Cow manure defiles VA cemetery

Posted on Jun 26 2020


Cow manure is seen at the Veterans Cemetery in Marpi. The photo has been intentionally distorted. (KRIZEL TUAZON)

“How would you feel if you just buried your loved one yesterday and the next day you go to visit and you find cow manure right on his/her headstone? How does that make you feel?”

This is the question that Stanley T. Iakopo, executive officer of the Veteran’s Affairs Office, asked during a meeting with ranchers at the Department of Public Land in Dandan.

According to Iakopo, cattle manure has been a problem for months on end and families who have loved ones buried at the Veterans Cemetery in Marpi have called his office many times about this issue.

Iakopo said that he and his staff have visited the cemetery on weekends and weekdays to clean up the manure, which are from cows that have escaped their fences and are wandering into the cemetery to graze.

“If you know this is your livelihood, your life depends on it, you ensure that they [cows] are contained, that they are fed and that they have water to hydrate,” said Iakopo to the ranchers.

One of the ranchers, Jack Guerrero, expressed concern over the 60 days given ranchers to erect a temporary fence around the perimeter of their cow grazing premises that serves the purpose of confining their livestock.

Bonnie T. Royal, the DPL Real Estate director, said that the regulation gives grazing permittees 60 days to put up the temporary fence but Guerrero said this is too short a time. “The 60 days that they’re giving us is not manageable for us to really contain the whole area,” he said. “I believe we might need more than the 60 days to ensure that those fence lines are in there because, no matter what, those cattle will try to break that fence to get offsite to find food.”

Another rancher from San Roque also agreed that 60 days isn’t enough. The rancher stated that more than half of the people who hold a permit do not have proper heavy equipment that will allow them to build a proper fence to make sure that cows will not break it down.

DPL Compliance Division’s Gregory P. Deleon Guerrero assured Guerrero and other ranchers that an extension on the time to build the fence can be granted if the person asks for it.

Patricia Rasa, DPL Planning director, suggested that the VAO put up a temporary fence at the cemetery while they await the construction of a permanent fence that will be done by the end of the year.

Iakopo seems amenable to this idea. According to him, a temporary fence using mesh or some sort of material will help both the VAO and cattlemen to meet in the middle so that they will both do their part.

“The bottom line [is] we’ve done it through the regulation changes, we’ve worked together. Please work with us and I ask all the ranchers who are here, please keep your fences maintained, keep your cattle inside. Otherwise what is the use of a permit?” said DPL Secretary Marianne Concepcion-Teregeyo.

Justine Nauta | Correspondent
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.

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