now in the planning stages of the next point-in-time count,” Duenas said. “From last year’s count we were looking at about 180 homeless households with families with children.”

          Data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development shows 1,356 individuals total were considered homeless at last year’s point-in-time count.

          Of the 1,356 individuals, 67 were considered chronically homeless, 15 were considered chronic substance abusers, 13 were severely mentally ill, 36 were veterans, and six were victims of domestic abuse.

          Compared to data gathered in 2013, the homeless population increased from 1,271 individuals to 1,356 in 2014. Although the homeless population increased, the number of chronically homeless individuals and families decreased from 290 in 2013 to 67 in 2014.

          Suggestions

          Many times, the coalition seeks suggestions from village mayors or coalition members for areas to canvass during the annual homeless count and tally. The count is a day-long event and begins in the early morning into the night with volunteers and coalition members canvassing the island to gather an accurate tally of how many people are considered homeless.

          Last week, two homeless families pitched tents in Paseo de Susana park in Hagåtña as they awaited approval for GHURA public housing. They said they’ve been homeless for months and took shelter at other pavilions including the one across from the Guam Police Department Hagåtña precinct.

          Department of Parks and Recreation Director Raymond Blas said that homeless people taking shelter in public parks is a problem at all the pavilions around the island.

          GHURA receives grant funding from Continuum of Care, a federally funded program that aims to address the needs of the nation’s homeless people. The coalition uses funds from the Continuum of Care grant to help homeless individuals on island.

          The data collected from the homeless point-in-time count, in addition to understanding the number of individuals without suitable homes that are on Guam, will be used on a local level to identify gaps in the services provided to the homeless, officials said.

          On a national level, the data will be used to measure how well the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness is meeting its goals.

          The Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness was initiated in 2010 by President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress.

          HUD defines homelessness in a few ways. A new category of homelessness applies to families with children or unaccompanied youth who have not had a lease or ownership interest in a housing unit in the last 60 days or more.

          This category also includes families with children who have moved twice or more in the last 60 days and are likely to continue to be unstably housed.

          

        GPA, Navy top toxic release inventory data for Guam

        Saturday, 17 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        Jared Blumenfeld

        THE Guam Power Authority and the Naval Base Guam’s Apra Harbor wastewater plant were the top two facilities for total on-site and off-site releases according to a Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) report issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

        Guam’s TRI data is part of the annual report for the Pacific Southwest region released by USEPA this week.

        TRI data is submitted annually by facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste.

        A "release" generally refers to a chemical that is emitted to the air, water or placed in some type of land disposal unit. Most of these releases are subject to a variety of regulatory requirements designed to limit human and environmental harm, according to USEPA.

        On Guam, a total of 12 facilities reported 517,157 pounds of toxic chemical releases in 2013. However, total reported on-site and off-site releases decreased when compared to the 572,000 pounds reported in 2012.

        USEPA reported that Guam ranks 23rd out of 56 states/territories based on total releases per square mile.

        CNMI

        Meanwhile, data for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands showed that a total of eight facilities reported 15,370 pounds of toxic chemical releases during 2013.

        CNMI figures also showed a decrease in total reported on-site and off-site releases when compared to 2012 data.

        The Commonwealth Utilities Corp and the Mariana Acquisition Corp’s Saipan Terminal, a petroleum bulk terminal were the top two facilities for total on-site and off-site releases.

        2012

        The 2012 figures for Guam indicate an increase in releases when compared to 2011 data. USEPA data from 2012 in Guam show that since 2011, toxic air releases increased by 9 percent, toxic water releases increased 16 percent, and on-site transfers increased by 802 pounds.

        An aggregate of 11 facilities on Guam reported a total of 572,245 pounds of toxic chemical releases during 2012.

        Among the top facilities on Guam with the highest levels of toxic release were the Guam Power Authority, Naval Base Guam, South Pacific Petroleum Corp. and Mobil Oil Guam’s Cabras Island terminal.

        In CNMI, a total of eight facilities reported a combined 79,469 pounds of toxic chemical releases during 2012, an increase over 2011’s 3,224 pounds mainly due to four new facilities reporting toxic release data.

        Not released

        According to USEPA, the TRI report showed that a majority of toxic chemicals managed at industrial facilities in the U.S. were not released into the environment.

        Moreover, national data in 2013 indicate that approximately 84 percent of the 26 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were managed through the use of preferred practices such as recycling.

        "We all have a right to know what toxic chemicals are being used and released into our environment, and what progress companies are making to reduce, recycle or prevent waste from being generated in the first place,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “This year, our online database known as the TRI Explorer is more robust than ever, and we encourage the public to make use of the extensive information available there.”

        The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), requires facilities to report prior year's toxic chemical release data by July 1. The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 also requires facilities to submit information on pollution prevention and other waste management activities related to TRI chemicals.

        Relaxation and beauty top motivators for Korean traveler

        Monday, 19 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/011915/gvb_200_200.jpgA Guam Visitors Bureau delegation makes a presentation in Seoul to attract more Korean tourists to Guam. Data from the Guam Visitors Bureau show the average Korean visitor’s top two important reasons for choosing Guam are that Guam is a relaxing destination and the island has great beaches and natural beauty. Contributed photo

        DATA from the Guam Visitors Bureau show the average Korean visitor’s top two important reasons for choosing Guam as a destination is to relax, and for the island’s beaches and natural beauty. A short travel time and safety are also among the top reasons for traveling to Guam, according to GVB’s August 2014 exit survey.

        Bart Jackson, chairman of the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association and chairman of the GVB Korea and Russia marketing committee, said with direct Russian flights halted indefinitely, the bureau’s primary focus must be on its top markets, Japan and Korea, while also looking to grow the Chinese market.

        On Jan. 9, Jeju Air began twice weekly nonstop flights from Busan to Guam. GVB officials said they anticipate Korean arrivals for this year could reach upwards of 350,000.

        “We exceeded 300,000 visitors in the calendar (2014) for the first time ever,” Jackson said. With new nonstop flights from United and Jeju airlines and with Jin Air increasing seat capacity for flights between Guam and Korea, Jackson said there are 500,000 available seats this year for Korean travelers.

        “So half a million seats, 75 percent load factor, you’re talking about 350,000 arrivals from Korea. It’s an enormous number. That has to be our second focus,” Jackson said.

        GVB data show most Korean visitors to Guam are married and are an average age of 34 years old. Like the average Japanese visitor, most Korean travelers travel with their family and almost none, about six percent of those surveyed, travel alone.

        First-time visitors

        Unlike the Japanese market however, many Korean travelers are first-time visitors to Guam. In August, 87 percent of those surveyed were visiting Guam for the first time, similar to data from 10 months prior which showed an average 84 percent of Koreans are first-timers to the island. Less than 20 percent of Korean visitors surveyed are repeat visitors.

        In contrast, more than half of the Japanese visitors surveyed were repeat visitors. On average, 44 percent of Japanese travelers that came to Guam between October 2013 through August 2014 had been to Guam before.

        Further, the average repeat visitor from Japan has been to Guam three times.

        Stay longer

        Korean visitors tend to stay on Guam a day longer than Japanese visitors, based on the exit surveys. Between October 2013 and August 2014, Korean travelers stayed about 3.6 nights, compared to an average of 2.7 nights for the average Japanese traveler in the same time period. 

        While they are on Guam, Korean travelers spend about $480 per person, most of which is spent on gifts for others. They also spend about $842 for prepaid travel costs. This is similar to Japanese customers who spend an average of $489 on-island and about $768 for prepaid travel costs.

        Most Korean visitors surveyed, 95 percent, found out about Guam through Internet searches or blogs, while 40 percent of those surveyed relied on recommendations from friends or family for information about Guam and 1 percent said GVB promotions was a primary source of information about the island.

         

        Rededication for Asan Bay Overlook Memorial Wall

        Posted: Jan 16, 2015  by Isa Baza  KUAM

        Guam - It was over 10 years ago the National Park Service began creating the Asan Bay Overlook Memorial Wall. It was meant to be a tribute to last the test of time, however, that was not the case.

        Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo said, "The first wall was erected in 1996, but it was severely damaged the following year due to the typhoon, in 2007 the wall was vandalized." Looters stole the plaques inscribed with names of those who died, and sold it for scrap metal.

        Although disheartened by this, the National Park Service worked tirelessly to create a new memorial with an even greater collection of names of both Chamorros and American servicemembers who fought and died during the Japanese occupation of World War II.

        Lieutenant Governor Ray Tenorio stated, "We look at names, and we don't see the person, and the pain and the suffering and the death that came from that - that makes our life what it is today: the democracy to be able to speak our minds, to be able to redress our government, to be able to have the quality of life."  He said all things that we enjoy and take for granted today, come from the sacrifice of others, and thanked the audience for attending despite deplorable weather conditions.

        "Thank you for the time and the commitment that you've made, to endure the weather, and overcome the traffic accidents, and the water puddles that have made your life difficult, but the difficulties that were faced by the people on this wall is far greater than any difficulty we could imagine," he shared.

        Bordallo emphasized that the wall included names of 17,771 people who suffered. 71 years later, she said, their names are now a testament to the resilience of the Chamorro people. "As we rededicate this wall, I hope that it will always serve as a reminder of the role Guam played during World War II, and the resilience our people have demonstrated throughout the history," she noted.

        The War in the Pacific National Historical Park Asan Bay Overlook Memorial Wall is open 8-5pm daily, for our island residents to visit and commemorate our fallen heroes. 

        Bordallo vows to promote jobs, improve federal relations

        Friday, 16 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY MONETH G. DEPOSA-ELECO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        http://mvguam.com/images/resized/images/stories/localnews/011615/bordallo_200_200.jpgGuam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo yesterday said that she will promote jobs and improve the relationship between the federal government and the community of Guam. Photo by Matt Weiss / Variety

        AS SHE enters the 114th Congress, Madeleine Bordallo yesterday said she will promote jobs and improve the relationship between the federal government and the community of Guam.

        The re-elected delegate was ceremonially sworn in yesterday morning in a ceremony held at the Latte of Freedom at the R.J. Bordallo Governor’s Complex at Adelup. The oath was administered by District Court of Guam Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood.

        “During the 113th Congress, we made significant progress on many issues important to our island, and I will continue to build on this progress to ensure that our community’s concerns are addressed at every level of the federal government,” she told the crowd.

        This includes, she said, continuing the progress that Guam made on the military buildup, extending visa-free travel for Chinese visitors to come to Guam, promoting educational and workforce development opportunities, and enhancing services to veterans and seniors in the community.

        Bordallo also vowed to continue to work to address longstanding issues affecting the Guam community and to identify practicable solutions to issues such as Compact impact, self-determination, and recognizing Guam’s greatest generation who endured the enemy occupation during World War II.

        “However, we will only be successful on moving these issues forward if we are united as one Guam and are able to speak with one voice when dealing with the federal government. This will be even more important given the increasing partisanship in Washington, and divided government between the president and the Congress,” she said, adding that she looked forward to working with local leaders and stakeholders to tackle issues with an open mind to get things done in the best interest of the people of Guam.

        ‘Deeply humbled’

        In her seventh term as Guam’s Delegate to the House of Representatives, Bordallo said she is deeply humbled by the support and confidence the people of Guam have provided to her.

        As a community, Guam has achieved much for the island over the last 12 years, she said.

        “There is still much work to be done, and I am committed to building on the progress we have made to continue to improve the quality of life on Guam,” she said “Today is an opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made over the years, and to renew our focus to move our community forward. I am happy to have the campaign season behind me, and to once again, focus on governing. I was encouraged by the support and kind words of countless people I greeted along the way, and I was reminded of all the good that we have accomplished together thus far.”

         

        Duenas named CCU chairman, elected members sworn in

        Friday, 16 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        JOSEPH Duenas was elected chairman of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities yesterday, succeeding recently re-elected commissioner Simon Sanchez.

        Commissioner Pedro Guerrero nominated Duenas as chairman, Francis Santos as vice chairman, George Bamba as the commission secretary and himself as treasurer.

        All four nominated commissioners voted in favor of the nominees, with Sanchez abstaining from the vote. With all four commissioners on board and the election of the officers, Chief Justice Robert Torres relinquished the pro tem chairmanship to Duenas and welcomed the four new officers to their positions.

        Duenas has more than 25 years of experience as a business professional with substantial experience in the private and public sectors. He also served as chairman of the Public Utilities Commission from 1985 to 1994 and has served as CCU commissioner since January 2009.

        Prior to the board election, three members elected to serve on the CCU in the November 2014 election were sworn in – the first group to be sworn in at the commission’s new Gloria B. Nelson Public Service Building at Fadian.

        The recently elected members are former Sens. Bamba and Santos, and Sanchez, who was re-elected. Bamba, Santos and Sanchez were sworn in at the conference room of the new building in front of family members and dignitaries.

        This is Sanchez’s fourth election to the CCU and Bamba and Santos’ first election. Bamba and Santos replace outgoing commissioners Eloy Hara and Benigno Palomo.

        Looked forward

        In November, Sanchez said he looked forward to another four years working on utilities, lowering energy costs and protecting the island’s ocean and water.

        Bamba said he will bring in new ideas to the CCU and work toward determining the community’s best interest.

        Former Gov. Felix Camacho was among other dignitaries at the ceremony including Speaker Judith Won Pat, Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz and Sens. Tom Ada, Frank Aguon, Rory Respicio and Mary Torres.

        Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio also attended the ceremony.

        The commission is made up of five members elected at large to oversee the Guam Power Authority and Guam Waterworks Authority. It was created by P.L. 26-76 in March 2002.

        By law, the CCU has contracting authority for both utilities as well as the responsibility for selecting a qualified general manager and chief financial officer.

        ‘UOG program cuts are necessary’

        Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 03:00am

        BY LOUELLA LOSINIO | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

        • UNIVERSITY of Guam President Robert Underwood said program cuts under the university’s Good to Great implementation plan are necessary as part of UOG’s restructuring of priorities.

          The Good to Great implementation plan lists eight programs that will be cut, including the master’s degree program in art, East Asian Studies, Japanese Studies, and Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. The programs will be cut as a result of UOG’s streamlining plans.

          According to Underwood, the primary reasons for the programs being closed is because they are not functioning as programs, there are no students, or the programs have not graduated enough students.

          “We are restructuring our priorities but the programs that were identified in the Good to Great for elimination are not really not part of any cost-cutting plans,” Underwood told Variety. “These are programs that have not functioned well. There are no students in them or they have only graduated one student in the past three or four years. The programs are not functioning.”

          Underwood said that if there are program majors in the programs slated for closure, “then the university will continue them in order to graduate those existing students.”

          In the original proposal under the Good to Great plan, 12 programs were earmarked for possible closure while others were identified as potential programs for consolidation. The programs were identified after review and input and will require a teach-out plan from the respective dean, according to the university.

          Reasons for specific program closure include lack of student interest, unsustainable enrollment and no dedicated faculty.

          Invest

          Meanwhile, UOG also intends to invest in some programs that were deemed essential, noting that some will receive financial assistance, and efforts to start recruiting for vacancies and new positions will start as soon as the budget permits.

          High priority investment programs include the university’s pre-engineering program, health sciences, the Water and Environmental Research Institute of the Western Pacific, the marine laboratory and others.

          The UOG board of regents passed a resolution adopting the Good to Great implementation plan in May 2014.

          The resolution noted that the university underwent a two-year review of its programs and activities under the plan to ensure that these are consistent with the mission of the university, financially and programmatically sustainable, of high quality and meet the demands of island communities.

          The process entailed a review of more than 60 academic programs and 35 administration and support activities. The evaluation committee then ranked the programs and activities into quintiles for further action, transformation support and elimination.

          The resolution also pointed out that UOG has had incremental increases in GovGuam support for the past 20 years that are insufficient for growth and maintenance of the current complement of programs.

            

        2014 visitor arrivals higher than 2013

        Wednesday, 14 Jan 2015 03:00am

        PRESS RELEASE

         (ADELUP) – For the third year in a row, tourism arrival numbers reached record-breaking levels. Visitor arrivals during 2014 totalled 1,342,377, which is 7,880 more visitors than 2013’s banner arrivals of 1,334,497.

        Korean arrivals during 2014 grew by 25.4 percent, while arrivals from mainland China rose by 45 percent and Russian arrivals increased by 101.5 percent. Additionally, sea arrivals for 2014 increased by 115.7 percent.

        The diversification and growth in various markets helped strengthen the island’s visitor industry despite Japan’s struggling economy.

        The preliminary Monthly Visitor Arrival Report for December 2014 shows a 1.0 percent increase when compared to December 2013, with Guam welcoming a total of 119, 829 visitors.

        "We're proud of the hard work that was accomplished in 2014, especially recording another banner year with over 1.3 million visitors. But we also need to be mindful and maintain a keen eye on diversification efforts because the Japan market is vulnerable,” said Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio. “These milestones could not have been done without the support of our industry partners and our dedicated tourism employees.”

        GVB General Manager Karl Pangelinan thanked island leaders and the community for their part in the growth.

        “I want to personally thank Gov. Calvo, Lt. Gov. Tenorio, the Guam Legislature and the entire community for stepping up to make our island paradise a better place to live, work and visit,” Pangelinan said.

        “Let's keep up the momentum to transform Guam into the destination of choice with more world-class hotels, compelling signature events, and unique activities that center on the pulse of our Chamorro language and culture."