2ND WOMEN’S SUMMIT
The 2nd Women’s Summit kicked off yesterday with Guam Legislature Speaker Judith Won Pat citing the military buildup during one of the panel discussions on what the CNMI could do to protect its culture and future.
Speaking as a panelist under the topic of “Empowering Women as Leaders,” Won Pat focused on the construction of live-fire training facilities being proposed for Tinian and Pagan, compared them to two other areas that were proposed for Guam, and how the community voiced their concerns.
“I am aware that the draft Environmental Impact Statement on the military’s plan for training on Tinian and Pagan will be released this Friday—April 3— and Guam has gone through two very major military impact statements since 2010 concerning the military buildup and learned many lessons about leadership in the process,” she said.
“Our community has been divided about the buildup. The popular perception has been that the buildup would result in economic growth and jobs, both of which our island needs. However, it will also result in unnatural population growth [that] will strain our infrastructure and increase the demand on public services,” she added.
Concerns raised about the buildup focused on its potential for negative impact on the environment and the culture of Guam. The most contentious issue, she said, is the need to find a place where the U.S Marines can conduct live-fire training among Guam’s cultural and historical sites.
Won Pat said she studied the situation from all angles and perspectives, read all necessary documents, did additional research, looked at similar situations in other places, and studied the CNMI’s history for answers.
“I wanted to understand as much as what was being planned and how it would impact us. I knew that the plan to move the Marines to Guam was intended to lessen the presence of Marines in Okinawa, so I went to Okinawa to see it,” she said.
According to Won Pat, Okinawa’s community had been protesting the Marine’s presence on their island since 1995, when three Marines kidnapped a 12-year-old girl and raped her.
“I had to ask myself if that is what I wanted for my community. I had to listen…I met with the women and they had valid concerns about the impact on children and the amount of money it would cost our government…I formed a group and became vocal about the need to put Guam first…I was heavily criticized and deemed anti-military, but as a women I would not back down,” she said.
She said the youth empowered her, enabling her to spread the word into Guam’s community and its leaders. Some 10,000 comments were made when the draft EIS came out, which she says the Navy said was unheard of.
“We share the same culture. I invite you to the path we’ve taken and ask yourself: Is this what you want for Tinian and Pagan? We have to learn from each other because no matter what political lines divide us, we are all one family. …My final point is, everything I do as a leader I do from a place of love for my family, island, ancestors, and future generations. …CNMI, you have more political power than we do in Guam because you are a Commonwealth. If you don’t want Pagan to be bombed, you can say no…make it happen,” she said.
In related news, Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan), who chairs the House Committee on Federal and Foreign Affairs, said that military officials will be sitting with the committee this Thursday to discuss the military’s plans.
Demapan said the military has been holding many stakeholder meetings but never with the Legislature.
“Like what Won Pat said, if they want to be a part of the community, they have to be a partner of the community and that opens that dialogue so that they can become a good and responsible partner and benefit our community,” he said.