The CNMI Constitution has a unique provision that relates to the environment. Article I, section 9, in part states: “Each person has the right to a clean and healthful public environment in all areas, including the land, air and water.” This constitutional provision mandates that each person is entitled to a clean environment. It also mandates that the environment must promote each person’s health.
This constitutional provision provides that our air and water must not be polluted, and that our islands must be free and clear of trash, debris and other types of pollution. Sadly, however, the cause of most (If not all) pollution is man himself. It is us—the consumers, developers and construction firms—that pollute the environment. And although we have many laws, both federal and local, that are intended to control pollution in the air, on land and in the sea, many of us try to avoid these laws and regulations. We do so because we are lazy and because compliance with these laws is expensive and at times burdensome. A major culprit, however, is the lack of government enforcement of our environmental laws.
Pollution comes in many forms. The most obvious ones, of course, are the ones we see or smell. Nuisance is a form of pollution. So is the constant sewage outflow on manholes. So is the poisoning of our fishes, coral, other sea life, as well as oil and gas spills and other form of ocean pollution. So is the dumping of trash and debris on the side of the road or in abandoned areas. And so is the recent Rhino bug infestation killing many of the coconut trees in the CNMI and the apparent lack of an entomologist to address such infestation.
I wish to call on the Torres-Hocog administration and the newly sworn-in members of the 20th CNMI Legislature to please make the CNMI environment a high priority on your list of proposed policies and legislations. If we are going to foster and develop further our tourist industry, we need to put a special emphasis on our environment. A clean environment not only attracts visitors to our islands, but more importantly, it promotes a healthy environment for each person in the Commonwealth and safeguards our natural resources for our children and grandchildren.
We should never allow any development that compromises our environment. We should never permit any development until after all environmental concerns have been addressed and resolved in advance of construction. Otherwise, a development that is allowed without addressing all adverse environmental consequences will harm our people and our environment and, many times, have long-term adverse effects on our health. An excellent example of this is the post-war dumping of hazardous and toxic materials by the U.S. military in the village of Tanapag.
Jose S. Dela Cruz