Military exercise continues to Jan. 31

Exercise Sea Dragon 2021, which began Jan. 8, will continue until Jan. 31 – also offering island hotels some much needed revenue as they accommodate Navy and Air Force participants from Australia, Canada, India and Japan, according to a Jan. 8 release from Joint Region Marianas. The annual event is hosted at Andersen Air Force Base and has expanded in recent years. JRM did not say how many personnel are participating.

In other military news, the USS Topeka submarine will leave Guam to homeport in Hawaii, according to a Jan. 8 release. A replacement for the Topeka in Guam was not announced. The USS Asheville, the USS Oklahoma City; and the USS Key West remain in Guam as part of Submarine Squadron 15.


Docomo gets $3 million-plus in FCC funding for NMI development

Docomo Pacific Inc. received $3.71 million in Federal Communication Rural Development Opportunity funding for the Northern Mariana Islands in December, which the telecom provider confirmed in a Jan. 11 release.

A variety of companies bid on the opportunity for funds to expand broadband to businesses and homes in a variety of locations in the U.S. Hawaii was the only other non-mainland location that received funds.

The funds will allow Docomo to improve connectivity in Saipan, Rota and Tinian in 530 locations at a minimum speed of at least 25mbps.

Total funding for 180 bidders was $9.2 billion for this phase out of a potential $16 billion, with the rest of the money rolled over for Phase 2.


Pandemic activities lead to increased shipping volume

Matson Navigation Co. announced Jan. 11 it expects fourth quarter 2020 operating income for ocean transportation of $100 million to $105 million and logistics operating income of $8 million to 9 million. Fourth quarter 2020 net income is expected to be $81.6 million the shipping company said.

Guam volume was 4.2% higher, primarily due to demand for “sustenance and home improvement goods, partially offset by lower tourism activity as a result of the pandemic,” Matson said. Other containers volume [in Micronesia, the South Pacific and Okinawa] increased 16.7%.


If at first you don’t succeed …

The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services will hold vaccination clinics on Jan. 12 and Jan. 13 for residents between 60 and 74 years of age. Five hundred people will receive tickets for vaccinations each day, though the system will still be first come, first served.

Thousands of Guam’s senior citizens or manamko lined up for several hours in cars to receive vaccinations at Okkodo High School in Dededo, on Jan. 7 and Jan. 8, with the majority turned away.

A Guam contractor told the Journal that at a conservative calculation, about 1,200 manamko were turned away Jan. 8.

The Mobil gas station closest to the school allowed manamko to use its rest rooms. Other manamko took to the vegetation to relieve themselves.

Additional vaccinations will also take place at the Southern Region Community Health Center in Inarajan from Jan. 13 to Jan. 15.

DPHSS has not yet advised which private clinics will be able to dispense the vaccine to their patients.

As of Jan. 10, Guam had given 10,014 vaccinations.  

Meanwhile in Saipan on a Jan. 8 media call, Esther Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Healthcare Center reminded people to keep their vaccination appointments. Saipan has an appointment system for those receiving vaccinations.

The U.S. Department of Defense advised Jan. 12 (CHamoru standard time) that it distributed 3.3 million additional vaccines, bringing the total number of vaccine doses distributed to 25,697,500 through Operation Warp Speed.

In other COVID-19 news, a crew member of the MV Chief Mailo tested positive on Jan. 7.  The ship is a government of the Federated States of Micronesia cargo and passenger vessel that returned Jan. 6 to the FSM after repair in the Philippines. All crew are quarantined aboard and have 24-7 security, according to a Jan. 8 release.


SBA PPP program starts; military getting stimulus money

The U.S. Small Business Administration advised that the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program will begin from Jan. 11.

“To promote access to capital, initially only community financial institutions will be able to make First Draw PPP Loans on Monday, January 11, and Second Draw PPP Loans on Wednesday, January 13.  The PPP will open to all participating lenders shortly thereafter,” a release said. This round allocates up to $284 billion toward job retention and certain other expenses through March 31, 2021 and allows existing PPP borrowers to apply for a Second Draw PPP Loan.

U.S. military personnel in Guam have already begun receiving second individual stimulus checks, according to Journal sources.


SCOTUS to hear Guam’s $160 million case

The Supreme Court of the United States has granted certiorari and accepted Guam’s case that seeks to hold the U.S. Navy accountable for their share of dumping toxic waste at Ordot Dump and a clean-up bill of $160 million.

Guam and the U.S. will submit briefs on the merits of the case. Oral arguments are likely to take place in April, according to a Jan. 8 release from the Office of the Attorney General. In 2017, Guam sued the U.S. Navy as a “potential responsible party,” requesting they be held liable for remedial action under Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. The U.S. sued Guam in 2002 under the Clean Water Act, and the parties settled in 2004 with a consent decree that required Guam to pay a penalty, close the dump, stop polluting and build a replacement landfill. 

Guam took over the dump from the Navy in the 1950s. mbj