Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

We are in Rota now. We had two slow but nice crossings from Saipan to Tinian and Tinian to Rota. We had a beautiful rainbow off the coast of Tinian during our morning crossing (picture above). It was my first time to visit Tinian and it was full of interesting historical sites. Pictures and tales to come. The wind has been really light, but we have been to able run the engine as much as we’ve needed after replacing both water pumps while we were in Guam and replacing the impeller in Tinian. A friend from Guam, Ann Marie, is joining us in Rota today for the last leg of our trip, Rota to Guam which we will do overnight tonight.

On another note, last Sunday the Pacific Daily News, one of the daily newspapers in Guam, published a letter I wrote to the editor about the plans a Chinese company has to develop a mega-hotel in Yap. Despite Yap being our closest neighbor to the south and a fellow Micronesian island (though Yap is part of the sovereign Federated States of Micronesia [FSM], while Guam is a US territory), this story was completely neglected by the paper. Yap is an incredible island and well known for being one of the Pacific islands most committed to preserving their culture into the future. Development of the scale proposed would be devastating to the land, culture, and people of Yap. Many Yapese recognize the potential negative outcomes and have vehemently opposed the plans, but the company and government push forward. In my letter I attempted to summarize why this was a story worth paying attention to and why the development will not only have an impact on Yap, but also affect Guam. Yap is a distant, tiny island for many of you, but even if you have never seen or even heard of it, I still think the article is still worth reading over if you have a passion for culture, earth, or sea. Here is the article as it was published.

Don’t ignore the development story in Yap

I have been disappointed in the Pacific Daily News’ lack of coverage on the recent goings on in Yap. The story of the Chinese hotel development to be built in the coming few years is all Yapese are talking about these days, but the issue has been regrettably neglected by this newspaper.

The major changes proposed for our nearest neighbor to the south are extremely relevant to the people of Guam and thus deserve our attention on many fronts.

First off, this isn’t just construction of one simple hotel. ETG, a Chinese development company that has built megahotels in China, Tibet and abroad, plans to build 10,000 hotel rooms on Yap in five years. That’s more hotel rooms than there are in Guam on an island one-fifth the size, and more rooms than there are people on Yap. This doesn’t include the golf courses, shopping centers, convention centers, etc., also proposed.

Development on this scale poses an inherent threat to culture of Yap. Yapese people are very committed to their culture. In fact, this national value is explicitly stated in the preamble of their constitution. People that have traveled to Yap for tourism return in awe of Yapese respect for preservation of tradition and commitment to their island.

Guam and other Micronesian islands engaged in a struggle to protect their culture should work together and learn from one another to sustain their individually unique cultures into the future. What happens to culture in Yap should concern the people of Guam.

Chinese tourism is rapidly growing in Guam now. This seemingly infinite market does have limits. Guam business owners and the tourism industry can learn a lot from observing similar markets.

As Guamanians and Americans, we believe in government by the people. From a recent trip to Yap and online discussions, it is clear many Yapese people are very much against the development, at least on this large scale. Yet until recently (when the legislature attempted to revoke part of ETG’s business license), the corporation seemingly effortlessly received the blessing of both the executive branch and chief council.

The military personnel in Guam might find it intriguing — a story about a Chinese company attempting to acquire large amounts of land and gain power on an island so close to the U.S. military in Guam. Especially since the same company is simultaneously pursuing similar ventures in Samoa and the Maldives — the closest neighbors to American Samoa and Diego Garcia, respectively.

Development at the speed and scale at which the Chinese company hopes to move forward will affect the land and erosion will cause lasting damage to the now-pristine reef. This will affect fishing, food security and diving tourism.

Not only is this something relevant to the diverse population of Guam, but perhaps most importantly to the many Yapese on Guam, many of whom a still vote in FSM.

Right now this is the topic of conversation in Yap. If the story continues to be neglected in Guam, I would encourage concerned individuals to do their own research online. The Yapese people have a strong voice and I have only managed to graze over the details surrounding the complex relationship between culture, development and sovereignty.

Jackie McMahon is a resident of Sumay.
Published article: http://www.guampdn.com/article/20130714/OPINION02/307140010/Don-t-ignore-development-story-Yap

I was limited to 550 words so the article limited in scope and depth. I hope to put together a more comprehensive summary and list of articles and resources in a future blog post so it is available for people who want to read more. Yap is a really unique place and I hope it stays culturally and environmentally preserved for future generations of Yapese and visitors, as is written in their state constitution.