- By Ethan Perez
Underwood vows to get Guam representation in Compact talks
Congressional candidate Robert Underwood shared the fourth and final pillar of his platform, which includes a plan to push for Guam's involvement in the United States' negotiation for Compact of Free Association with freely associated states.
This goal may be achieved first through introduction of legislation that would amend the State Authorization Act to allow Guam to provide input in Compact of Free Association discussions, Underwood said at Tuesday's press conference.
This would lay the ground work for the island to leverage its strategic value in the Pacific in order to receive $100 million in Compact impact aid as a condition for final approval of the treaty.
Read related story
Guam will get what Congress will give
The United States is currently renegotiating with Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and Marshall Islands for possible renewal of the expiring provisions of the Compacts. While Guam hopes to squeeze its own agenda into the discussion, Doug Domenech, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, earlier said the scope of the ongoing negotiation is limited to Compact funding provisions for FAS nations.
The fourth pillar of Underwood's platform —Promoting Guam’s Unique status and resources— involves Guam’s political standing in the United States, the quest for Chamorro self-determination, equal treatment and empowerment of disabled individuals, and the preservation of Guam’s culture, environment and resources.
“Its ironic, if you’re from Guam you can vote for president, but you lose your right to vote for your delegate [from Guam],” Underwood said.
Historically the island and its people have been denied this right. In order to tackle this issue, the candidate's platform offers two points. First, Underwood hopes to utilize the current national interest in social justice movements to present Guam’s case in Congress, and second, seek additional funding for a public education campaign on self determination and its implications.
Highlights of the pillar:
• Utilize the current nationwide interest in social justice movements to present Guam’s case in Congress
• Seek critical funding for a successful public education campaign on self-determination and the three political status options of independence, free association, or integration
• Introduce legislation to amend the Guam Congressional Representation Act to allow the full voting representation of the Guam Delegate in the House of Representatives
• Introduce legislation to amend the State Department Authorization Act to allow Guam to provide input in Compact of Free Association discussions and future discussions
• Secure funding for Guam’s people eligible for Social Security Supplemental Income (SSI) regardless of where they live
• Seek funding to support the development of circular economies for more sustainable living
"All human experience is valuable and the best way to make long lasting policy is how you outline that experience,” Underwood said.
He noted the importance of having true and equal representation in the nation's capital, so that those eligible residents on Guam get access to the full benefits of Social Security Supplemental Income, earned income tax credit and state-like Medicaid assistance. These benefits are already provided to most U.S. communities and Guam should not be an exception, he said.
“Over the course of this campaign, and throughout my career, having met with a cross section of Guam’s diverse communities, I have listened to your needs, ideas, and dreams for us and our future,” Underwood said. “All I have heard, and learned from you, is contained in this platform. It was written with your voice as my guide, and it will serve as a living document throughout my term as Guam’s Delegate in Congress.”
Underwood, who served in Congress from 1993 to 2003, noted that is important to require input from the people of Guam before federal legislation is passed that negatively impacts the island's cultural practices.
Similarly, Underwood strives to secure federal funding for research and upkeep of the aquifer and ocean ecosystems. And finally support for circular economies for more sustainable living, as these two points go hand in hand.
Underwood, a Democrat. is running against the incumbent Democratic delegate Michael San Nicolas, and Republican Sen. Wil Castro.