Another step forward was achieved by the Pacific Association for Radiation Survivors’ (PARS) fight for justice and assistance for those exposed to radiation on Guam during nuclear weapons testing conducted by the U.S. government in the Marshall Islands.
The U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on June 27, 2018 in Washington D.C. for S.B. 197, Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Amendments (RECA) of 2017, which would allow those who resided in Guam between 1945 and 1962 and who suffered from cancer or other listed radiation-related illness, to apply for compensation that would include free medical care and up to $150,000 from the remaining funds in the RECA Trust Fund.
Robert N. Celestial, president of PARS and longtime advocate for the inclusion of Guam in RECA, has been invited by the U.S. Senate Committee to testify on behalf of the people of Guam. He will be travelling to Washington D.C. to provide his expert testimony and many years of research.
It has been more than a decade since the National Research Council declared Guam’s eligibility for compensation under the RECA program. In 2005, the council released a report concluding that “Guam did receive measurable fallout from atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in the Pacific” between 1946 and 1958. The council recommended that people living on island during that period be compensated under RECA “in a way similar to that of persons considered to be downwinders.”
As of 2017, the Justice Department had awarded more than $2 billion in “compassionate compensation” to eligible claimants under RECA, which provides up to $150,000 to victims of radiation. No one from Guam has received a cent from this program. The RECA program expires in 2022, but the justice department will stop receiving applications in 2020 to allow a two-year period to process the compensation.
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Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje will also be attending the hearing and following up on lobbying that she participated in last October 2017 in furtherance of Resolution No. 39-34, passed unanimously by the 34th Guam Legislature in April 2017, which petitioned the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that would compensate those suffering from cancer and health issues due to radiation exposure from nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific.
“Justice is long overdue,” Terlaje said. “Free medical care and compassionate payments of $150,000 will certainly help cancer patients on Guam. Mr. Robert Celestial and the people of Guam have been working for years to educate lawmakers and ensure justice and financial redress for Guam, as has been given to other downwind populations who have endured the environmental and health impacts from radiation. A Senate hearing on whether to include Guam is an historic first. " “I want members of Congress to recognize that this is a very important issue that warrants justice for Guam's people and that Guam's leaders are in full support.”
Alongside PARS and Celestial, those who have been advocating justice for radiation survivors include the late Dr. Chris Perez, the late Senator Angel Santos, former Speakers Ben Pangelinan, Mark Forbes, Judith Won Pat, Speaker BJ Cruz, and many others.
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