Editor’s Note: The vast majority of the containers that arrive at our seaport, and through which it is believed the majority of narcotics are imported to Guam, do not undergo screening for the importation of drugs. The Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency has cited funding and technology shortfalls in the past as reasons they cannot inspect a greater percentage of containers.
The following is from a news release from the Office of Sen. James Moylan:
In the efforts to help reduce the importation of illegal substances through Guam’s seaport, and in continuing to provide the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency (CQA) the additional support to meet their objectives, Senator James Moylan introduced legislation today to appropriate funds for the construction of a Customs Satellite Inspection, Holding, and Secured Sterile Facility Area (CSIHSSFA), as well as for the procurement of a Stationary X-ray Scanning Portal.
Cited as the “Protecting Our Borders Act of 2021”, the measure appropriates no more than $15,000,000 from the General Fund to address these critical components to assist CQA in effectively inspecting incoming cargo at a satellite facility for invasive species, prohibited products, and most importantly, for illegal drug trafficking.
The funds were identified through the administration’s recent announcement that due to federal relief programs, the government of Guam’s collections exceeded $62 million for Fiscal Year 2021, when compared to what was projected. This was particularly noted with the increases in income, corporate, and withholding taxes. As of date, $45 million has been earmarked for either tax refunds, or for a local employer’s assistance program.
In 2018, Public Law 34-112 granted CQA a 4-acre parcel of land in Piti to construct the facility, however there was a caveat, that if the construction did not take place within a three-year period, the property would be returned to the Port Authority of Guam. Because funding was not yet identified and the deadline looming for July of this year, Senator Moylan introduced a measure to extend that agreement by an additional five years. Governor Lou Leon Guerrero enacted the legislation into Public Law 36-12 on April 9, 2021.
“While extending the agreement for the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency was very much needed, it means absolutely nothing if funding isn’t identified to actually construct the facility. Three years went by quickly and my fear is that in the continuing search for grants or other funding sources, another five years will go by and we will be back to square one. This is why it was important to introduce this legislation immediately, as the administration has indicated that there was a surplus of funds at the end of Fiscal Year 2021. We have an opportunity to finally construct this long awaited facility without impacting the government’s operations”, stated Senator Moylan. “This measure has the potential of reducing the drug epidemic on the island and therefore is a much-needed investment”, added Senator Moylan.
If enacted, the funds would not only be utilized to construct the inspection facility, but also to procure a Stationary X-Ray Scanning Portal, which would improve efficiency for the agency in their inspections for not only illegal substances, but also prohibited products, as well as the island’s combat against invasive species.
“Nothing in this measure precludes CQA or any other government entity from continuing to seek outside funding to construct this facility. If anything, it would help reduce the overall costs, as any unspent funds from this Act can be reverted to the General Fund. However, what this legislation does accomplish, is that it initiates the process with available monies, at least with the funding of the Architectural and Engineering design, which is needed to start the project. When it comes to our rising drug epidemic, time is a valuable component, and for the sake of our island community, we can’t be waiting any longer,” stated Senator Moylan. “I am certain my colleagues along with the Governor will agree that the construction of this facility is a priority. The funds are there so let’s begin the process”, added Senator Moylan.