We Are Guahan, GPT to continue Pagat lawsuit

Preserving the ancient relics in Pagat is one of the reasons why We Are Guahan is suing the Department of Defense in federal court. Photo by Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero

We Are Guahan and the Guam Preservation Trust said yesterday they will continue their fight in court to save Pagat from becoming a series of firing ranges despite the signing of the Programmatic Agreement yesterday.

A federal lawsuit filed by We Are Guahan, GPT, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation is still in the early stages in Hawaii federal court with DoD’s answer to the complaint due March 15, and a hearing is set for Sept. 19 in front of judge Leslie E. Kobayashi.

“The fight to save Pagat Village did not end yesterday,” said Attorney Leevin Camacho, member of We Are Guahan. “DoD will have to answer for breaking the law in court.”

Governor Eddie Calvo announced the signing of the PA Wednesday by Guam State Historic Preservation Officer Lynda Aguon after months of negotiations over Pagat and the historic artifacts that may be displaced as a result of constructing the series of five firing ranges for the relocation of 8,400 Marines from Okinawa to Guam.

The PA is a legally binding agreement between Guam and the federal government which deals with the process for compliance with federal laws regarding historic preservation.  

The plaintiffs in the civil suit contend that DoD and the Department of the Navy violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act when they drafted the Environmental Impact Statement and made the decision to turn Pagat into a series of five firing ranges without properly considering land currently under DoD control.

Ancient

Pagat is an ancient village and has been in the National Register of Historic Places since 1974. In May 2010, it was named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

The Governor’s Chief Policy Advisor, Attorney Arthur Clark, said on Wednesday that he negotiated with DoD to “carve out” Pagat Village and Pagat Cave from the agreement so that no “projectiles” or ammunition will fall within the cave or village.  

Clark also said he has negotiated with DoD a plan for the public to have military escorts to provide access to the village, but that is not in the PA and is still being worked out.

No definition

However, We Are Guahan said there is no clear definition of what DoD considers to be Pagat Village or how they plan to give safe access to the area, “with .50 caliber machine guns being fired overhead,” said We Are Guahan yesterday.

“That is not good enough,” said We Are Guahan in a release yesterday. They said the reason it took so long to come to an agreement with the PA is because DoD refuses to consider other sites for the firing ranges, especially land they currently control.

“The Programmatic Agreement is not the end, and we will continue the good fight to protect our cultural heritage,” said Joe Quinata, program officer for the GPT, yesterday.

Quinata expressed understanding of the decisions being made by the governor and Aguon, but said he hopes they will be supportive of their legal battle as well.

Quinata said many of the compromises DoD has made is to benefit their argument in court. “[DoD] has made a lot of concessions with Pagat to show the court they are trying, but they are still stumbling over it,” said Quinata.

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