Secretary Jewell Underscores Commitment to Guam During First Official Visit to U.S. Territory

Last edited 09/29/2021
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HAGÅTÑA, Guam – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today concluded an official Asia-Pacific trip with a visit to the U.S. Territory of Guam, where she met with Governor Eddie Calvo and addressed local business leaders, underscoring the vital importance of Guam to the Pacific region and the United States.

“Guam is critically important to the United States and a leader throughout the Pacific region,” said Jewell. “There’s no substitute for getting a chance to see first-hand the beauty of the island, to spend time with the community, and to discuss issues that are important to Guam’s economy. The United States is proud to work with the leaders of Guam to continue support for a strong and resilient island.”

Accompanied by Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia’aina, Secretary Jewell also visited the War in the Pacific National Historical Park, received a Department of Defense briefing on the Guam military buildup as part of the President’s Asia-Pacific rebalance, and visited the Guam Memorial Hospital.

With a population of about 165,000 people, Guam is the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands chain, which is about 3,850 miles southwest of Hawaii and 1,200 miles southeast of Japan. The Marianas also include the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Guam has been a U.S. Territory since 1898; the CNMI, which has a population of about 54,000, joined the U.S. family in 1975.

The trip was Secretary Jewell’s first official visit to Guam, which serves as the regional transportation, communication and educational hub of Micronesia and hosts important U.S. naval and air bases that are being upgraded as part of the Obama Administration’s rebalance of U.S. forward deployed forces in the Asia-Pacific region.

Among the major issues discussed during her meetings with Governor Calvo were assistance to Guam to mitigate the impact of Freely Associated State citizens who now reside in Guam; initiatives to facilitate greater tourism to the island; and joint climate change adaptation and resiliency strategies.

During her remarks to Guam community and business leaders, Jewell announced that the Office of Insular Areas will establish a “One Stop Center” in Guam before the end of the year. The center is designed to help ameliorate the impacts from the more than 17,000 individuals who have immigrated to Guam under the U.S. Compacts of Free Association with the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. With new seed funding of $250,000 through the Office of Insular Areas, the Center will coordinate and share governmental and non-governmental job training, education, and health awareness opportunities for citizens of the Freely Associated States.

Jewell also announced an additional $68,000 grant for the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Guam Leadership Collaborative Initiative to support non-profit programs that strengthen families, expand education and training opportunities, and engage young people in outdoor activities.

Regarding climate change, Jewell noted that impacts are felt more keenly in the islands of the Pacific, threatening the existence of homelands, and she commended Gov. Calvo for his national and international leadership on the issue. Interior is engaged in several joint initiatives with island leaders to build resilience and meet adaptation challenges.

During her meeting with Department of Defense officials, Jewell was briefed on the status of the ongoing military build-up on the island and proposed relocation of about 5,000 U.S. Marines and 1,300 dependents from Japan to Guam. The base upgrades on Guam are scheduled to invest an estimated $8.7 billion in Defense installation construction on the 212-square mile island over the next decade.

At the War in the Pacific National Historic Park, the Secretary laid a wreath in commemoration of the bravery and sacrifices of all those who participated in the Pacific Theater of World War II, including the indigenous Chamorro people of Guam, many of whom suffered starvation, torture and death during the Japanese occupation of the island from December 1941 to July 1944. A unit of the National Park Service, the Park encompasses beachheads and battle sites secured by U.S. Marines during the recapture of Guam from Japanese forces in July 1944.

The Secretary’s visit to Guam capped her official visits to Vietnam and China where she discussed the Obama Administration’s commitment to work with them on combating the illegal wildlife trade. She also attended events in Beijing to promote travel and tourism to America’s public lands.

As Secretary of the Interior, Jewell is responsible for overall coordination of federal policy for the U.S. insular areas, advocating for the islands within the Federal Government, overseeing the distribution of appropriated funds for island territories, and administering U.S. financial assistance for the Freely Associated States.

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