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Senate Oks Guam war claims, $248M defense construction

Guam is one step closer to achieving its long awaited demand for war reparation, which is tacked onto the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 passed by the U.S. Senate on Thursday, Dec. 8.

“The passage of this bill brings us a step closer to honoring Guam’s greatest generation and rightfully recognizing the survivors of the occupation of Guam during World War II,” Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo said.

The NDAA also authorizes $248.658 million worth of defense construction in Guam for fiscal 2017.

Bordallo noted that the passage of the bill coincides with the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Guam on Dec. 8, 1941 and the start of what would be 32 months of enemy occupation by Imperial Japanese forces.

“Securing passage of this bill has been a long and difficult process. Yet, despite political and budgetary challenges that we faced along the way, I never gave up on our efforts to resolve this longstanding issue for our island,” Bordallo said.

The Senate passed the bill by a 92-7 vote. The House of Representative previously passed the Conference Report on Friday, Dec. 2 by a vote of 375- 34.

The bill now goes to President Obama, who is expected to sign the measure into law.

Guam began to seek the resolution of war claim disparities in 1977 through proposals by Congressional Delegates Antonio Won Pat, Ben Blaz and Robert Underwood. More than a dozen bills that had been filed in Congress were unsuccessful.

One of the biggest hurdles had been the disagreement between Guam leaders and Congress on the cutoff period.

“This has been a long and difficult road, and I appreciate the support and assistance from many in our community, especially my predecessors in Congress who laid the groundwork for this effort, my current and former staff who worked diligently behind the scenes, and the survivors who documented and submitted their experiences during the war,” Bordallo said.

The newly reelected Guam delegate vowed to ensure that the claims process is appropriately carried out. “I hope that Governor Calvo will join me in petitioning the incoming Trump Administration to hold Guam’s treasury harmless in the payment of claims,” she added.

“I will also work with Sen. Frank Blas Jr and the Guam War Survivors Memorial Foundation to see if they can help our local community be prepared for the claims program once it is established. I think this type of public-private partnership will serve our community well. Today is a proud day for Guam, and I look forward to President Obama signing this bill into law.

The final conference report also includes a provision that will require the Department of Defense to conduct a review of service records for each mil