Jeju Air to resume flights to NMI

Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres confirmed to the Journal that Jeju Air will begin flying to Saipan again in the near future.  “We’re hoping to have a set date and I look forward to working with them,” he said at a news conference on April 23.

Korean media reported yesterday that the airline will begin flying to Saipan in late May and is awaiting permission from the Korean Ministry of Transport to resume flights from May 28.

According to Journal files, in February 2020, Torres led a delegation that met with the top leadership of the travel industry in Korea that included Jeju Air Asiana Airlines, T’way, Jeju Air, Hana Tour Service Inc. and Mode Tour.

In related news, Esther L. Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Health Corp., said, “We are considering easing some of the restrictions.” She said more definite news would be available in the coming days.  “We’re looking at how do we adjust this. … It’s a slow process to opening up the CNMI, versus opening it up all at once.”

The Northern Mariana Islands has fully vaccinated 43.8% of residents or “almost 17,000,” she said.

The NMI is vaccinating from age 16 and above. Of the younger population she said, “We were seeing a lot. It seems to be going through a plateau.” CHC is working with the Northern Marianas College she said. Residents 65 and above were still coming in. The CHC will be opening a second vaccination location at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe for residents in the south of Saipan.

Torres and David DLG Atalig talked about funding from the American Recovery Plan Act during the news conference. The deadline for transfer of funds is May 10.  

Torres said his priorities include tourist market bonds and universal garbage collection, ensuring government employees have full work weeks and taking care of retirement funds.

Additionally, he would like to ensure municipalities receive funding for special projects that would for example promote farming and cattle ranching in Rota and fishing in the Northern Islands.

The NMI is still awaiting to hear on how to submit ARP Act information. Atalig said, “I expect the U.S. Treasury to come up with some guidelines.”

Autonomous agencies will receive funding directly, he told the Journal, with the Public School System due to receive $160 million. “We have out work sheets,” he said on other “financial aid” funding to the NMI. That funding which comes to the commonwealth through Subtitle M, which covers local fiscal recovery funds he estimated at $483 million, plus capital improvement project funding. “Those are not set numbers,” he said.

 

Will Guam “open” on May 1?

The answer is a definite maybe.

Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero said, “We are still in the process of re-opening.” However, she said, “We are continuously monitoring our situation with COVID-19. … We are still on the ‘path to half.’” Speaking at an April 22 press conference, the governor was referring to having half of the population vaccinated.

Figures presented at the press conference showed that with 49,291 residents fully vaccinated, plus 7,852 full military vaccinations for a total of 57,143 or 45.5% – the island is close to a target of 62,500.

Towards the end of the press conference, Leon Guerrero said she would confirm “three or four days before it’s effective,” whether the island will “open” on May 1, which would be in a matter of days. 

The focus of the conference was a rise in the CARS score from 0.2 to 0.8, which Guam uses to monitor cases, due to an increase in positive cases. “We continue to have low scores,” the governor said. “We are seeing those scores increasing. … This is of concern to me.”

There have been 32 positive cases identified since April 18, plus 13 cases on April 21. The governor said “at least nine additional” were anticipated for April 22. In March, the island rarely saw more than four a day, she said.

Information on the clusters that triggered the increase in positive cases and the press conference are below. Additional information from a press release from the Joint Information Center the evening of April 22 is also included:

  • CLUSTER A –  basketball gathering at a Dededo residence on April 3
  • 12 individuals in attendance
  • 8 confirmed positive cases
  • 4 close contacts identified and all tested negative 
  • Connection to Cluster A – Easter gathering at a Yigo residence on April 4
    • 25 reported in attendance
    • 3 positive cases from Cluster A were reported in attendance
    • 14 close contacts were identified and all tested negative
    • Case investigation is ongoing for 7 close contacts
  • Connection to Cluster A – A-Class Lounge
    • One positive case from Cluster A visited A-Class Lounge on April 3
    • To date, there are a total of 14 positives linked to A-Class Lounge from April 7 and April 10
    • 15 community contacts were identified and all tested negative
    • CLUSTER B – birthday party at a private residence on April 19
  • 3 individuals attended a birthday party at a private residence on April 19 and tested positive for COVID-19
  • Connection to Cluster B – All 3 COVID-19 positive cases from Cluster B are employees of Tsubaki Tower
    • To date, there are a total of 5 COVID-19 positive cases who are employees from Tsubaki Tower, 3 of which are linked to Cluster B
    • To date, at least 18 close contacts were identified
    • Case investigation and contact tracing is ongoing for 84 Tsubaki Tower employees identified as “potential” contacts
    • 961 Tsubaki Tower patrons were identified between April 14 – April 18 that are encouraged to get tested for COVID-19

  The Tsubaki Tower restaurants (the Casa Oceano on the ground floor, and the Milano Grill for in-house guests) were the primary focus of the Guam Department of Health and Social Services. “Front office staff were not involved,” according to Chima Mbakwem, infectious diseases physician at DPHSS.

People who have frequented the hotel between April 14 to April 18, or the A Class Lounge are urged to get tested. Testing will be available on April 23 and April 24 and on April 26 if necessary.

The age of individuals involved in the clusters was between 21 and 44.

DPHSS was unable to provide specifics on the percentage of individuals in Guam in the 21 to 44 age group that have been vaccinated.

Lt. Governor Joshua F. Tenorio confirmed that the island-wide cleanup sponsored by the Beatification Task Force and the Guam Visitors Bureau would go ahead on April 24, and encouraged participation, even around people’s homes if they did not want to venture far.  

 

Guam airport readies for May 1

Pandemic or no pandemic, for operations at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam it is business as usual.

“We are open 24 hours. … We’re required to remain open,” Rolenda L. Faasuamale, marketing administrator told the Journal, referring to U.S. Federal Aviation Administration requirements.

All of the airport’s signature airline offices are operational and flights – few as they are – come and go.

Faasuamale said there have been positive indications that its partners are still active. “We did welcome the new station manager for Jeju Airlines.”

One tenant will depart. Delta Airlines Global Services LLC, a ground handler at the airport will close at the end of the month, she said.

While the airport is aware that Hong Kong based Greater Bay Airlines had applied to fly to Guam [and other destinations] in January, Faasuamale said application had not yet been made to the U.S. Department of Transport.

The airport authority will meet with airline tenants “before May 1,” Faasuamale said to discuss arrangements from and after the May 1 lifting of mandatory quarantine for arrivals.  

Business executives planning trips have told the Journal that they have been waiting to ensure that they can avoid quarantine on their return to Guam. In addition, residents are planning leisure travel, particularly as the summer months approach.

Faasuamale said passengers will notice changes on departure and arrival. “They’ll see a whole new layout,” she said. The second-floor security screening lanes before the secure area now encompass an additional two lanes in the area where Ben N’ Yan’s restaurant previously stood, and passengers will experience the newest equipment on that side as they pass through security, she said.

Phase 1 of the airport’s $100 million third floor arrivals corridor will have passengers arriving at a newly constructed area that will have them go up and across the terminal before going down for arrival procedures and the baggage hall.  “Phase 1 will be active May 1,” Faasuamale said.

What passengers will not see is the gray panels that separated arrivals and departures previously. “We’ve captured the original aesthetics,” Faasuamale said.

(See www.mbjguam.com for various stories on the airport’s expansions and additions.)

In the meantime, quarantine continues for arrivals. All passengers are taken from the airport, except those that have pre-arranged exemptions. She said those with exemptions “are usually activity duty military or contractors.”

 

Testing for Guam tourists the subject of debate

PCR testing may be available at no charge for tourists leaving the island, but where the funding will come from is still uncertain.

During the April 22 board of directors meeting, Guam Visitors Bureau Director Peter P. “Sonny” Ad suggested “subject to the availability of funds, testing on returning to home country” of departing tourists, possibly even instead of marketing.

At the governor’s press conference the same day, Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero said GVB could use its $20 million funding from the American Recovery Plan act. Arthur San Augustin, director of the Guam Department of Health and Social Services, said whether GVB could use test kits from DPHSS would depend on the number of tourists and such factors as who would administer the tests and where testing would take place.

Gerald S.A. Perez, vice president at GVBN, said as far as budgeting goes, the bureau has used 55% of its $6.4 million operation budget as of April 22.

In other GVB news, a contract will be awarded for a language assistance program through GVB during the first week of May. The request for proposal for this contract closed on April 21.

 

More MilCon

Hensel Phelps Construction Co. of Hawaii was awarded a $25.004 million task order under a previously awarded $990 million multiple award construction or MACC contract. The award is for the “design and construction of a combined explosive ordnance disposal compound” at Marine Corps Base Guam – otherwise known as Camp Blaz. The task order also contains one unexercised option, which if exercised would increase the cumulative task order value to $26.56 million, according to an April 22 release from the U.S. Department of Defense Work is expected to be completed by October 2023. Four proposals were received for this task order and Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Pacific made the award.

Hensel Phelps was one of five companies awarded a design-build MACC contract in September 2019 for work in Guam, 80%, the Northern Mariana Islands,10%., Hawaii, 5%; and other areas, 5%. The other awardees were Black Construction-Tutor Perini JV, Core Tech-HDCC-Kajima LLC, Caddell-Nan JV and Gilbane SMCC ECC LLC.

Gilbane received the first $23 million task order, for the design and construction of a dining and … training facility for “the aviation combat element” at Andersen Air Force Base, according to Journal files.

 

Scholarships available for studies in Japan

The Consulate General of Japan announced April 20 the Japanese government is offering the Research Students scholarship to “qualified applicants who wish to study at Japanese universities under the Japanese Government Monbukagakusho [Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology or MEXT Scholarship Program for 2022.”

The Japanese government is also offering undergraduate scholarships at Japanese Universities.

For more information and an application form, please visit https://www.studyinjapan.go.jp/en/smap_stopj-applications_research.html and

https://www.studyinjapan.go.jp/en/smap_stopj-applications_undergraduate.html. mbj