As Guam continues to bear the brunt of the costs of the Compacts of Free Association, the island should have at least an observer role in upcoming negotiations.
Guam has the largest number of migrants from the freely associated states of Micronesia, according to a 2018 survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Census Bureau estimates that in 2018 there were 38,114 COFA migrants living in the four COFA jurisdictions of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and Hawaii.
The 2018 Estimates of Compact of Free Association Migrants report recorded 18,874 COFA migrants on Guam. Compact migrants make up about 11% of Guam’s population.
It’s not an exaggeration that the island’s public services have been stretched to the breaking point. We can see children in dilapidated public schools and patients in a public hospital that is literally falling apart.
Since the Compacts were renegotiated in 2003, Congress has provided $30 million annually to be divided among the U.S. host jurisdictions. Guam’s share has averaged about $15 million annually, but the government of Guam has reported costs of more than $100 million a year.
We support Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s efforts to communicate concerns and recommendations to the U.S. government, especially her bid to have Guam included in the negotiations.
With Compact renewal negotiations scheduled for 2023, now is the time for Guam to make its case to be included in the discussions. While it may be unlikely for Guam to be a participant in negotiations held between heads of state, it is probable that the island could get an observer role. This role could help Guam stay informed so that it could immediately correct any inaccuracies or misconceptions, which have hampered fair reimbursement.
GovGuam has asked the U.S. government for fair compensation, but the feds have countered that the Compact-impact reporting is unreliable. This is a shame.
The freely associated states have strategic importance in U.S. defense policy, which includes Guam, but the U.S. government must act responsibly to the host jurisdictions. The U.S. government can take a step by giving Guam a role in the negotiations.