FSM aims to repatriate “essential workers”

The Federated States of Micronesia is scheduled to repatriate “essential workers, such as engineers, health professionals, and educators” on Sept. 30.

In August, repatriation flights from Palau and Guam repatriated people to Yap, a flight from Guam repatriated citizens of Kosrae and a further flight from Guam repatriated people to Pohnpei – returning more than 100 FSM residents to the country.

A further flight to Pohnpei is scheduled for Sept. 16. Citizens returning from abroad are required to provide documentation of full COVID vaccination, according to the Office of the President.

No flights have yet been scheduled for Chuuk repatriations. 

CDC ups Guam risk level again

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has raised Guam’s risk level from Level 3 to “Level 4: COVID-19 Very High” as of Aug. 30.

GVB preps for incentives for 2022

The Guam Visitors Bureau is continuing to solicit member interest in the Håfa Shoppers” visitor spending incentive program, in anticipation of increased arrivals in the first quarter of 2022.

The campaign will target South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines and issue a Guam debit card for those aged above 21. Money generated at specific terminals will be remitted directly to vendors, less a 2.9% transaction fee. GVB is considering the distribution of 2,500 to 5,000 cards from February 2022 for one or two months.


No more taxis at the door

Arrivals at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport Guam will now have to walk further to get a taxi – to the West Arrivals area. “Passengers requiring taxi services will exit from the West Arrivals tunnel and follow directional signs towards the West Arrivals curbside, where taxi cabs will be queued,” the airport said in an Aug. 30 release. The new location (near the Airport Police Arcade) will operate from Sept. 1 at 12 a.m.

In the event of “inclement weather” passengers will temporarily queue in the arcade hallway (which is under cover), the release said.


One small step …

The Federal Aviation Administration on Aug. 23 issued a Final Environmental Impact Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for issuing a license to Virgin Orbit LLC for LauncherOne operations at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

Virgin will operate a Boeing 747-400 for launches from Andersen’s Runway 24R and “The LauncherOne rocket would be released from the carrier aircraft over the ocean away from populated areas south of Guam, at an altitude of 35,000 to 40,000 feet above mean sea level,” the FAA finding said. Additionally, the finding said actions “would not result in significant impacts to wildlife and Endangered Species Act-listed mammals, sea turtles, and fish species in the vicinity of the proposed carrier aircraft and LauncherOne activities.” Temporary closures of air space may be necessary, the finding said, although launches will not result in airport closures. 

Photo courtesy of Virgin Orbit and VOX Space/Journal files

Read the FAA file at NEPA Documents (faa.gov)

See Guam soon to see VOX Space representatives, military launch on track — Marianas Business Journal (mbjguam.com) in the April 13, 2020 issue.

See Q & A – Richard DalBello — Marianas Business Journal (mbjguam.com) Q&A with vice president of business development and government affairs for Virgin Galactic, responsible for managing business development focusing on LauncherOne, in the March 18, 2019 issue.


Funding for Guam hospital back on drawing board

As the fiscal 2022 budget reconciliation begins in Congress, Michael F.Q. San Nicolas Guam’s delegate to Congress; said on Aug. 31, “One key component for Guam is back in play – approximately $345 million in federal funds for a new hospital.”

Last year Congress was focused on COVID relief through the American Rescue Plan and funds for a hospital did not eventuate, he said. “With this next round focusing on infrastructure we have greater confidence that this $345 million sum will carry through, and are concentrating the work so that our people can get the healthcare system they deserve while having all of their relief money available for them as intended.”

The Natural Resources allocations will be completed by Sept. 2, San Nicolas said.

Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero also issued a release on Aug. 31, saying she also had been assured by the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee that the hospital would be included in the budget reconciliation.


Legal updates:

  • American Samoan plaintiffs have prevailed in a case first filed in March 2018, alleging that ANZ Guam Inc. – which does business as ANZ Amerika Samoa Bank in American Samoa – violated the federal Truth in Lending Act when it did not provide them with a description of late fees, information about past payments, or amounts due on loans. Plaintiffs moved the court for preliminary approval of a proposed class action settlement with ANZ, according to legal documents.

Judge Frances M. Tydingco-Gatewood of the District Court of Guam ruled on Aug. 30 on the terms of the settlement – that “ANZ will make a payment in the amount of $1,500 for each of the Covered Mortgage Loans the borrowers have with ANZ on real property in American Samoa. There will be one payment per Covered Mortgage Loan regardless of how many borrowers are on such loan. Settlement Class Members with existing mortgage loan balances with ANZ as of the Effective Date shall receive credit to the mortgage loan account of the borrower on such loan. Settlement Class Members who no longer have balances on Covered Mortgage Loans with ANZ as of the Effective Date, shall receive a check.”

In addition, ANZ has agreed to make certain changes in how they handle the mortgage loans, and attorney fees and other costs are to be paid by the bank.

  • Vaello Madero — who was stripped of his Supplement Security Income benefits after moving from New York to Puerto Rico — filed Aug. 31 in the U.S. Supreme Court a response that the continuing denial of SSI benefits is not just unconstitutional, but would represent a dangerous continuation of the Insular Cases’ doctrine of “separate and unequal” status for residents of U.S. territories.

Last year a unanimous panel of the First Circuit upheld a district court ruling that the continued denial of SSI benefits in Puerto Rico was unconstitutional.

According to an Aug. 31 release from Equally American, “Next week Equally American plans to file an amicus brief in support of Mr. Vaello Madero’s case along with a number of other national civil rights organizations. The United States has until Sept. 29 to reply to Mr. Vaello Madero and the scores of amicus briefs expected in the case. Oral argument is not yet scheduled, but will likely be in December or January.”

Vaello Madero is represented pro bono by a team at Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP, according to Equally American.

  • The District Court of Guam was unpersuaded by the arguments of Hansen Helicopters in several motions put to the court by Defendant John D. Walker. In the case, the government alleges “defendants operated a helicopter-leasing business without obtaining proper accreditation and licensure for their aircraft, aircraft parts, mechanics, and pilots. Defendants allegedly covered up these violations by forging documents, counterfeiting aircraft parts, and bribing a member of the Federal Aviation Administration.”

According to court documents, the defendant sought to dismiss Count 1, which alleges a conspiracy to defraud the United States in violation, by arguing that Count 1 is duplicative in that it alleges a conspiracy against both the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board. He asked the court to dismiss the count, or order an election by the Government, or issue an instruction on unanimity, which was denied, according to an Aug. 27 order.


And also:

The U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration awarded $19.63 million to the Northern Mariana Islands Department of Finance for the construction of an Economic Resiliency Center.

According to the Office of Gregorio “Kilili” Camacho Sablan, the NMI’s delegate to Congress, the funding will also cover acquisition of a financial management system. “Today’s grant brings the total of EDA disaster recovery funding for the Marianas from Public Law 116-20 to $88 million. Earlier grants for Super Typhoon Yutu recovery were awarded to Northern Marianas College for new buildings to house a workforce training center and CREES and to the Governor’s office for Garapan revitalization and a sports complex in Susupe,” Sablan said in an Aug. 31 release.

In an Aug. 31 release, Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres said, “This new economic business center for the Department of Finance will enhance the CNMI’s ability to rebuild its economy in the long-term by creating a true one-stop shop concept, improving our current business processes, assisting small businesses, and serving as an incubator for the development of new industries to diversify our economy.”

The Guam Economic Development Authority received a total of 12 applications – six applications each for two requests for proposals, according to discussions at the Aug. 31 meeting, which was reconvened from the Aug. 19 board of directors meeting. The RFPs are for underwriting services for bond financing projects for the Guam Waterworks Authority and the Guam Power Authority. The RFP contract is for one year, with two options to renew.

TakeCare Insurance Co. has signed an in-network provider contract with the Seventh Day Adventist Clinic in Tamuning.

Eligible commercial/private sector, Government of Guam and federal government members under TakeCare Insurance Co. Inc. will now have access to covered and approved services under the TakeCare member’s in-network benefits at the SDA clinic. Services include OB/GYN, radiology, physical therapy, dental, and eye services.


For your diary:

The Spirit of Budo: The history of Japan’s martial arts exhibition will explore the evolution of Japan’s martial arts, through displays of reproductions of historical weapons and implements and the evolution of martial arts. The exhibition will be featured at the Isla Center for the Arts at the University of Guam from Sept. 1 to Sept. 30 and from Oct. 7 to Nov. 7 at the Guam Museum.

The exhibition is presented by the Japan Foundation and the Consulate General of Japan in Guam, in partnership with the Isla Center, the Guam Museum and the Guam Department of CHamoru Affairs. Special thanks to the Guam Nikkei Association, the Guam Visitors Bureau, and Galaide Group LLC. mbj