|Pacific prepares for employment opportunities in Guam|
Fri, 24 Oct 2008
SUVA, Fiji —– Pacific Island Countries have expressed interest to access employment market in Guam, in anticipation of the relocation of the United States military base from Okinawa to Guam.
The relocation means job opportunities for about 20,000 Pacific Islanders mostly in the initial construction of the base, health, hospitality and general care giving. In May this year, the government of Guam, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS)and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) signed a Letter of Understanding (LoU) to work together on how Pacific Islands Countries (PICs) could benefit through the relocation process.
“We in the region are excited about the opportunities that the U.S military build-up on Guam will bring to our people within the region, said Feleti Teo of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in May this year. “The LoU will also look at training for our people making them more competitive. Our people are skilled in their various jobs but in order for the Pacific to compete with labour from other nations like Philippines and China, our workers must have adequate qualifications and skills. It is imperative that we are able to make our islanders marketable for all skilled and unskilled employment opportunities.” Mr Teo had said.
As a follow up, Pacific ACP Ministers at their meeting in Nadi, Fiji this week have tasked the Forum Secretariat to put together a political strategy for Pacific Islanders to access the employment market in Guam. Over the next six years, the Pentagon is planning to spend more than USD$15 billion to upgrade and expand air bases, barracks and ports, and to carve out of the jungle new housing and headquarters to accommodate thousands of additional troops and their families who are scheduled to arrive.
It is all part of the military’s effort to remake Guam into a strategic hub in the western Pacific, underscoring both the increasing geopolitical importance of Asia to Washington as well as the Pentagon’s priority to project power from U.S. territory rather than from foreign bases. By 2014, some 8,000 marines are expected to move here from their base in Okinawa, requiring a new headquarters, housing and a small-arms training range. The Japanese government is paying USD$6 billion to help defray costs of the move and the new construction.