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By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

HAGATNA, Guam (Marianas Variety, Feb. 27) – On the eve of his departure for Washington, D.C. where he is to meet with transportation officials to discuss the Tiyan land dispute, Guam Governor Felix P. Camacho took a defiant stance against the federal government, rebuffing its threat to take over the lands returned to the original landowners.

"How can they take back what was never truly theirs?" Camacho asked in his State of the Island Address on Wednesday.

The governor was reacting to the Federal Highway Administration’s warning that the Tiyan property would revert to the U.S. Department of Transportation if the local government did not use the property in accordance with the stipulations of the quitclaim deed.

The federal government wants the local government to build a highway and an industrial park on the former Naval Base, but the local government opted to return the lands to their original owners.

Citing their economic and cultural significance, the governor said the Tiyan lands "can be a bridge between our people and the federal government or a chasm that will only cause division and strife."

"Taken by force by the invading Imperial Japanese Army, liberated and utilized by the U.S. military, returned to the government of Guam and given back to the original land owners — it has now become the focal point — where one federal agency has challenged this government to use it…by saying ‘Give us what we want, when we want it, on our terms, or lose the land forever because we’ll take it back,’ " Camacho said.

"This generation of federal authorities fails to recognize the many sacrifices and suffering that occurred on this land by our people and their families," he added.

In a remark that drew applause from the audience, the governor said he will remind federal officials of "these sacrifices and defend the rights of our landowners and the actions of this government."

Camacho leaves for Washington D.C. to meet with federal officials including Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. He is expected to work out a new deal with the federal government and defend the government of Guam’s decision to deed the properties.

Speaker Mark Forbes, R-Sinajana, was pleased with the governor’s strong stance, which he said was "consistent with Guam’s long-standing policy that promotes the return of lands to the original landowners. I was happy that the governor is taking a strong stance on this issue. What he has said is consistent with the position of every governor and every Legislature," Forbes said.

Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo said she is optimistic that the governor will work something out with the federal government during his meeting with Washington officials.

"Everyone was waiting to hear about the Tiyan issue. This is a local government issue," Bordallo said.

February 27, 2006

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