TOGETHER, WE CAN
As we conclude our discussion on solid waste management issues confronting the Marianas, I can’t help but be optimistic about how today’s generation is vocal about our problems with garbage and making a move to address these concerns.
A recent video titled “The World is Ours”, produced for Miss Northern Marianas Earth Maria Terlaje’s campaign, encourages the youth to speak up and protect Mother Earth. Youth from across the Marianas shared their concerns about the islands they call home. Nine-year-old Zayden Seman described our environment as “struggling because people are throwing trash.” Sixteen-year-old Isa Long of Tinian emphasized the need to spread awareness and take action to prevent further harm to our islands.
The Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers hears their sentiments loudly and clearly. As we work toward the implementation of the universal garbage collection system and recommending best practices to improve waste management in the Marianas—the long-term solution to the problem plaguing our islands lies in the hands of our people. It also requires our willingness to resolve this “mess” by educating ourselves and others, taking responsibility, and following and enforcing the law on proper waste management.
The Marianas has an existing law on anti-littering, the Commonwealth Littering Act of 1989, that mandates various government agencies to enforce rules and regulations and penalize anyone who violates the law. Penalties could range from requiring the person or company that committed the violation to pick up trash, not exceeding eight hours per offense, to charging a fine of not less than $25 but no more than $5,000.
Unfortunately, there has been no stringent or consistent enforcement of the law, which the Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance points out as “necessary to send a firm message that these acts will not be tolerated.” The lack of strict enforcement of the law enables people to repeatedly commit violations, because they are not held accountable and backs the pervasive mindset that “somebody else will pick it up for me.”
Moving forward, let’s join efforts to accomplish the following: create more awareness and educational campaigns for our residents; empower more students to help lead the conversations in our homes and community about proper waste disposal and environmental care; and insist on Marianas-wide vigilance in reporting and citing littering violators. These are all critical steps in addressing the root cause of our garbage problem.
With adequate public education, we can be well on our way to becoming a community of environmental stewards and champions. We need to inspire each other to take ownership of our most precious resources, our land and sea. And to keep it clean and beautiful for generations to come. In the end, our children’s children deserve to tell their stories of how the generations before them took care of the land and the ocean by keeping them free of garbage.
I am certain that every hardworking public works or parks and recreation employee and PPP partner who has cleaned up the islands’ parks and streets and picked up illegally dumped garbage will welcome a UGC program. They’ve seen firsthand how reliable trash pick-up services and garbage receptacles installed at all public parks can significantly improve the overall cleanliness and enjoyment of our environment. We thank them for their service and recognize that garbage is all of our responsibility.
A lot of time, effort, and resources will have to be spent in implementing a UGC program, but it is a small price to pay to prevent improperly disposed trash from polluting our lagoon and exposing our community to health hazards caused by used motor oil and other commercial garbage dumped in the jungle. Let’s also not forget how improper trash disposal could intensify floods, reduce land values, and drive away potential investors and visitors that are the lifeline of our economy.
TOGETHER, WE CAN be a model for universal garbage collection and waste management and protect our beloved Marianas.
For more information, visit the GCEA on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy) or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Sablan is vice president of Triple J Enterprises, Inc. and chairperson of the Domestic Policy and Recovery Committee of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers. As an advisory council for Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, the GCEA’s mission is to improve the quality of life in the Marianas for all residents.