Tinian Divert Airfield to see delays; Tinian roadwork continues

Phase 2 of the Tinian Divert Field will be delayed until February 2021.

No word yet on awards for Phase 1.

Phase 1 – for which bids were due June 16 at Naval Facilities Engineering Pacific – covers the Cargo Pad with Taxiway Extension and Maintenance Storage Facility and Phase 2 covers the Airfield Development and Apron.

According to Journal files, there were three bids for Phase 1.

Delays on moving forward with the airfield work are due to the original design being overbudget, according to Journal files. Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific declined to supply a reason or confirm that, saying, “Information on this project is procurement sensitive and cannot be released at this time.”

According to Journal files, estimated amounts for these projects are $109 million for airfield development and $98 million for the parking apron.

 As the Journal reported on Sept. 25, road work that will improve the road system on Tinian has begun – with an Aug. 13 groundbreaking for the project through a Department of Defense Innovative Readiness Training mission … for the Marpo Heights Road improvement attended by Rear Adm. John Menoni.  Tinian also received a $335,000 Department of Defense grant through the Northern Mariana Islands Bureau of Military Affairs to improve roads on the island.

The grant from the Department of Defense also addressed a funding shortfall of the Marpo Heights I, Phase II Subdivision roads improvement project on Tinian.

Glenna S.P. Reyes, special assistant to Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres for military affairs told the Journal on Sept. 25 (See www.mbjguam.com) “The funding would enable the Municipality of Tinian to restore and upgrade island utilities and roadways within the road improvement project sites. The relocation and restoration of utility assets is a mission-critical component of DoD’s multi-phase Innovative Readiness Training project to address deficiencies that are critical to military operations for community-based response, military training requirements [and] to improve the quality of life throughout the island.”

The U.S. military has had a Naval Mobile Construction Battalion of Seabees in Tinian, which has been “supporting a survey for the Tinian port construction project,” according to the Office of the Governor of the Northern Mariana Islands.

 After the Journal story appeared, a subsequent Sept. 30 general release from Joint Region Marianas confirmed the work in Marpo Heights and that Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3 began “initial ground clearance efforts” Sept. 24. The Marpo Heights project offers “joint training opportunities … while providing key services to local communities” in the U.S. mainland and territories, JRM said.

In other military news, the U.S. Marine Corps officially activated Marine Corps Base Camp Blas on Oct. 1. Several construction awards related to the base, training and the relocation of an estimated 5,000 marines by what an Oct. 1 release from Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz referred to as “the first half of the 2020s.” Previous U.S. military releases have referred to a target date of 2024.

Recent awards include several architectural and engineering contracts, an award to Pacific Rim Constructors for the front gate of the base – from mamizu or Japan government funding – and an award to a Core Tech International-Hawaiian Dredging joint venture for munitions storage (See www.mbjguam.com).


BOS contract under protest again

The Base Operating Support services contract for military facilities in Guam of Joint Region Marianas was re-awarded to DZSP 21 on Aug. 12 as an eight-year cost-plus contract, with a total value of $545.31 million, with the base year in the amount of $48.58 million.

On Aug. 31, Dyncorp International protested the award. DZSP awaits a decision from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the company said.


Christmas Drop still scheduled at Andersen; exercises continue

According to Andersen Air Force Base, the 69th annual Operation Christmas Drop will still take place in early December.

Capt. Katie M. Mueller, chief of the public affairs office for the 36th Wing at Andersen, told the Journal, “Yes, we are still planning Operation Christmas Drop. It will look a little differently this year with COVID mitigation procedures, but at this time it’s still on.”

In 2019 the event was also supported by personnel from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Yokota Air Base, the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (Koku Jietai), the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air Force and volunteers from Guam’s resident community. During the drop, food, tools and clothing are delivered to dozens of remote islands in the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau during the drops.

The annual Citadel Pacific took place from Oct. 5 to 9. In 2019 the event was held in June. The exercise is a Navy installations-wide one, but each installation took part individually, according to Naval Base Guam.

Valiant Shield took place from Sept. 14 to 25, but was smaller than 2019, with about 12,000 personnel as oppose to 15,000 in 2019.  The exercise will now be an annual one, according to the U.S. Navy.

Maritime forces from the U.S., Japan, Korea and Australia met in the waters off Guam prior to that in September for Pacific Vanguard, with 1,500 sailors taking part, according to the U.S. Navy.  

In other military news, the USS America Expeditionary Strike Group departed Guam Oct. 2, following a port visit for “supported logistics” (likely re-supply) and in keeping with current military guidance to prevent any COVID-19 spread. 

Among the group were the USS America, the USS Germantown, and the USS New Orleans, together with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and members of Amphibious Squadron 11 and ESG 7.


IT&E in transition of iConnect purchase; examining staffing needs

James Oehlerking, CEO of IT&E; told the Journal IT&E is transitioning into ownership of iConnect during a three-month period. IT&E announced Oct. 5 the Oct. 1 purchase of Choice Phone LLC, which does business as iConnect in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, and its acquisition of iConnect’s wireless and push-to-talk products, subscriber base and technical assets.

As to staffing needs of the acquisition, Oehlerking said, “We’re going to work through the overall staffing plans with the iConnect people over time.”

Of the four telecom companies in Guam – some of which do business in the Northern Mariana Islands – iConnect is the smallest. It had early and continued success with push-to-talk – particularly in the construction industry. Its GSM cellular network launched in 2009 and its “LTE True 4G” in 2013, according to Journal files.

Richard Yu founded iConnect in 1999 and held the title managing director. Yu’s other assets on Guam include Choice Broadcasting LLC (which airs on FM) and real estate investments.

Guam’s telecom market now has three strong players to include Docomo Pacific Inc. and GTA. The telecom companies have developed highly competitive infrastructures and offerings. Oehlerking told the Journal, “In a market the size of Guam, there’s a high level of penetration.” IT&E said in the release it has 120,000 subscribers “in the region.”

IT&E and Docomo Pacific both do business in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Market share has grown by similar moves in the past.

Docomo Pacific – which formerly did business as Guamcell Communications merged with HafaTel when Guamcell Communications was acquired by NTT Docomo as a wholly owned subsidiary in 2006, according to Journal files.  

In 1994 Guamcell Communications had acquired Motorola PageTel Pacific – a paging business in Guam and Saipan. Guamcell Communications acquired PacifiCom in Saipan later that year.

IT&E first began business in the Mariana Islands as Pacific Telecom Inc. in Saipan in 2005, with PTI’s purchase of Verizon Pacifica from Micronesian Telecommunications Corp.

PTI Pacifica purchased IT&E in Guam in 2008.

IT&E is a business unit of Prospector Pacific (a subsidiary of Citadel Pacific Inc.) which also does business as IP&E and the Guam International Trading Center in Tamuning.


Mariana Islands prep for visitors:


NMI talks to airlines, wants bubble

During an Oct. 9 press conference, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres of the Northern Mariana Islands said discussions are ongoing with airline companies, such as Jeju Air and Asiana Airlines, to resume flights in the future to the NMI.

“We’re trying to come out with a package and propose that package to [the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.], CEO [Esther Muna] and the task force, hopefully within the next couple of weeks,” said Torres.

Torres also said he aims to bring in stakeholders for input on the proposed approach, which is focused on South Korean tourists. “And we’ll be meeting with more private businesses to get a hand into this travel bubble,” he said.

Additionally, Warren Villagomez, chairman of the COVID-19 task force, said he will be visiting Tinian and Rota next week to facilitate compliance of businesses and schools to the governor’s directives, as well as procedures for the General Election Early Voting period. The early voting period commences on Oct. 13 and concludes on Nov. 2.

David Atalig, secretary of the NMI Department of Finance said close to $5 million will be disbursed in the first batch of tax refund payments. Atalig did not provide a date for the payment period, but said the second batch is set to be disbursed within 10 to 14 days of the initial disbursement.


GVB plans tourism, plus end of year event

The Guam Visitors Bureau, during its Oct. 8 board of directors meeting, discussed aspects of getting tourism restarted.

Carl T.C. Gutierrez, president of GVB, said the One Fighting Championship, Asia’s form of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, would be coming to Guam in mid-December and live fights would be broadcast from the island. Broadcasting could garner more than one billion views across 128 countries, he said. This non-spectator event is popular in Guam’s source markets, according to Derrick Muna Quinata, CEO of Monster Auto, which does business as Guam Auto Spot, who is a board director.

“We will get huge exposure from this, and stick in the minds of people, in a time when we can’t really advertise,” Quinata said.

As the event gets closer, GVB will also put together “commercials” of the island and its tourist destinations, showcasing Guam for tourists. Gutierrez said the event is likely to happen mid-December, and that there’s a lot that needs to be handled before it can happen.

Gerald S.A. Perez, vice president of the board, discussed the use of rapid COVID-19 tests, or antigen tests, by the airport and for tourists. These tests are cheap and provide results in 15 minutes. However, the test is less accurate than the PCR tests the island is currently using.

The rapid tests can be done numerous times and would help lessen the amount of time in quarantine, about five to seven days. It is important to note that if the first test is negative, the test subject may still be incubating the virus, and can test positive a few days later, Perez said.

The board discussed that the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam has been reviewing, the rapid test use with the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services; and the machine to read the tests is already on island. The agencies are now deciding where to do the tests — at the airport or at a quarantine hotel.

GVB has been eyeing how Hawaii is re-opening for tourism on Oct. 15 – with testing in the U.S. mainland and no quarantine on arrival for those visitors, but the board discussed that even with testing there would likely be some form of quarantine on arrival for visitors.

Gutierrez also said beta testing for digital customs forms for Guam will go into effect late November, or early December.

GVB told the Journal after the meeting there are not yet revised estimates on tourism and arrival numbers for the future. mbj