A group from the Okinawa Prefecture Assembly toured Guam and military bases on Jan. 30 and 31. The 20 members of the overseas tour for the Special Committee on U.S. Military Affairs of the assembly toured Naval Base Guam and Andersen Air Force Base.

About 8 000 U.S. Marines and about 7 000 dependents as well as additional Navy and Air Force personnel will move from Okinawa to Guam in the coming years with an anticipated military construction boom to precede those movements. The transfer is expected to be completed by 2014.

The Okinawa group also planned to see former residents of Okinawa who live on Guam to gauge the sentiment on Guam towards the move and the effect on Guam’s economy.

In an independent survey commissioned by the Guam Chamber of Commerce about 80% of Guam residents said they would like to see more of a military presence on Guam.

Seiichi Oyakawa chairman of the special committee and member of the Okinawa assembly; said through a translator “In Okinawa [the] unemployment [figure] is one of the highest in Japan. We would like to look whether labor forces could be taken into consideration for future work in Guam.” He said unemployment in Okinawa was a little less than 8% compared to a Japan national average of about 4%.

“It’s one of the questions we may ask — whether there are chances the labor forces [from Okinawa] could be useful to help development here in Guam.”

Guam is expected to have a shortage of labor particularly of skilled craftsman for the $15 billion buildup the majority of which — $10 billion — will be as a result of the influx of Marines from Okinawa.

Oyakawa said that the group had not studied the wage structure on Guam where wages would be proportionately lower. “There are immigration matters that have to be cleared ” he said. “We still have to do some studies.”

Oyakawa said the group did not plan to meet with any private sector business representatives as it was a military affairs group but that other assembly groups that visit Guam might do so. Meetings with government of Guam leaders had been requested by the group who met with the legislature.

The group’s report would be given to the main house of the prefecture and not brought to the Diet the Japanese parliament Oyakawa said. 

The group was to leave Guam for the Philippines on Feb. 1 where it will “look into various items such as the condition of and issues concerning former U.S. military lands/facilities as well as investigate employment measures in those areas ” according to a description of the purpose of the group’s visit to the Philippines. “Information gained in this tour will serve as a reference for solving base-related issues in Okinawa such as the smooth utilization of former base occupied lands and consolidation of the bases ” the paper said. Oyakawa said the group would visit Subic Bay and Clark Air Force Base and meet with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and the Clark Development Corp.

Many of the group’s members are members of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan but include a variety of other representatives as well as a member of the Japanese Communist Party and a number of research and base affairs officials of the assembly. The group’s travel was arranged through HIT Tours Guam Inc. MBJ