December 24, 2021
Last week’s Trash Talk column discussed how trash is everybody’s business. Similarly coined is the Marianas Visitors Authority’s core message: Tourism is everybody’s business. Littering and illegal dumping have, and continue to, affect our tourism product, our industry, and our destination. In many ways, our stake as a community to do something about our garbage issues will directly impact our tourism industry, our main economic driver.
The Marianas Visitors Authority (MVA) is mandated by law to promote the Marianas. In addition to promoting our unique cultures, traditions, and history, the MVA also promotes the pristine and treasured sites throughout the Marianas such as the Grotto, Mañagaha Island, House of Taga, Chenchun Bird Sanctuary, and our beaches. These are our natural wonders that must be preserved, maintained, and actively protected. Everyone – residents and visitors – are equally responsible for upholding our islands and ensuring that it is kept clean and free of litter.
Unfortunately, as we may have all experienced firsthand, many of our tourist sites suffer from litter caused either by insufficient garbage bins or complete neglect. People who use the sites do not take responsibility for properly disposing of their trash. Uncontrolled waste disposal and floating debris in our beaches are visible threats to our islands’ reputation as a clean destination.
Our visitors look forward to experiencing a tropical climate destination that is safe and clean. If the Marianas continues to mishandle its garbage, we could lose our position as a premier destination of choice. Consequently, our visitor arrivals will decrease, businesses will close, investors will be driven away, unemployment rates would rise, and ultimately, our people will suffer.
The MVA supports and sees the benefits of having a Universal Garbage Collection (UGC) system throughout the Marianas. A UGC program will support the vision of transforming our islands into world-class destinations. With UGC, we would be able to better preserve our natural treasures and keep them clean for all to explore and enjoy. We would help save our precious marine life by keeping garbage out of the ocean and responsibly recycling materials. We would create a safer environment for all to live in and visit by responsibly keeping garbage from contaminating our natural resources.
UGC will help make tourism more sustainable. The countless benefits pave a path to improving our economy while also improving our quality of life. Having a clean and beautiful environment will also make the Marianas a better place to live. I commend the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers and its Public Private Partnership program for inspiring the community to take ownership and action. The PPP partners who clean and transform our sites need a UGC infrastructure to help keep the parks and beaches free of debris. Community volunteers work proudly to keep the villages and streets clean, but they too, see the benefit of a UGC program. It all works together for the betterment of our community.
Building the Marianas to become a world-class destination will require a partnership among all who call the islands home. We need to improve how garbage is handled throughout the Commonwealth, because we know what’s at stake – our priceless natural treasures that are our livelihood and our home. UGC is right for the Marianas. It’s time for us to take the next step for our future.
By Priscilla Maratita Iakopo, Guest Columnist
Priscilla Maratita Iakopo is the Managing Director of the Marianas Visitors Authority. She leads the promotion and development of the Northern Mariana Islands as a premier destination of choice for visitors around the world while providing a maximum quality of life for the people of the Marianas.