BY OYAOL NGIRAIRIKL
Questions of transparency and the protection of artifacts found at the still-under-construction Marine Corps Camp Blaz in Dededo were core at the 10th Annual 2011 Programmatic Agreement Workshop.
Hosted by Joint Region Marianas, the workshop was held Sept. 8 and 9 at the Sen. Antonio M. Palomo Guam Museum and Education Facility in Hagåtña. It was an opportunity for all PA signatories to evaluate important achievements, assign tasks and review outstanding requirements since the signing of the 2011 PA, according to a press release.
The workshop was attended by representatives from Joint Region Marianas, local senators including Speaker Therese Terlaje and Sen. Sabina Perez, the Guam State Historic Preservation office, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz, Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Marianas, and NAVFAC Pacific.
The workshops held through the years have typically been closed-door sessions. This past week, however, there were some concerns regarding communication of found artifacts and the transparency of the process. Officials on Sept. 9 said this will be something discussed with signatories, the list of which includes local officials, to open future workshops to the community.
Rear Adm. Benjamin R. Nicholson, commander of Joint Region Marianas, in his opening remarks emphasized the significance of these collaborative discussions between the military, signatories and stakeholders.
“We are fully cognizant of the fact that these are important decisions made here that will have positive and lasting impressions on the island and region for generations to come,” he said. “These workshops are not always easy, and we understand the cultural sensitivities of our work here in Guam. However, the challenging conversations that have been brought to the table are important to improve our processes because it is through these productive conversations that we have – and will continue to preserve and protect the cultural resources of the island in the Marine Corps realignment,” Nicholson said.
Looking ahead, the Navy and Marine Corps will collaborate with SHPO and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to codify the parameters of access and to improve processes.
During the two-day workshop, participating parties focused on best ways to preserve, protect and learn from Guam’s cultural resources, and toured historic sites on Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz and the cultural repository at the University of Guam. The investment in the new Marine base is roughly $2.5 billion and the repository, which is near completion, is about $12 million.
Several topics were presented during the workshop including updates on archaeological work completed at military construction sites, National Register Nominations, future public outreach projects, and natural and cultural resources management.
The Department of Defense and the Guam State Historic Preservation Office continue to work together for the benefit of historic preservation. The annual PA Workshop is designed to allow parties to communicate effectively, work together, assess archaeological evidence, and come to agreeable solutions as discoveries and other challenges arise. This year, the decision was made to make this information available to the public.
“The annual workshop is specifically intended for the signatories, however, in the spirit of transparency we agreed that there is genuine benefit to the 2011 PA and to the people of Guam in making this information available to the community,” Nicholson said.
Organizers of the annual workshop have an online link for stakeholder groups and members of the public who are interested in observing the discussion: https://pacific.navfac.navy.mil/About-Us/Cultural-Resources-Information/
Additionally, JRM and the Marine Corps invited members of the media to a briefing and a tour of culturally significant sites on Camp Blaz.
The tour also included a visit to the cultural repository. The repository is not yet operational, and its rooms are still empty.
“We care about maintaining open and transparent communications with the people of Guam and members of the media,” Nicholson said. “We are extremely grateful and appreciative of the support that we receive from our community as we continue our mission in the defense of the homeland. Therefore, it is vital that we allow the public and media to see firsthand the progress being made to protect and preserve artifacts and cultural resources,” he said.
The annual workshop’s aim is to share important updates in accordance with requirements to protect and preserve cultural resources in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, and to enhance communication among the Department of Defense, historic partners and signatories to the 2011 PA. mbj