Concerns raised over Tiyan historic property bill

HISTORICAL INTEGRITY: The A.B. Won Pat International Airport sits on a plot of land that also houses caves found to have been used by CHamoru slave laborers who were utilized by Imperial Japanese Army forces to construct an airfield. Concerns have been raised once again over protection of the historical integrity of the Tiyan property. Post file photo

During the 34th Guam Legislature's Committee on Rules meeting yesterday, concerns were raised once again over protection of the historical integrity of a Tiyan property which served as a place of refuge by CHamoru slave laborers during World War II.

The senators met on Sept. 20 to discuss the agenda for the September session. Bill 74-34, which calls for the transfer of the historic parcel under the administrative jurisdiction of the Barrigada Mayor’s Office and Municipal Planning Council, was proposed to be included in the agenda.

The plot of Tiyan land, known as T-18, is included in the Parcel Lot Naval Air Station Agana R-10, where the A.B. Won Pat International Airport currently stands. The A.B. Won Pat Guam International Airport Authority currently has administrative jurisdiction over the property.

Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje objected to the inclusion of the bill.

The caves on T-18 were found to have been used by CHamoru slave laborers who were utilized by Imperial Japanese Army forces to construct an airfield. The laborers who were used to build the airfield were from the surrounding areas of Barrigada.

According to the bill, currently there are no war memorials existing in Barrigada except for a "pile of rocks" on a property owned by the Archdiocese of Agana. The bill authorizes the mayor of Barrigada and the Municipal Planning Council to enter into an agreement with a nonprofit organization to develop the property as a cultural site.

Terlaje said the responsibility of protecting and maintaining the historic integrity of the site should be clearly defined first before including the bill in the session agenda.

“It was GIAA’s responsibility to do things with this site, to protect its historic integrity. I’m concerned. I know there is a letter from the (State Historic Preservation Office) outlining where their responsibilities were. ... We are hoping to get a resolution where GIAA would maintain its responsibility but yet still allow the mayor to use it, consistent with those responsibilities,” she said.

Sen. Tom Ada, who introduced the bill, said, “If we really want to do something in that site, we need to put it under the jurisdiction of the mayor and a nonprofit organization. Let them do what is necessary to take care of it."

The alternative, he said, would be to keep it under the jurisdiction of the airport authority.

Sen. Frank Aguon supported Terlaje’s statement, “I believe that before the bill is entertained, this issue should be addressed by bringing in the historic preservation perspective and ensure that they are also part and parcel of the discussion.”

In July, Terlaje stated that the legislation lacks input from the State Historic Preservation Office.

At that time, Aguon echoed Terlaje’s statement that the SHPO should provide input in regards to the particular proposal. He also agreed to hold the inclusion of the bill until such time that the input has been received.

The motion to include the bill in the September session agenda passed.

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