Mandatory on-line Guam filing of BPT
The Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation announced Feb. 12 that Business Privilege Tax for February onwards will need to be filed online. However, there will be an option for in-person payment of tax, since Rev&Tax charges fees for online credit card payment. For further details see https://www.guamtax.com/help/index.html.
The NMI budget, unemployment applications, state of emergency renewed and MVA re-opens Japan office
Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres advised the Northern Mariana Islands Legislature in a Feb. 9 letter to its speaker that he would be implementing the Reduction in Force of 180 employees, due to budget constraints.
“Despite initiatives that my administration pursued to increase economic activity such as the travel bubble with South Korea to resume tourism and increased federal funding through such programs as the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Relief … , it is doubtful that we will have enough revenue to increase the FY 2021 budget and be able to recall the furloughed employees in the next few months. To fully fund the 180 currently furloughed employees so that they may be recalled, it would require $5,688,239.44 for FY 2021. This is in addition to the 3% shortfall in anticipated revenue incurred during the first quarter of FY 2021,” Torres wrote.
“For this reason, the Legislature must gear itself towards passing legislation that promotes revenue generation and business development in order to aid in our collective efforts to increase government revenue and hopefully bring back all of our employees,” the governor wrote.
In a Feb. 12 news conference, Torres told the Journal he was open to discussion of what that legislation might be. “Unfortunately, we do need to change. I wrote the letter with an open minds.
The NMI government’s fiscal 2021 budget is $101 million. Its budget for fiscal 2020 was $233.2 million, but was cut to $184.8 million on Feb. 6, 2020, and cut again to $150.4 million on March 11 last year.
Both the governor and Esther L. Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. are aware of the CDC’s latest guidelines that say fully vaccinated individuals do not have to quarantine, even after exposure to individuals with COVID-19. While the NMI’s leadership will discuss the guidelines, Muna said, “It’s what’s good for the CNMI. … It needs to be evaluated.”
The NMI had not vaccinated 50% of its population she said. As for ultimate vaccination of the population, Muna estimated that “the best case is probably May.” August would be a worst-case scenario she said.
The NMI has received about 18,000 doses to date and has used about 12,970 of them Muna said.
NMI law was amended to require would-be residents of Pagan to register to vote, rather than fulfill a one-year residency, to apply for one of the 88 agricultural homestead lots available in that Northern island.
Torres said residents are also interested in returning to other Northern islands of Alamagan, Agrihan and Anatahan. As for Pagan, he said, “We’ll try and clear out the runway.” He commended Mayor Vicente “Ben” Santos “for an aggressive movement to bring back some economy to the Northern Islands.”
In other NMI news, the Northern Mariana Islands Department of Labor will begin accepting applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation due to COVID-19 for affected workers in the NMI starting Feb. 16 through March 13, according to a Feb. 11 release, for full or partial unemployment on or after Dec. 27 through March 13.
The NMI state of emergency was extended by another 30 days on Feb. 11.
The Marianas Visitors Authority re-opened its Japan office, according to a Feb. 10 release, with the aim of restarting travel in “summer 2021.” First actions will include marketing activities and travel trade marketing, with a view to establishing a travel bubble between the NMI and Japan, based on various scenarios.
Mariana Islands numbers for PPP continue to rise
As of Feb. 7, Guam had received 209 approvals for a total of $15.73 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans and the Northern Mariana Islands had received 38 for a total of $1.04 million, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration site on Feb. 12.
Business travel not expected to fully recover until 2025
The Global Business Travel Association’s annual report projects a 21% increase in business travel spending in 2021. “Most of this gain is expected to come at the end of 2021 as vaccinations increase globally and consumer confidence returns,” the GBTA said in its report. In 2022, the association forecasts further acceleration in business travel, including a significant pick-up in group meeting activity and international business travel.
While annual business travel spending growth is expected to slow somewhat in 2023, it is projected to remain well above historical average rates of growth of 4.6%. By the end of 2024, annual business travel spending is projected to reach approximately $1.4 trillion, nearly equaling the 2019 pre-pandemic revenue peak of $1.43 trillion.
A full recovery to pre-pandemic levels is expected by 2025.
The Asia Pacific region saw business travel drop by 44% for calendar 2020. Coming into 2020, business travel had seen growth for 10 years, the association said in its Feb. 1 report.
Aviation industry aims high
In aviation news, United Airlines announced Feb. 10 it has completed an agreement to work with “air mobility” company Archer as part of the airline’s effort to invest in emerging technologies that decarbonize air travel. Archer’s electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft are designed to use electric motors and have the potential for future use as an ‘air taxi’ in urban markets, United said.
United will contribute airspace management to assist Archer with the development of battery-powered, short-haul aircraft. “Once the aircraft are in operation and have met United’s operating and business requirements, United, together with Mesa Airlines, would acquire a fleet of up to 200 of these electric aircraft that would be operated by a partner and are expected to give customers a quick, economical and low-carbon way to get to United’s hub airports and commute in dense urban environments within the next five years,” the airline said.
In other research and development news, Hyundai, the City of Coventry in England and British start up Urban-Air Port have partnered to develop zero-emission flying air vehicles with electric and vertical take-off, to be used for passenger as well as cargo transport. According to the Coventry City Council the flying carport will be open for visitors in November. Coventry is 108 miles from London, does have a manufacturing base and will be one of the sites for the Commonwealth Games in 2022.
Guam vaccinations go smoothly after rocky start
Feb. 9 was a tough day at the University of Guam Fieldhouse, with the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services calling hundreds of people to the vaccination center and hours-long waits.
By Feb. 10, the appointment system which saw registrations on Eventbrite for one-hour blocks was again in place, although there were also walk-ins. Mark Scott, public affairs officer of the Guam National Guard told the Journal that the center processed 970 people on Feb. 9 and 1,352 people on Feb. 10. He said the center is operating “very smoothly.” Guam Guard personnel were very much in evidence. Scott said they were not alone, as staff from the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services were also working at the center, as well as UOG’s ROTC members. “There’s so many AmeriCorps volunteers here,” he said.
People receiving second doses were given priority across the island, to include at private clinics. Dr. Hoa V. Nguyen of the American Medical Center said the clinic received 300 doses on Feb. 9 and had used them all. “We requested another 300 doses,” he said. Nguyen said doses already on-island will probably be the limit that Guam will receive for the month. “The chance is pretty slim they’ll have another shipment in February,” he said. Nguyen said the island might get more doses in the first week of March.
CDC updates quarantine recommendations
The Center for Disease Control announced Feb. 10 that, “Fully vaccinated persons who meet criteria will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19.” There are additional considerations for patients and residents in “healthcare settings,” the CDC said. Dr. Thomas Hsieh wrote to Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero on Feb. 11 Guam time asking if Guam will follow those guidelines. Neither his letter nor Journal enquiries received a response as of press time, except for thanks for the information.
US DOI awards funding to Marshalls and Pacific islanders aid group
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs announced Feb. 11 it provided $5 million to the Marshall Islands as provided by Congress for “tax and trade economic compensation due to adverse financial and economic impacts under the Compact of Free Association.”
DOI also announced the award of $1.03 million in CARES Act funding to “help Pacific Island communities in Hawaii that have been disproportionately impacted” by COVID-19.
The funds will be administered by We are Oceania, a non profit that will liaise between Hawaii state agencies and families from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau, according to a Feb. 10 release.
Third US Coast Guard Cutter on its way to Guam
The U.S. Coast Guard accepted delivery of its newest Sentinel-class fast response cutter, the Coast Guard Cutter Frederick Hatch, from Bollinger Shipyards in Key West, Fla., on Feb. 11. The cutter is now expected to arrive “sometime in the summer,” according to Coast Guard Sector Guam. See “Home for the holidays: Second CG cutter set for Guam; third in training,” in the Nov. 2, 2020 issue of the Journal. As the Journal reported, there will be about 70 new personnel with the cutters, plus family members.
GVB sets April date to ready for tourism
At the Feb. 11 Guam Visitors Bureau board of directors meeting, Gerald S.A. Perez, GVB vice president, said tourism is set to “resume” in April. He said that this date means, “When they (the source markets) are ready for us, we are ready for them.” The call-to-action campaign aimed at source markets like Japan, Korea and Taiwan will begin as early as March. He said he hopes the marketing funds to reach these source markets will return to the amount of fiscal 2020. Fiscal 2020’s marketing budget was originally $14 million with an adjusted budget, after the pandemic began, of $7.7 million. So far, fiscal 2021’s budget is $1.5 million.
Perez also said GVB is seeking “financial support to jumpstart tourism.”
New board officers were elected to include Milton K. Morinaga, advisor for PHR Ken Micronesia Inc. as chairman; Paul S.N. Shimizu, corporate secretary for Ambros Inc. as vice chairman; Stephen Gatewood, president of Gatewood Enterprises LLC and Exporta Guam as secretary; and Samuel Shinohara, managing director of finance for United Airlines and as treasurer. Shinohara was board-appointed as the additional 12th member.
Other board members include Pedro P. “Sonny” Ada, president, Ada’s Trust & Investment Inc. and immediate past chairman of the board; Laura Nelson-Cepeda, director of public relations and corporate citizenship, GTA; Mayor Rudy Paco of Mongmong-Toto-Maite; Flori-Anne Dela Cruz, enterprise account specialist, IT&E; Jeffrey B. Jones, president and COO, Triple J. Enterprises; Ben Ferguson, general manager, Pacific Islands Club; Ho S. Eun, chairman, Core Tech International Corp.; Charles Bell, vice president of operations, DFS Group Ltd.; and Derrick Muna-Quinata, president and CEO, Monster Auto Corp., which does business as Guam Auto Spot.
Nation’s capital eyes marketing
Destination DC, the official destination marketing organization for Washington, D.C., and Events DC, the district’s official convention and sports authority, have issued a Request for Proposals for creative services to create a multi-channel advertising recovery campaign aimed at driving visitors to Washington, D.C. and “resuscitating the city’s strained hospitality industry in the midst and wake of COVID-19,” according to a Feb. 5 release. “Washington, DC enjoyed 10 years of record tourism growth before the pandemic started. In 2019, D.C. welcomed a record 24.6 million visitors, who spent $8.2 billion, generated $896 million in tax revenue and were responsible for 78,266 jobs in DC,” the release said. mbj