Ruben Barrales deputy assistant to the president informed Gov. Felix P. Camacho in a letter Dec. 30 that his request to President Bush for $200.7 million in debt reconciliation was not approved. The Congressional authority for President Bush to grant Guam debt relief expires Feb. 28.
Madeleine Z. Bordallo Guam’s delegate to congress had introduced House Resolution 2522 in 2003 to resolve unreimbursed Compact impact costs signed into law by President Bush on Sept. 4 2003 as the Compact of Free Association Amendments Act of 2003. In this same piece of legislation Bordallo was able to increase future Compact impact monies to $30 million for affected areas over the next 20 years. In 2004 Guam’s share was $14.2 million.
Bordallo told the Journal "I am disappointed with the position the White House has taken and will continue to make the case for debt reconciliation as a way to offset unmet federal obligations to Guam for 17 years of Compact-impact. Although the Dec. 31 date for congressional notification has passed I believe the president may still act on Governor Camacho’s debt reconciliation request until the congressional authority expires on February 28th 2005.
"I will continue to actively engage the White House on this issue in the time we have remaining until the congressional authorization expires."
Bordallo wrote to President Bush on Dec. 14 2004 in support of Camacho’s request.
The letter said "In the interests of the United States the Freely Associated States and the people of Guam I urge you to release the Government of Guam of amounts owed to the United States Government to offset unreimbursed impact expenses incurred by the Government of Guam as a result of migration from the Freely Associated States over the past 17 years. Migration to Guam from the Freely Associated States has adversely impacted the budget of the Government of Guam and its ability to meet outstanding obligations to the United States Government. The United States Government Accountability Office has documented this impact and the Governors of Guam have periodically reported to the Secretary of the Interior on the budgetary consequences experienced as a result of migration permitted under the Compacts since the first Compact was implemented in 1986. This record reveals the commitments that were honored by the Government of Guam in fulfilling the terms of the Compacts in the interest of the United States and the former Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands."
Bordallo’s letter went on to detail the audited amounts incurred in Compact expenses — a total of $269 million — and pointed out that the debt relief requested by Camacho was less than that amount. The letter also touched on the Rural Utilities Service loan to the Guam Telephone Authority for infrastructure improvement. Bordallo wrote "While the [reconciliation] provision does not detail potential debts and obligation son the part of the Government of Guam that could be utilized to facilitate reconciliation the legislative history enumerates several. The largest single obligation specified is the debt owed by the Guam Telephone Authority to the Rural Utilities Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. The legislative history of the provision further expresses the Congress support for privatization of the Guam Telephone Authority and that any relief granted for this debt be tied to the privatization of the authority the last publicly owned telephone utility in the United States. In considering the request of Governor Camacho I call your attention to this particular obligation."
Bordallo’s letter also mentioned the cancellation on Oct. 26 of $185 million Federal Emergency Management Agency loan to the Virgin Islands following Hurricane Marilyn in 1995 and an earlier cancellation of a $46 million Hurricane Hugo loan to the Virgin Islands.
Officials in Bordallo’s office further met with White House officials on Dec. 20 to expand on the letter sent to the White House. Bordallo’s office told the Journal she was expecting response to the letter and said she will continue to advocate for debt relief with White House and administration officials.
The governor’s office said it would be working with individual federal agencies on the debt relief.
Erica U. Perez director of communications for Camacho told the Journal “From the start we recognized that the debt relief request was a monumental task. Unfortunately PL 108-188 did not provide the funding authorization required to meet Guam’s request for debt relief. However Congresswoman Bordallo’s amendment opened a dialogue with the federal government that the people of Guam waited 16 years to have.”
Perez said the White House had committed in its letter to working with the Camacho administration. "Resolving these issues will be an ongoing process and the governor thanks President Bush and his administration for their commitment to working with us.
"While we were not able to resolve these issues through PL 108-188 the White House has committed to working with us to address many of the items in the request with the individual federal agencies."
The governor’s office considered one instance where it might work with a federal agency on the possible debt relief on the $105 million Rural Utility Services infrastructure improvement loan given to the Guam Telephone Authority which is now owed by the government of Guam following the sale of the authority to TeleGuam Holdings LLC. That amount was included in the calculation for debt relief submitted by Camacho and the government of Guam was given an additional 90 days to remit the money to the federal agency. MBJ