"One Guam": access to Pagat not affected - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

"One Guam": access to Pagat not affected

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by Lannie Walker

Guam - Local officials come head to head with top ranking officials of the U.S. Navy today. The Programmatic Agreement and plans for Pagat were at the top of the agenda during the talks, which left two branches of government with differing impressions of how the buildup will pan out.  

Talks of the military buildup came to a head today as the second-in-command of the Navy, Undersecretary Robert Work, and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Jackalyne Pfannenstiel paid Governor Eddie Calvo and Lieutenant Governor Ray Tenorio an in person visit this morning. "We've had some very productive and frank discussions this morning. And with that it's nice to see that there's been some progress or a lot of progress," said the governor.

Progress that, according to work, includes a new approach to Pagat Village. "I want to clear up any misconceptions about Pagat," Work clarified. "We are going to commit to the governor and the people of Guam. There will be unimpeded access to Pagat Village, Pagat Cave and the access to those areas."

Another misconception work said he wanted to clear up was the notion the local government had "X" amount of time to signoff on the Programmatic Agreement. Said Work, "There's a lot of misunderstanding on this the U.S. Government and the Department of Navy never meant to set an ultimatum or a deadline to the governor or the Legislature."

Work went on to say they would make a commitment to Guam to ensure cultural aspects of Guam are not damaged during the military buildup, and that the military footprint would be reduced. "The last thing I want to commit to you is that at the end of this buildup; less acreage under U.S. Government control than there is now," he said.

This is Pfannestiel's forth visit to Guam, and she said, "Since I've been in this position and I come hear every time to listen of what is of concern and what we can do to make sure we are partners. And that the end of the day when the U.S. Marines are here, they are welcomed their as neighbors."

After the Navy officials left the governors office they then paid a visit to members of the Guam Legislature where they were welcomed with skepticism that the buildup would in fact benefit the people of Guam. "There is still a lot of unanswered questions...every single member was very candid with them and told them how we feel about the buildup and how the people feel about the buildup," noted Speaker Judi Won Pat.

Work further assured senators Pagat was "off the table" but the at times confrontational senators did not easily swallow such an assertion. "They are saying Pagat is 'off the table' but it really is not in the sense they are still looking at surrounding areas where Pagat is at; they are not very definitive in terms of which lands all we know is it's still on Route 15," said Won Pat.

Work did concede that Route 15 is still the preferred site and told senators they would do all they could to mitigate noise and other negative aspects that would come with the range. And while both Work and Pfannestiel stressed that they were not pressuring the local government to sign off on the PA - they did make it clear the document could help pave the way for a wave of cash to flow into Guam.  

He explained, "What we have been interested in doing is moving forward on a billion dollars worth of construction projects that we can not do until the PA is signed."

But for Senator Tina Muna Barnes and many of her fellow senators. the agreement is a sticking point they are not ready to agree on. She said, "And when they talk about a Programmatic Agreement, which we all believe might be a problematic agreement, moving forward we already have federal guidelines in place based on Section 106 that we can work with."

Still, the Calvo Administration for its part expressed that the talks had proved fruitful and had furthered their quest for a buildup that will benefit the people of Guam. The governor said, "I feel very good about the direction of this buildup in that it will not be a military buildup but it will be a Guam buildup."

While the talks with Guam officials were long - especially with the Legislature, which lasted several hours, the teams visit to Guam was a short one - lasting just one day. The team left the meeting and headed straight to Andersen Air Force Base, where they flew out this afternoon.

Adelup issued a release in which Calvo stated, "These discussions are off to a good start...at the end of the day, what we all want is to improve the quality of life for all our people. I want to thank the Navy and the Defense Department for their partnership. We're finally at the table. We're finally leading this buildup."

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