CNMI PUTS HOLD ON SCRAP METAL EXPORTS

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By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Mariana Variety, Sept. 4) - The Division of Customs Service yesterday ordered its seaport personnel to put a hold on the shipment of scrap metal from the island.

In a memorandum, Customs Director Gregorio M. Sablan Jr. also informed freight forwarders, consolidators and shipping agents that outbound shipments of scrap metal will "be on hold until further notice from the secretary of Finance."

There are 15 recycling firms in the CNMI that ship out recycled products every day, and local recycler Eric Cruz said a huge stockpile of scrap metal may be the result of the hold order. This may have an environmental impact, he added.

[PIR editor’s note: According to a separate story in today’s Marianas Variety, an estimated 3,000 kilograms (6,614 pounds – more than three tons) of copper wire is being sold to recyclers and shipped out of the Marianas each month.]

Cruz, co-owner of Ericco/Maeda Joint Venture, which runs the Basula Produkto recycling center, said Customs’ sudden action indicates "panic." The move, he said, will affect even companies that have been complying with current policies.

Sablan told the forwarders and shipping agents that they are "in the process of coordinating with the Department of Commerce, the Department of Public Safety, the Attorney General’s Office and the office of Rep. Ray N. Yumul in the enforcement of Public Laws 15-36 and 15-55." These laws were enacted to curb rampant copper wire thefts that started late last year.

P.L. 15-36, or the Recycling Reporting Act of 2006, aims to regulate recycling businesses, particularly those handling scrap metal. P.L. 15-55 imposes a 45-day waiting period before scrap metal is shipped off the islands.

The law mandates DPS and Customs to check on the outbound scrap metal before it is shipped.

Yumul, Ind.-Saipan, has scheduled a meeting tomorrow with recyclers to discuss the collaboration between DPS and Customs on enforcing P.L. 15-55.

Cruz said outbound scrap metal should be inspected but the Custom’s memo "is not right and totally out of proportion."

He said P.L. 15-55 should have been implemented as soon as it was signed in April. This would have allowed Customs and DPS to find out who was shipping stolen copper wire. The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. reported that thieves took off with copper wire from a major water facility at Isley Field on Saturday. The theft paralyzed the system, cutting off water to residents of Dandan, Aiport and As Lito

After slowing down for two months, copper wire thieves have started working again, prompting the Federal Bureau of Investigation to visit recycling firms.

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