Buildup blackmail?

Speaker Judi Won Pat, Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, Sen. Tina Muna-Barnes and other members of the Legislature held a press conference yesterday to denounce what they said was pressure being exerted by the federal government to sign the controversial programmatic agreement. Photo by Matt Weiss

* Senators angry over ‘pressure’ to sign agreement

Members of the Legislature are disappointed over reports that Gov. Eddie Calvo asked Guam Preservation Trust board members to resign amid a looming Jan. 14 deadline that the Department of Defense gave for the officials to sign the Programmatic Agreement.

“Our understanding is that all of the [Guam Preservation Trust] board members were asked to submit their resignation. When you hear that you can’t help but wonder why because these individuals have taken a very strong position in not wanting to sign the Programmatic Agreement,” said Speaker Judi Won Pat yesterday during a press conference.

The agreement is a document that deals with historical and cultural artifacts on properties that the federal government wants to use and must outline how artifacts and remains will be impacted.

The agreement must be signed before the military can move forward with construction on the proposed site.

Guam’s State Historic Preservation Officer Lynda Aguon, whose signature is required on the PA before the military can move forward with military-related construction, refused to sign the document last September because of inadequate public involvement.

And now news of board members’ requested resignation and a deadline to sign the agreement just two days away is not boding well with senators.

According to Sen. Tina Muna Barnes, reports of the deadline were communicated with Department of Parks and Recreation Director Peter Calvo.

Asked what the consequences would be if the Friday deadline to sign off on the PA is not met, Barnes said it appeared that the government was given an “all or nothing” perspective.

The National Historic Preservation Trust Advisory Council oversees the Section 106 process which requires federal agencies to take into account the impact of military activities on historic properties like Pagat which is being eyed to be turned into a firing range.

However, the Section 106 process is not mandated by law, which means that the military can follow through with its plans within the PA regardless of Guam’s opposition to it.

Won Pat said: “We’ve really been united. The National Historic Preservation Trust, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the Guam Preservation Trust and even the new administration. The governor said in his campaign that Pagat is not for sale. I trust that the governor will then do the right thing and continue to take the same position he has taken while he was a senator, while he was a candidate and now as a governor.”

No discussions

But the governor’s Director of Policy, Arthur Clark, said that no discussions have been made between the executive branch and the legislature regarding the resignations or the impending deadline.

“The senators expressed their concerns based on circumstances and not based upon any conversation. If in fact the governor has requested their resignation, it has nothing to do with the [Programmatic Agreement],” said Clark in an interview with Variety.

Clark said that Calvo is still reviewing the document to fully understand the issues and specific provisions in its current draft. He added that a meeting was held yesterday with the Joint Guam Program Office and an extension was requested up to Jan. 31.

“As we review the document we don’t believe right now that it is in execution-ready form. We do have some concerns that we’d like to raise and discuss with them. We’ll review the document further and then make sure that we’re not pushed into a corner based on that deadline,” Clark said.

Clark said that Calvo has not changed his position with regard to his commitment to protect Pagat.

In a statement, Military Buildup Committee Chair Sen. Judi Guthertz said she was upset over reports that the Government of Guam is being pressured to sign the PA.

“I caution the Governor not to replace any personnel or change policy in response to these threats, which are, as far as I’m concerned, no better than attempted blackmail,” Guthertz said.

Won Pat and Muna-Barnes are scheduled to have a meeting today with Clark.

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