Saturday, February 3, 2007

Kudos to Roland Quitugua!

Photo Courtesy of Saipan Tribune (Jacqueline Hernandez)

Photo Courtesy of Angelo Villagomez
Roland Quitugua in the middle talking to Kagman High School Students
Unless you work in this field or in a related field, most of us probably don't appreciate a good arborist when we see one. This past week, I happened to spend two days in a Tree Care Workshop taught by an excellent arborist.
Several years ago, one of the local hotels did some major re-landscaping and cut down some Flame trees along Beach Road. This resulted in several irate letters to the editor as our citizens spoke out against such an act. I was newly sworn into office as a member of the House of Representatives, 15th Legislature, last January 2006. A few months into my first term, I began receiving calls from one of those irate community citizens complaining about the "butchering" of our trees. The usual suspects were our Commonwealth Utilities Corporation (CUC), our Department of Public Works (DPW), and, to a lesser degree, our Forestry Division and our Parks and Recretation Division of our Department of Lands and Natural Resources. But, ask the average citizen and, most likely, they will finger our CUC or our DPW.

In CUC's case, they are mandated to provide power to the communities. The response I received from one employee typified the attitude that permeated the CUC culture. When the issue of trimming trees that obstructed power lines yet preserves the aesthetic beauty of the trees was raised to this employee, his response was that CUC's only concern is to provide power -- nothing more and nothing less. In the case of DPW, safety is their #1 factor, so they trimmed trees that comrpromised safety.

However, for the Beautify CNMI! team of volunteers who plant trees all over our islands, such goals are not mutually exclusive. We believe that knowledge and appreciation of proper tree-trimming techniques have been sorely lacking, and that, with proper training and good old-fashioned teamwork, we can accomplish our mutual objectives. After all, we all live on the same tiny dot in the Pacific Ocean and we ought to work together to make our home the nice tropical paradise we all deserve.

As noted in an earlier post, my friend Captain Carl took me on several guided tours in which he pointed out several environmental hazards--whether man-made or nature-caused. He also made me sit up and take notice of a lot of tree stumps that litter our beautiful landscapes. (Like I said, thanks, Captain -- I think!) Ever notice those coconut tree trunks that line the road past Coffee Care on your way up to the Legislature? When someone decided to cut down the coconut trees, why leave the tree stumps standing? Why not cut the whole trunk down to the roots? Even better, remove the old and plant another tree in its place? Look around you and I bet you, too, will see other tree stumps that were previously invisible to your eyes.

Captain Carl would end his tirade with "We NEED a Beautification Department!" Are you kidding me, Captain? With the economy the way it is; with everyone shouting about a bloated government size, there's no way another department would be created. The chances of another island being created out of the next volcano eruption is probably more likely to occur first. (In other words, don't hold your breath!) Well, instead of creating another department, I created Beautify CNMI!

And because of Captain Carl's opening my eyes, Beautify CNMI! and proud partner RC&D co-sponsored a two-day tree-care workshop geared towards personnel from CUC, DPW, DLNR-Forestry, and the private community. Mr. Roland Quitugua, President of RC&D in Guam, spent the two days educating the workshop attendees on the importance of tree care and trimming. The workshop consisted of classroom time in the morning, followed by a wonderful lunch buffet, some more classroom time, and then on-the-field training. The first afternoon, we replanted some of the Flame trees that we planted in the early beginnings of Beautify CNMI! The second afternoon, the group spent time under the mango trees up in Kagman at the DLNR-Forestry facilities. Each student had a chance to trim a mango tree branch and show off his newly acquired skill!

I didn't see any evaluation forms other than mine, but from what I gathered verbally from the workshop participants, this training was well worth their time and effort and Roland Quitugua is an excellent instructor. He not only donated his teaching services for the two days, but his infectious humor and energy captured the hearts and minds of the entire class! Thank you, Roland!

Following this workshop, class participants indicated to me that they hoped we would have other more advanced training in the future. That's always a possibility. In fact, we need to continue having this basic course to train additional personnel. But, in the meantime, we will be planning a proper graduation ceremony to properly recognize the newly trained tree trimmers. Stay tuned for that one.


Beautify CNMI! for sponsoring the lunches and for helping organize the training workshop; RC&D Saipan (Ike Cabrera, Ken Kramer, and Angelo Villagomez) for organizing the workshop; Mr. Roland Quitugua and his assistant Eileen for donating his training services for the two days; to the Grand Hotel for the hotel and meeting room accommodation; all the workshop participants and their supervisors, and Rep. Cinta Kaipat's Office for the support shown.

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