GovGuam Moves To Compensate Ancestral Landowners Of Property

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$3 million available as payment for local government land use

By Jerick Sablan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 13, 2015) – The government of Guam is moving forward with plans to compensate ancestral landowners whose property is being used by the local government.

More than $3 million is available for the payments, according to government documents.

The money comes from rent the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission collects from those who use property that used to belong to the Spanish government --land that has no ancestral owners.

The commission is scheduled to discuss proposed rules and regulations for the payments this week.

Gov. Eddie Calvo in June last year announced ancestral landowners would be paid millions of dollars, as required by local law.

The commission during its August 2014 meeting voted to postpone action on the rules and regulations indefinitely because of a pending legal challenge.

But the commission that September changed its mind and voted to move forward with the payments, said Department of Land Management Deputy Director David Camacho.

Although Guam law requires that ancestral landowners be compensated for GovGuam's use of their land, other former landowners have argued they should be compensated as well.

Concerns outlined

Curtis Van de veld, attorney for certain local families who filed a class-action lawsuit in the Superior Court, sent a letter to the commission on Aug. 6, 2014, outlining the concerns.

Van de veld wrote, in part, that "all claimants whose lands were not returned and are currently held by the government of Guam and the United States government should be entitled to a prorated portion of any income stream" generated by the commission and the Land Bank Trust.

Camacho said the pending court cases shouldn't stop the commission from pushing the rules and regulations forward.

He said the rules and regulations are on the verge of being finalized and the commission is expected to review them during its Jan. 14 meeting.

Once the commission approves the rules and regulations, it will go up for review by the governor, attorney general and the Legislature, he said.

It will need to go through the adjudication process before it can be implemented, so a public hearing will also be held, he said.

"We are on top of this and we are moving forward," he said.

In exchange for receiving monetary payment, the proposed rules state that an ancestral claimant will "extinguish" his or her future claim on the land.

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