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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 military department of Asian American and Pacific Islanders who served during the Korean or Vietnam Wars and earned the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, or the Air Force Cross, but may be eligible for the Medal of Honor.

“I appreciate retired Colonel Danny Santos for bringing several cases on Guam to my attention and requesting that I seek this legislative remedy. I look forward to having this review conducted in a thorough manner by the Department of Defense. This is an important win for our broader AAPI community,” Bordallo said.

Further, the bill contains full funding for Guam’s FY17 military construction program and it frees up funding for the construction of a cultural repository as an important mitigation identified in the supplemental EIS.

“This builds on progress I have made over the last two years to support civilian infrastructure projects, which included funding for civilian water and wastewater improvements projects that were recently awarded to GWA, as well as for the cultural repository,” Bordallo said.

“While I am disappointed that my provision to provide USCIS with flexibility in administering the H-2B program on Guam, I have received assurances by HASC Chairman Thornbury to revisit this issue next year. These are clear demonstrations of Congress’ commitment to the realignment and efforts to address appropriate mitigations associated with the Marine relocation. In order to ensure the Department of Defense lives up to its “Net Negative” commitment, I was also able to include a provision that requires the Navy to report next year on its plans for current and future land use on Guam,” she added.

(The Times News Staff)

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