Telecom company to roll out “data edge” center

IT&E – in partnership with Turbidite – will launch the Turbidite Guam development project, according to a March 7 release. This marks the first in a series of key initiatives by Turbidite as the company will continue to “progressively roll out edge data centers in strategic locations across the Asia Pacific,” the release said.

Data edge centers are smaller facilities located close to the populations they serve that deliver cloud computing resources and cached content to end users. They usually connect to a larger central data center or multiple data centers.

“Over the past year, there has been an increase in connectivity requirements through Guam, which is the lowest latency point of U.S, soil to the growing economies of Asia Pacific,” William Barney, CEO of Turbidite said. “Increasingly, tech companies are looking for highly connected and secure carrier-neutral data centers to store their edge nodes. Turbidite Guam will build a central IX for inbound cables destined for Asia.” Barney is also a member of the board of Prospector Pacific, of which IT&E is a subsidiary.

According to the release “demand on the Trans-Pacific route will increase eight-fold between 2021 and 2027” and numerous new cable systems are being planned.

“We look forward to teaming up with Turbidite to build this long-awaited new facility in Guam,” said Lamonte James Beighley, CEO of Prospector Pacific. “Upon completion, Turbidite Guam will be a main anchor point to release the bottleneck we are currently experiencing in this market, enabling us to provide added value to our existing and prospective customers.”

The release said, “Design and planning are underway to convert the current IT&E brownfield building into a state-of-the-art 3 MW Tier III+ data center with future expansion to 10 MW capacity. The new facility will feature open Meet-Me rooms with fiber-on-demand to all current and future cable landing stations in Guam. Turbidite Guam will provide comprehensive value-added services, to support multinational corporations, large internet companies and other hyperscalers who wish to establish or enhance footprints in the Asia Pacific region. The new facility is expected to be operational in 2022.”

 

Taiwanese airlines plan for Palau; airline to debut IATA travel pass

A tourism bubble will allow both Palau and Taiwan to each operate eight flights a week between the two countries, according to multiple March 8 media reports in Taiwan.

For Taiwan, China Airlines will be allotted six flights a week, and EVA Airways two. Palau Pacific Airways will operate the remaining flights but may have to lease jets from Taiwan’s TigerAir, according to media reports. Only about 200 seats a day will be available in each direction. The two countries are reportedly considering rapid testing for visitors.

 Palau president Surangel Whipps is due to visit Taiwan in March, according to Taiwan media.

 

Travel pass taken up

In other aviation news, Singapore Airlines will pilot the International Air Transport Association’s Travel Pass mobile app for digital health verification, beginning with passengers traveling from Singapore to London from March 15 to March 28, the first airline to do so from IATA members trialing the app. Passengers with Apple iOS mobile phones will be invited to download the IATA app, and create a digital ID including their profile photo and passport information and can include their flight information, according to a March 8 release. More details can be found on www.singaporeair.com

 

NMI National Guard may become a reality

Following an initial study in August 2015 that found positively for feasibility, Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres said he met recently [the week of March 1] with Maj. Gen. Reginald Neal, deputy commanding general at U.S. Army Pacific regarding a National Guard unit in the Northern Mariana Islands. I think it’s time for us to make that a priority,” Torres said in a March 8 media briefing. Neal also visited Guam.

“I’m open to have it here in Saipan or in Tinian where we have the divert airfield,” Torres said of an NMI guard facility. In addition, he said, “I would like to increase the number of National Guard we have.” Torres said he feels that the importance of the Guard to the NMI is understood, even though the NMI “works collaboratively with the Guam National Guard.

The Guam National Guard was established in December 1980. It has about 1,500 personnel, from the Army and Air guard components. Mark Scott, public affairs officer for the Guam Guard told the Journal, “About seven of these are from the CNMI. They fly in for drill weekends and annual training events, then return home. They also mobilize and deploy from Guam.”

Torres told the Journal, “It does bring economic opportunity.”

Scott recognized that also. “A portion of the full-time support staff are from the GovGuam Department of Military Affairs – including the DMA security guards, some maintenance and logistic personnel and others,” Scott said. “Additional economic impacts of the GUNG may include supporting local vendors and contractors, supporting infrastructure like the [Army and Air Force Exchange Service] Shoppette and gas station and personal benefits to service members, such as tuition assistance [through the] G.I. bill. The supplementary income of our part-time troops may also benefit the local economy with disposable income, in some cases,” he said.

Torres recognized the relationship between the NMI and the Guam National Guard and its help during the aftermath of typhoons in the NMI. “During Supertyphoon Yutu in 2018, the Guam National Guard mobilized and deployed to Saipan to assist civil authorities with route clearance, debris removal, roofing and structural repairs, and more,” Scott said.

Any NMI National Guard would be built for growth, Torres said. The Guam National Guard’s first home was Fort Juan Muna, still a guard facility, but the guard has had a Guam Army Guard Readiness Center in Barrigada since 2004, which serves as home to some units, as a training center and more. The Guard also now has an aircraft maintenance bay and a helipad at Barrigada.
In tourism-related news, the governor told the Journal whatever happens with Imperial Pacific Holdings Ltd. and its receivership due to its debts in the NMI, the commonwealth aims to welcome tourists from China. “We want to encourage our Chinese tourists to come to the CNMI.” As to the gaming industry, he said, “I don’t want to make that the only reason.”

 

COVID by the numbers; NMI may relax quarantine requirements

Guam now has 35,260 doses of Pfizer and Moderna as it heads into vaccination for March, largely at the University of Guam Calvo Fieldhouse. The Northern Mariana Islands received 9,360 doses of the Pfeizer vaccine and 4,000 Moderna doses according to Esther L. Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., during a March 8 media briefing. The NMI expects 400 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine later in March. The NMI is also lowering the vaccination age to 50 as of March 8. However, Muna said, “We hoping to get more 65 and older.” The CHC is also trying to accommodate older homebound residents, she said.

Muna and Warren Villagomez, chair of the NMI COVID-19 Task Force, said the NMI may be “changing the protocols” of quarantine in Saipan – the entry point for travelers to the NMI.

“We are doing this cautiously and carefully,” Villagomez said.

 

The good news …

  • Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero signed Bill 36-4, which waives business license fee payment from Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2022 and allows for a fee credit for businesses that paid license fees prior to enactment of the act.
  • The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs is awarding the Government of Guam a technical assistance grant of $5.5 million for Guam Memorial Hospital and the Department of Public Health and Social Services assets. The grant includes $2 million for the purchase of a warehouse facility capable of storing medical supplies and necessary collateral equipment; $1 million for the refurbishment and renovation of the existing medical storage facility; $500,000 for construction of improvements to the Northern Regional Public Health Center to accommodate the relocation of the generator from the Central Regional Public Health Center, as well as to accommodate the installation of the new modular laboratory; $1.1 million to GMH for the acquisition of specialized medical equipment upgrades and to contract doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists; $750,000 for the acquisition of a mobile clinic for DPHSS to use for community outreach and intervention, inclusive of collateral equipment, and $200,000 for the Medical Transport Vehicles for the Guam Memorial Hospital.
  • DOI also awarded Guam $3 million in technical assistant funds for a permanent shelter for the island’s homeless, along with funding for personnel to operate the facility, furniture, safety equipment, and other essential items. 
  • The Government of the Federated States of Micronesia on March 5 provided the FSM Development Bank with $3 million for a small/microenterprise loan program, made possible through the Asian Development Bank. The funding will provide a minimum of 200 eligible businesses with interest free loans for two years – with 50% of the loans to be given to women in business.
  • GTA has announced the launch of the MultiThreat Security Bundle, to porotect against the compromise of sensitive data. Through Fortinet – a worldwide network security and threat management company – GTA provides Next-Generation Firewall hardware called FortiGate to prevent unauthorized internet users from accessing private networks. FortiGate blocks unauthorized applications and keeps networks secure as new threats arise. It includes Firewall VPN, application control, intrusion prevention, antivirus, URL filtering, Sandboxing, and SSL Inspection. According to GTA, MTSB protects with real-time updates, monitoring by security experts, and network surveillance 24 hours a day. The enterprise security bundle includes professional installation, managed network services, web filtering, blocked protocols, site-to-site VPN, maintenance and support, and onsite repair. For more information on MTSB, contact us at 671-644-0111 or visit gta.net/business
  • Atkins Kroll is aiming to replace more airbags in addition to the 7,000-plus airbags it has already refitted. In a March 5 release, the dealership estimated that are an additional 3,000 Lexus and Toyota vehicles that would benefit from replacement of faulty Takata airbags. The dealership is offering replacement at the Shell station close to Micronesia Mall on March 13, together with $20 worth of gas, 100 Pacific points (the Shell, IT&E and Foody’s award system) and a 20% discount card for parts and labor. Further details are available on akguam.com.
  • Shipping company Matson Navigation Corp. reported net income of $193 million, or $4.44 per diluted share, compared with $82.7 million or $1.91 per diluted share in 2019 at the end of February. Its chairman, Matthew Cox, said in a release “for the fourth quarter, we continued to see elevated demand for sustenance and home improvement goods lead to higher year-over-year volume growth in Hawaii, Alaska and Guam. For the full year 2020, Hawaii and Guam volume approached the levels achieved in the year ago period despite the economic challenges from the pandemic and Alaska volume was modestly higher than the level achieved in the full year 2019.”
  • Matson also released a sustainability report on March 1, focusing on “environmental stewardship; caring for its employees and communities; and operating its business ethically, safely and reliably … .” Both reports can be found on www.investor.matson.com.
  • The just-released first episode of Bank of Saipan’s financial literacy video series – Dollars & Sense” – can be viewed on Bank of Saipan’s YouTube channel at (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFY81FdlXu9p5rcKYamszcQ).

 

… and the bad news

  • United Airlines will pay more than $49 million “to resolve criminal charges and civil claims relating to fraud on postal service contracts for transportation of international mail,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice. United entered into a non-prosecution agreement with DOJ’s Criminal Division Fraud Section and agreed to pay $17,271,415 in penalties and disgorgement “to resolve a criminal investigation into a fraud scheme perpetuated by former employees of United’s Cargo Division … to deliver mail internationally on behalf of the U.S. Postal Service,” DOJ said. United will also pay a False Claims Act settlement with the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch Fraud Section for $32,186,687.
  • Triple J Enterprises Inc. announced the “temporary” closure of Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Garapan on March 13, owing to the downturn as a result of the pandemic. Triple J closed Tony Roma’s and Capricciosa in Saipan in July. The Surf Club and Grand Harvest Bakery & Café in Chalan Kanoa will continue operations.

See www.mbjguam – the March 8 Marianas Business Journal – for recent openings and closures in Guam and Saipan.

 

Guam governor details accomplishments and plans

In her March 8 State of the Island address, Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero detailed progress to date of her administration, as well as her plans. These include:

  • An unemployment trust – funded by securing no interest federal loans that can be offset by the amount owed in Compact Impact debt. “Congress recognized this in a 2003 federal law, and my administration, together with the Department of Interior and our delegate’s office, will fight for its implementation,” she said.
  • A system of online business permitting, with former governor Carl T.C. Gutierrez as the “permit czar” — in addition to his presidency of the Guam Visitors Bureau.
  • The Guam Air National Guard’s establishment of the 254th Space Control Squadron. “This new squadron will increase the size and strength of our Air Guard and provide high-tech training in space and cyber security-related fields,” the governor said.

In addition, Leon Guerrero said, “I am recommending that the legislature commit the first $50 million in proceeds from the legal sale of cannabis to end flooding in Tumon, invest in island beautification and cultural preservation, and repair village roads.” She said she is also ready to sign legislation that would provide local women-owned small businesses with a set aside — mirrored after the local statute that prioritizes service-disabled veteran-owned businesses and programs already operating in the federal government (Bill 71-36). The governor said she will eliminate the sunset provision of the Dave Santos Act, so that businesses making $250,000 or less in gross annual income will continue to pay a 3% Business Privilege Tax, instead of 5%.

She also said Lillian Posadas, administrator of the Guam Memorial Hospital will begin the process of regaining hospital-wide accreditation. “ … we are assessing a location on excess federal land for a state-of-the-art Guam Memorial Hospital and Central Public Health facility,” Leon Guerrero said. In addition, she raised additional resources for public health. “Under current Guam law, the Healthcare Para Todu Act requires the establishment of a pilot program premised on Medicaid for all. While this program hinges on an experimental waiver granted by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and may require a new funding source, it is the law of the land,” she said.

The governor referred to women-owned businesses in her speech, as well as Guam business licenses. Additional information is given to Journal readers below.

2017: 429 businesses where women report they have ownership, or 12.23% of the total of 3,508
2012: 810 businesses where women report they have ownership, or 26.14% of the total of 3,099
2007: 684 businesses where women report they have ownership, or 21.76% of the total of 3,143
2017: 592 businesses where women report they have sole ownership, or 16.88% of the total of 3,508
2012: 577 businesses where women report they have sole ownership, or 18.6% of the total of 3,099
2007: 406 businesses where women report they have sole ownership, or 12.92% of the total of 3,143

According to the 2017 Economic Census, in the Northern Mariana Islands, of a total of 1,742 businesses, 352 or 20.2% are solely women owned, while women have ownership in an additional 11.31% of businesses.

In fiscal 2020, the Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation issued 2,544 business licenses; 1,074 business licenses were canceled. Businesses that cease operation do not always cancel business licenses.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau economic censuses of 2007, 2012 and 2017, Journal files and the Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation

 

Abortion lawsuit partially settled

In a ruling, the District Court of Guam approved a partial settlement in a lawsuit that claimed two Guam laws block access to legal abortions in the island. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two Guam-licensed board-certified OBGYNs based in Hawaii, who are seeking to provide abortion medication, with telemedical guidance to patients in Guam.

According to legal documents, the settlement ensures that one of the two laws challenged in the filing – a 1978 law – cannot be cited to restrict access to medication abortion.

On March 8, the Office of the Attorney General in Guam announced that he had filed opposition to the ACLU’s challenge to Guam’s 2012 law requiring a woman seeking an abortion to meet in person to discuss topics related to abortion. The case will continue on March 18 on this part of the lawsuit.

Guam currently does not have a doctor on-island who can perform abortions, necessitating women to travel off-island for treatment in Hawaii, which comes at significant cost. mbj