Question of NMI certificates being accepted in Guam
When questioned on why some certificates carried by travelers from the Northern Mariana Islands indicating they tested negative for the coronavirus were not being honored at the AB Won Pat International Airport, Guam, at her May 14 press conference Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero told the Journal some travelers were tested using the serology method, which is not in accordance with Government of Guam guidelines.

The Journal was told some travelers from the NMI were required to go into quarantine upon arrival on Guam even though they were certified to have tested negative for the coronavirus. Such certification was created to avoid quarantine for travelers.

Leon Guerrero announced that former governor Carl T. Gutierrez will for 90 days be interim president and CEO of the Guam Visitors Bureau following the retirement of Pilar Laguana, along with his role as chief advisor of economic development. The governor tasked Gutierrez to develop a plan to rebuild the tourism industry as well as develop strategies to diversify Guam’s economy.

            Gutierrez said his priorities are to work with GVB and the tourism industry to develop a strategy that will fit with the other initiatives his economic development group has already been working on.

            Gutierrez told the Journal he believes Taiwan will most likely be the first tourist market to recover and be targeted for marketing by GVB.  

“Out of a population of 23 million people only 436 people got infected there and I think only six died, so we’re looking at that very closely to probably be the first area of attack,” he said. “The first thing we have to do is work closely with the governor of Guam and the public health community to make sure we have something to sell here before we start figuring out how to market what we have. We don’t know what we have or when we’re going to have it.”

Beyond the tourism industry, Gutierrez said that for the past year and a half his economic development staff have been preparing various initiatives to diversify the economy.

 

In other news:

USCIS publishes final interim rule
            On May 14, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will publish an interim final rule implementing the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act of 2018, which “protects U.S. workers” in the  Northern Mariana Islands and “ensures that U.S. workers will not be displaced or encounter a competitive disadvantage for employment compared to non-U.S. workers.”

“The IFR requires CW-1 employers to enroll in the E-Verify program with respect to all their hiring sites in the CNMI and elsewhere in the United States, and be a participant in good standing in the program,” the rule says.

The IFR also requires CW-1 employers file a semiannual report.

Other updates involve:

  • Requiring a CW-1 petition to be filed with an approved temporary labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor;
  • Establishing minimum wage requirements for a CW employer;
  • Establishing procedures for revoking an employer’s CW-1 petition, based upon existing revocation grounds in place for other nonimmigrants; and
  • Incorporating the definition of legitimate business as set forth in the Workforce Act, including the requirement that CW-1 employers enroll in and be a participant in good standing in the E-Verify program as a condition of filing CW-1 petitions.

All requirements are accompanied by fees.

Caps will also no longer be set annually, and are:

12,500 for fiscal 2020

12,000 for fiscal 2021

11,500 for fiscal 2022

11,000 for fiscal 2023

10,000 for fiscal 2024

  9,000 for fiscal 2025

  8,000 for fiscal 2026

  7,000 for fiscal 2027

  6,000 for fiscal 2028

  5,000 for fiscal 2029 and 1,000 for the first quarter of fiscal 2030.

 

FSM distributing funds to tourism sector
As of May 13, approximately $567,074 have been disbursed to 55 businesses throughout the nation. Recipients of this funding include 11 businesses in Yap, 18 businesses in Chuuk, 20 businesses in Pohnpei, and 6 businesses in Kosrae. Nearly one hundred additional businesses are currently being assessed for financial assistance, according to a May 14 release from the Office of the President.

            About 184 businesses have been affected. The FSM Stimulus Package is locally funded, in addition to funding from the Project Development Fund under the National Oceanic Marine Resource Authority and a grant from the Asian Development Bank. Economic relief is based on 75% of wages and salaries, plus 100% of Social Security and Gross Revenue Tax paid. In addition, the government is also assisting businesses with monthly interest of loans, according to the release.

            Tourism revenues in the FSM were about $43.3 million in 2019 and the sector employs 1,048 people. Tourism wages and salaries in fiscal 2019 were $5.72 million. Some 500 employees lost jobs in that sector, according to the release.

            GRT for fiscal 2019 was about $1.1 million. The first quarter of 2020 saw about a 30% downturn, according to the release.

            Details on the FSM Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program will be announced in a week or two, according to the release. A grant of about $40.5 million has been requested from the U.S., with an anticipated payment of $166 per week, backdated to Jan. 27 and due to continue to Dec. 31.

 

NMI to resume tourism; PSS receives funds
            The Northern Mariana Islands plans to resume tourism on July 15, according to a May 13 release from the Office of the Governor. Further details will be provided, the release said.

            In other NMI news, Gregorio “Kilili” Camacho Sablan, the NMI’s delegate to Congress said $23,163,734 in CARES Act funding for the Marianas Public School System is now ready for drawdown. The U.S. Department of Education in Washington reported to Sablan May 14 the transfer of CARES Act funds had been made, according to a release from his office. The Congressman confirmed the money was received and said it would be used for salaries and online learning.

 

U.S. military aircraft active on Guam
            According to reports from various branches of the U.S. military, military assets are becoming operational on Guam.

            Two MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft are now conducting training flights. They arrived on Guam in January, and are part of Unmanned Patrol Squadron 19, and support CTF-72, which is tasked with reconnaissance and surveillance in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility, according to the Navy.

            B-1 Lancer bombers are now flying from Andersen Air Force Base. They carry AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles. The B-1s have also been conducting various training missions, according to the U.S. Air Force, to include joint training in Japan with the Japan Self Defense Forces and U.S. F-16s.

B-52s left Guam on April 17, according to Journal files.

In other military news, defense officials from Japan, Korea, and the U.S. met virtually on May 12 and 13 for the 12th Defense Trilateral Talks. They discussed “the North Korean nuclear and missile threat, regional security, the coronavirus pandemic, and substantive ways to strengthen trilateral security cooperation,” according to a U.S. Department of Defense release on May 14.

            DoD is continuing to award a variety of contracts, including those for COVID-19 equipment.

 

TR continues to battle virus and clean
            The Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier is continuing to conduct cleaning, with another sailor reportedly testing positive and moved off the ship on May 12.

            The carrier is considering departing Guam with a smaller crew, according to a May 13 story in the New York Times, which cites crew members.