$15 million funding proposed for construction of Customs infrastructure
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Sen. James Moylan is proposing a $15-million appropriation for construction of a Customs and Quarantine infrastructure that would beef up the frontline agency's monitoring capability and curb the entry of illegal substances through Guam’s seaport.
The proposed appropriation, to be taken from the general fund, would be used to build a Customs Satellite Inspection Holding and Secured Sterile Facility Area, and procure a stationary X-ray scanning portal.
The bill, titled Protecting Our Borders Act of 2021,” seeks to assist CQA in effectively inspecting incoming cargo at a satellite facility for invasive species, prohibited products, and most importantly, for illegal drug trafficking.
The funds were identified through the administration’s recent announcement that due to federal relief programs, the government of Guam’s collections exceeded $62 million for fiscal year 2021, when compared to what was projected.
This was particularly noted with the increases in income, corporate, and withholding taxes. To date, $45 million has been earmarked for either tax refunds, or for a local employer’s assistance program.
In 2018, Public Law 34-112 granted CQA a 4-acre parcel of land in Piti to construct the facility, however there was a caveat, that if the construction did not take place within a three-year period, the property would be returned to the Port Authority of Guam.
Because funding was not yet identified and the deadline was looming for July of this year, Moylan introduced a measure to extend that agreement by an additional five years. Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero enacted the legislation into Public Law 36-12 on April 9.
“While extending the agreement for the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency was very much needed, it means absolutely nothing if funding isn’t identified to actually construct the facility," Moylan said.
"Three years went by quickly and my fear is that in the continuing search for grants or other funding sources, another five years will go by and we will be back to square one. This is why it was important to introduce this legislation immediately, as the administration has indicated that there was a surplus of funds at the end of fiscal year 2021. We have an opportunity to finally construct this long-awaited facility without impacting the government’s operations."
If enacted, the funds would not only be utilized to construct the inspection facility, but also to procure a Stationary X-Ray Scanning Portal, which would improve efficiency for the agency in their inspections for not only illegal substances, but also prohibited products, as well as the island’s combat against invasive species.
Moylan said the legislation does not preclude CQA or any other government entity from tapping other funding sources to construct the proposed facility.
"If anything, it would help reduce the overall costs, as any unspent funds from this Act can be reverted to the general fund," Moylan said.
The bill sets the process in motion with initial funds for the Architectural and Engineering design, which is needed to start the project.
"When it comes to our rising drug epidemic, time is a valuable component, and for the sake of our island community, we can’t be waiting any longer,” Moylan said. “I am certain my colleagues along with the Governor will agree that the construction of this facility is a priority. The funds are there so let’s begin the process."