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Senators pushing for Guam First Commission

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - Governor Eddie Calvo continues to draw criticism following his speech before the Guam Chamber of Commerce yesterday. Both sides of the legislative aisle are calling on the island's chief executive to demand much more from the military before signing off on the Programmatic Agreement.

Senator Rory Respicio said, "Once he signs the Programmatic Agreement, based on the Record of Decision, you can't deviate from that. So the governor can get all the assurances he wants that this buildup is going to be done right and it's irrelevant because those assurances will be non-binding."

"If you sign it, legally, in my opinion, it will mean that we have acquiesced and we've agreed to what the military wants to do with reference to the lands that they want to acquire," added fellow Democrat Judi Guthertz. "I think we should hold back on it and insist on certain things before we agree to anything."

Respicio and Military Buildup Committee chairperson Guthertz want the governor to step on the brakes before signing the controversial PA. During Wednesday's Chamber of Commerce meeting, Calvo made assurances that the Navy's recent concessions on Pagat village, an artifacts center, land return, improving the island's quality of life through infrastructure improvements and their commitment for a 'Green Guam' would be obtained in writing.

But lawmakers aren't convinced the concessions are enough.

Respicio says he's alarmed by the governor's statements. "If those areas aren't mitigated to the extent that the people of Guam require that this military should be held in obeyance [sic]," he said. "Governor Calvo supported those resolutions; in fact, he spoke on the floor eloquently about how these things have to happen prior to the buildup occurring."

While the governor has empanelled the Guam First Commission, he is still waiting on various organizations to submit the name of their representative in order to convene that organization.  Senator Guthertz maintains the Commission must meet to talk through a number of issues first, saying, "He has to be prudent in his enthusiasm to access that money he's talking about that $15 billion to help the people of Guam that's important, but not at the expense of our sovereignty over our land and not at the expense of protecting the best interest of the civilian community."

Guthertz believes the military has enough land within its current footprint to accommodate all of their plans.

Republicans in the Legislature meanwhile are chiming in their concerns, urging the governor to ensure that Guam receives closure on other unresolved issues such as war reparations, full reimbursement for Compact impact costs, support and services for health and human services and education, full funding for infrastructure requirements and support for a binding plebiscite.  Letters were sent expressing these sentiments to the president, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Navy Undersecretary Robert Work and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Jackalyne Pfannenstiel.

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