More than 50% of tourism destinations open

The latest update from the United Nations World Tourism Organization reports that destinations are re-opening for tourism. According to a Sept. 10 report, 53% of destinations “have now started easing travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

After analyzing restrictions up to Sept. 1, the agency found that “a total of 115 destinations (53% of all destinations worldwide) have eased travel restrictions, an increase of 28 since July 19. Of these, two have lifted all restrictions, while the remaining 113 continue to have certain restrictive measures in place.”

In accompanying comments, the UNWTO secretary general said, “Starting to ease restrictions on travel opens also the doors for tourism’s social and economic benefits to return. While we must remain vigilant and cautious, we are concerned about those destinations with ongoing full travel restrictions, especially where tourism is a lifeline and economic and social development are under threat.”

The report said that destination with reduced travel restrictions generally have high or very levels of health and hygiene infrastructure and low COVID infection rates. “Within advanced economies, 79% of tourism destinations have already eased restrictions. In emerging economies, just 47% of destinations have done so.” The report noted “64% of those destinations which have eased have a high or medium dependence on air as a mode of transport for international tourism arrivals.”

Readers can find the report at www.unwto.org.

 

Destinations continue legal action against administrations

Journal research shows that destinations that are closed to tourism that take administrations to court are having mixed success in getting their destinations open again, and sometimes not continuously

  • A June lawsuit brought by residents of Hawaii claimed that Gov. David Ige exceeded his emergency proclamation powers related to COVID. On June 15 Ige announced the lifting of the quarantine as of June 16. According to media reports, the plaintiffs included For Our Rights and more than a dozen individuals against Ige, the state attorney general and the state of Hawaii. Hawaii – which saw a resurge of COVID cases – has quarantine restrictions for visitors and EO restrictions for residents. The latest Stay at Home order was extended Sept. 8 until Sept. 24.
  • Legal challenges since lockdowns due to emergency orders have been brought in a number of states, to include Washington and Judges have had varied responses, depending on the grounds of lawsuits and other factors.
  • The Michigan Supreme Court heard oral arguments Sept. 16 in a case brought before it by medical providers.
  • In Pennsylvania on Sept. 14, a District Court judge for the Western district ruled the governor’s orders that put the state under lockdown, shut businesses and limited gatherings was unconstitutional under First and Fourteenth amendment rights, according to state and national media reports. Among the plaintiffs were four counties, three state representatives and seven businesses and owners. Previous litigation in Pennsylvania was not successful. The governor according to media reports lifted many of the restrictions after the ruling.  

 

Another Tinian RFP coming up; Guam contractor gets mamizu work

The next Request for Proposals for the Tinian divert airfield will be the one for the oil and gas pipeline in what is known as Phase II of the Tinian airfield construction. Bidders will need to be “capable of constructing an aircraft fuel system consisting of a harbor fuel receipt station, pipeline, fuel storage tanks, and high flow rate fuel delivery to aircraft hydrants and truck stands,” according to a sources sought notice, posted in August by Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific.

The RFP will require all equipment and services necessary, plus fire protection, spill control facilities and emergency generators. The pipeline will likely be the biggest project for the divert airfield.

NavFac estimates the cost of the pipeline project at between $100 million to $250 million.

A real time inspection is due to take place in Tinian on Sept. 17, according to Journal files, despite the difficulty of attendees reaching the island due to quarantine.

Bids for Phase 2 (listed as the second part of Phase 1 by NavFac Pacific) of the Tinian Divert Airfield were pushed back to Oct. 22 from Aug. 6. Phase 1 – for which bids were due June 16 at NavFac Pacific – covers the Cargo Pad with Taxiway Extension and Maintenance Storage Facility and Phase 2 covers the Airfield Development and Apron. According to Journal sources, three companies bid on the Cargo Pad RFP.

Pacific Rim Constructors Inc., which does business in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, was awarded a $36 million stand-alone Japanese-funded or mamizu contract Sept. 9 for Phase II  of the construction of utilities and site improvements, specifically the main and commercial gates at the Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz, which is next to the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Guam, just west of Andersen Air Force Base in Finegayan. Work is due to be completed by 2023, according to a Sept. 11 release from NavFac Pacific, the contracting office.

The work to be performed includes, but is not limited to, construction of a main gate and a commercial/tactical vehicle gate to provide installation security.

Pacific Rim was also one of five Guam companies awarded July 12, 2018 an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity multiple award design-build construction contract (or MACC) for construction projects “located primarily within the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marianas area of responsibility.” Work under that 60-month contract is due to end in 2023 and has a combined maximum dollar value estimated at $240 million in 2018.

A joint venture of CoreTech/Hawaiian Dredging Co. and Kajima Corp. was awarded a $149 million mamizu contract for the training area at Andersen in January 2019, according to Journal files.

Mamizu money projects for both Camp Blaz and related facilities are bachelor enlisted and officer quarters, headquarters, a fire station, a police station, a dining facility, a fitness center, school/training, public works/maintenance shop, the training range and utilities and supporting infrastructure.

A mamizu MACC pre-solicitation was originally issued in November 2018 but was reissued on an unrestricted basis on Aug. 27, 2019 with “full and open competition with the approval of the NavFac Pacific small business office,” according to Journal files. Projects will be firm-fixed-price, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity awards.

The earlier mamizu multiple award construction contract or MACC suffered multiple delays in 2011 and 2012, according to Journal files.

 

NMI renews executive order again

Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres renewed the public health emergency through another executive order on Sept. 14, for 30 days.

 

DPHSS authorizes construction to resume

“After reviewing operational plans and inspecting construction facilities to ensure that COVID mitigation measures were in place and the health of the workers were prioritized, the Department of Public Health and Social Services has issued a directive to authorize all construction companies to resume operations with the exception of those who were notified of a pending inspection, or need to submit additional documentation, before they may operate. This authorization is effective (today) Sept.15.,” the Office of Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero said in a release.

 

GDOL to hire 24 to assist with COVID tracing

The Guam Department of Labor is hiring 24 individuals to assist the Department of Public Health and Social Services with data collection and data entry, as part of the COVID 19 tracing effort.

Funded by the National Dislocated Worker Grant, the program is seeking individuals who have been laid off or furloughed from their job as a direct result of COVID-19. The department is recruiting 12 data control clerks and 12 community program aides for 6-month terms. Positions pay $10.14 an hour, according to a Sept. 14 release.

A previous grant was used to hire 18 maintenance and sanitation workers.

Applicants can register on hireguam.com, by uploading a resume and emailing [email protected] with contact details.

 

TakeCare and GMH reach agreement while auditors research $17.4 million

TakeCare Insurance Co. Inc. will pay Guam Memorial Hospital $3.22 million as part of disputed billing which resulted in GMH not accepting TakeCare members in March. TakeCare said no documents were provided to verify billings. Ernst & Young will act as independent auditor on the disputed balance of $17.4 million, according to a Sept. 9 release.

In other TakeCare news, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management renewed its Federal Employee Health Benefit Program with TakeCare, according to a Sept. 14 release.

 

Illegal fishers caught in marine preserves

The Guam Department of Agriculture’s law enforcement division apprehended four men illegally fishing in the Achang Reef Flat Marine Preserve Area on Aug. 3, according to a Sept. 14 release. Conservation officers confiscated 86 reef fish, one slipper lobster, miscellaneous fishing paraphernalia and a vehicle.

Three men were arrested July 17 in the Piti Bomb Holes Marine Preserve with 81 reef fish, an octopus, a lobster, two squid and miscellaneous fishing paraphernalia.

Multiple arrests were made in April.

 

NMI to send out PUL tax credits; NMI budget down by $100 million

During a Sept. 11 press conference, the Northern Mariana Islands’ Department of Finance Secretary David Atalig said another batch of child tax credit funds will be disbursed soon.

“We’re just expecting the response from IRS and we requested an additional $3 million [and] once we receive [the funds], we’ll be sending out those child tax refunds or rebates,” said Atalig.

Additionally, Atalig said he has drawn down an additional $19 million to be released “hopefully first thing Monday” on Sept. 14 for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance payments.

“We’ve already done our ‘pre-batch,’ meaning we sent out a test the deposit with zero funds just to make sure that the accounts are accurate,” Atalig said.

Atalig said there is no actual limit, or “ceiling” to the PUA total fund amounts. The disbursement period for the program is set to conclude by Dec. 31.

The initial projection for PUA and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation was $240 million, which was approved, he said. “Just like the stimulus [payments], if we have more applicants than we had projected, a simple request to the U.S. Department of Labor, showing the data they will forward the additional funds,” he said.
The fiscal 2021 budget for the NMI, which must be passed into law by the end of the month, is approximately $144 million.

“That’s about $100 million less [budgeted] than we did as we started FY 2020,” said Atalig. “We are projected to probably hit that as we see airlines and tourists not coming back. We’re anticipating … [that] we won’t see any tourism until the summer of 2021.”

However, Atalig said there will be no increases in components such as hotel occupancy tax, wages and salaries due to ongoing unemployment of residents. “And we hope that the program like the PUA will continue into the new fiscal year past the first quarter,” he said. mbj