Proper disposal of solid waste on the island—especially those left by Typhoon Soudelor—became the center of discussion of the first meeting of reviving the people-centered group Beautify CNMI!
The core group, which answered former representative Cinta Kaipat’s invitation to attend the meeting, agreed that some of the problems that the community is facing right now is garbage left by those who spend weekends at the beach or trash dumped in random places by some people
Beer and soda cans, plastic bottles, disposable plates and utensils, cigarette butts, boxes, straws, burger wrappers, diapers, and other household thrash are the regular things collected during beach cleanups.
Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) said the challenge right now is how to keep one area clean and some people don’t have the money to get the services of a trash collection agency.
“As soon as you finished cleaning up one place, trash would appear in another. Either illegally burn it or throw it somewhere else,” said Propst, who together with Rep. Vinnie Sablan (Ind-Saipan) are thinking of possible laws that they could file at the Legislature.
“Funding is an issue when it comes to universal trash collection. The Mayor’s Office could not do it since they are also underfunded,” he added.
Sablan added that they would also look into increasing fines for those who will be caught littering and file more environmental bills. He authored House Bill 19-27, which aims to encourage the use of eco-friendly bags and to slowly eliminate the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags.
The CNMI also has the Commonwealth Litter Control Act or Public Law 6-37, signed by then governor Pedro P. Tenorio in 1989.
PL 6-37 imposes a $200 or not more than $500 fine for any person found to be littering and will be ordered to pick up trash under the supervision of the Department of Public Safety or any agency ordered by the CNMI Superior Court for a period of not exceeding eight hours.
It also listed that designated employees of the then Marianas Visitors Bureau (Marianas Visitors Authority, Department of (Lands and) Natural Resources, Coastal Resources Management Office, Department of Public Health and Environmental Services, Department of Public Works, the Saipan Mayor’s Office, and DPS as apprehending officers.
However, Kaipat said, the anti littering law and litter control education ran into some problems and opposition. “Some law enforcers think the fines are too steep and they don’t want to give out fines since they know the person who violated the law.”
Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan) has introduced HB 19-26, which hopes to improve enforcement of the litter control program and reducing the fines of $200 or not more than $500 to $25 and not exceeding $5,000. Both HB 19-27 and HB 19-26 have passed the House and are now in the Senate.
Commonwealth Advocacy for Recovery Efforts director Jenny Hegland, whose group has been doing village cleanups since October, said that there is a huge need of cleaning up the island.
“This is great timing [reviving Beautify CNMI!] because what I see is there’s a huge need of village cleanup. We’ve been helping sort out typhoon debris since September, as much as possible we want to get rid of these since they are safety hazard if another typhoon comes. We’re canvassing neighborhoods that still have typhoon debris.”