Buenas yan Hafa Adai,
We are people of the Pacific, the Blue Continent, a region that is growing economically, politically and socially at an unprecedented rate. Throughout our island histories, we have been closely tied to our Brothers and Sisters of the Pacific-- through trade and our social values of cherishing our families, children and environment, and through helping each other.
This past week I was privileged once again to participate in the General Assembly of the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures, where I am Vice President. We came together in the spirit of extended family to discuss the state of our islands. We listened to presentations on non-communicable disease like diabetes, obesity, cancer and mental health, sustaining safe drinking water for our people, and developing technology in our region so that we can even better compete in the global economy. The Micronesian Youth Services Network, Hawaii International Environmental Services, the Digital Society Foundation and many other organizations donated their time and resources to update legislators from the region on these critical issues so that we could better legislate for the development of each of our island communities.
Our delegation—consisting of myself, Senator Rory Respicio and Senator Chris Duenas—introduced and passed resolutions asking our Pacific counterparts to adopt legislation to ban shark finning, focus on the health of our people, and that Pacific countries with a seat at the United Nations support our efforts for Guam’s self-determination.
We are at a critical moment in our political history, my dear people. I join our Governor in the call to make serious efforts towards our self-determination as an island, and an end to over 500 years of control of our political and economic realities by outside forces. I do this not just as a Chamorro woman and daughter of Guam; I do this as a mother, a grandmother, a teacher and a concerned citizen.
Our economy has benefitted greatly in the past from our status with the United States; and I am gravely concerned about our future.
The U.S. faces an unprecedented economic environment. This year, the Department of Defense was forced to cut over 80 billion dollars from their budget. Next year, they must cut 400 billion. A new Secretary of Defense has been confirmed—and he is looking at every Defense program for deep cuts, including our buildup. Bases are closing all over the world, weapons systems are being eliminated, and Veterans benefits are being gutted. The U.S. territories are facing cuts to our roads and schools from D.C., even as we also face a massive influx in population.
Our economy is severely limited by policies that we did not create and never would have created for ourselves. Our ability to trade within our region, take advantage of help offered from other countries, and further develop our tourist economy is hampered by policies made for us—not by us.
A report by the World Bank shows that our region is growing at a rate of approximately 8 percent. The U.S. is crawling along at 2 percent, and the predictions for economic recovery are not good.
What I am saying, my dear people, is that I want my grandson, my children, to enjoy the freedom and economic prosperity that regional growth is offering, and that we cannot currently participate in. We are different than other islands in our region; we are uniquely positioned to take advantage of these opportunities. We can be a hub for local trade economy; our technological capacity can be farmed out to our Pacific neighbors; and we can take more control of our relationship with the U.S. military with a different political status.
We must take a careful look at global economic trends, our strategic location militarily and economically, and ask ourselves the critical questions: where is the global economy going? What does a long-term sustainability look like? How can we best prepare ourselves for the future?
I agree with our Governor—we must educate ourselves, each other, and ask these important questions. I am excited, and energized, to engage in this process together, as a community, and as members of the Pacific community—the Blue Continent.
Si Yu’us Ma’ase.