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Draft agreement leaves cultural sites untouched

By Amritha Alladi HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 21, 2011) – A recent promise by the U.S. Defense Department that was put into writing is a good sign and a great start as the island's governor heads to the nation's capital this week, said Gov. Eddie Calvo in his weekly address.

In the prepared remarks of the address that Calvo will give today, the governor said the promise made by Navy officials in writing last week regarding the PÃ¥gat village and PÃ¥gat Cave site is a "major step forward," and that other buildup concerns will be taken "to the top," in negotiating with officials in Washington, D.C. this week.

Calvo leaves for the Capitol tomorrow. The governor is making the trip along with Sens. Judith Guthertz, Rory Respicio and Frank Blas Jr.

"We will negotiate controls to ensure off-island companies are paying their fair share of taxes. We will negotiate more funding for our infrastructure and for our capacity in education, public safety, healthcare and environmental protection services," Calvo said in prepared remarks.

On Thursday, Calvo announced the Navy had submitted a draft version of the Programmatic Agreement, which includes language that PÃ¥gat village and PÃ¥gat Cave will remain untouched and government of Guam property.

PÃ¥gat is the site of an ancient Chamorro village near a freshwater cave, where latte stones and lusongs -- mortars or grinding stones -- are common sights.

The area was added to the Guam Register of Historic Places in 1974, and although there was little local effort to highlight the area for decades, PÃ¥gat is now the center of buildup controversy.

Initially, the military planned to build a firing range off Route 15 that would require the federal government to absorb PÃ¥gat, limiting access to the historic site.

But after the plan drew heavy criticism from local lawmakers and protest groups, the military announced in January that plans had been revised in response to local input. The new draft agreement states plans for a firing range off Route 15 will never impede access to the PÃ¥gat and GovGuam will retain ownership of both the village site and the caves.

While leaders negotiated language that takes PÃ¥gat village and caves out of the firing range footprint, Calvo said there's still a long way to go to get the best for Guam out of the military buildup.

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