The news, or non-news, coming from Adelup yesterday was that the military has dropped its controversial plan to transform Pagat into the Marines’ practice firing range.
This earth-shaking news came from a press release issued by the governor’s office, which came with an equally extraordinary statement that by the end of the military buildup, the federal government will occupy less land than it has today.
For such an astounding piece of news, the Adelup press release was quite terse, coming in at just four paragraphs, with no additional details.
These “unprecedented concessions” – as the press release breathlessly described it -- were made during a meeting between government of Guam officials and the high-powered Washington delegation led by Undersecretary of the Navy Robert Work.
The press release was quickly picked up by the island’s media and circulated all over the island.
The problem is that other GovGuam officials who attended that meeting, including members of the legislature, say that this was not what happened during the meeting.
“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. After a two-hour long meeting with Undersecretary of the Navy Robert Work and Assistant Undersecretary Jackalyn Pfannenstiel, it became clear that the Department of Defense has not changed its plans. 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,” Speaker Judi Won Pat stated in a press release she issued soon after the governor’s statement.
The senators are in effect saying that Pagat is, for all intents and purposes, still in the table, and that the military just promised that certain areas where there are historical artifacts will not be touched.
Well, this is not exactly news because the military has been saying this all along. So who’s telling the truth?
Perhaps Adelup just wanted to put its own spin on the meeting with the federal officials to gain as much mileage out of it as it could. The governor’s office did say that it specified “Pagat village” in its press release.
But the Speaker’s office hinted that there may be another, more sinister motive for the governor’s upbeat press release.
“This is just a media spin to try to get us to agree to something that will hurt our culture, our people, and our island forever,” Won Pat said.
The Speaker is of course referring to the controversial Programmatic Agreement, the deadline for which is fast coming up.
The PA is an agreement between the government of Guam and the military, which if signed, would give authority for the military to treat and handle cultural and historical artifacts on lands designated for the military buildup.
The programmatic agreement has to be signed by the governor before the military buildup can proceed in earnest.
Sen. Judi Guthertz, the chair of the legislature’s military buildup committee, has already sent a letter to the governor urging him not to be pressured into signing the agreement.
Although the governor has promised a thorough review before acting on the PA, one has to wonder whether the visit of such a high-level delegation from Washington is a sign of some form of pressure being exerted by the feds.
And the “overly optimistic” press release coming from the governor’s office? Maybe that’s a sign, too, of the direction Calvo will take with regard to the “problematic” programmatic agreement.