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Guam leaders respond to buildup poll results

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MARIANAS Variety-Guam asked local lawmakers and Governor Eddie Baza Calvo what their response was to the recent poll on the military buildup, commissioned by Para Hita Todu, which indicated that only 16 percent of Guam’s population is against the buildup and 60 percent support it. Among the questions asked were: What is your reaction to the poll results? Are you convinced the results are trustworthy? Do you doubt it? Why or why not? What are your personal thoughts about the buildup?

Senator Ben Pangelinan is off-island and did not respond. Here are the responses:

Deputy Press Secretary Phillip Leon
Guerrero for Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo

“The results of the poll reflect Governor Calvo's personal opinion that the majority of Guamanians support the military buildup, as long as it is done in the best interest of our people. Governor Calvo has always, and will continue to advocate for a 'One Guam' approach to this buildup, so it will help, not harm the island.”

Speaker Judi Won Pat


“Polls are one form of gauging public sentiment. I think it is always a good idea to reach out and have these important conversations with the people in our community. The way these conversations are framed often changes the responses, so I would like to see the questions used in this poll.

“As an educator, I think it is important to think critically about the sources of information like this. Who funded this study? What were their goals? Who conducted the study? What were the questions asked? We must always take polls with a grain of salt – sometimes they actually tell us more about the people asking the questions and their views than they do about the people they are surveying.

“We all want jobs and economic prosperity. I think that if we ask our people if they support economic growth for our island, everyone will say yes. There are also other questions that need to be asked, because with some jobs, the buildup also brings some serious impacts to our community. When we ask in these polls if you support the buildup, we must also ask: do you support the dredging of 75 acres of coral reef? Do you support further land condemnation? Do you support the costs of food and rent going up? Do you support 4,000 more children in our schools, with no money for building new schools to accommodate them? Do you support more people in our hospital, without any money for a new hospital? I think most people would say no to these things – and these are the realities of the military buildup. Perhaps this company can conduct a poll that includes these important questions.”

Sen. Adolpho Palacios Sr.

“I’m very happy that the poll confirmed my own thinking that there is a silent majority out there and I’m one of them.  I agree with the poll. I trust it. It’s a credible survey. I’m saddened that the buildup is not going to happen in 2014, but my consolation is that it will happen.”

Sen. Tom Ada

"I support the military buildup on the belief that it is important for national security, and security of our island. I also believe the buildup will bring economic benefits to our island. However, we must always be on our guard that we are not being taken advantage of (e.g., the job opportunities are being fairly made available to our residents, respect for our culture and way of life is protected and respected, and that the civilian community does not get disenfranchised because of the buildup). The results of the survey, using a sample size of 349 (about 0.2 percent of Guam's population), can only be characterized as anecdotal, at best."   

Sen. Frank Blas Jr.

“It doesn’t surprise me. I would have appreciated it if there was a question along the lines of, ‘What is your understanding of what the buildup is.’ That would have been beneficial to know what people understand the buildup to be.

“Yes, I believe the survey is trustworthy. My understanding is that they polled 350 respondents and there was a mixed proportion and ethnicity from the different villages.

“If done right, this buildup will be beneficial to Guam and meet the mandates and concerns with regards to the defense of the nation and stability of the region.”

Sen. Chris Duenas

“I believe that people are looking for relief in these difficult economic times. My reaction to this poll sample is the people of Guam are looking for greater economic opportunities.

“In my opinion, the results of this poll are consistent with the constituents that I speak to regularly. The dialogue needs to continue with all parties at the table, open-minded and willing to address the needs of the community of Guam, and the needs of our nation being addressed equally and for the best possible outcome for both parties.”

Sen. Aline Yamashita

“It's interesting that nearly a quarter of those surveyed couldn't decide or didn't know. Perhaps a quarter of our people aren't really thinking about it – too far away ... others will take care of it ... won't happen ... don't understand how it will impact Guam. I see no reason to doubt the survey results.  Like all surveys, this is a snapshot of what folks are thinking. It's what's occurring at this point in time. Also, Melissa Savares is credible. Worked with her for years and she does good work – would trust that she would identify a reliable firm to do polling.

“The lack of information provided to senators in the U.S. Congress parallels the lack of information afforded to the people of Guam towards the beginning of the buildup conversations. Congress has the power, the right and the responsibility to slow down the process to make sure plans are solid and effective.  Guam people have the right and the responsibility to state that we must be included in all decisions regarding our island. Our power was/is limited – so, in a sense, it could very well be to our advantage that the U.S. senators are insisting to see the plan behind the buildup on Guam and throughout this region. The Guam buildup is significant on a variety of planes – so we must ensure that steps are smart, inclusive, and visionary.”

Vice Speaker Benjamin J. F. Cruz

“I have always acknowledged that there is a strong sentiment in our community that the buildup is a ‘fix-all’ for our economy. We need to determine at what price this will have on our environment, infrastructure, and our way of life.

However, I do not believe U.S. national security decisions will be based on any public sentiment in Guam.

“I’d like to see a referendum on the buildup placed on the ballot. That would be the only credible measure of public opinion. I introduced such a bill last legislative session (Bill No. 66-30), but it did not receive enough support.

“People are looking to the buildup as the answer to our economic problems. They want jobs and a better quality of life.

We don’t have any assurances that this will be a long-term benefit of the buildup. Since 2005, I have made every effort to evaluate critically the ramifications and consequences of a massive military buildup on our community. I will continue to do so, raising issues such as the buildup’s impact on the environment, the ability of the hospital to support a large influx of workers, the potential loss of and access to historical and cultural treasures, and other socio-economic impacts. I think it is important that DOD properly plans and executes the buildup.”

Sen. Mana Silva-Taijeron

“I have always believed that a sizeable portion of our community supported the buildup; the results of this survey demonstrate that. However, this shouldn't take away from the fact that there are many who remain staunch in their opposition. This remains a polarizing issue in Guam, with much merit to be found for and against the buildup.

“I support the buildup but have always said that it must be done right. This means that the well-being of our people must be protected and preserved. The federal government must be aware of our needs while maintaining cultural sensitivity to the history and traditions which are unique to our island.”

Sen. Judi Guthertz

“I do not find the numerical responses (60 percent ‘I support the buildup’; 24 percent ‘don’t know, can’t decide’; 16 percent ‘don’t support the buildup’) particularly surprising. I have believed from the beginning that without question, the majority on Guam is in support of a buildup, so while these numbers are not remarkable, I believe that those who do favor the buildup do so with the understanding that conditions for those residents in Guam will improve in step with those of military personnel to be stationed here. I don’t believe that any decline in Guam infrastructure to accommodate the buildup would be acceptable, but I do not believe this is addressed in this survey.

“I will admit to being somewhat surprised at the number (24 percent) who profess ‘no opinion’ or ‘don’t know’ after the long controversy and community discussion of this matter. Within its tight subject limits, this appears to be a normal and well-organized professional survey. I am not, however, sure that it reveals a ‘silent majority’ that we had not been aware of previously, nor do I expect that it will present any surprises to the military/political community in Washington D.C.

“I remain positive that the military buildup will happen in Guam, especially when the Department of Defense and the President aggressively advocate for it in the Congress. It may just take longer than previously-announced schedules to get fully underway and to be completed.”

Sen. Tony Ada

“I’m not surprised at the survey results. A significant majority of the people I’ve spoken to on the subject support the buildup.

“I have been given no reason to doubt the survey results. I do believe that the supporters of the buildup are not as outspoken as the opponents. But the results are similar to what I’ve heard in the community.

“I support the buildup. I think it will be good for our economy and that it will bring new money to Guam. As a Veteran, I do expect the DOD to honor their commitments and to do this buildup without adversely affecting our environment or our way of life.”

Sen. Rory Respicio

“The results are about what I would expect. Guam is very pro-military, and many may remember the days when the Ship Repair Facility, Naval Supply Depot, Fleet Industrial Supply Center, Naval Air Station and Naval Communications Station were all providing good jobs for many  local people. They may hope that the buildup means some of those jobs could return.

“I was sent the survey results and a write-up on the demographics, but not the actual wording of the questions, or more information on the methodology. I think most people could guess that the numbers would be at about 60-40, but that hardly makes a survey trustworthy. I can’t really judge the survey based on what was released.

“I fully support President Obama’s vision of ‘One Guam, Green Guam.’ We are a loyal American community, and we should support the buildup, but not at any cost to our environment, sustaining our economy post-buildup, and not at the expense of negatively impacting our already-strained hospital, schools and law enforcement agencies. This buildup must be good for everyone, including those in the Armed services, who are stationed here on Guam.”

Sen. Sam Mabini

“I'm not that surprised, considering a good majority of our island, like our nation, express their desire to improve economic conditions and overall livelihoods.
“I have not had the

opportunity to review the methodology used for the survey, so I cannot comment on its reliability or validity.

"Managed development is healthy and essential to grow our economy, to create jobs, support our community and to improve our livelihoods. The military is just one industry, and we need to look at alternatives that are good for Guam.”

Sen. Tina Muña-Barnes

“As a wife and mother to two U.S servicemen, I personally feel what the data has continued to confirm: Our people support a buildup that is good for our nation and fair to Guam.

“Surveys from various sources including private research groups and the University of Guam have continually validated our community's support for the Guam buildup; I see no reason why that would change. Simply put, we want a military buildup that builds Guam up right beside it.

“Though Washington’s political winds may change quickly and quite often, Guam has remained a vital part of U.S. strategic deployment in the Pacific throughout the greater part of the last century. As indicated by Senator Levin’s public statements, a delay in the buildup will not mean decreased force strength in the region or a lack of commitment to our allies.  Instead,   the ‘buildup’ may occur in smaller phases, bringing with it greater investment, increased employment, and a larger circle of economic opportunity for our people.”

Sen. Dennis Rodriguez Jr.

“I am not surprised that a large number of our people are favoring the military buildup. Our island is experiencing a very tough economy, jobs are being lost, and work hours being reduced. The buildup talks were full of promises of better and brighter days for our island. Naturally, we all want a better way of life on Guam and our people see the buildup as an opportunity to make it happen. However, we are now realizing a revised time frame and magnitude of the buildup.

“I am convinced that the poll is trustworthy. The individuals who established Para Hita Todu are respected professionals in our community. I do not doubt their honesty and integrity.

“I've always believed that this buildup will happen, regardless of whether we support it or not. As leaders, the only alternative is to work with the federal government to ensure this buildup is done right and is beneficial, not just for today, but for our island’s future.”

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