Guam and NMI sign visitor MOU; formalize earlier acceptances
Esther L. Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Health Corp. of the Northern Mariana Islands and Arthur San Agustin, director of the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services signed a Memorandum of Understanding May 28 that the two entities will recognize full vaccinations of each other’s visitors. Vaccines for residents of the two islands are recognized by the U.S. Center for Disease Control.
This formalizes existing arrangements.
Visitors to Guam from the NMI will need a photo ID and their NMI immunization record.
At a news conference on May 28, Muna reiterated visitors from Guam and other destinations who are fully vaccinated will need a secondary form of verification.
“The key here is registration,” Muna earlier told the Journal on May 21.
To upload the Lifetime Guam Immunization Record WebIZ form, go to www.governor.gov.mp.covid-19/travel, for enquiries, email [email protected] or telephone (670) 287-0046/0489/1089.
NMI vaccinated residents have had the option to enter Guam since May 15.
Visitors into the NMI are rapid tested at one of the quarantine hotels. Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres arrived back in the NMI from Guam, where he had been attending a family funeral and experienced rapid testing – also part of the entry process that began the week of May 17 – at the Mariana Resort & Spa in Marpi, he said. “I went through the process,” he told the Journal, saying that it had gone smoothly.
San Augustin told the Journal on May 28 (before the MOU was signed and released), the overall aim is “to ease the process between the two islands.” As to the verification of immunization record, he said, “That’s a document we’re already issuing.”
Muna also said at the news conference that 100% of government workers on Tinian have been vaccinated, with 68.4% of the population vaccinated.
Torres pragmatic on IPI casino challenges
Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres told the Journal at a May 28 news conference that he hopes Imperial Pacific International can take care of their pending issues. And he said, “I wish – I hope they can pay their arrears …, he said. IPI’s gaming license was suspended at the end of April, and the Commonwealth Casino Commission fined it $6.6 million. Torres noted that the U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands awarded $5.3 million from IPI to seven workers at IPI’s casino and hotel construction site in Garapan. The seven had sued IPI and two construction companies, according to Journal files.
“If not, we have to move on,” Torres said. The NMI will work with “whoever is next in line,” he said.
IPI’s Imperial Palace Saipan casino closed in March 2020, along with the NMI’s closure due to the pandemic.
NMI and Guam aim for Korean visitors
Jeju Air flights on the Inchon-Saipan route will continue, according to Warren Villagomez, chairman of the Northern Mariana Islands COVID-19 task force. A June 8 charter flight will follow a May 25 charter, he said. Villagomez said that charter flight “went well.”
Additionally, a third flight in July will bring Korean officials and media. “They’re going to be here for about a week,” Villagomez said. The group will visit tourism sites and take part in tourism activities, he said. Villagomez said the public private partnership organized by the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers to clean and maintain tourism sites would help.
Torres said of the hotel and sightseeing experience, “That’s what they’ll be selling back in Korea.
Milton Morinaga, adviser to PHR Ken Micronesia Inc. and chairman of the Guam Visitors Bureau, confirmed that Jeju Air plans to bring in vaccinated tourists by Aug. 1. Fully vaccinated travelers do not have to quarantine on their return to Korea, however more Koreans have received AstraZeneca than anything else, although the country expects to receive millions of doses of Moderna, according to news reports. GVB would like approval for tourists vaccinated with AstraZeneca also to avoid quarantine. Vaccination in Korea has been slow, due to supply challenges and “vaccine hesitancy.”
Arthur San Agustin, director of the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services told the Journal that as of noon on May 28, there was no news on approval of a plan to allow “vaccine tourism” on the island. Several U.S. states and other countries are already offering package deals to U.S. nationals and others seeking vaccinations.
UA program aims to avoid Honolulu screening lines
United Airlines announced May 28 that passengers from Guam (which includes those from other islands in Micronesia) traveling to Hawaii with a valid negative COVID test can show results to airline staff before boarding, receive pre-clearance and an armband to wear and avoid screening lines on arrival.
Customers will enroll in Hawaii’s Safe Travels program and complete the state’s COVID questionnaire within 24 hours of departure and use the Safe Travels website to upload negative test results from one of Hawaii’s “trusted testing partners“ within 72 hours of departure. In Guam the partners are the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services and Diagnostic Laboratory Services Inc.
The program already launched in the U.S. mainland, according to Journal files.
The airline will notify customers in advance of their Hawaii on local testing options
Guam airport awards master plan contract
The Guam International Airport Authority awarded AECOM Technical Services Inc. the airport master plan update contract, according to information during a May 17 board of directors meeting.
“We did perceive 34 firms showing interest, with five firms responding, submitting their proposal,” said Artemo Hernandez, deputy executive director of the airport. Out of the five, AECOM was rated number one.
Hernandez said100% of the funding will come from the Federal Aviation Administration once the contract is approved.
“The master plan is set for 18 months, but if any additional time is needed, it’s up to four years,” R. Santos, consultant to the airport, said.
Major points of the update include an inventory of existing conditions of the airport and facilities, as well as environmental considerations and a new layout plan.
All current and ongoing capital improvement projects, including the third-floor arrivals corridor, are part of the 2012 master plan.
With the contract awarded, the airport will now negotiate with AECOM, according to board Chairman Brian Bamba.
FAA funding has been secured for another airport project, a runway rehabilitation. Phase one will be complete in November, and phase two is scheduled to be complete by February 2022.
In other GIAA news, for the month of April the airport had a $2.9 million profit and a $232,000 net loss.
UOG reports detail Guam business losses
According to a UOG report, released May 28:
- The private sector experienced a 66% decline in revenue in 2020 compared to 2017.
- Construction industry revenues fared 45% better than all other businesses.
- The number of businesses with fewer than 20 employees increased from 82% to 89% from 2017 to 2020, with 95% of tourism-related businesses employing fewer than 20 people.
- Nearly half of tourism businesses have furloughed most or all their employees, with 12% continuing to pay those employees.
- More than one-third of tourism businesses have laid off employees, with 20% laying off all their employees.
- 25% of all businesses had to temporarily or permanently close in 2020; 4% of businesses had to permanently close.
UOG also reported on the impact of COVID 19 in the community.
The reports are the “Guam Recovery Research Project: The Impact of COVID-19 on Guam Residents and Business” and “Guam Recovery Research Project: The Impact of COVID-19 on Guam’s Private Businesses and Tourism” — from the Regional Center for Public Policy under the School of Business and Public Administration.
Roseann M. Jones, professor of economics at UOG, led the research with support from Market Research & Development Inc. and student interns, according to UOG. Funding support was provided by Cares Act funds through the Office of Governor of Guam.
The reports are available at https://url.uog.edu/rcpp and www.guamrecovery.com. mbj