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Saipan Chamber backs plastic bag ban, but raises concern over enforcement

By Andrew Roberto

Saipan (Marianas Variety)-- The Saipan Chamber of Commerce generally supports the "intent and objectives" of a Senate bill that would ban plastic bags, but they also have some privacy concerns, Chamber President Joe Guerrero said.

On Oct. 27, Guerrero provided a written comment to the "Single Use Act of 2023," or S.B. 23-42, authored by Senate Vice President Donald Manglona.

The bill would ban the "importation, production, distribution and use of single-use plastic bags in the Commonwealth."

In his letter, Guerrero said the Chamber of Commerce believes the ban on plastic bags is "a vital step in addressing environmental concerns." Plastic pollution threatens the environment, and the bill could be a "proactive stance" in addressing the issue.

"We believe that this bill represents a crucial step towards a more sustainable and environmentally responsible future for our community," he added.

However, Guerrero said there is a need to clarify which government agency would be in charge of enforcing the law.

As written in the bill, the Division of Customs is authorized to enforce fines and penalties. However, later in the bill, the Department of Commerce is named as the agency that may enforce fines.

Guerrero said the Chamber of Commerce is also concerned about a provision in the bill that would allow the government to inspect a business establishment.

Under section 104(b) of the bill, the agency enforcing the proposed law may "conduct inspections of stores and restaurants without prior notice during...regular business hours."

The bill goes on to say that during the inspection, the agency may "have the right to visit every part of the premises to ensure compliance" with the law.

The Chamber of Commerce believes that this provision may "constitute an overreach of privacy for businesses."

"We kindly request that the bill be reviewed to strike a balance between effective enforcement and protecting the privacy rights of business establishments," Guerrero said.

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