'When will this end?' Protesters demand Guam reopening
Protesters Veiky Ghorgy, Dominic Joaquin Hernandez and Don Antonio Ada Edquilane speak to Pacific Island Times during a rally in front of the Guam Congress Bulding in Hagatna on Oct. 14, 2020. Photo by Mar-Vic Cagurangan
In a call for solidarity, the Guam Chamber of Commerce held a CommUNITY motorcade Wednesday morning to highlight the plight of Guam’s heavily impacted private sector.
“We are going backwards. We were at PCOR4 and everything was opening up people were going back to work, this lockdown was rushed in order to stabilize a crisis but now we have no word on when it will end,” said senatorial candidate Dominic Joaquin Hernandez.
Businesses such as Chuck-E-Cheese at GPO, the theaters at Agana Shopping Center Theaters, as well as many smaller local businesses have added their names to the growing list of businesses whose doors are now closed, Hernandez said.
Guam, which remains in Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1, continues to see high numbers of Covid-19 positive cases.
The CommUNITY Rally, according to the Chamber, was a show of support for island residents who have been laid off, experienced reduced hours or in other ways have been impacted by the economic crisis brought about by Covid-19.
"This act of solidarity with the people of Guam whose livelihoods have been disrupted by the pandemic is a means to create awareness for the private sector’s plight,” said Christine Baleto, chairwoman of the Chamber's board, “and, to remind our elected officials to not forget our people. We need their help for our businesses to survive and our employees to have jobs to return to.”
When asked for his insight into the current economic slowdown, Hernandez said, “This is a time where we come together you know, all of us have elderly whom we love and it is always in our best interests to provide for them.”
The past two and a half months have been particularly grueling for small businesses that had to shut their doors at a moments notice.
“Even so there are people I just saw, great people, smiling, boiling grass for tea just down the road from here [the Cathedral Basilica in Agana]," Hernandez said. You know, these families can’t afford rent because they can’t work who will represent them if not us?”
Don Antonio Ada Edquilane, another senatorial candidate who also participated in the rally, supports the call for reopening.
“Guam is one part of a whole we should take wisdom from the experience of others, meaning schools should be open with policies in place to successfully limit the spread of the virus, and their parents should be able to return to work it is possible.” Edquilane said. “I wont pretend to know everything, but I sure do believe in balance and community standards, protect those who need to be protected and allow those who can work to work. I know its not that simple but it is possible.”
He advised residents to take personal responsibility for their own health. “Remember the three Ws, wash your hands, wear a mask, watch your distance. These methods have been proven effective by the CDC and are being practiced globally in an effort to flatten the curve around the world.” he said.
Returning Guam resident Veiki Gorghy said she wants her children to return to their classrooms. “I want kids to go back to school because they need that, they need socialization in a rapidly changing environment, just as it always is,” she said.
Gorghy, a Covid-19 survivor, shared her fight with the coronavirus in comparison with Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, who also tested positive but has since recovered.
“I’m not sure if we caught the same bug, my symptoms were moderate, severe at times but the governor caught it and in less than a week she was back on TV no coughs in sight," she said.
She noted that the mortality rate of Covid-19 was similar if not even lower than those of regular
ailments such as the common cold.
“It is important not to let this virus control us, we cannot afford to be afraid right now, all those able and willing should have the right to return to work by now,” Gorghy said. “Also let us not forget about Guam’s tourist industry, we need visitors at lest from japan and Korea to have that cashflow again, to highlight the reopening it would be necessary to allow visitors to once again come to the island."
In a press statement, the Republican Party of Guam expressed its support for the
business community and the thousands of island residents whose employment has been adversely impacted because of this economic crisis.
Republican senators and Senatorial Candidates joined the nearly 200 vehicles who participated in the Guam Chamber of Commerce’s CommUNITY Motorcade held this morning, which was followed by a peaceful rally in front of the Guam Congress Building.
"The Guam GOP recognizes that while many of our families are struggling to make ends meet, the Democrat Majority in the 35th Guam Legislature has prioritized the banning of plastic bags, measures associated with feral pigs, insurance to protect the reef and a sustainability plan as their primary proposals during their October regular session," the statement reads.