GUAM RECYCLING FIRMS SQUIRM UNDER EXPORT BAN

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By Gina Tabonares

SAIPAN, CNMI (Mariana Variety, July 17) - Recycling center owners are poised to file a lawsuit against the government of Guam over a ban on scrap shipments, citing thousands of dollars in business losses each day and uncertainty as to when the ban will be lifted. Some 20 owners of recycling centers, mostly Chinese nationals, are feeling the crunch and starting to reconcile their books for their losses since July 10, when they were told to put on hold their scrap containers for shipment.

The shipment ban involving all outgoing scrap containers was ordered by Camacho to help recover missing brass plates taken from the memorial wall of the War in the Pacific National Park at the Asan Overlook. The businessmen said the legal action will be their last option should the ban continues.

Wagon Xiong, owner of Xiong’s Family Recycling Center where most of the stolen brass plates were sold, is consulting his lawyer on the legality of the ban and whether local leaders can stop business operations without due process. Most of the recycling business owners are wondering just how long the ban will be in effect, and why the whole industry has to suffer over one investigation.

"We are doing our business legitimately. When one made a mistake of buying a stolen item, why does the whole industry have to suffer? It is all right if it’s for a few days but it is already more than a week. When they arrest someone for DUI, do they close the bar or establishment, too, where the offender got his alcohol? The ban is an over-the-top way of solving the problem," one of the owners who requested anonymity said.

For Eric Hsueh, owner of Pyramid Recycling in Harmon, giving law enforcement a week to investigate is not bad but prolonging the ban is another story. "It is very inconvenient for us. We have to bring the containers back and forth. We understand that law enforcers have to do their job. We need to give them some time but I hope it will be lifted soon," Hsueh told Variety.

A worker from Chang Chin recycling which is also located at the Harmon Industrial Park noted the slowdown in their business since the start of the investigation into the missing brass plates.

The recycling firms are questioning the legality of the ban and the extent of the government’s authority, adding that most of the businesses were only told verbally of the ban while others learned it from the media.

"We heard that it was an executive order but we didn’t see a copy of the order. Some were informed by a trucking company that brought back our containers while the rest read it in the newspapers," another owner said. Xiong, for his part, was informed of a Customs agent while searching his scrap yard on July 10.

Bernadette S. Meno, director of Communications at the Office of the Governor, however, confirmed the order was not an executive order but an instruction given to law enforcers who are part of the team investigating the stolen brass plates. When asked whether the governor has an immediate plan to lift the ban with the discovery of most of the missing brass plates, Meno said this will be discussed with the investigating team.

The multi-agency investigation team involves the Guam Police Department, the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Twenty-three of the 34 missing plates have been traced with the arrest of Joseph U.R.M. Elibosang.

Seven plates were recovered from Xiong’s Family Recycling Center in Harmon, four were seized by Hong Kong police and were turned over to the FBI, while 15 more are in three containers and are still in transit to Hong Kong.

The plates are expected to arrive in a Hong Kong shipyard on July 23. Hong Kong police and FBI agents are ready to seize the arriving containers.

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