By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero today proposed a funding mechanism, including tapping Section 30 money, to compensate ancestral land owners, who have been waiting to be paid for their confiscated properties since the U.S. Navy returned excess lands to the government of Guam in the 1990s.
The governor said tomorrow she will submit to the legislature a bill, titled the “Land Bank Reform Act of 2022,” that would provide multiple funding streams, such as annual budget appropriations and Section 30 to compensate the landowners.
The excess lands were returned to the local government during the Navy’s Base Realignment Closure or BRAC in the 1990s.
The lands’ return, however, came with restrictions set by U.S. Public Law 106-504, which bars the transfer of real estate assets to their original owners.
More than 53 families owned properties around the Navy land area in Mangilao, commonly referred to as “Eagle’s Field,” which is being eyed by the administration as the site for a new hospital.
The Missile Defense Agency is considering an adjacent area for a radar system that will be a component of an integrated missile defense infrastructure for Guam.
“Because federal law prohibits the return of ancestral lands to original owners, the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission Land Bank Trust is currently the only compensation recourse for original owners,” the governor said.
“Unfortunately, for the past two decades, the Land Bank has failed to pay a single owner a penny of compensation because it is underfunded,” she added.
The governor said the law which created the Land Bank contains deficiencies “that prior administrations were unable or unwilling to resolve.”
“Tomorrow, I am transmitting a bill to the legislature to repair the broken land bank law, so that ancestral owners no longer need to wait for Congress to act before they are fairly compensated,” the governor said.
Besides the funding provision, Leon Guerrero said the bill would “clarify the criteria for ancestral owners eligible to receive compensation.”
The proposed bill would also provide a method to calculate the land value and to distribute compensation to original owners or their descendants.
The governor urged Speaker Therese Terlaje, chair of the legislative land committee, to quickly move the legislation and place it in the November session.
“It is now in the hands of Speaker Terlaje,” she added. “I cannot and will not stand by idly while our original owners remain unfairly compensated for the loss of their land for more generations."
The governor said the Land Bank Reform Act of 2022 is the result of the collaborative work of multiple agencies over several months, led by the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission, the Department of Land Management, and the Guam Economic Development Authority, taking into account the concerns expressed by original landowners and their descendants.
Copy of the bill is not currently available.