The United Nations Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) held a hearing of petitioners on items related to decolonization from October 3rd through October 6th at the UN Building in New York City. Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje, also serving as the Vice Chairperson of Guam’s Commission on Decolonization, testified as a petitioner on the afternoon of October 3rd (morning of October 4th Guam time), along with Governor Eddie Baza Calvo, Senator Telena Nelson, Dr. Lisa Linda Natividad, and several other representatives from Guam.
You can watch all of the petitioners who represented Guam at the United Nation’s 4th Committee website here:
Time stamps for the petitioners, which begin with Governor Calvo, start at 1:52:35 and Vice Speaker Terlaje presents at 2:40:00.
The 4th committee also provided a press release regarding the hearing, noting that action on the New Caledonia and Guam draft resolutions has been postponed in order to add statements delivered during the hearing of petitioners, expressing hope that the task would be completed in a timely manner. You can read the full press release from the United Nations 4th committee here:
Read the full written testimony submitted by Vice Speaker Terlaje here:
Written TMT submission to UN October 2017_final
You may also read the transcript of Vice Speaker Terlaje’s oral testimony or view a video of her presentation below:
Håfa Adai, Your Excellency, Chairman Carreño and distinguished members of the Fourth Committee.
I am Therese M. Terlaje, Vice Speaker of the 34th Guam Legislature and Vice Chairperson of Guam’s Commission on Decolonization. Si Yu’os Ma’åse’ and thank you for the opportunity to support action toward the decolonization of Guam.
Self-determination for Guam must include the safeguarding of the non-self-governing people’s right to its natural resources and the right to participate freely in decision-making concerning those resources. It is also critically important in this time of climate change that Guam, a small island, be allowed to protect resources that increase the absorption of carbon dioxide, protect shores against rising tides, and maintain biodiversity as a hope for the future wellness, and economic independence of the community. Our situation on Guam is urgent, as our land and ocean are increasingly under threat, and access and control of our resources is impeded by the delay in decolonization.
Studies have found over 100 contaminated sites on Guam. Almost all from U.S. military activity, which result in the people of Guam’s continued exposure to many cancer-causing agents. Guam has been denied in U.S. compensation programs for radiation exposure despite high levels of cancer rates and findings of exposure as down-winders of the U.S. nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands.
Nonetheless, the U.S. military training and testing areas continue to grow beyond one third of the island and include miles of sonar and live-fire detonations, the removal of acres of limestone forests, and endangered corals.
A week ago, the U.S. filed yet another lawsuit against the government of Guam seeking to invalidate the Chamorro Land Trust Act, a 40-year-old Guam law that reserves land in trust, forever, for the native inhabitants of Guam, and allows them to reside and farm on this land. This Act was intentionally established by the Guam Legislature to address the loss of land through forced land takings and the forced resettlement of Chamorros during periods of colonization and especially after WWII, when more than two thirds of Guam’s land was taken by the U.S. military.
It is ironic and unjust that the U.S. is allowed years of inaction on decolonization, but may suddenly and unilaterally, after 40 years, attempt to dismantle a program that safeguards a homeland for the native inhabitants in its territory.
The U.S. argument that the Chamorro Land Trust law is discriminatory is inconsistent with the establishment of similar programs in U.S. states and other territories. The claim also contrasts with arguments by the U.S. in cases challenging the U.S. unilateral establishment of firing ranges in Guam, where, the U.S. argues that its courts are precluded from stopping the firing ranges because it is a political question to be determined by U.S. Congress alone; and because of an international agreement made between the U.S. and Japan (without consultation with Guam).
Make no mistake: the indigenous people of Guam do not agree and have never freely agreed, requested, voted, or negotiated that our land and waters and our food be contaminated; that our fishing grounds and ocean resources be restricted; that homes and villages be relocated; that firing ranges be built adjacent to ancient villages and sacred burial grounds; that homelands be lost; or that our borders be decided without our input.
I urge this distinguished committee to adopt a resolution demanding the immediate Decolonization of Guam before any more resources are lost.
Dangkulo na si Yu’os Ma’åse’ (Thank you very much) for your efforts and dedication to decolonization for Guam.
Therese M. Terlaje
Vice Speaker, 34th Guam Legislature
Chairperson, Committee on Culture and Justice
FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (September 8, 2017 – Hagåtña) – Vice Speaker Therese Terlaje (D-Yoña), Chairperson for the Committee on Culture and Justice convened an informational briefing yesterday, where dozens of concerned community members including the original Ritidian landowners and their families provided four hours of testimony demanding that the construction of the Live-Fire Training Range Complex (LFTRC) at Northwest Field be paused. Speaker BJ Cruz, Senator Telena Nelson, Senator Wil Castro, Senator Regine Biscoe Lee, Senator Fernando Esteves, and Senator Frank Aguon also attend the briefing, where they asked representatives from Government of Guam agencies to provide updates on the impacts to the limestone forests and historic properties with the proposed construction of the LFTRC.
The military’s 2010 Record of Decision clearly states that the relocation of marines to Guam is contingent on the establishment of a live-fire training range on Guam. However, more recently the military has announced that the relocation is also dependent on the establishment of live-fire ranges on Tinian and a bombing range on Pagan. In a pending lawsuit in the CNMI district court, EarthJustice has argued that the environmental impact statement conducted for the relocation of marines necessarily should have included the assessment of the Tinian and Pagan live-fire ranges, and thus must be redone. The marines are not scheduled to move to Guam until 2020. Vice Speaker Terlaje is adamant that the clearing of the limestone forest and impacts to Ritidian and other historic sites should not proceed until the court case is decided.
Guam’s State Historic Preservation Officer, Lynda Aguon provided significant findings, pointing out that her office previously indicated the Northwest Field as the least favored alternative for the LFTRC, given the location had multiple historical sites that would be directly and indirectly adversely impacted. SHPO Aguon clearly stated that 269 historical properties were counted and recorded, and of those sites, 63 were determined eligible for listing on the National Registry of Historic Places. SHPO Aguon informed senators that she would be working with the Governor’s office to submit a letter the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to seek a comprehensive re-evaluation of the culturally significant settlement site at Ritidian and the impacts of the Surface Danger Zone.
“There are adverse effects happening, which is why we have found sites – 269 sites, not to mention 4 burials that were in place, burials that were there, and probably one that has been reburied. There is a latte set that has a lot of lusongs. You can posit from that, it is a big latte settlement. And going further, in receiving all of these reports (thousands of pages), it is only appropriate that they need to stop, pause everything, do the re-evaluation and get all their reports in order. The state archaeologist is frustrated because these reports are coming in from different writers and they are not syncing, so in consultation we will prepare that letter to the Advisory Council… They may have awarded the contract, but they still have to complete the section 106 process. They can probably begin to develop their design plans, but cannot do any construction activities until the 106 process is cleared, which will be clarified by the Advisory Council,” SHPO Aguon stated, further indicating that direct and indirect adverse impacts would impact areas of Litekyan, Pahon, Jinapsan, Urunao, and Haputo.
In response to the military’s proposed mitigation for the loss of limestone forest species, Tino Aguon of the Department of Agriculture stressed,
“Re-creation is a long process. You can mimic what nature has done, but we have to understand it took nature millions of years to do something that we want to do in a field, so that is a fairly difficult process or something difficult to achieve.”
Other concerns about the loss of access to important fishing areas and the contamination of Guam’s sole water source, the Northern Lens Aquifer, were also discussed. Manny Duenas, of the Guam Fishermen’s Coop testified that the live-fire training range at Ritidian would spoil important fishing areas and prevent access to local fishermen.
“They are going to take 15 square miles of our ocean at Ritidian Point, some of our most pristine waters, and they are going to fire 40 pounds of lead into the water. That’s water quality? Who is going to go out three miles and check?… I promise the military we are going to have 50 to 100 boats parked at Ritidian when these guys start shooting their weapons, until they start mitigating,” Duenas said.
Visiting scholar Rebekah Garrison described the lingering environmental contamination that plagues Vieques, Puerto Rico and Koho’olawe, Hawaii, despite the community actions that successfully ended bombing and other military exercises over 20 years ago. Garrison stated,
“Vieques continues to suffer a 25% higher cancer rate than Puerto Rico… In Koho’olawe, decades worth of bombs lodged into reefs, rocks, and underwater sands remain, leaking into the ocean. Koho’olawe and much of Vieques remain unsafe for human habitation and unfortunately both islands are great examples as to why Litekyan should not be turned into a live-fire training range. You have the power of keeping Litekyan from becoming the next Koho’olawe and Vieques.”
Sinajana resident John Dungca cited the Inifresi and the pledge to protect the land and water of the Chamorro people. He expressed his concerns about Guam’s primary fresh water source,
“When that facility becomes operational, it will be consuming 2 million gallons of water a day… I have questions that haven’t been answered to determine if this is good for Guam… Will the military be a good partner in being good stewards with the Guam Waterworks authority to protect this resource that is our northern aquifer?”
Several representatives of the Ritidian/Litekyan families shared powerful stories of pain and loss over the past several decades. Original landowners from Tiyan and Urunao, and members from Prutehi Litekyan also joined them in solidarity. Cathy Flores McCollum recalled how the Ritidian/Litekyan property was taken from her family by force and without just compensation by the Department of Defense. Decades later, Ritidian was deemed excess property to be returned, however her family and the rest of Guam were forced to witness Congress transfer their property to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. McCollum said many of the Ritidian families are moved by ongoing community efforts to fight this injustice.
“Instead of mitigation, we just want this to stop and we want our Governor, our leader of Guam, to help us get our lands back. That’s the bottom line… No, the military is not a great steward to our lands… Our family has been waiting patiently for the return of our property. Correct the injustices that have and will continue to take place. Let us take care of Ritidian. Let us be the people who will protect our lands from destruction, show our natural resources, and welcome family and friends – friends who respect and love Ritidian and will fight to the bitter end,” McCollum stated.
Another Ritidian descendant Lou Flores Bejado also added:
“Litekyan is not just a piece of property – it is our life, our beautiful history, and a way for us to connect with our ancestors. Our ancestors were also buried there before the war… such sacred grounds. Our nephew Rain Flores San Nicolas drowned at Litekyan saving his cousin’s life a few years back. So to think of bullets going into that part of the ocean, makes our stomachs turn and our hearts ache in pain. Those are sacred waters too… There are so many arguments as to why Litekyan should be put off as a firing range. The marines are not expected until 8 years from now. Why are they starting this early? We need to delay the buildup and come back to the drawing board and find what is mutually beneficial for all. If the military wants to be good partners in the community, they need to listen to us to avoid any undue stress or unrest as a people… Many have told me that if this was their land, they to would fight. I know that if this was your family’s land, or if it was land belonging to Governor Calvo’s family, we would not be here today, and rightly so, we would be behind them as well.”
Vice Speaker Terlaje hopes that Governor Calvo will use his authority and influence to put the clearing of the limestone forest adjacent to Ritidian on hold. She recalled many of the protests that have taken place within the last decade to defend against federal control of Ritidian, and how thousands of residents spoke out during the EIS and SEIS commenting periods to criticize the construction of live-fire ranges adjacent to ancient villages.
“There is no dispute after the recent reports from the SHPO and the 2017 Biological Opinion, of the devastating impacts of the live-fire training range if it is placed at Northwest Field above Ritidian. It is not too late. It is going to take all of us to work together,” Terlaje stated.
For more information, please call the
Office of Vice Speaker Therese M. Terlaje at (671) 472-3586
FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (September 6, 2017 – Hagåtña) – Vice Speaker Therese M. Terlaje (D-Yoña), Chairperson for the Committee on Culture and Justice, submitted a letter to Governor Eddie Baza Calvo yesterday, urging him to consider the irreversible impacts to historic sites, the environment, and ancestral lands with the clearing of limestone forests in Finegayan and Northwest Field for construction of the cantonment and Live-Fire Training Range Complex. Vice Speaker wrote with great concern about the preservation of primary limestone forest, ancient villages, cultural resources, and the continuing struggles for original landowners. In her letter, Vice Speaker Terlaje asked the Governor to consider the following:
– That promises in the Programmatic Agreement have not been kept by the military
– That the discovery of additional historic properties at Northwest Field may require reconsideration
– That the CNMI pending lawsuit may directly impact these firing ranges
– That the planned destruction of 187 acres of limestone forest at Northwest Field and the clearing of 683 acres of limestone forest in Finegayan are irreversible
– That Guam has a longstanding policy to defend Ritidian from federal control
– That the relocation will not begin until 2020
“Certainly the destruction of our limestone forest and wildlife refuge can be put on hold temporarily, while the leaders of Guam work cohesively with government agency leaders and the people of Guam to ensure the preservation of our ancient villages and pristine resource,” Vice Speaker Terlaje wrote.
Vice Speaker Terlaje also humbly requested that these issues regarding Ritidian be addressed in the Governor’s discussions in Washington D.C., together with the economic impacts of the denial of H-2B visas and the payment of War Claims out of Section 30 funds owed to Guam. Vice Speaker Terlaje further stated, “Settlement should include justice for the original landowners, preservation of historic sites, and protection of our limestone forests.”
The letter, which was also copied to Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo, included maps of the proposed Surface Danger Zone at Ritidian/Litekyan and potential impacts, a copy of a complaint filed by the Tinian Women’s Association against the U.S. Navy, and the public notice for the September 7, 2017 Informational Briefing with Original Landowners at the Guam Congressional Building’s Public Hearing Room.
For more information, please refer to the attached letter from Vice Speaker Terlaje to Governor Calvo, along with the included attachments.
For more information, please call the Office of Vice Speaker Therese M. Terlaje at (671) 472-3586.
Read Vice Speaker Terlaje’s Letter to the Governor here:
Ltr_Gov_Urgent Issues LFTRC_F
Review the CNMI Complaint here:
Review the Public Notice here:
Public Notice Sept. 7th. 2017 Info Briefing with Original Landowners
The Committee on Culture and Justice will convene an informational briefing on Thursday, September 7, 2017 at 4 p.m. at the Guam Legislature Public Hearing Room, at the Guam Congress Building in Hagåtña.
The intent of the informational briefing is to receive reports of the status and the historical, cultural, and environmental impacts of the Live-Fire Training Range Complex, and the potential implications for the original landowners of Ritidian/Litekyan and the surrounding areas.
Agenda items include:
*Reports from government agencies: Guam State Historic Preservation Office, Guam Department of Agriculture, Guam Coastal Management Program, Governor’s Military Buildup Office
*Testimony from Guam Fishermen’s Coop Association
*Testimony from Original Ritidian/Litekyan Landowners
Background on Ritidian/Litekyan homelands:
– After World War II, the U.S. military condemned via eminent domain, privately held lands from families in Ritidian/Litekyan and the surrounding areas. Families were forced to relocate despite objections and without just compensation. Ritidian was established as a military area that restricted civilian access.
– After decades, the military deemed the Ritidian lands “excess”, however, the return of the excess lands to the government of Guam was thwarted by the U.S. Congress’ transfer of those lands to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2000. Ritidian lands have since been held in trust by the USFWS and used as a wildlife refuge and cultural center.
The 22nd, 23rd, and 30th Guam Legislatures enacted:
– PL 22-63, declaring that no wildlife refuge be established in Guam unless approved and enacted under Guam law
– PL 22-111 challenged the designation of the Ritidian lands as a Critical Habitat or Wildlife Refuge.
– PL 23-24 signed by acting Governor Madeleine Z. Bordallo, prohibited the Government of Guam from entering into any cooperative agreement with any U.S. federal government agency in regard to the Wildlife Refuge at Ritidian. The law stated, “it is the policy of the government of Guam to seek the termination of federal ownership of real property in Northern Guam commonly known as the “Wildlife Refuge” and to seek the transfer of those lands from the control of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service to local authority for whatever purposes deemed appropriate by local authority, including the possible return to original land owners.”
– Resolution 258-30 opposing land condemnation by the federal government for the purposes of the training ranges, reminding Congress that “the final insult to the people of Guam came when the 385 acres of the former Naval Facility, Guam at Ritidian Point was declared excess in the 1990’s and was grabbed quietly, without fanfare or advance notice by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rather than being returned to the original land owners via the Government of Guam.”
Contrary to past Guam Legislative efforts to support the Ritidian homelands, in December 2014,Congress enacted H.R. 4402, allowing DoD use of Ritidian as a Surface Danger Zone for its Live-Fire Training Ranges.
The informational briefing will broadcast on local television, GTA Channel 21, Docomo Channel 117/60.4 and stream online via I Liheslaturan Guåhan’s live feed. If written testimonies are to be presented at the informational briefing, the Committee requests that copies be submitted prior to the informational briefing date and should be addressed to Vice Speaker Therese M. Terlaje. Testimonies may be submitted via hand delivery to the Office of Vice Speaker Therese M. Terlaje at the Guam Congress Building, 163 Chalan Santo Papa, Hagåtña, Guam; at the Protocol Office of the Guam Congress Building, 163 Chalan Santo Papa, Hagåtña, Guam 96910; or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, individuals requiring special accommodations or services should contact the Office of Vice Speaker Therese M. Terlaje, 163 Chalan Santo Papa, at (671) 472-3586 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
We look forward to your attendance and participation.
Si Yu’os Ma’åse.
FOR IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE (August 25, 2017 – Hagåtña) – In response to the $78M contract awarded for the Live-Fire Training Range Complex at Northwest Field, Vice Speaker Therese M. Terlaje (D-Yoña), Chairperson for the Committee on Culture and Justice, expressed continued urgency to protect Guam’s resources:
“No amount of money can compensate for the permanent destruction, loss of access, and other adverse impacts to Guam’s historic sites, 187 acres of limestone forests, endangered species, and fishing areas that are part of this particular live-fire training range project. It is the 4000-year-old unique heritage of the Chamoru people that is under attack and these resources will be lost to future generations. The Department of Defense has not kept its promises to avoid these adverse impacts to Guam and in fact continues to expand its control over lands and waters of Guam and the Marianas. I implore the Governor to explore any and all alternatives and to seek appropriate federal audience to avoid the aforementioned adverse impacts and defend our lands and invaluable resources,” Terlaje stated.
On August 21, 2017, Joint Region Marianas announced that training exercises will take place:
– Apra Harbor on August 24th from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. .
– Farallon de Medinilla August 25th from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m..
The general location of the training on the island of Farallon de Medinilla will be in a
12-nautical mile radius of the island. Farallon de Medinilla, located in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, supports aircrew combat readiness training.
You can view their announcement here:
On August 18, 2017, Join Region Marianas announced that the military will conduct training in waters surrounding Guam (Warning Area 517 (W-517)) during the following dates and times:
– Aug. 22 from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
– Aug. 23 from 5-7 p.m.
– Aug. 24 and 26 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
– Aug. 28 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
– Aug. 30 from noon to 6 p.m.
The military will also conduct training in waters around Guam within a five-mile nautical radius of the following coordinates 10° 30″ 00’N/144° 40″00’E, 10° 30″ 00’N/145° 20″00’E, 09° 50″ 00’N/145° 20″00’E, 09° 50″ 00’N/144° 40″00’E, and 10° 30″ 00’N/144° 40″00’E during the following dates and times:
– Aug. 23 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
– Aug. 26 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
For more information, see the release from JRM here:
17-069 Military to Conduct Training at W-517, Waters Surrounding Guam