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Pangelinan considers CLTC's strategy

by Janjeera Hail

Guam - Chamorro Land Trust Commission Administrator Jess Garcia issued letters yesterday highlighting problems within the agency and outlining a plan to save it.  In do so doing, he requested that the governor and a senator for help to clean up his agency.

Specifically, he sought the Guam Legislature's assistance for $850,000 to hire skilled workers to help carry out inspections and to ask the governor to put together a multi-agency advisory group to draw up regulations, with the ultimate goal of creating a comprehensive inventory of CLTC leases.  Oversight Chair Senator Ben Pangelinan responded today saying he thinks the multi-agency advisory group is a good first step but that it's up to the governor to determine how quickly he'd like to move.

He said, "He can make that assignment right now and put together a group that is being requested to assist the CLTC in doing so and again that doesn't take any money at all to do that because those resources exist in the government and are being paid for today."

Land trust lessee and farmer Ernie Wusstig says he's not opposed to the CLTC bringing in officials from the different agencies to help develop regulations, but he'd also like to see the commission get lease holders more involved.  "The Land Trust should come out to farmers like me and other farmers and get their thoughts and ask them what do they need to make sure that we continue these agricultural leases," he said.

In terms of the money requested, Senator Pangelinan agrees public hearings should be held first so the Legislature can first get a better idea of how the CLTC plans to spend the requested appropriations.  He said, "What are you going to use the money for? How is it going to make it easier to give land to the beneficiaries as required by law? And how are we going to assist these landowners in making sure they get the correct property?"

But it now appears there may be more internal problems to contend with as well. In a letter today to CLTC Chairman Oscar Calvo, Pangelinan raised concerns over the Commission's handling of commercial leases. Specifically, land in Yigo that Guam Rocks, Inc. was given authorization to begin surveying, despite the CLTC giving the legislature assurances that no new leases would be awarded until rules and regulations for such leases are approved.

He said, "When they continually assure the legislature that they're working on the rules and regulations and will concentrate on that and then we find out that they're issuing this authorization to survey and why would anyone be given an authorization to survey if there's no intention to give them a lease?"

Pangelinan says this kind of deception is unacceptable and the entire situation draws into question whether, even given the resources requested, the CLTC can cleanup its act.

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