At the closing panel of Friday’s “Preserving the Planet for Posterity through Partnerships: the Pagan Preferred alternative,” the speakers reached a consensus to oppose the U.S. military’s proposed use of Pagan Island.
House Speaker Joseph Leon Guerrero felt that the environmental impact statement the military is seeking comments on is a process that normally happens after a decision is made on whether an activity is conducted.
“If I was to come to your property, and say, ‘Mr. Torres, I want to build my house over there, and I want to put my garage over here, and my septic tank over here,’ and you say, ‘Wait, hold on, don’t you have to ask first if I’m going lease it to you, before you ask me to comment on your house?” he said, giving an analogy to the crowd gathered.
He later brought up the issue of compensation, wondering aloud if there is a price or value that can be placed on a people not being able to go back to their home islands.
“What I’m really concerned about is we don’t prepare for the possibility and when the time comes to negotiate [for compensation], they will use the only other example, an uninhabited island, the Farallon de Mendinilla. …What was the value of FDM? Thirty-four cents per square meter. That is not acceptable,” he said.
Diego Kaipat, a Northern Islands resident, started his address with a “very big ‘no’ to the military takeover of Pagan.”
“The people who have lived on the Northern Islands are a testament that we can live there without electricity, we can live there without turning on the stove to cook your food, we learned how to live with nature, and with all this issues that are popping up now. If they give us the opportunity early on to start and rebuild our lives again, we won’t be in this predicament now,” he said of his desire to see Pagan resettled.
Other panel speakers echoed the desire to see a redevelopment of Pagan.
Rep. Felicidad Ogumoro lamented what she described as a lack of conversation with the military.
Guam’s Peter Perez said Pagan is a “beautiful stronghold” that is a connection to Marianas’ past.
“Our spirits are there,” he said.
Delegate candidate Andrew Salas cited the United States’ “military-industrial complex” as the obstacle when it comes to Pagan.
Jesus Taisague, another candidate in this year’s election, pushed for the redevelopment of Pagan to “return people to their ancestral lands.”