As the focus is drawn away from Pagat, we must remain vigilante.
Pagat was the buzzword for several years in terms of conceiving and resisting the buildup for many people. It is surreal the way it came to stand beside other terms such as "jobs" or "economy" in the way people imagined the buildup. It was one of the first critical or negative things that made it into the conversation to help counter much of the unrealistic positive perceptions of the buildup that were out there.
Pagan, a word so similar sounding to Pagat, will most likely be the next buzzword. As it is far north in the Gani Islands, it remains to be seen if it can be given the same visibility and transformative power that Pagat received.
"On Pagat and Our Continuing Concerns"
By Senator Ben Pangelinan
September 19, 2013
RECENT information from the Joint Guam Program Office (JGPO) indicated that the informal decision of the Department of Defense is to remove Pågat as a preferred site for its firing range. Pågat, an ancient Chamorro village, is listed on the national and local Registers of Historic Places and listed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the top 11 most endangered sites in 2010.
Gov. Calvo, in one of his first actions in office, urged the signing of a Programmatic Agreement with DOD that allowed it to move forward with the Record of Decision which listed Pågat as a preferred alternative for the firing range, notwithstanding its historical significance, and despite the great community opposition to its use from the Guam Legislature, the Guam Preservation Trust, We are Guåhan, Fuetsan Famalao’an, the Guåhan Coalition for Peace and Justice, the Guam Boonie Stompers, University of Guam professors, agency professionals, archaeologists, historians, cultural practitioners, students, and many more groups and individuals. Following the lawsuit filed by National Historic Trust, the Guam Preservation Trust, and by local attorney Leevin Camacho on behalf of Julian Aguon and We Are Guåhan, the DOD announced it would do a supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS) on the use of Pågat as a firing range.
As a community, we are grateful to the individuals and organized groups that came out publicly and in their own creative ways during the EIS process, the Programmatic Agreement discussions, and the seemingly never ending subsequent EIS processes, to keep track of and provide input on the proposals for increased training ranges and facilities in cultural sites and environmentally significant areas. Many volunteers and government of Guam employees worked tirelessly to educate the community on the known effects of the proposed actions, and to slow the further desecration of our waters, land, and historical and cultural sites.
While Pågat may no longer be the site for the firing range, as a community we remain concerned about the environmental and health effects that this type of training will bring if conducted within the footprint of our lands and waters, inside or outside the fences. There are still many questions that remain unanswered, and it is incumbent upon all of us to be diligent and informed.
A few weeks ago, we heard that there were closed-door discussions between Guam’s delegate to U.S. Congress, Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Guam military buildup lobbyists and U.S. intelligence and national security experts focused on the role of Guam and the Marianas in ensuring that U.S. national security interests are protected in the Asia-Pacific region.
Additionally, we learned that a team from the Department of Interior is on-island to determine, through program audits, whether Guam is able to accommodate the impact of the relocation of Marines from Okinawa.
We also hear of DOD’s interest in using the northernmost island of Pagan for military training exercises, and the increasing opposition from the Northern Mariana Islands and national environmental groups.
Just this week, we were notified of the release of another EIS for the Navy’s continued and expanded use of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands for underwater explosives and firing range training, The Navy’s MITT EIS/OEIS can be viewed online at www.mitt-eis.com. The comment period ends on Nov. 12. Public hearings will be held in Guam on Oct. 7 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the University of Guam, School of Business and Public Administration Building, in Saipan on Oct. 8 at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center, and on Oct. 10 at the Sinapalo Elementary School cafeteria.
What we’re experiencing again is a surge of discussions and planning by top-level administrators mainly from off-island regarding the increased military presence on our island. Much of this happens without the consent of everyday people on Guam, and without acknowledgement of the true cost of this on our community. In spite of the overwhelming commitments we have to our families, to our jobs, and to our everyday lives, I believe it is all the more critical for each of us to remain vigilant and continue to insist that any and all plans for the military buildup, in whatever capacity, be open, transparent, and inclusive of all voices.