Bill to advance Chamorro Land Trust Program reaches voting file

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Senator Therese Terlaje (file photo)

Senator Therese Terlaje, with the support of her colleagues, successfully moved to the voting file Bill 419-35, which seeks to preserve the land restoration and justice mission of the Chamorro Land Trust.

The changes to the Chamorro Land Trust Act proposed in the bill are intended to more clearly demonstrate that the Chamorro Land Trust program is a land restoration program meant to rectify the unjust taking of Chamorro homelands by the United States federal government between 1898 and 1968, and would expand the program’s eligible beneficiaries to include individuals and their descendants who owned or who ranched, farmed or otherwise occupied the lands that were taken.

Senator Terlaje thanked the many people who fought tirelessly to preserve the Chamorro Land Trust program including the late Senator Paul Bordallo, Senator Dick Taitano, Senator Angel Santos, and Ed Benavente. She also recognized the recent work of those who represented the best interests of the people of Guam during the settlement agreement which included former Chairperson of the Chamorro Land Trust Commission Pika Fejeran, former Deputy Attorney Ken Orcutt, Attorney Mike Phillips, and Deputy Attorney James Canto, among others.

Terlaje closed the discussion on the session floor stating, “I am honored to be part of ensuring the history of the Chamorro Land Trust Act and its original intent to provide justice to those whose land was taken. As I said at the hearings on these bills, we have seen firsthand the impact of the massive land takings on Guam’s families. Too many of our families live in poverty and decades later, without a stable place to live, and their ability to use the land to provide for their families is severely disrupted. It took years of vision, courage, advocacy, protests, and even lawsuits to get where we are today and in honor of those who preserved these rights, we must never stop fighting for, protecting, and expanding the potential of this land and its precious resources to nurture and sustain future generations.”

She added: “It is our duty as lawmakers to safeguard the land restoration mission of the Trust, to protect the Trust from being raided by special interests; to manage the Trust better and to make it more conducive to thriving residences, agriculture, and cottage industries; and to carry these homeland programs into perpetuity for future generations as intended, so that we may truly remedy the long-term injustice of these massive land takings.”

The oversight chair thanks her colleagues in the Legislature for moving the measure forward and their words of support during today’s discussion on the bill.

Bill 419-35 is in the third reading file pending a vote at the close of session.

(Senator Therese Terlaje News Release)

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