Remarks for Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero (As Prepared)
Tuesday, August 10, 2021 at 1:30 p.m.
Adelup (Cabinet) Conference Room
It’s great to be back on our beautiful island after completing a very successful and fruitful trip to
Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Honolulu to meet officials of the Biden-Harris
Administration as well as our key partners in the federal government.
Before leaving Guam, I organized this trip to deliver a simple but meaningful message: Stronger
Partnerships mean a Stronger Guam. My federal-territorial plan focused on renewing
partnerships developed since the start of my administration and more recent relationships that
developed as the United States and the international community fought the deadliest pandemic in
As the United States mainland continues to deal with rising COVID cases across the nation, with
significant surges in some states – my administration continues to monitor the uptick in
breakthrough cases as well as the increase in the CAR score over the last several days. Although
we expected this because of the reasonable risks associated with lifting further restrictions, we
cannot afford to become complacent. It’s why I continue to order the strict adherence to
mask-wearing and, more recently, mandated that all government employees in the executive
branch receive the vaccine against COVID-19. In addition, we need to continue our aggressive
efforts to vaccinate those who are unvaccinated.
Our island’s response to the pandemic was part of every discussion I had with the Biden
Administration, federal leaders, members of Congress, and key staff. I had a great sense of pride
in their acute awareness of how well our community responded to the pandemic by achieving our
goal of vaccinating 80% of our eligible adult population in such a short time. And so, I want to
take this opportunity to say “Thank You” and “Si Yu’os Ma’ase” to the People of Guam for
doing your part – every one of you.
Before I turn to some of the details of my trip, I want to first thank former Congresswoman
Madeleine Bordallo and Rosanne Mantanona in my Washington Liaison Office and the entire
membership of the Guam Society of America in D.C. for coordinating the inaugural Wreath
Laying Ceremony commemorating the 77th Anniversary of the Liberation of Guam at the Guam
Pillar of the World War II Memorial. I have to say, the solemn occasion was a sobering reminder
of the reason we’re here today, enjoying the freedoms and liberties we have, because of service
members who sacrificed everything and the Greatest Generation of CHamorus who endured a
ruthless occupation. It was truly inspiring.
I know Krystal shared the schedule earlier, but I do want to take some time to share some
positive and productive highlights of some of those meetings.
During my trip, there were tremendous opportunities to deliver my priorities to those who made
the time to be present, to listen, and committed to being a meaningful partner. My focus was to
advocate for the funding, planning, and construction of a new public hospital. Although I’ve
allocated funds in the American Rescue Plan to this cause, I’m very aware that it won’t be
enough. It’s why I’m looking at every funding opportunity, every grant, every piece of federal
legislation to support this cause. My administration’s razor focus on managing our government
finances through sound fiscal discipline led us to reduce our deficit to a mere $1.5 million in two
short years – in the middle of a pandemic – on the brink of a potential economic collapse. So I’m
committed to getting this hospital funded through solid partnerships. Going out to the capital
market will be my last resort. While we still have a long ways to go in securing the necessary
funding, I can report that the Biden Administration, through the White House Office of
Intergovernmental Affairs, the Department of Interior, the various offices of the Department of
Defense, the Office of Local Defense and Community Cooperation, the Department of Health
and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Department of Commerce, and the
Environmental Protection Agency, among others, are aware of this priority and are equally
committed to seeing this effort through.
While on Capitol Hill, I had the privilege of meeting with the Committee on Natural Resources
Chairman, Congressman Raul Grijalva. We discussed funding opportunities for the hospital and
our continued advocacy for parity for federal programs such as Medicaid throughout the U.S.
territories. I also thanked him for his support in our quest for self-determination. I’m confident
we’ll continue to make progress on issues under his leadership and oversight. In addition, he
committed to visiting Guam at my invitation. So I’m very much looking forward to that.
I also want to thank Congressman Kilili Sablan of the CNMI for his warm reception in the
Capitol to discuss our mutual interests in the Indo-Pacific region, mainly through the lens of One
Marianas. I also met with Congressman Ed Case of Hawaii to discuss the strategic importance of
the new public hospital, my support for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, and our mutual
concerns resulting from the impacts of the Compact of Free Association in our respective
jurisdictions. As the Compact negotiations continue, I look forward to more meaningful results
that address the longstanding effects but allows for the continued free migration of our sisters
and brothers from throughout Micronesia into the United States.
On that note, I had the honor to meet with Deputy Secretary of the Department of Interior,
Tommy Beaudreau. I once again thanked the DOI for their swift response and support in funding
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Facilities Condition Assessment of the Guam Memorial
Hospital, released in April of last year. Having been recently sworn into office, the Deputy
Secretary plays a critical role in the Biden Administration’s economic, environmental, and racial
justice agenda. Our meeting builds on the solid foundation we have set with the Interior
Department since taking office. So much of the federal-territorial activities involve the leadership
and support of the Interior Department. So I look forward to strengthening the partnership with
Secretary Haaland and her entire team.
Many of you will remember that in March of last year, I made the firm decision to welcome the
sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt to Guam after learning the ship had sailors infected
with COVID-19. While some criticized my decision, I knew it was the humane thing to do to
protect and preserve the health of those sailors. I just have to say this – I never doubted that
decision. That decision alone fostered some of the most robust relationships we have had with
our military partners – direct to the highest levels of national defense.
My discussions with Pentagon officials weren’t just about the vertical construction phases at
Camp Blaz or the ongoing joint military exercises with the British Navy or Singapore Air Force.
A highlight of our discussions was our shared goals and responsibilities in telling the
international community that America is Back – not only because of our strategic location but
because we also have a role in the readiness of our defense posture – which directly and
indirectly involves the health of our economy and the relationship we have with U.S. allies in the
Guam can count on the federal government’s support for economic diversification and workforce
development beyond the current challenges we’re having with H2-B applications as we look to
the health and restoration of our economy. For example, in my discussion with the
Undersecretary of the Navy, James Guerts, we discussed the idea of bringing additive
manufacturing, commonly known as three-dimensional printing, to Guam. We agreed the
emerging technology could support Guam’s economic growth and resiliency and strengthen the
island’s position in the Asia-Pacific region by increasing military capabilities at lower costs.
Additive manufacturing benefits include flexibility, design freedom, time-to-market, and mass
customization and production. In this area, I’m directing the Bureau of Statistics and Plans to
work with the Guam Economic Development Authority and Community Defense Liaison Office
to conduct a feasibility study which I expect to occur in the next few months.
Guam’s economic resiliency is heavily dependent on industry diversification, and our island is in
the perfect position to experiment with new technologies, attract investors, and build up our
workforce, which I envision could take root at the University of Guam’s School of Engineering,
Guam Community College, or even with the Guam Trades Academy.
As we look at additional economic pillars, it was welcoming news to receive two grants awards
totaling $2.5 million upon meeting with the Deputy Secretary of Commerce, Don Graves. These
funds were awarded to Guam to support Guam’s travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation sectors
as part of EDA’s implementation of the American Rescue Plan Act. Additionally, I look forward
to maximizing our grant opportunities in the nearly $3 billion made available by the Economic
Development Administration to state, territorial, and local governments. While our local
government will apply for these grants, I’m also glad to share the Deputy Secretary’s
commitment to expanding these funds for technical assistance to applicants in forming and
implementing plans, ensuring these monies will be used to their fullest potential.
Another highlight in D.C. was meeting with the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Wally
Adeyemo. At the start of the meeting, Secretary Adeyamo recognized the tremendous progress
my administration has made in getting our government’s finances under control and reducing the
deficit, remarking it as an “extraordinary achievement ” given the fragile economic environment
we’re in today. Among our discussions were the challenges states, territories, and local
governments face when spending funds from the American Rescue Plan. Secretary Adeyemo
acknowledged that while the Treasury has released guidance and an interim final rule on using
these funds, the department is releasing the final rule later in the fall. However, we had hoped
that the final rule would be released this month. In this regard, I did not want to wait until the fall
to begin disbursements, thus, I directed my fiscal team to align the use of these funds with strict
adherence to the interim final rule to ensure that its expenditures are appropriate and in
conformity with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations.
Following guidance, my Administration began the use of American Rescue Plan funds towards
our ongoing COVID-19 response efforts, including over $11 million for quarantine facilities.
This commitment was outlined in our latest CARES Act report, which has been available on our
website for the past two and a half months and specifically states “to be funded by ARPA.” We
also used $678-thousand towards isolation facilities. We expect FEMA reimbursement for these
facilities, which we continue to scale down to meet the current needs of our response.
Additionally, over $674-thousand in ARP funds have been used towards our homeless shelter
operations, enabling us to continue this critical mission to protect this population who remain
vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. Lastly, we’ve expended $50-thousand in bereavement
grants for those who’ve lost loved ones to this deadly virus. As I just mentioned, each of these
items aligns with interim final guidance. Also I would like to report that BBMR loaded
30-million dollars in ARP funds, in anticipation of my directive for the All RISE Act’s
implementation, and prior to the passage of Bills 75 and 164 by the Guam Legislature.
Concerning those two bills – I just have to say this – as a former senator, it’s both unheard of and
impractical that two conflicting pieces of legislation be sent to the Governor’s desk. I’m not
going to speculate why the Speaker allowed these bills to be considered in session when at the
end of the day whether I sign one or veto both – they create more legal issues at a time when so
many people are waiting for direct relief. Let’s be honest, their tactics are more about recognition
and headlines than helping the people. Before they passed both bills, we shared with the public
that I received assurance from our grantor – the U.S. Treasury – that I can implement the
Executive Branch’s All RISE program and shared my office’s corresponding directive to DRT to
prepare the application process. Considering these facts, the Legislature still went through with
complicating the process further like they did when they required a mayor’s verification in the
Our Administration has pumped $1.2 billion dollars into the economy and continues to put out
even more with $36.9 million dollars awarded for youth and education programs announced
yesterday. We are getting these funds into the hands of our people in the fastest, but most
responsible way possible.
Continuing our federal mission in San Francisco, it was an honor to be welcomed by Region XI
leadership from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant
Secretary for Health, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Since last year, the regional leadership has
remained in telework status, so I’m grateful they were able to organize and host their first
in-person meeting since the pandemic for several of them. More importantly, I want to thank
HHS and the Centers for Disease Control for their leadership and support in our fight against
COVID-19. Together with FEMA, these federal agencies made Guam a priority in making the
resources available whenever needed. I’m glad to report that in the coming months, we’ll be
working with our Region IX partners to develop a regular cadence to our meetings to ensure that
our policy and technical needs are met and remain in harmony with the Biden Administration.
I also want to note that while in San Francisco, I met with the Deputy Regional Administration
of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Dr. Deborah Jordan. We had great discussions on
the progress we’re making on the environmental front, such as removing derelict vessels in our
waters. However, In light of recent events at Guam’s historic Marbo Cave site, I can confirm that
federal investigators will be arriving on the island in the coming weeks for a site inspection. I
learned about the violations while in San Francisco, and I am pleased that a team will be in
Guam to review the matter. In addition to Guam EPA issuing a Notice of Violation (NOV), the
Office of the Attorney General of Guam (OAG) has since filed a suit against the owner and my
administration will ensure that justice is paid resulting from the environmental damage.
Aside from telling our Guam story or sharing my administration’s priorities, I searched for
feedback and opportunities to develop my approach to governing as we see brighter days from
this pandemic. I just want to thank Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the White
House’s Intergovernmental Affairs Office, Julie Rodriguez; Associate Director for Puerto Rico
and the Territories, Gretchen Sierra-Zorita; and Deputy Assistant to the President and Asian
American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island Senior Liaison, Erika Moritsugu. These three
individuals – all women – are forces to be reckoned with at the White House. I mean that
Despite their busy schedules, Julie, Gretchen, and Erika opened the doors to the White House to
hear Guam’s story, share innovative ideas, and provide a path forward as we tackle the myriad of
challenges facing our island and nation. I know that I’m only one of many governors throughout
the United States and the Territories. However, the emphasis in ensuring that the federal agencies
within Administration were responsive to our requests is a clear indication of their commitment
to the strong partnership the Biden Administration has with my administration, and ultimately
the island of Guam.
On our way back to Guam, we ended our formal meetings in Honolulu with the top leadership of
the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Headquarters. Indo-Pacom is one of six geographic Unified
Combatant Commands of the United States Armed Forces, with forces stationed throughout the
region, Guam included.
I appreciate the time spent with the Commander of the U.S. Marine Forces, Pacific, Lieutenant
General Steven Rudder; Commander of the Pacific Air Forces, General Kenneth S. Wilbach;
Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Samuel Paparo; Deputy Commanding General of
U.S. Army Pacific, Major General Regi Neal; and of course, a dear friend of mine, the
Commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John Aquilino.
While much of our discussion focused on the ongoing military activities in the region, forward
posture, and military readiness, I used our meetings to discuss our need for a new public hospital
through a clear view in the interest of national security and distributive capability for the
preservation and protection of the health of U.S. citizens in the region as well as the U.S. allies in
the island sovereign nations in the region. Guam serves as a hub for the region and there is a
clear need for building a twenty-first-century medical center of excellence, with the crowning
component being the new public hospital. The new hospital must also support our veterans of the
Armed Forces here and in the region who oftentimes are underserved when it comes to
healthcare in the region. I’m deeply honored to have the support of the U.S. Indo-Pacific
Commander and the subordinate component commands to see this vision through.
As we see the progress at the various military construction sites in Guam, I clearly reminded our
military partners that the protection of our environment and preservation of our culture are
critical components of a fair and balanced partnership. We must have a voice at every step and in
every process and I am confident in their ability to meet this obligation.
On a more personal level, I want to thank Admiral Aquilino and his wife Laura for opening and
welcoming me into their historic home. This was a profound gesture and a meaningful occasion
to develop our shared goals and aggressive ambitions in our respective areas of responsibility.
The last meeting I’d like to highlight on my trip was with the leadership of the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers led by Brigadier General Kirk Gibbs, Commander and Division Engineer for the
Pacific Ocean Division, and his leadership team. Although we discussed several ongoing projects
in Guam, the central topic was again the planning, design, and construction of the new hospital. I
was pleased to learn that the hospital remains a top priority on the Army Corps’ radar and they
are committed to assisting my administration in every way possible. While it would be ideal to
commission the entire hospital project to the Army Corps, I appreciate the frank discussion I had
concerning costs and protracted timelines based on other projects undertaken by the Corps.
Based on that reality, I want to thank General Gibbs and Lieutenant Colonel Eric Marshall,
District Commander, for being open to the option of having the Corps participate fully in the
planning and design phases of the initiative. Lieutenant Colonel Marshall and members of his
team have long planned a trip to Guam at the invitation of the Bureau of Statistics and Plans’ to
participate in the Sixth Assembly of Planners Symposium, so I look forward to meeting with
them on Guam and picking up on our recent discussions concerning the hospital.
As you can see, my travel wasn’t just to lay a wreath in D.C., but I’ll tell you again – it was a
humble reminder of why we work every day to do what is good, to do what is right, to do what it
takes to create meaningful partnerships in the name of our island and her people because I know
it makes for a stronger Guam.
We have a lot of work to do. Again, it’s great to be back.