Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Awards Ceremony

We hosted a beachside barbeque on Monday night to thank the Friends of the Monument for all the work they did to support the creation of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument. We handed out "2009 Engaged Citizen Awards" to all of the members. Below are some of the members accepting their awards.

Ike Cabrera was the first award winner of the evening. Ike has been on four trips to the states on behalf of the Friends of the Monument, earning him the "Most Onepass Miles Earned" Award.

Heinz Hofschneider was given a "Special Award for Legislative Courage" for his early support of the monument.

Alexie wrote the Boon or Bane article for Island Locator Magazine. The article explored the issues of the monument from both sides. Since the monument is now a reality, she was awarded the "Boon or Bane Award."

Bryan Jones kick started our school outreach program. He also sent a number of photos to Washington, DC of student volunteers working to build support for the monument. He was named the "MTMNM Photographer of the Year."

Mike Tripp brought a tear to everyone's eye as he gave his speech after winning the "Canadian Heartbreaker" Award.

Laurie Peterka was given an award as the "Oreo and Angelo Babysitter." I will not comment on that award further.

Ken Kramer quit his job to work on supporting the monument, so he was the winner of "Best Sacrifice of a Job." His wife Monique was given a "Most Patient Spouse" Award.

Ruth Tighe was given the "Mightiest Pen" Award for her many columns and letters to the editor during the course of the year. Nobody can zing 'em like Ruth Tighe.

Harry Blalock discussed the monument on his radio talk show almost every day in 2008. He was the recipient of the "Best Radio Face" Award. His wife Kelli received a Lifetime Achievement Award for "Most Patient Spouse."

Jane Mack received the "John Gourley Smackdown Award" for her many letters to the editor refuting his many letters to the editor. This was the most coveted award of the evening.

Wes Bogdan traveled to American Samoa on behalf of the Friends of the Monument earlier this year to testify on Wespac's involvement in drafting regulations for fishing inside the monument boundaries.

MarjaLee Taitano was one of our most consistent volunteers last year. She came to all our meetings and helped us collect signatures for our petition. She's originally from some country in Europe (never really figured out which one), so she was the recipient of the "Best Accent" Award.

Cinta was awarded with the "10/20 Turnout Award" because of the huge number of people she recruited to come to the White House public workshop on October 20, 2008.

Gus Kaipat was given the award for "Best Use of Music as a Lobbying Tactic." When the Federal officials came to Saipan in October 2008 to discuss the monument, the Friends of the Monument greeting them in the lobby of their hotel. While the Friends lined the driveway entrance to the lobby, Gus was strumming away at his ukulele and singing. It was a magical moment.

Agnes McPhetres was named "Toughest DC Lobbyist" for the trip she took to Washington, DC in August 2008 and for her "strength of character" during our meetings with James Connaughton and other Federal officials in October 2008.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friends of the Monument on NBC

The Friends of the Monument were featured as part of a series on the ocean that played on NBC Nightly News during the week of Earth Day.

NBC also put together a piece called, "Voices from Saipan," that is viewable only on the Internet.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Final Tally

We're done tallying up the final numbers for the Island Wide Cleanup. It is funny to think that several weeks worth of work are going to boil down to a sentence like, "27,070 lbs of trash were picked up by 4,140 volunteers from 61 volunteer groups at 54 adopted sites." I guess that's what this kind of stuff comes down to in the end.

So those are our official numbers. Here they are again:

Number of volunteers participating: 4,140
Weight of trash removed: 27,070 lbs (13.5 tons)
Volunteer groups participating: 61
Number of adopted sites: 54

There are too many people to thank for our success, but my Thank You letter is a start.

Friday, April 17, 2009

2009 EPA Environmental Award

Ike and I accepted the 2009 EPA Environmental Award today on behalf of the Friends of the Monument.
U.S. EPA Honors 4 Environmental Heroes from Hawaii, Pacific Islands
Release date: 04/16/2009

Contact Information: Wendy Chavez, 415 947 4248

40 groups and individuals recognized for outstanding achievement in protecting the environment

SAN FRANCISCO -- During the agency's 11th annual Environmental Awards Ceremony in San Francisco today, U.S. EPA acting Regional Administrator Laura Yoshii recognized four organizations and individuals from Hawaii and the Pacific Islands in recognition of their efforts to protect and preserve the environment in 2008.

“It is a great pleasure and honor that we can recognize the innovative and important environmental work achieved by this year’s impressive group of organizations and individuals, and the example they set for all of us to follow,” Yoshii said. “This year's winners and nominees have made superb efforts to protect and preserve our air, water and land, and increased awareness of the environmental challenges we all face.”

The Pacific Southwest’s Environmental Awards program acknowledges commitment and significant contributions to the environment in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, Pacific Islands and tribal lands. Forty groups and individuals were selected from over 200 nominees received this year from businesses, local, government officials, tribes, media, environmental organizations and community activists.

The Hawaiian and Pacific Islands winners are:

Laura Andersen
West Hawaii Youth Fisheries Council
Hualalai Academy
Kailua-Kona, HI

In an effort to clean up local beaches, smoking was banned at all Hawaii County Parks in 2008. This was a result of several years of efforts by middle and high school students of the West Hawaii Youth Fisheries Council at Hualalai Academy. The council first initiated a law to ban smoking at Kahalu'u Beach Park. As part of a beach clean-up, they collected over 2,000 cigarette butts in 30 minutes at the beach to demonstrate the magnitude of the problem. They spent months doing research, gathering petition signatures and testifying more than six times before the Hawaii County Council. The students helped write the bill to ban smoking at the beach park, which was approved unanimously at every step. Kahalu'u Beach Park was the first smoke and tobacco-free beach on the Big Island of Hawaii, and Hawaii was the first county in the state to ban smoking at all county parks.

David "Buddy" Nobriga
West Maui Soil & Water Conservation District
Kahului, HI

Born and raised on his family farm in Maui, Buddy Nobriga has dedicated over 50 years to the conservation of Hawaii’s natural resources. In 1956, he founded the West Maui Soil and Water Conservation District, the first in the county. His passion for protecting the environment of West Maui has had lasting benefits for the watershed. In recognition of his strong leadership skills and commitment to the community and the environment, Nobriga was appointed to many state boards and commissions. Nobriga, now retired, provided the needed leadership on the importance of controlling polluted runoff. The EPA is deeply grateful for his leadership, zeal, guidance and solid support for advancing the polluted runoff program and his devotion to environmental stewardship.

Friends of the Monument
Saipan, MP

Friends of the Monument was formed to help promote the idea of creating a national marine monument in the waters around the three northernmost islands of the Northern Mariana Islands. The Friends of the Monument engaged in activities to help educate the community --distributing leaflets, conducting meetings, and coordinating with teachers for classroom presentations. The organization gathered more than 6,000 signatures on petitions in support of the designation of a Monument. The Friends sent representatives to Washington, D.C. to meet with White House officials, and participated in television and radio public service announcements and advertising. Ultimately, they were instrumental in the process that resulted in former President George W. Bush designating the Marianas Trench Marine Monument, along with three larger national marine monuments.

Betwin Alokoa, Karl Olson and Mercy Muña
Guam EPA Pesticides Program
Barrigada, GU

The Guam EPA Pesticides Program, led by Betwin Alokoa, Karl Olson, and Mercy Muña, often goes above and beyond what is required. They’ve been instrumental in preventing unlawful pesticides from entering Guam ports, being sold on the island, and applied to crops. Their notable achievements include completing revisions to the 25 year-old Guam Pesticides Act, and getting quick approval by the legislature and governor. They followed up with 14 stakeholder meetings to explain the new requirements, and their experiences in the field are reflected in the new, more protective laws. They’ve also increased the number of pesticide inspections at farms, resulting in improved compliance and better protection for consumers. In addition, they’ve trained Guam’s customs and quarantine officers to detect illegal pesticides to prevent them from coming ashore, have provided similar training for customs, quarantine, and health officers in the Northern Mariana Islands.

For the complete list of winners, visit: Beginning today and throughout the coming weeks, a series of blogs will feature several of the winners at:

Nearly 4000 Ready to Beautify CNMI

The largest island-wide cleanup in Micronesian history is set to begin in a few short hours. From the Marianas Variety:
4,000 volunteers are set to hit the streets and beaches of Saipan in what is expected to be the largest islandwide cleanup in Micronesian history, a media release stated.

“The support the community is showing us has been tremendous,” explained co-organizer Angelo Villagomez of Pew Environment Group. “We have businesses, government agencies, schools, and even families registered to participate.”

As of Thursday afternoon, 51 volunteer groups had adopted 48 sites around Saipan. According to Beautify CNMI volunteer Ken Kramer, “The cleanup we organized in 2006 had 32 volunteer groups. This one is nearly double the size.”

Deputy Secretary of Labor and Beautify CNMI founder Cinta Kaipat had a reminder for all participants: “Don’t forget to take before, during, and after pictures of your cleanups. We will post these on the Beautify CNMI blog and the two groups with the largest number of volunteers and most trash collected will win $100 each. We’ll use the photos submitted to determine the winners.”

The Division of Environmental Quality, the Rotary Club of Saipan, the Marianas Visitors Authority and the Marianas Tourism Education Council are the co-organizers of the islandwide cleanup. Supplies were donated by MVA and McDonald’s.

For more information on the how to participate in the cleanup, contact Joe Kaipat at 664-8500 or Angelo Villagomez via email at .

A list of all participants can be found by visiting

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Carnival of the Blue 23

carnival of the blueCarnival of the Blue 23 is now posted at Deep Sea News. I contribute regularly to this blog carnival, having hosted twice.

A Blog Carnival is a particular kind of blog community. There are many kinds of blogs, and they contain articles on many kinds of topics. Blog Carnivals typically collect together links pointing to blog articles on a particular topic. A Blog Carnival is like a magazine. It has a title, a topic, editors, contributors, and an audience. Editions of the carnival typically come out on a regular basis (e.g. every monday, or on the first of the month). Each edition is a special blog article that consists of links to all the contributions that have been submitted, often with the editors opinions or remarks.

Carnival of the Blue is published on the first Monday of each month. Topics relate to the ocean and conservation, hence the 'blue.' Next month it is hosted on Sea Notes, the blog of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

$900 in prizes made available to schools

The island wide cleanup that is being planned for next Friday was independently planned by three separate organizations. I wrote about organizing an island wide cleanup on The Saipan Blog for the Rotary Club back in January. In February I got an email from DEQ saying that they were planning an island wide cleanup as part of the Commonwealth Earth Day celebration. Then last month, Marianas Tourism Education Council (MTEC) contacted me to let me know that they were also planning an island wide cleanup in April. All three groups had been planning their separate cleanups for some time, it just took us a while to find each other.

When we found that we had similar goals, we immediately decided to work together (this is back in February) and started roping in other partners. Marianas Visitors Authority agreed to donate $1500 for supplies and Tan Holding, the largest employer on the island besides the government, pledged to have all their companies participate (three hotels, several restaurants, an insurance company, a newspaper, among others).

In the classic Beautify CNMI spirit, each group donates that which they are best at donating. I'm a great organizer. DEQ has government contacts and staff and trucks for hauling garbage. MVA has media people. Tan Holdings and the schools have volunteers. MTEC, MVA, and the Kramises in Washington have money. All our donations of time, talent, money, and manpower come together to make for a great event.

A big part of MTEC's involvement is giving support and financial assistance to the local schools. They donated $1000 towards the cleanup effort. They originally offered to split the $1000 equally between the schools and Beautify CNMI, but I asked them to change it to $900 for the students and only $100 for us. The way I figure it, I'm really good at scrounging up supplies and volunteers and if there is money available for students, better to support the students.

They issued a press release about their donation today.
MTEC Offers Top Schools Cleanup Incentives

Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) – Personal responsibility in having a clean tourism destination is being highlighted by Marianas Tourism Education Council (MTEC), as the group announces cash incentives for Northern Marianas schools that join the Earth Month Island-wide Cleanup on April l7, 2009.

In addition to $100 donated to event organizer Beautify CNMI!, MTEC is setting aside $900 for the Public School System to be divided among the top schools with the highest percentage of student turnout for the cleanup.

“Keeping our islands beautiful is an important part of supporting tourism, and we encourage all schools, especially those with MY WAVE (Welcome All Visitors Enthusiastically) clubs to have their students join the April 17 event,” said MTEC Chairman Ed Cho. “MTEC is pleased to support this year’s cleanup and help encourage a clean environment for visitors and residents, alike.”

Beautify CNMI partners Division of Environmental Quality, Rotary Club, and Marianas Visitors Authority are inviting all residents to plant a tree, paint over some graffiti or cleanup a road or a beach during the event. Cleanup over the weekend is also encouraged for people not available on April 17. Assistance with gloves, trash bags, and trash transfer are also available from Beautify CNMI!

Sign-up forms will be the basis of awarding the MTEC incentive. Forms are available from Rotary Club member and event co-organizer Angelo Villagomez at

A complete list of participants for the cleanup can be found at As of today (April 7), six spots have been adopted by eight organizations, accounting for 136 volunteers.
The coordination of the cleanup is going very well. As of 8:31 AM on Wednesday, April 8, we have 11 sites adopted by 13 different groups representing 591 volunteers. We are about 1/10 of the way there with 9 days to go to continue building excitement. I'm optimistic that we'll reach our goal of 5000 volunteers!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

More NBC Photos from Angelo

The Friends and the crew.

Agnes McPhetres gets interviewed.

Ike showing the camera crew the view at Bird Island. They're shooting B-roll in this photo.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Angelo's NBC Photos

Grille Masters Angelo Villagomez and Ike Cabrera.

The NBC crew with Angelo Villagomez and Kimberly Vaillancourt at Hopwood Junior High School.

saipan sunsetThe crew shoots the sun setting over the Saipan Lagoon.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

More NBC Photos

Friends of the Monument's Aya Matsumoto has photos from our BBQ with the NBC film crew on her blog, Isa CNMI. Just a warning - the blog is in Japanese!

Friday, April 3, 2009

sign up for the Island Wide Cleanup

I am working with the Division of Environmental Quality, Marianas Visitors Authority, Rotary Club of Saipan, and Marianas Tourism Education Council to coordinate an island wide cleanup for April 17, 2009.

The concept for the cleanup is simple: If several thousand people spend just a couple of hours doing something to improve the islands on the day of the cleanup, the following morning the islands will look pretty nice.

This will make our islands look pretty snazzy in time for Earth Day and for Tourism Month in May.

The coordinators are asking people, businesses, government agencies, schools, and homes to spend an hour or two doing a cleanup at anytime on Friday, April 17, 2009. If you want to adopt a beach that is great, but we are encouraging people to adopt the area near their place of business. Governor Fitial has agreed to allow ALL government agencies to participate during working hours. More information on that should be forthcoming from DEQ and the Governor's Office.

I hope you can participate. I've created a simple signup sheet that will help us track our activities. If you would like me to send you one, please email me at angelovillagomez at gmail dot com. After you fill it out, please either fax or email it back in.

Island Wide Cleanup sign ups begin

The first 50 people have signed up for the Island Wide Cleanup slated to take place on April 17, 2009. The Saipan Mayor’s Office and the Office of Personnel Management were the first organizations to turn in their sign up sheets.

The Office of Personnel Management has adopted the Garapan Fishing Base and has pledged to recruit 20 volunteers to help beautify the area. Likewise, the Saipan Mayor’s Office has adopted Beach Road from Afetnas to Koblerville and has pledged 30 staff for roadside trash collection.

“Our first two signups adopted the roads and areas near their offices. This is what we envisioned when we started planning this cleanup,” said co-organizer Joe Kaipat of Division of Environmental Quality. “We hope to get at least 5000 volunteers this year,” he added.

According to the organizers, the goal of this year’s island wide cleanup is to recruit at least 5000 volunteers to spend a few hours beautifying the islands, whether it is by picking up litter on a road or beach, painting over graffiti, planting a few trees, or participating in some other activity.

The cleanup organizers are encouraging participants to adopt a spot near their homes, offices, or schools, although some organizations will adopt beaches and/or tourist sites.

The organizers are encouraging the community to get involved as much as possible.

Event co-organizer Angelo Villagomez said, “It would be great if we could get a few families to adopt the roads near their homes. We want people to take ownership and responsibility for the upkeep of their areas of the island.”

The Marianas Visitors Authority is providing funds for garbage bags, rubber gloves, and some paint and the Division of Environmental Quality has pledged to assist with transferring solid waste collected to the transfer station in Lower Base. Supplies, if needed, will be available for pickup at the Division of Environmental Quality.

Division of Environmental Quality, Rotary Club of Saipan, Marianas Visitors Authority, and Marianas Tourism Education Council are the co-organizers of the island wide cleanup.

For more information on the how to participate in the cleanup, contact Joe Kaipat at 664-8500 or Angelo Villagomez at 285-6462 or via Email at