Reviews of the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Nauru are not included in this issue.
This year as in previous years, the economy and government finances were the dominant concerns in Guam. Perhaps in some ways these issues have helped assure the continuation and revitalization of Chamorro culture and cultural events—which had a strong presence this year—as a means to provide a sense of stability and to remind Chamorros and others of their survival as a people through thousands of years of challenges.
The central economic issue was the long-planned military buildup involving the redeployment of the US Marines from Okinawa to Guam. The year began with opposition in the US Congress to the redeployment from leaders like Senator John McCain (PDN, 1 Jan 2012).
Military plans for a firing range near the ancient Chamorro settlement of Pågat Village, considered an extremely significant cultural site, were the subject of a court dispute. In 2010, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Guam Preservation Trust, and the "We are Guåhan" organization filed a lawsuit against the US Navy to protect and preserve Pågat Village. Dating to 700 AD, Pågat holds the remains of prehistoric structural stone foundations (known as latte), freshwater caves, and medicinal plants, as well as stone mortars, pottery, and tools of the Chamorro people. The National Trust and the Guam Preservation Trust asserted that a major legal victory had been scored in November 2011 when the navy publicly announced its intent to consider alternative locations for firing ranges (PreservationDirectory.com, 7 Dec 2011).
Another obstacle to the redeployment was the issue of the Futenma airbase in Okinawa. The transfer of US Marines to Guam had been linked to progress in relocating the Futenma facility to a less populated part of Okinawa. However, the Japanese government had difficulties securing the consent of Okinawans to the relocation plan. In February, both the US and Japanese governments agreed to decouple the transfer of the marines from the Futenma relocation issue (Reuters, 10 Feb 2012).
In April, the two governments announced that 5,000 marines would be moved to Guam in the coming years, and the military buildup price tag has been reduced to about $8.6 billion. The original plan would have brought about 8,600 marines to Guam and cost at least $10.27 billion. Despite the plans for the number of marines on Guam being reduced by more than 40 percent, the cost of the marine transfer only went down by about 15 percent. Also, although [End Page 128] Japan increased its cash contribution, Pentagon officials said that previously announced financing support by Japan is no longer necessary. Funding for some of Guam's civilian infrastructure projects related to the military buildup was supposed to have been drawn from this financing. But Guam's congresswoman, Madeleine Bordallo, characterized the move as a "better framework" for progress on the buildup. Senator Judith Guthertz, chairwoman of the Guam Legislature's Military Buildup Committee, echoed Bordallo's comments and said that the revised buildup plan is good for Guam. She went on to say that she still believed there would be a significant economic boost to the island from the buildup due to the civilian personnel and military families who would accompany the expansion of the current military presence (PDN, 25 April 2012). In May, it was further clarified that two-thirds of the marines redeployed to Guam would be on a rotational rather than permanent basis (PNC, 2 May 2012). That same month, the US Senate froze deployment funds, pending more information from the US Department of Defense on the expense of the move (UPI, 15 May 2012). Even so, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Plans Robert Scher stated that he hopes the marines can start moving to Guam as early as 2014 (PNC, 23 May 2012).
After years of determined effort, a meeting of the Guam First Commission was finally convened in April (MV, 16 April 2012). Senator Rory Respicio had in 2008 sponsored a law creating the commission in order to bring...