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  • By Pacific island Times News Staff

Bill seeks to redefine Chamorro Land Trust program

Therese Terlaje

Sen. Therese Terlaje has introduced a bill that spells out the objectives of the Chamorro Land Trust Program, which put under scrutiny as the result of a lawsuit filed by the U.S. government.

The changes to the Chamorro Land Trust Act proposed in Bill 419-35 bill are "intended to more clearly demonstrate that the Chamorro Land Trust program is a land restoration program meant to rectify the unjust taking of Chamorro homelands by the U.S. government between 1898 and 1968.

The bill would expand the program's eligible beneficiaries to include individuals and their descendants who owned or who ranched, farmed or otherwise occupied the lands that were taken.

“We have seen firsthand the impact of the massive land takings on Guam’s families, too many who live in poverty over eight decades later, without a stable place to live, and their ability to use the land to provide for their families severely disrupted," Terlaje said.

"It took years of vision, courage, advocacy, protests, and even lawsuits to get where we are today and in honor of those who preserved these rights for us, we must never stop fighting for, protecting, and expanding the potential of this land and its precious resources to nurture and sustain future generations It is our duty as lawmakers to safeguard the land restoration mission of the Trust, to protect the Trust from being raided by special interests; to manage the Trust better and make it more conducive to thriving residences, agriculture, and cottage industries; and to carry these homeland programs into perpetuity for future generations, so that we truly remedy the long-term injustice of massive land takings,” she added.

The Chamorro Land Trust law was authored by then senator Paul Bordallo and passed by the 12th Guam Legislature in 1975. No governor appointed members to the Commission, until protests, a campout, and a lawsuit brought by Attorneys Mike Phillips, Mike Bordallo and Therese Terlaje on behalf of the Nasion Chamoru, led by Angel Santos and Ed Benavente, ordered Gov. Joseph Ada to appoint the first Commission in 1992. The rules and regulations were authored by then Senator Angel Santos and enacted by the 23rd Guam Legislature.

This bill recognizes the land use history of the people of Guam and will expand residential and agricultural leases to those individuals and their descendants whose use of land on Guam was disrupted due to land takings.

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