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New PA not enough to drop lawsuit

by Lannie Walker

Guam - The latest draft of the Programmatic Agreement has polarized local leaders. As negotiations continue, officials noted how the draft is being received and what it means for a lawsuit against the Department of Defense.

"We are opposed to the ranges being anywhere in that area," said Leevin Camacho. And with that statement the attorney, a member of We Are Guahan, summed up the organization's stance on the latest version of the PA. While the revised document states Pagat Village and Pagat Cave will not be included in the footprint of a planned Marine firing range, Camacho seems to believe the DoD is missing the point.

"First, there is no definition of what 'Pagat Village' is, and I know they say at some point late on down the road they are going to try and figure that out. But as of right now the Programmatic Agreement does not say with and amount of certainty what exactly they mean by 'Pagat Village'."

For Guam Preservation Trust Chief Program Officer Joe Quinata, the new draft instead of resolving issues they have with the PA the document raises a question, which is part of the basis of a lawsuit they are filed against the DoD. "Just by scanning through the document a lot of questions pop in my head," he said, "and one of the questions is why are they still considering Pagat? Why couldn't they have considered other alternatives?"

But instead of identifying alternatives, the draft agreement grants unimpeded access to historical sites at Pagat, and this raises another question for Quinata. "Why are they doing this? We already have 24/7 access at this point," he stated.

And Quinata and Camacho aren't the only ones not entirely satisfied with the latest version. While Lynda Aguon from the Department of Parks of and Recreation reviews the document with the Governor's Office, a verdict from leadership at the Senate is already out. "There is really nothing very different for other than the fact to say there is going to be unimpeded access to the village and the cave," speculated Sepaker Judi Won Pat.

And the mention of this unimpeded access has her asking even more questions, as she said, "When they are talking about this finite area of where the village is where the cave is at then does that mean that the village and the cave would be like an island, so to speak, that is then surrounded by the firing range?"

The new draft also mentions an increase of funding for a cultural museum and repository but won pat is not convinced. The speaker to this point shared, "I don't take that very seriously because it doesn't mean anything. Those are just empty promises."

While Won Pat is critical of the new draft, Governor Eddie Calvo seems to have a different take on the agreement when he was asked about it this afternoon. He stated of the controversial issue, "There has been a lot of progress."

Calvo says he spoke with Undersecretary Robert Work about the agreement just today, adding, "We had some discussions this morning on some areas we need to move on in regards to the PA, and we are preceding at a pace I am comfortable with."

But for Quinata, he is not comfortable enough with the new version to drop the lawsuit; scheduled to go to court next September. "Whether the Government of Guam signs the Programmatic Agreement or not the lawsuit will still follow through and we are still going forward with this lawsuit."

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