By Troy Torres
The governor has said she will use Navy excess land for the new hospital. Just Monday it was reported the land is Eagles Field in Barrigada.
That land, however, may have ancestral claimants.
“The governor appears to be proceeding without regard to applicable laws including the Ancestral Lands laws,” said an attorney who has practiced before the Ancestral Lands Commission for more than 10 years. He added that land close by Eagles Field was declared excess by Congress years ago and are now owned by the heirs of the original land owners.
"Governor Leon Guerrero hopes to be able to utilize excess land returned to Guam for public good where appropriate and in accordance with the law," governor's communications director Krystal Paco-San Agustin said in response to concerns about the land having ancestral claimants.
“We have to ask ourselves if the Governor has identified the heirs of the original land owners since she does not have the power to circumvent ancestral land laws and do whatever she pleases with this excess land” he added. The attorney warned of wasting time since he believes the governor has not done the required due diligence to determine if a hospital can be developed on the land. “Every single excess land return authorized by Congress dating back to Governor Gutierrez involved master deeds where the Navy and, or Air Force reserved easements for their continued use and you cannot build on these reserved easements,” he added.
An heir of an original landowner that owned land around the area of Eagles Field spoke on condition of anonymity. She said “the governor cannot just take away our land. How dare she even try without even talking to the families. No one talked to us from the Governor's Office. Other families received their land back close by after they were excess so why is she taking that right away from us. The governor has been very quiet about all of this land and that makes me suspicious."
Land that is available for a hospital
Oka Point has been available as a site for a new hospital since the demolition of the original hospital facility built there in the 1950s. The land was conveyed to the government of Guam in 1951 by the late Sen. Frank Perez on the condition that GovGuam use it for a hospital. The building was condemned in the 1980s, then demolished years later. A portion of the land has since been used as a vibrant cultural center.
The governor this past month announced her intention to ask senators to grant a 50-year lease of the site for cultural preservation purposes, despite the condition of the land use placed on the conveyance by Mr. Perez.
Previous governors also have tried to use and lease the land for other purposes. The Perez family, however, has protested, filing annual claims to the property since 1996, after the old hospital was demolished.