Cohorts of the 2018 Pacific Century Fellows-Marianas Chapter were given a ringside seat on what needs to be done to improve the CNMI’s infrastructure and how to save the environment during its August session.
Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance was the first stop, with program manager Becky Furey giving the cohorts a rundown of the group’s many efforts to keep the islands pristine.
MINA’s goal is to “establish an island culture of recycling to reduce marine debris in the region’s waters” with the ultimate goal of eliminating single-use items like straw, paper plates, etc.
MINA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of the natural resources of the region. It also fosters community and science-based conservation programs to enhance and sustain Micronesia’s environments and cultures.
MINA’s programs include Marine Debris Prevention, Adopt-A-Bin, Environmental Camp, and Tasi Watch, while Micronesia Challlenge-2020 and Managaha Marine Conservation Area are its two projects.
Bruce Bateman, board member of the Commonwealth Zoning Board, said that Saipan really didn’t have any zoning plan from the very start.
Saipan got started when the CNMI adopted the zoning plan of Cleveland, Ohio. Although not really a great fit for Saipan’s setting, Mailman said this got the CNMI going in sectioning Saipan’s industrial and residential areas.
He said zoning laws got seriously enforced with the enactment of the 2013 Saipan Zoning Law and the creation of the zoning board.
Currently, one of the goals of the Zoning board is the elimination of urban blight. Based on the Zoning Office’s count, there are a total of 54 blighted structures on Saipan. Rota and Tinian have no zoning plans to date.
The PCF cohorts then met with special assistant for Public Transportation Alfreda P. Camacho at the Northern Marianas College. That got the group on a road trip aboard the Commonwealth Office of Transport Authority’s bus to sample COTA’s first route: From NMC to Middle Road, to the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and Paseo de Marianas in Garapan, and back to NMC.
Camacho said that COTA is looking to open a second route that would run through Middle Road.
She is optimistic that COTA’s ridership would increase despite the competition from illegal taxis.
In a visit to the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. and Power Plan 1, the cohort learned how CUC maintains its power engines and how the agency is amenable to greener alternatives.
Talks with Division of Environmental Quality director Ray Masga and Richard Salas of Coastal Resources Management gave the cohorts an idea of how daunting the two agencies’ tasks are in permitting, monitoring, and making sure businesses are up to environmental standards when they build on the beach or on land in the CNMI.
Tina Sablan, who works for Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) but spoke to cohorts as an urban planner, focused on planning in general.
Sablan said that development shouldn’t only be measured by gross domestic product but should also be gauged through the public’s general wellbeing—a balance between work and play.
Earlier this month, former Commonwealth Health Center medical director Richard Brostrom shared his thoughts on the high incidence of non-communicable diseases in the CNMI: cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes, among others.
He said that prior to Spanish colonization, NCDs were alien to the islands. It was only with the advent of processed foods and inactivity that NCDs took hold on the islands, Brostrom said.
He said the CNMI should follow up on the success of taxing tobacco by enacting a sugar tax on sugar-sweetened beverage to have a fighting chance in curbing the spread of NCDs in the Commonwealth.
Brostrom, who now works for the Center for Communicable Diseases, also wants more physical education classes in schools and for private companies to bankroll sports competitions.