Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pågat 'Sweeteners' Discussed

Marianas Variety

Pågat 'Sweeteners' Discussed

Therese Hart
May 26, 2011

Local activists and many island residents continue to question the sincerity of military and federal officials who speak of the buildup, even after officials assured them that discussions and plans on the Pågat issue are aboveboard and transparent.

A September 2010 email correspondence obtained by Variety among former Joint Guam Program Office Executive Director David Bice, Joe Ludovici, who has since taken over Bice’s position, and Capt. John Scorby, executive assistant to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Energy Installations & Environment, gives a glimpse of the strategies and mindset of the military with regard to the Pågat issue.

Scorby emailed Ludovici on Sept. 27, requesting that Ludovici provide a brief of Pågat to include “sweeteners” the Undersecretary needed for a briefing.

“At the DON staff meeting today with the Under, he asked that JGPO develop a brief on possible ‘sweeteners’ to get us over the Pågat issue. He indicated that this was going to be briefed at the next GOC, currently scheduled for Oct. 21. I don’t have a due date, but he indicated he was looking for the brief ‘soon.’ I’ll get more fidelity on that one.”

Bice responded, stating he had a discussion with “Ms. P last week,” and believed a “successful Route 15 acquisition strategy will require elimination all impacts to Pågat historic village in the near term, and finding mutual accommodations with race trace until expiration of land use license; ‘book end’ COA.”

Bice further wrote, “We can get all of the land eventually, including an SDZ (surface danger zone) over Pågat; we have to be patient and build trust with the community first.

“Groups opposing Marine relocation are successfully seizing on Pågat as a means to gain legitimacy with the public – need to take the issue off the table to isolate them.

“Sweeteners will be needed to garner GovGuam/Legislature support to remove firing range restrictions on Rt. 15 properties and to obtain Legislature approval of Chamorro Land Trust lease of properties below the cliff-line. Some members of the Legislature will attempt to block all land acquisition until other issues with Fed Govt are resolved – need to give Legislature a deal they can’t refuse.”

Speaker’s reaction

When Variety shared the email with Speaker Judi Won Pat, her reaction was quick, pointed, heated and then, resigned:

“This shows how disingenuous they are, and it seems they are engaging in some type of covert activity. ... They say they are being honest and upfront with us, yet, here’s proof that they are conniving behind our backs.

“We respond to the DEIS and FEIS, because they asked us to. We play by their rules and this is what they do to us. It’s very hurtful. We’ve been very trusting. They tell us that they’re listening to us. Perhaps this is the problem. We’re so trusting, we’re so welcoming; and yet, this is what we get from them.”

The Speaker said she was reminded of a past incident when We Are Guåhan member Cara Flores Mays was having lunch at a local restaurant and overheard a conversation between military personnel and Guam residents, one of them, Lee Webber.

“They treat us like we are the enemy and we’re not. We want this to work for our people too. Is that too much to ask. I’m very upset about this,” said Won Pat.

Won Pat was referring to a November 2010 conversation that Mays overheard, which included then-Joint Guam Program Office Director of Communications for Washington D.C. and Guam Paula Conhain, Lee Webber, a former Marine, and Lt. Col. Aisha Bakkar of the Marine Force Pacific Public Affairs Office. Conhain has since been removed from this position.

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