By Johnnie Rosario
Kandit asked Guam businessman Peter Sgro, Jr., president of the International Group and de facto leader of the private sector movement to temporarily home Afghan refugees here, a couple questions about the prospective move:
QUESTION: Who will pay the millions of dollars it will require for the mass evacuation of thousands of these refugees temporarily to Guam?
MR. SGRO: The federal government through agencies like the State Department and the Department of Defense will have the funding in place to absorb the cost of an emergency evacuation. Certain members of the Congressional Defense Committee that support the emergency evacuation have said that the Department of Defense will save approximately $500 Billion by pulling our troops out of Afghanistan. The Department of Defense’s budget already includes funding for emergency contingency measures. Large logistical companies around the world are already federal contractors that can mobilize if called upon.
QUESTION: Of course there is the significant humanitarian need, but do you feel there are any economic related benefits to Guam if we temporarily hosted the refugees?
MR. SGRO: This is a monumental humanitarian effort of the likes we saw after the Vietnam War with “Operation New Life” back in the 70’s. “Operation New Life” was the care and processing on Guam of Vietnamese refugees evacuated before and after the Fall of Saigon. It created significant economic benefits for Guam.
If you consider however where we are today in 2021 trying to recover from the pandemic, our hotels virtually empty and thousands unemployed, an emergency evacuation to Guam would result in thousands being called back to work. Our hotels would be full. Section 30 funding would increase. It would certainly be an unplanned and unexpected economic boom for our people.
A private sector movement to convince Washington to make Guam the lynchpin for the largest humanitarian refugee movement to the island since the Kurds during the Gutierrez administration brings its case to the Guam Legislature this morning.
Kandit will be covering the historic event live at 11 a.m. Join us.