Tourism updates:

GVB revises visitor forecast

While the U.S. Pacific Air Force’s Cope North 2022 military exercise is expected to bring upwards of 1,000 people to island, all staying in Tumon hotels, the Guam Visitors Bureau board of directors remains hopeful but cautious about tourism in the coming year.

“We’re optimistic that some of this will start to relax and hopefully the recovery trajectory from the first quarter will resume in the second,” said Gerald S.A. Perez, vice president of GVB, during the Jan. 27 board of directors meeting. “Despite the lingering issues… it appears that, institutionally, people are starting to prep for a turn around.”

Perez announced a revised version of an air seats forecast for fiscal 2022 versus the 2021 forecast presented at previous meetings. With the new forecast, Japan would see a 272% increase, year over year, with 377,880 seats; South Korea would bring in 237,743 seats for a 148% increase; with 130,368 seats, the U.S. and Hawaii would allow for a 103% increase; the Philippines would have a 252% increase with 114,320 seats; and Taiwan would have 18,952 seats for an increase of 390%, the highest of all.

Some flight schedules remain halted due to Omicron and return requirements, including those of United Airlines, Japan Airlines, China Airlines and Starlux, which have been pushed back as far as March or even June, according to GVB.

 

The first flight to deplane into the new third floor international arrivals corridor at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam was Jin Air Flight 641 on Jan. 25.

A ribbon cutting was held Jan. 21 for “the second largest project in the Guam International Airport’s history,” according to a Jan. 25 release.  Funded by 2013 General Revenue Bonds and Federal Aviation Administration grants, the arrivals corridor project broke ground in July 2017.

The project was initially awarded to Black Construction Corp. on a $97 million bid, to be completed by September 2019. By July 2020, the projected cost was more than $118 million with a hopeful finishing date between July 2021 and December 2021, according to Journal files. The final cost was about $130 million.

The third-floor arrivals corridor is restricted from any concession services as a federally regulated international arrivals area. Protocol dictates passengers must move through customs before any other activity. Because the arrivals traffic will be on the third floor, the departures floor will be less crowded and therefore able to open new restaurants, shops, and the United Club, which according to Journal files is due to be redesigned.

 

The Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands reported a 35% average occupancy rate among its 12 member hotels for December.  The figure is seven times higher compared to December 2020, with 15,984 room nights sold in December compared to 2,127 rooms the previous December.

The occupancy rates do not include the Kanoa Resort Saipan government COVID-19 quarantine accommodations.

A total of 15,984 of 45,662 available room nights sold during December.  Average room rates were $138.42 compared to $144.85 the previous December.

Jeju and T’way flights from Inchon have been canceled through the fourth week of January.

 

COVID updates

Palau had 106 new cases Jan. 25, 141 new cases on Jan. 26 and 124 new cases on Jan. 27. As of Jan. 27, Palau had 896 active cases and classified 126 cases as recoveries.

The Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. reported 124 new cases Jan. 27 – with 43 identified via contact tracing, 71 via community testing, and 10 via travel testing. Six were identified on Rota. The CHCC reported 96 new cases on Jan. 26, with 32 identified via contact tracing, 55 via community testing, and nine via travel testing. Four were identified on Rota. 

The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services on Jan. 27 reported 743 new cases from 2,827 specimens analyzed on Jan. 26, with 106 of the cases reported through the Department of Defense. DPHSS reported on Jan. 26 reported 850 new cases from 2,636 specimens analyzed on Jan. 25, with 167 of the cases reported through the Department of Defense.

 

AAFB project to benefit Marine Corps Guam base

Environmental Chemical Corp. was awarded a $44.4 million “firm-fixed-price contract” for construction of a water well field at Andersen Air Force Base, according to a Jan. 28 release (CHamoru Standard Time) from the U.S. Department of Defense.

The contract provides for “construction of a water well system that will provide continuous domestic, industrial, and fire protection water supply” to Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz. Work is expected to be completed by March 2024. The contract was competitively procured via the beta.sam.gov website, with four proposals received, and was awarded by Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Pacific.

 

Heading for the US mainland?

The U.S. Bureau of Transportation released third quarter statistics for domestic airlines.

“Air fares increased as passenger demand increased, with U.S. airlines reporting 73.9 million originating passengers in the third quarter of 2021, up 174% from 26.9 million passengers in the third quarter of 2020,” the bureau said in a Jan. 19 report.

Fares are up 3.2 % from the second quarter 2021, up 22% from the third quarter 2020 and

Down 14.7% from the third quarter 2019. 

Subscribers can find the full report at www.bts.gov

 

In other aviation news, United Airlines confirmed Jan. 28 that the meal service is being returned on the Honolulu-Guam route. (See “Airline to upgrade meal service, COVID updates, green hydrogen, and more,” on www.mbjguam.com for details of the menus.)

United also confirmed Jan. 28 that the airline will offer four classes on the route – United Business, 60 seats; United Premium Plus, 24 seats; United Economy Plus, 62 seats; and United Economy, 204 seats.

 

Let there be light

As of Jan. 25, about 500 households on the island of Tonoas in Chuuk has power.

The Office of the President of the Federated States of Micronesia said in a Jan. 26 release, “For the first time since the former Empire of Japan ruled over Chuuk Lagoon, Tonoas has electricity.” Tonoas was the center for the Japanese Navy during World War II.

The Chuuk Public Utilities Corp. is the recipient of a variety of grants totaling $40 million designed to upgrade utilities. The grants come from the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the European Union, the United Nations, the Japan International Cooperation Assistance and the FSM.

“We know that Chuuk lags behind the other states of the FSM with only 30% of the people having access to energy, and only two of the 40 municipalities having reliable energy and water supply,” President David W. Panuelo said.

 

NMI campaigns continue to ramp up; Republican HQ opens

The Northern Mariana Islands Republican Party’s campaign headquarters in Garapan is now open at the intersection of the fire station and the American Memorial Park.

According to a Jan. 27 release from the party, “More than 400 people graced the January 22nd event with their presence, and tens of dozens more live-streamed with families and friends who were unable to attend or beyond our borders.”

In attendance at the HQ launch were numerous Republican candidates for public office, including Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres and Sen. Vinson F. Sablan, lieutenant governor candidate, as well as Rep. Lee “Pan” T. Guerrero, mayoral candidate.

The NMI GOP president is Candace Q. Celis, the chairman is James Ada and William M. Castro is campaign chairman.

In the coming days, the NMI Republican Party will announce its new board members and officers, and publish its schedule of events for the year, the release said.

 

Renewed effort for 8(a) status for Guam contractors, Guam Constitution raised

In a policy briefing held with Guam senators on Jan. 27 at which Guam media were present, Michael F. Q. San Nicolas, Guam’s delegate to Congress talked about two initiatives: The Native Pacific Islanders of America Equity Act and the opportunity of drafting and ratifying a Guam Constitution. 

In a Jan. 25 letter to Sen Therese M. Terlaje, speaker of the 36th Guam Legislature, San Nicolas wrote the act “will allow CHamoru and Refaluwasch-owned firms to participate in federal contracting and mentorship programs already available to other recognized native groups in America. This legislation tangibly advances our continued efforts in obtaining greater parity for our people and region.”

Alaskan Native Corporations field a significant presence in Guam. Their federal contracts for Guam are worth millions of dollars, often more that the corporations earn in other locations, according to Journal files.

An ANC is a regional corporation, village corporation, urban corporation or group corporation at least 51% owned by an Indian tribe. By statute an ANC is a disadvantaged business, allowing it to receive special consideration under the Native 8(a) program and the Alaska Native Claims Act.

Federal regulations allow 8(a) firms owned by tribes and ANCs to receive sole-source contracts regardless of dollar amount. In addition, an ANC can continue to participate in the 8(a) program beyond the nine-year term limit through a subsidiary, as long as the subsidiary has a separate North American Industry Classification System code.

As to whether Congressional representatives for Hawaii would object to a broadening of the 8(a) classification, San Nicolas told the Journal, “We are in communication with them on this.” San Nicolas said the Native Pacific Islands of America Equity Act should be inclusive and “include the native people of Guam,” rather than pit groups against each other. He said Gregorio “Kilili” Camacho Sablan, the Northern Mariana Islands delegate to Congress is in support of the act.

As to the Guam Constitution, in his letter to Terlaje, San Nicolas wrote, “in light of recent governance concerns, we would like to provide I Liheslatura with research made available to us in the process of drafting and ratifying a Guam Constitution. While we have historically been advised to conduct our legislative matters through amendments to the Organic Act, I believe the time has come for us to pursue a more progressive avenue. By drafting a Guam Constitution, we would enable I Liheslatura and the People of Guam to collectively enhance our self-governing abilities. Additionally, with the production of this living document we may endeavor to not only address the governance concerns raised today but more effectively address associated issues in all matters going forward as well. This briefing squarely offers a platform for I Liheslatura to avail of the memorandum we have requested from the Congressional Research Service, providing clear guidance on how the constitutional process should play out first in Guam then in Washington, DC.

San Nicolas said at the briefing that Public Law 94-584, passed in 1976 did not have a sunset provision and had not been repealed. “There’s nothing we need to do federally for this process to engage,” he said.

 

Grocery store plans confirmed

As the Journal earlier reported, as of Jan. 10 the Micronesia Mall Pay-Less Supermarket location is closed for renovations, including building a new entrance adjacent to the multi-level parking structure facing Fatima Road which will provide easier access to designated parking for Micro-Mall Pay-Less patrons. Pay-Less confirmed the inclusion of a 330 square foot floral kiosk featuring fresh plants and handmade floral arrangements as customers enter the store; a new Marketplace with grab-and-go items and four food and beverage tenants including Infusion Coffee & Tea Guam, Loco Bowlz Co., Lonestar Eats and Crumbs; a walk-in beer cave and an interactive Chagi Station which will allow a vendor to sample wines, liquor, and delicious chesas; expanded produce/meat/seafood and freeze/dairy/chill departments; and an option for online shopping and curbside pick-up.

The renovation of the 40,362 square foot building will cost approximately $4.5 million.

For more details, on Pay-Less plans for 2022, see “The grocery isle: Pay-Less has plans for Guam” in the March 8, 2021, issue of the Journal.


Environmental group files lawsuit on alleged NEPA failure

According to a Jan. 25 release from Earthjustice’s Mid Pacific office in Honolulu, Prutehi Litekyan or Save Ritidian, represented by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging the U.S. Air Force’s failure to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act “for its plan to burn and detonate about 35,000 pounds of bombs and other hazardous waste munitions each year in the open air on Tarague Beach in northern Guam, less than 200 feet from the Pacific Ocean.” Prutehi Litekyan said the Air Force violated NEPA when it applied for a Hazardous

Andersen Air Force Base “without first considering the potentially significant cultural and environmental impacts from OB/OD or alternate means to dispose of munitions that have fewer environmental impacts.”

According to Earthjustice, “The proposed open burning operations at Tarague Beach would involve putting hazardous waste munitions in a large metal container that is open to the air, pouring diesel on top, and then lighting the munitions.” OB/OD of munitions releases both toxic chemicals—such as RDX, HMX, TNT, perchlorate, and dioxins/furans—and unexploded ordnance directly to the surrounding land, air, and ocean, the group said.

Earthjustice is a nonprofit environmental law organization.

 

Government of Guam update:

The groundbreaking of the Sinajana Senior Center Extension Project was held on Jan. 27. The extension will provide up to 1,330 square feet of additional space. Triple K Construction Co. will build the $100,000 extension, which is funded by a U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs. Acting Gov. Joshua F. Tenorio and Mayor Robert RDC Hofmann of Sinajana were among dignitaries who attended.

 


In other GovGuam news
, the
Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation processed an additional 139 payments for the All-RISE program, totaling $140,000 and comprised 88 paper checks and 51 electronic funds transfers, according to a Jan. 28 release.

Payments to date total $36,724,800 since Sept. 10. Rev&Tax continues to review the remaining applications seeking payment. mbj