Guam – After the high-level delegation of defense officials met with Governor Calvo this morning the administration announced that Pagat village would not be taken by the military. While this is technically correct it may give the wrong impression. The military will not fire upon the ancient village of Pagat and the Pagat caves however the Rt. 15 area which includes the areas surrounding the ancient Pagat village and other nearby areas is still the preferred option for the marines firing range complex.
“We are going to commit we commit to the governor and to the people of Guam that there will be un-impeded access to Pagat village Pagat cave and the access to those areas,” said Undersecretary of The Navy Robert Work.
But their plans to use the lands around and near the Pagat village and cave as a firing range complex remains the same. Navy Undersecretary Robert Work told lawmakers later on, “Rt. 15 is still the preferred area that we would like to put our ranges what happened was when we initially did the EIS the ranges actually went over Pagat cave and Pagat village and actually would’ve restricted access down the trail into the area, there was never any intent to have rifle rounds or anything hit near the area they would’ve gone overhead.”
Speaker Judi Wonpat then asked, “So your not necessarily then saying that you’re going to stay within your footprint but you’re still looking at government owned land for your firing range along RT. 15?” Work responded saying, “Yes ma’am.”
While with the governor, the delegation also committed to a one Guam, a green Guam, and what they call net negative land which means the military will own less land than they currently own by the time the buildup ends. “What we can commit to is that in the end is that there will be less acreage under control of the U.S. Government,” said Undersecretary Work.
This means they will have to give back some of the land under their current inventory to the government of Guam. Issues with Pagat and land are intertwined with the programmatic agreement which is one of the main reasons the delegation was here, to push for it’s signing. “The U.S. government and the Department of Navy never meant to try to set an ultimatum or a deadline to the governor the legislature what we have been interested in doing is moving forward on a bout a billion dollars worth of construction projects that we cannot do until the programmatic agreement is signed we’ve committed to the governor this morning that we will work with him over the next several weeks to try to resolve any issues that are still outstanding,” said Work.
Work was referring to issues like the use of Pagat as a firing range complex. While the programmatic agreement doesn’t site Pagat specifically it refers to the preferred site selected for the firing range in the Record of Decision or areas along Rt. 15. Pagat is among those areas along Rt. 15. and Pagat is part of the the area selected as a preferred site for the firing range complex. The ancient Pagat village and the Pagat caves is but a portion of the entire Pagat area and defense officials are now saying that locals will have unimpeded and 24/7 access to these areas despite the fact that their preferred site remains the same.
So what if the programmatic agreement is not signed? Assistant Secretary of the Navy Jacklyne Pfanenstiel said, “Either we or the Guam SHPO can decide that the consultations that are going forward aren’t getting anywhere and either party can terminate and then what happens as you go forward you don’t have that same agreement to consult.” PNC aksed, “Then you have to go forward project by project?” Pfanenstiel responded saying “Project by project exactly.”
The high-level delegation then moved on to the legislature to meet with island lawmakers in the public hearing room. They were also met by quiet protestors who observed the meeting in silence but with signs in hand.
Lawmakers took turns asking questions and spent quite of lot of time lecturing the defense officials about various buildup related issues. Senators said they felt the two resolutions they passed dealing with the buildup were ignored and felt that the 10 thousand comments island residents made on the DEIS and FEIS were also ignored. Rory Respicio called the military buildup a huge public relations nightmare for DOD and the federal government. Senator Ben Pangelinan said that the programmatic agreement shortcuts the National Historic Preservation Act process. “Because I think that the way that the programmatic agreement is structured the stipulation of no significant impact and other areas on different projects I think shortcuts the entire process,” said Senator Pangelinan.
Senator Frank Blas Jr. said having these discussions with defense officials was like listening to a broken record. “These are issues that have been brought up time and time again so we talk about we want this to be good for Guam we want to prove to the people of Guam this is gonna be good when is the proof gonna come? And I’m sorry for being brash and I’m sorry for…no no actually I’m not gonna apologize because I’m frustrated I’m frustrated on behalf of the people,” said Blas.
During today’s press conference the governor promised to do what is best for the people of Guam. “We are for this buildup as long as it is a Guam buildup in that both the strategic interests of the United States are here and again that we have a safer nation and safer world and then at the same time in this little corner of the pacific that our best interests are also taken into account and that in the end of this buildup the quality of life for our people is enhanced,” said Governor Calvo.
Late this afternoon the Speaker Judi Wonpat and Senator Rory Respicio issued a joint release stating that “Pagat is still on the table”. The release states that after having a two hour long meeting with defense officials it became clear that DOD has not changed it’s plans. It states that “While firing will not occur directly at the ancient village firing will be over and around the village and will compromise the environmental and cultural sanctity of Pagat village.”