Final word awaited on free U.S. test kits for Guam

As of Dec. 22, the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services was awaiting confirmation on receipt of free “at-home” testing kits that the Biden Administration is undertaking to distribute throughout the U.S. to combat the Omicron COVID variant. President Joseph R. Biden announced in Washington D.C. the distribution of 500 million free test kits at a press conference the morning of Dec. 22, CHamoru Standard Time.

Janela Carrera, public information officer at DPHSS, told the Journal on Dec. 22, “We will know more in the coming days.”

Krystal Paco-San Agustin, director of communication in the Office of the Governor, told the paper the same day that Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero “welcomes Biden’s plan to expand at-home testing capacity, which only adds to our layers of defense against the highly transmissible Omicron variant. At-home test kits put greater emphasis on personal responsibility during this pandemic,” Paco San Augustin said. “Along with the 3 Ws and getting vaccinated, knowing your status if you’ve been exposed or traveling is essential to stopping the spread of the virus.

“We look forward to receiving these at-home test kits in the New Year and here at home, we continue to stay the course with aggressive vaccination efforts and a continued mask mandate. Again, we all play a role in stopping the spread of the virus and protecting ourselves and those around us as we work together toward economic recovery,” Paco-San Agustin said.

In other COVID news, a suspected COVID case in Pohnpei was deemed a false positive, according to a Dec. 22 release from the Office of the President of the Federated States of Micronesia. More than 20 close contacts of the individual were tested for COVID-19, as well as 119 other individuals in the community, and 79 cases of influenza-like illness that were presented to the Pohnpei State Hospital and local clinics. All tests were negative. The FSM has seen an increase in influenza-like illnesses, the release said, which were determined to be the common cold.


DoD releases US mainland 2022 military COLA rates; no confirmation for elsewhere yet

The U.S. Department of Defense announced Dec. 23 CHamoru Standard time the 2022 Continental United States Cost-of-Living Allowance rates, which take effect Jan. 1. In 2022, $8.5 million will be paid to approximately 6,000 service members stationed within CONUS, according to the release

The CONUS COLA is a supplemental allowance designed to help offset higher prices in the highest-cost locations in CONUS that exceed the average costs within the CONUS. Rates can increase, decrease, or remain the same, depending upon the non-housing prices in a duty location as compared to non-housing prices in average CONUS. More information can be found at


More Korean visitors headed for NMI

Three Jeju Air will arrive in Saipan on Dec. 29, Jan. 5 and Jan. 12 – the first flights from Busan since March 2020, according to the Marianas Visitors Authority.

The first flight will include 30 media and travel agency representatives. About 500 visitors are expected on the three flights, which are organized by Micronesia Resort Inc., which does business as Kensington Hotel Saipan, Pacific Islands Club Saipan, and Coral Ocean Resort.

Asiana Airlines and T’Way also provide flights to Saipan from Incheon. MVA expects 5,000 visitors a month from January, MVA said in a Dec. 22 release.  

The general 10-day quarantine into Korea was extended until Jan. 6.

In other NMI news, the U.S. Economic Development Administration has awarded $1 million to the Northern Mariana Islands Office of Planning and Development, which falls under the NMI’s Office of the Governor. The grant will be “utilized for CNMI initiatives for economic revitalization, recovery, and growth, and support work that builds on the CNMI’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy priorities and ongoing Comprehensive Sustainable Development Plan implementation efforts to enable the CNMI to assess and implement opportunities to diversify the economy and invest in critical planning and capacity building needs,” according to a Dec. 23 release from the Office of the Governor.

The government of the NMI began its Christmas break early. All “non-critical” employees were authorized for administrative leave from Dec. 23 at noon, according to a Dec. 22 release.


Carrier arriving in Guam

The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier is pulling into Guam today. The Journal earlier reported the presence of the CV and other vessels in the region for international training exercises. The Carl Vinson is scheduled to be in port until Dec. 28, according to Journal files and was in Guam earlier this year. Hundreds of its personnel are again expected to visit island businesses, in a welcome economic boost.


Legal updates:

Gaming businesses nixed in Guam

In a Dec. 21 Opinion, the Supreme Court of Guam agreed with the Office of the Attorney General’s position and affirmed the trial court’s finding that the Department of Revenue and Taxation’s gaming regulations and issued licenses are void because Rev&Tax submitted them to the Guam Legislature “without public notice, public hearing, or an economic impact study which are required by law,” according to a release from the OAG.

This was the third appeal in this case and the fifth appeal heard by the Supreme Court of Guam in total involving the licensing of electronic gaming regulations. In 2008, approximately 1,200 gaming devices were being licensed “in violation of Guam’s amusement devices licensing laws,” the release said. “The OAG informed DRT that the electronic gaming devices were illegal and advised DRT not to renew the licenses. Litigation followed, and the OAG requested the court to revoke the licenses.” A third party intervened and filed a new lawsuit in an attempt to force Rev&Tax to reissue the licenses. “The case was resolved in 2013, but within that year the enactment of a new law triggered the OAG to once again take action,” the release said.


Cockfighting in Guam again ruled illegal

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a ruling of the U.S. District Court for the District of Guam that Congress has the authority to bar animal fighting throughout the United States, including in the territories. The case was brought by Guam-based cockfighting “enthusiast” Sedfrey Linsangan, according to a Dec. 23 release from Animal Wellness Acton.

“The challenges originating in Guam and Puerto Rico to the federal law banning all animal fighting have been turned back by four federal courts and also denied by the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, which filed pleadings in these cases as an amicus curiae participant. “This ruling comes just days before illegal cockfighting derbies are set to commence in Guam at The Dome in Dededo, and this latest court ruling is one more emphatic signal to the cockfighters to stop their criminal conspiracies.”

In October, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a writ of certiorari from cockfighters and political leaders in Puerto Rico seeking relief from the same federal law. That pleading came to the Supreme Court after two U.S. courts rejected the claims of cockfighting interests and their “political allies” in Puerto Rico.

“Linsangan’s evidence of cockfighting as a cultural practice both predating and outside of American history does not show that cockfighting is objectively deeply rooted in our Nation,” wrote the U.S. Court of Appeals in rejecting the plaintiff’s claims. “Various U.S. jurisdictions have restricted or prohibited animal fighting, including cockfighting, for centuries.”  The court rejected all other claims from Linsangan, including his First Amendment arguments.  

In December 2018 the Agricultural Improvement Act became law, its provisions including all federal prohibitions against animal fighting in the U.S. territories. Congress gave the territories a year to comply.


Good to know …

In partnership with the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, TOHGE Inc. is providing designated drivers through Holiday Chauffeur, a designated driver program for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

The Holiday Chauffeur program is free of charge and may be offered “in groups of three individuals,” according to a Dec. 23 release. The program is operational from 6 p.m. on Dec.24, through 6 a.m. on Dec. 26 and from 6 p.m. on Dec. 31 through 6 a.m. on Jan 2. To request a driver, individuals may call 671-787-WARM (9276) or 671-686-WARM (9276).

Riders must have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and have a normal body temperature. Riders will be required to wear a mask and sanitize before entering the vehicle. Windows may also be left open, weather permitting.


For your diary:

The Guam Chamber of Commerce reminds that the use of plastic bags will be phased out Dec. 31 (Journal Editor’s Note: Except for certain exceptions). Paper bags for most retail and all wholesale establishments will be phased out by July 1(with exemptions for eating establishments).


AND FINALLY – Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to all our subscribers and readers! mbj