HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — “Are we ready to move? Are we ready to get Guam clean? Alright! Let’s go!”
And with that rallying call from Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, the Earth Month Guam Islandwide Beautification Cleanup started early Saturday morning.
The governor and lt. governor were among the several dozen people at the Fort Apugan site on Saturday morning picking up trash. Altogether, there were more than 1,000 volunteers at other locations throughout the island, said Krystal Paco-San Agustin, the governor’s director of communications.
At more than a dozen sites, volunteers representing government agencies, local businesses, community organizations and schools, as well as individuals who wanted to help were picking up trash — filling up hundreds of bags. The event was organized by the Islandwide Beautification Task Force and the Guam Visitors Bureau.
Among them were members of the Palauan Community Association clearing overgrown brush to get to some of the trash along a stretch of road behind Lada Gardens, Dededo. Staffers from the Dededo Mayor’s Office joined the group to pick up nearly 100 bags of trash and other items that couldn't be bagged. And that was just what had been gathered by 11 a.m.
“We had close to 100 volunteers today. Not just Palauans, but friends as well as neighbors in the area,” said Lewis Ilek, president of the local organization.
“It’s important for us to participate. We wanted to take the opportunity today to do our part. And for us this particular stretch of road is important. It leads to our bais (community centers).
'We all live here'
“We all live here on this small island we need to make sure that it’s clean,” Ilek said. He added his thanks to all the volunteers as well as Dededo Vice Mayor Peter John S. Benavente for ensuring all the trash gathered would be disposed of properly.
Guam Environmental Protection Agency employees and family members were at an area in Tamuning known as the Harmon Sink Hole.
While the total amount picked up by the island as a whole is yet to be determined, the Lada Garden road trash filled up at least two trailers. Things that wouldn't fit into bags will have to be picked up on Monday, according to the Dededo Mayor's Office. Out of the jungles, volunteers pulled out pieces of furniture, water heaters, washing machines, old beat up radios, used computers, old bags filled with regular household trash including books, folders, soda and beer cans, and bottles that used to be filled with sweet teas.
There were carpets and rugs that had unfurled and were nearly a part of the jungle floor. There were used diapers some looking like rocks as algae had turned the exterior a dark gray or black and grass grew around and on them. Old inflatable pools, hoses and ropes were pulled out of jungles and quickly filled trash bags.
The Guam EPA site in Tamuning filled up a 30 cubic yard bin with household trash and a 20 cubic yard bin with bulky waste. They found water heaters, a sofa, boxsprings for beds, flat screen TVs, refrigerators, a toilet, and tires among other large items.
Mayors staff went through the sites at their respective villages and picked up the bags filled by volunteers. The trash would be sorted for recycling, Paco-San Agustin said.
The last large-scale cleanup was last August, she said.
Signal to tourists
“Today really signals to the island (and) to our source markets that we’re getting ready to open up. And this is all in line with Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s … path to half effort to vaccinate 50% of our eligible population with the Covid-19 vaccine. (It’s a signal) that we’re getting protected that we’re cleaning up, and that we’re ready to open up again.”
Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio, whose office overseas the Islandwide Beautification Task Force, noted on Saturday morning that the cleanup is also an opportunity for residents to get out into nature.
“Today in celebration of Earth Month, we really take time to see what a really beautiful island that we have,” he said. “And unfortunately, the island continues to suffer from this litter problem. So many reasons why but the governor and I are up to the fight. I think between getting people to get up and move and to keep this island clean, we’re going to implement policies to get rid of this litter problem.”
The governor has spoken about mandating trash collection services, which means all residences will have trash bins. The hope is with each household equipped with a trash bin, the tendency of some residents to dump household trash illegally will be eliminated.