Stalled cleanup raises hackles


House lawmakers on Tuesday sought an update from Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang and Department of Public Works Secretary James Ada on reported delays in the islandwide cleanup, some four months after Typhoon Soudelor laid shambles to Saipan.

Some lawmakers asked why a private contract needed to be issued for this cleanup, but Ada tossed that hot potato to federal officials for denying a contract that was signed since August.

Apatang said he gets calls everyday about uncollected debris such as roofing tin, wood, green waste, and others.

Employees of the Saipan Mayor’s Office have been moving debris to the side of roads “for pick up later,” according to Apatang, in advance of more comprehensive cleanups.

Apatang says they need more equipment like dump trucks, backhoes, and payloads.

Considering the handful of other typhoons that hit the Marianas this year, lawmakers are concerned that an approaching storm could wash these piles away.

“We are going to hit those roads,” Ada assured.

Rep. Antonio Sablan (Ind-Saipan) also questioned why they needed to award a contract for the island cleanup. He said they have two government agencies ready to keep the community safe.

“Is there a reason why everything needs to stop because of the contract?” He noted the immediate “mobilization” after the storm, even with “no contract.”

Sablan asked for a definite response on how the issue is being approached, so they could “get beyond this stalemate” over “a paper to be signed.”

Apatang said they “were told to halt [the cleanup] because a contract was going to be issued” by the secretary of the Department of Public Works.

He said they are just waiting for the “go ahead” and are “ready to march.”

Referring to this contract, Ada said they are “back to square one.”

He said the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s main office in Washington, D.C. was giving them the “run around.”

“And I can be quoted on that,” he said.

He said the contract was signed in August but was not approved by FEMA officials.

Joan Aquino, the mayor’s field operations director, said that FEMA had said at the beginning that about $1.9 million was available for the cleanup but in a meeting last week, they were informed that only $625,000 is available.

“That is all they are willing to reimburse,” she said.

Ada also blasted FEMA’s estimate that there were 10,000 tons of debris on island.

“There is more… You are going to come here and tell us what to do?” he asked, noting that official inspectors didn’t even know where Judge Kenneth Govendo’s house was.

“They are guesstimating,” Rep. Joseph Leepan Guerrero (R-Saipan) said.

Rep. Edwin Propst (Ind-Saipan) also noted that during his community cleanup efforts, he’s noticed “everybody is waiting for our government to step in.”

“I am waiting for constituents to step in” as well, he said.

Dennis B. Chan | Reporter
Dennis Chan covers education, environment, utilities, and air and seaport issues in the CNMI. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Guam. Contact him at

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