NMI economic council says travel bubble still viable; no NMI COVID community spread

David Atalig, secretary of the Northern Mariana Islands’ Department of Finance, said the fifth batch of Additional Child Tax Credit payments will be disbursed to residents soon, which is close to overall completion.

“We are anticipating about $11.2 to $11.5 million in child tax [credit payments], so we’re almost there … a majority [have] been paid,” Atalig said at an Oct. 16 press conference.

Warren Villagomez, chairman of the COVID-19 task force, said the NMI’s recently confirmed three positive cases were among yesterday’s inbound travelers at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport.

“No community spread at this time and we’re continuing all efforts at the border check points, both air and seaports, as well as Rota and Tinian,” Villagomez said.

The NMI has 80 confirmed cases as of Oct. 16.

Villagomez also said the NMI’s personal protective equipment stockpile is being closely monitored as cases in the neighboring islands “continue to spike up.”  

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said the federal government approved projects for the Northern Marianas Housing Corp. via the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery Program.

“That’ll give our community and our business partners — our people — another chance to grow economically and start building infrastructures [in] Rota, Tinian and Saipan,” he said.

Funding from previously awarded grant funds assisted the NMI in its recovery efforts resulting from Typhoon Mangkhut and Super Typhoon Yutu.

Matthew Deleon Guerrero, a member of governor’s Economic Advisory Council, said discussions continued at a council meeting on Oct. 15 about the NMI’s plans for economic recovery, diversification and more.

“It was an opportunity to talk about sort of the steps have been taken over the last couple of months — some of the ongoing projects,” he said.

One of the ongoing projects, as previously reported by the Journal, involves renovating multiple tourist sites within the NMI.

Deleon Guerrero said the members of the council are trying to strategize, as well as utilize the private sector’s resources and insight to brainstorm a cohesive plan for the resumption of the economy.

The travel corridor, or bubble, is still a viable option, Deleon Guerrero said. “If any concerns arise, there [will be] mechanisms … to implement mitigation measures to roll back any of the efforts being put forward on continuing tourism and to contain any of the potential spreads — hopefully as unlikely as they are.”


Guam tries to contain spread

The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services will look to contain the virus through testing of high pockets of positive cases in the North of Guam and by analysis as to which ethnic groups are seeing a rise in numbers, through analysis, officials said at an Oct. 15 press conference.

According to information presented by Dr. Annette David, “The highest rate of diagnosed cases is among Chuukese and other FSM citizens and Caucasians.”

David said various means of containing the spread should be considered. “It may be important to consider a mitigation approach.”

Community spread as of Oct. 14 accounted for 35% of positive cases – down from 47% of cases a month prior, with household transmission rising from 41% to 47%, workplace transmission rising from 8% to 15%.

Art San Agustin told the Journal did not address the progress of tracing in response to a Journal question. As to how businesses could help stop the spread, he said that by example to businesses the Port Authority of Guam had conducted its own tracing.

As to the number of kits DPHSS has, he said, “We have 25,095 test kits on island.” Where an employee in a business had tested positive, he said, “We have collaborated with those businesses, those entities and offered testing to their employees.” That had been extend to family members he said.

Health centers are also test sites he said. Testing taking place on Oct. 15 in the Northern Village of Yigo was at no cost, he said. A pre-advance team was informing residents what would happen he said. As of the press conference, 78 people had gone through the testing and 29 had been identified as positive, he said.

As of Oct. 15, 86 individuals tested positive, according to a release that day and the island saw its 62nd fatality.


What your chambers of commerce are doing:


Guam chamber rallies significant support

The Guam Chamber of Commerce’s Oct. 14 CommUnity motorcade saw about 120 vehicles head off at around 9 a.m. in a motorcade. The long line of vehicles met additional participants in a silent protest outside of the Guam Legislature The event was supported not only by chamber members, but by the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association, the Guam Association of Realtors, and the Korean Chamber of Commerce, as well as island residents.

Photos by Justin Green


Saipan chamber names names; Guam chamber will soon

The Saipan Chamber of Commerce announced the 11 candidates who will vie for five places in its upcoming election, with online voting taking place from Oct. 28 to Nov. 2.

They are Ciara M. Ada, client manager at Xerox Corp.;James T. Arenovski, owner of Island Training Solutions and Delta Management Corp.; David L. Bush, general manager of Hawaiian Rock Products; Marcia N. Calvo, marketing and account executive, Calvo’s Insurance Underwriters; Joseph Guerrero, co-owner of Naked Fish Bar & Grill; Das Krishnan, food and beverage director, Fiesta Resort & Spa, Kevin McCale, enterprise account manager, Docomo Pacific Inc.; Michael U. Sheu, manager of Hong Ye Trading Co. Ltd.; Ronald Smith, president of Angil Design Inc.; Janice M.A. Tenorio, customer service and government relations manager for IT&E CNMI; and Shayne Villanueva, operations manager for Assurance Brokers Inc. (Saipan).

The Guam Chamber of Commerce will announce board candidates running for its 2021 board on Oct. 28. Eight seats will be filled by six directors and two alternates.


Military updates:

Guam gets a piece of the action

CAPE Environmental Management Inc. of Honolulu was awarded Oct. 14 a $90 million cost-plus-award-fee modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for environmental remedial action services at various sites within the Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific area of responsibility.  This modification brings the total cumulative contract value to $185 million.  Task orders and modifications will be primarily funded by environmental restoration (Navy); base realignment and closure; and customer-reimbursable funds.  Work will be performed in Hawaii (65%); California (25%); Guam (4%); Washington (1%); and other locations within the NAVFAC Pacific AOR below 1% (5%) and is expected to be completed by July 2021.  

No funds will be obligated at the time of award; funds will be obligated on individual task orders as they are issued. The contact was awarded by Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Defense.


Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard transition to HPCON B

Some Joint Region Marianas military installations are transitioning to Health Protection Condition B due to a steady decline in COVID-19 cases from a peak on Aug. 29. The Oct. 13 transition aligns installations with the Government of Guam’s Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1, which went into effect Sept. 25.

HPCON B guidelines include wearing cloth face coverings both onboard and outside of properties when appropriate social distancing cannot be maintained, outdoor dining at restaurants by members of the same household and the purchase of food for take-out consumption are not prohibited – in accordance with the order and local regulations, and  the requirement for personnel to remove themselves from any otherwise lawful social gathering where required COVID-19 mitigation measures are not being observed, according to Lt. Commander Richard Moore of JRM. mbj