Palau COVID update; Taiwan travel bubble affected

The Palau Ministry of Health & Human Services reported 19 new COVID cases on Jan. 20. As of the evening of Jan. 20, Palau had 689 individuals in quarantine. The Ministry reported 174 of its cases were from travel, nine cases were from the community and unconnected to travel figures, and 25 individuals were classified as recovered.

Taiwan media are reporting that the Central Epidemic Command Center introduced new quarantine measures for arrivals from Palau. Passengers traveling under a travel-bubble will be required to take a PCR test upon their arrival at a Taiwan airport and then quarantine for five days at a designated government facility. On the fifth day of quarantine, travelers from Palau will have to take another PCR test, after which they will be allowed to leave the facility if the results are negative.

The next group from Taiwan is due to fly to Palau on Jan. 26.

The Palau Ministry of Health suspended visiting Jan. 17 at the Belau National Hospital in Koror “to minimize the exposure and spread of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases to patients, healthcare workers, and the entire community.”

In other Palau news, the Civic Action Team-Palau from the 36th Civil Engineering Squadron “recently” returned to Andersen Air Force Base after a six-month deployment to Palau, where the team “helped the local community rebuild structures and roads, train locals and strengthen regional partnerships,” according to a Jan. 18 post.

 

 Matson announces updates, fourth quarter revenue expectations

According to a Jan. 19 release from Matson Navigation Co., in the fourth quarter of 2021, Guam volume was 14% higher “primarily due to higher retail-related demand” compared to the fourth quarter of 2020.

Continued strong demand for Matson’s China service “was the primary driver of the increase in consolidated operating income year-over-year,” the shipping company said.

Hawaii contain volume increased 10.4% “primarily due to higher retail and hospitality-related demand due to the continued rebound in tourism and the Hawaii economy,” Matson said.

Matson reported it expects fourth quarter operating income for Ocean Transportation of $445 million to $455 million and Logistics operating income of $14 million to $15 million.

Matthew Cox, chairman and CEO of Matson said supply chain congestion “remains the current issue in the Transpacific trade lane due to ongoing elevated consumption trends, U.S. domestic supply chain constraints and inventory restocking.

“For 2022 we expect these conditions to remain largely in place through at least the October peak season…,” he said. Cox said he expected elevated demand for Matson’s China service to continue for most of 2022. Readers can find further details at investor.matson.com.

 

GEDA reports on status of grants, first LEAP grants go out

During a Jan. 20 Guam Economic Development Authority board of directors meeting, CEO and Administrator Melanie R. Mendiola updated the most recent tally of awardees to the various American Rescue Plan grants.

The Pandemic Assistance Grant 2021 received 1928 applications, 387 of which were ineligible, and is distributing $16.624 million to awardees.

The Child Care Assistance Program-Stabilization grant, which distributed $16.8 million to 42 daycare locations through the Department of Public Health and Social Services as opposed to GEDA, helped about 6% of all daycare/children populations.

The Local Employers’ Assistance Program has 988 applications, totaling nearly $20 million.

“We’re saving businesses when we do this,” David J. John, chairman of the board, said.

As at Jan. 21, more than1,000 businesses in Guam have applied for LEAP grants.

Applicants and their application status are listed on the GEDA site at www.investguam.com. The program has funding of $50 million and applications will close on March 31. Applications opened Dec. 20.

GEDA told the Journal on Jan. 21 that the first funds are being distributed to recipients.

A notice of funds for the Growth Accelerator Program – which will be open to new and existing businesses – will be distributed soon.

The board also approved operating procedures for the Guam Commercial Farmers Program, which Mendiola said would help the 70 commercial farmers on island.

In other grant news, the Office of the Governor announced the launch of the Guam Homeowner Assistance Fund Program, to be administered by the Guam Department of Administration. According to a Jan. 19 release, the program “provides $13.5 million to homeowners in need of financial assistance for mortgage and housing obligations, and relief for mortgage, utility, and property taxes.” Pre-applications will be available Jan. 31 at www.doa.guam.gov.  

 

GPA backs legislature bills for new location of generator, refinancing bonds

The Guam Power Authority is backing two bills: Bill No. 212-36 and Bill No. 213-36, up for voting in the 36th Guam Legislature.

Bil No 212, authorizes refinancing of the GPA bond, and Bill No. 213 is an exemption request for Public Law 20-23, which requires a certain distance between facilities burning fossil fuels and schools.

In a roundtable meeting on Jan. 19, John M. Benavente, general manager at GPA, said that the bond refinancing, which would occur in April if approved, would “reduce costs for the customers of today,” while the overall Ukudu power plant plans would help reduce costs for those of the future.

Without Bill 213, the whole Ukudu power plant could be in danger if the 41-megawatt reserve unit is not built, he said. According to Benavente, there is no other place for it except in Piti – 1,200 feet away from a school – when the allotted distance is 1,500 feet. The reserve unit will not run four hours a day, and will use ultra-low-sulfur-diesel, emitting less smog than current units, he said

Senators and some members of the public spoke about Bill 213’s intent to safeguard school populations and residents during a Jan. 20 public hearing regarding the two bills.

Benavente said both measures would ultimately reduce costs by an estimated $200 per average consumer, especially by the time the plant is finished in 2025

During the legislative public hearing, Sen. Clynton E. Ridgell, chairman of the Committee of Economic Development, Agriculture, Power and Energy Utilities, said the problem of the exemption should have been cited at the beginning of the plans for the power plant.

“Why wasn’t this negotiated and sorted out in the beginning?” he said. “You’re sort of putting all the blame on us… Like now it’s our fault that the thing is falling apart.”

Benavente spoke of the consequences of not passing the bills.

“How devastating it could be if the plans are not achieved… it’s been a long journey to get to where we are today… I’m working really hard to make sure this contract moves forward… the consequences are significant, and we don’t want to go there.”

 

Guam AG adds to KEPCO complaint

The Office of the Attorney General said in a Jan. 19 release it is adding to its original Aug. 5 complaint against KEPCO Mangilao Solar LLC and Samson E&C America Inc.

Since the original filing, the AG “has unearthed” that neighboring landowners informed the companies “that significant runoff from the Mangilao Solar Project had caused flooding and damage to roadways” weeks before the July 22 “disaster” and that the defendants had disturbed historic sites and objects during construction, including the discovery of ancestral remains.

“Defendants … knowingly and intentionally chose profits over keeping their promises,” the documents said in failure to mitigate runoff.

 The second amended complaint includes the additional claims and additional facts “that support exemplary damages against defendants,” the documents said.

The Aug. 5 complaint contained two claims that the defendants failed to implement appropriate sediment and erosion controls, leading to damage to Marbo Cave and the surrounding valley.

The Guam Environmental Protection Authority received an initial complaint in July. The Guam State Historic Preservation Office conducted its own inspection later that month.

The solar project received approval from GEPA, SHPO and the Guam Department of Public Works as part of the permitting process, due to the stated plans.

The AG is asking for punitive damages to be awarded at a trial by jury.

 

Guam, NMI residents among registrants for free test kits

Residents in Guam awoke the morning of Jan. 19 to the news that they could already apply for four rapid antigen test kits per address, as part of President Joseph R. Biden’s national effort to distribute one billion kits via the U.S. Postal Service, by priority mail.

National media reported some residents experienced problems registering on www.covidtests.gov, particularly those in apartment buildings, or with multiple residences at the same address. The process required information to be entered in a specific way, the Journal found.

Gregorio “Kilili” Camacho Sablan, the delegate to Congress for the Northern Mariana Islands, confirmed Jan. 20 that residents of the NMI had been able to register. A problem has arisen for those in the Marianas who use a private mailbox company for mail delivery. “Constituents are telling us the website sees those ‘PMB’ addresses as commercial rather than residential, and is rejecting the orders,” Sablan said. About one thousand individuals in the Marianas use a PMB mailing address, according to the release. 

The Office of the Governor of Guam in a Jan. 19 release reminded residents that use the kit that positive results should be reported within 24 hours to [email protected] and that they should isolate. Residents with a negative result but symptoms should get a confirmatory test, the release said.

In other Guam COVID news, the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services confirmed the presence of the Omnicron variant. According to a Jan. 19 release, DPHSS received nine new results from virus samples collected in Guam between Dec. 19 to Dec. 27, which underwent genome sequencing by the Hawaii Department of Health State Laboratory Division. Of the nine samples, seven were identified as the Omicron Variant, while two were identified as the Delta Variant.

  

NMI Democrats announce gubernatorial team

Staffler

Sablan

Northern Mariana Islands Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christina E. Sablan has chosen Representative Leila Fleming Staffler to be her running mate in the 2022 general election, according to a Jan. 20 release. “A daughter of Tinian, and an educator by profession with a master’s degree in educational leadership, Staffler represents Saipan’s Precinct 5 in the Northern Marianas House of Representatives,” the release from the Democratic party said. Staffler was elected to the House in 2020 and chairs the Education Committee.

Sablan, who has spent several years in the NMI Legislature. During her early career she also worked in the office of Gregorio “Kilili” Camacho Sablan, the NMI delegate to Congress and as a member of the news media.

 

Guam Community College launches anniversary program; announces annual events

The Guam Community College announced its 45th anniversary plans at a Jan. 20 press conference at the Learning Resource Center on-campus.

Speakers at the event included Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero, Lt. Governor Joshua F. Tenorio, Sen. Therese M. Terlaje, speaker of the 36th Guam Legislature and Sen. Amanda L. Shelton, chairwoman of the Committee on Air Transportation, Parks, Tourism, Higher Education, and the Advancement of Women, Youth, and Senior Citizens.

Attendees spoke of their personal connections to the college, its stakeholders and lauded the institution for its contributions to the economy through workforce development.

Frank P. Arriola, chairman of the GCC board of trustees – who has served 13 years on the board, also spoke. He said the anniversary year is “a good time to take stock of how much has been accomplished.”

GCC President Mary A.Y. Okada said, “Every time I set foot on this campus I am reminded of where we were many years ago.”  Okada also spoke of the support from the business community that had helped move its programs forward. Also, she said, “Every sector of our economy has trainable opportunities and GCC stands ready to provide them.”

Okada also shared information on the anniversary year events planned:

Feb. 25, Alumni & Friends Lunch, prepared by GCC culinary program chefs; April 15, wine tasting at the Learning Resource Center; June 17, BBQ, Burgers and Beer at the Student Center Courtyard and Sept. 23, Par Excellence Golf Tournament. Further details will be shared.

           

Additional Guam businesses join Safe Travel program

The Guam Visitors Bureau, “in collaboration with the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association,” announced Jan. 19 that 35 businesses have been approved for the “newly revamped” Guam Safe Travels Stamp program.

The list can be found at www.visitguam.com. For more information and to apply, visit  https://guamvisitorsbureau.com/tools-resources/safe-travels.

 

Pacific War Museum to offer more attractions at new location

The Pacific War Museum unveiled further plans to relocate to the former Guam Greyhound Park, which will be renamed to Freedom Park.
The park will house the six-building museum exhibit and its gift shop and café, as well as outdoor exhibits, an entertainment space, an event space, an outdoor walking track and Camp Gerberville, an immersive experience for children aged 12 and younger that will offer a “soft-play assault course,” a fighter jet playground, kids’ mess hall and a boot camp.

According to Melanie Gerber, president and director of the museum’s foundation, all of the attractions would be open by the end of the year.

As far as entrance fees, veterans, senior citizens and school children will still receive a discount, but the general admission price is yet to be determined.

For more information on sponsorship for the museum, corporations and individuals can email [email protected].

See previous story on the property at www.mbjguam.com

 

And also:

The Issin Japanese Restaurant at the Westin Resort Guam re-opened Jan. 19, according to a release from the hotel. The restaurant temporarily closed “for a minor interior revitalization,” Westin said. The traditional Japanese menu will remain unchanged.

 

For your diary:

The Northern Mariana Islands 18th Tinian Hot Pepper Festival will take place from Feb. 18 to Feb. 20 and will again feature the 50K Pika Bike Race on Feb. 19. mbj