Monday, May 29, 2006

Letter to the Editor in the Saipan Tribune

Click HERE to read the article

In an editorial on May 29, William H. Stewart listed off what he thinks are the causes for the decline in the CNMI economy. He correctly identifies one of those causes as “lagoon pollution and ‘red flagged’ beaches.” But inexplicably, three sentences later he blames “burdensome and restrictive environment laws.” That makes no sense. If the lagoon is polluted, which it certainly is, then the environmental laws must be inadequate or not properly enforced. If the environmental laws were truly “burdensome and restrictive,” then the waters surrounding Saipan would be crystal clear and teaming with fish. So which one is it? I think we all know the answer.

Mr. Stewart is correct to point out some of the CNMI’s problems, for if we don’t know what the problems are, then how can we fix them? However, he mistakenly assumes that if there were fewer environmental regulations and fees that more foreign investors would create new businesses. Even if some foreign investors were to somehow benefit from relaxed environmental standards, which they won’t, it would be at the expense of the local dive shop operators and local fishermen. The way things are now, with our supposed “burdensome and restrictive” environmental laws, every time we have a heavy rain, divers are unable to go diving and fishermen are unable to go fishing due to the overloading of sediment and pollutants in stormwater runoff caused by poor land use practices and illegal burnings. Sometimes they can’t go out for days. Do we really want to make that situation worse?

The CNMI’s tourism industry and many local culturally important practices, such as fishing with a talaya or a spear, are dependent upon a healthy environment. With or without JAL, tourists will not visit the CNMI if the health of our coral reefs decline or if the Saipan Lagoon is too polluted to swim in. Money spent on protecting our coral reefs and our environment shouldn’t be seen as a hindrance to economic development; they should be seen as an investment in the future of the CNMI economy. It would be folly to assume otherwise.

Angelo Villagomez
Coral Reef Public Involvement Coordinator
Marianas Resource Conservation & Development Council

1 comment:

Angry Sicilian said...

wow makes me want to get on the ground and do some work to inform people