Pagat issues tackled

Undersecretary of the Navy Robert Work discusses aspects of the buildup while protesters listen behind him. Photo by Matt Weiss

Undersecretary of the Navy Robert Work told Governor Eddie Calvo and the Guam Legislature yesterday that the Department of Defense will assure unimpeded access to Pagat village and Pagat cave.

Moreover, those areas and the whole of Pagat will be accessible 24/7 and DoD is committed to a “One Guam” as well as “Green Guam” approach.

At the end of the buildup, Work said there will be less acreage under U.S. government control than there is now.

Undersecretary Work and Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Jackalynne Pfannenstiel also discussed other issues connected with the buildup.

Commenting on his meeting with U.S. officials, Calvo said it was productive and frank and he believed significant progress was made.

“Issues brought up about the buildup are moving in a very positive direction. I feel very good about the direction of this buildup in that it will not only be a military buildup, but a Guam buildup,” said Calvo.

For his part, Work said: “We think this is a very fruitful way to go forward and we hope that we will be able to prove to the people of Guam and the governor and the legislature that we are good partners in this buildup and that we’ll all be better off at the end of it.”

Speaker Judi Won Pat, however, said it wasn’t just about Pagat’s village, cave and access areas, but the entire Pagat property.

“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 Pågat village,” said Won Pat.

Work and Pfannestiel met with lawmakers later in the afternoon. They were met with suspicion and skepticism.

“Pågat is still on the table.  Contrary to Governor Calvo’s assessment of his meeting with Navy officials, it is clear that Pågat is still the preferred site for the Marine training range, including a grenade firing range. It is clear that no new concessions have been made nor have plans changed for the federal footprint to shrink,” said Won Pat in a press release.

Senators grilled the group for two hours and brought up various issues from the Pagat site to the programmatic agreement.

Lawmakers brought up the firing range at Makua in Hawaii which was recently closed due to the environmental degradation and impacts to “that culturally important area.”

“We will not allow this to happen to Pagat. No amount of money will make it okay to make Pågat a firing range.    Pagat is not for sale, and not for lease,” Won Pat said.

Senator Rory Respicio, Chairperson of the Committee on Federal Affairs said, “These officials can only be held to what is written in the Record of Decision.  Their verbal agreements are non-binding and it’s unfortunate that the Calvo administration is being bamboozled by the continued promises made by these officials without any tangible deliverables to date.”

“Today’s meeting just underscored the need for Governor Calvo to convene the first meeting of the Guam First Commission.   The design of the Commission is to ensure the true interests of the people are protected and to prevent the Governor from making any unilateral decisions relative to the buildup,” Respicio said.

But Secretary Work has stressed that Pagat village and cave as well as the access to these areas would not be encumbered.

“We want the people of Guam to be able to have free and total access. We know that the cultural aspects of Guam and the cultural artifacts that will possibly be discovered by this move are very important. We are committed to a world-class cultural artifact center.”

Work said the One Guam approach is a commitment to Guam’s culture to ensure that any aspect of it is not “hurt during the buildup,” and that the island’s infrastructure is improved.

“For both the military personnel and the people of Guam, the quality of life is as best as we can make it,” said Work.

Work said that Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus is committed to a net zero-base approach, where the bases give as much energy to the local grid as they take out. Work said it was a challenging goal, “but one we think will help the island of Guam.”

Work said within the next few months, they will begin entering into negotiations with the governor to return federal excess lands back to the government of Guam.

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