Mariana Islands updates:
Residents in the Northern Mariana Islands will receive two forms of help with cost-of-living increases.
Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres said at a virtual press conference on Aug. 8 that Commonwealth Utility Corp. clients will get rebates of $300 in August, September and October against their billings. The governor said if a monthly bill was less than $300, the difference would be credited forward. “Instead of a lump sum like in the past, we’re doing it per month,” he said. Ratepayers reportedly received a CUC credit of $150 for July.
Taxpayers in the Northern Mariana Islands will for the second time receive $500 in economic stimulus payments through cards that can be used at any business in the NMI. Secretary of Finance David DLG. Atalig told the Journal at the press conference that $18 million of $25 million in the program had already been distributed. For new taxpayers for the previous tax year, he said. “We have several thousand stimulus cards that were ordered.” The program was beneficial to businesses, he said. “We had an increase in our [Business Gross Receipts Tax.]”
Torres also said that the CUC would receive a new 10-megawatt generator. “I believe it’s on its way, if not here,” he said.
Atalig said the ARPA funds had allowed for more people to be hired, which has tax benefits for the NMI as well as supporting small businesses and non-profits. While tourism slowly returns, he said, “We have a robust domestic economy,” including the launch of Marianas Southern Airways.
In Guam, Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero signed Executive Order No. 2022-21, “relative to implementing mask wearing and physical distancing requirements in healthcare settings.” Effective 12 a.m. Aug. 9, “Healthcare settings shall require the use of face masks for everyone entering healthcare facilities, including healthcare providers, patients, and visitors,” and “Physical distancing shall be required in healthcare settings where it will not interfere with the provision of care.”
The Guam Joint Information Center reported Aug. 8 192 positive COVID cases from Aug. 6 to Aug. 8, with 17 of those Department of Defense personnel; 27 individuals were hospitalized, and one fatality was reported.
The Commonwealth Health Corp. reported Aug. 8 132 cases from July 31 to Aug. 6, with two hospitalizations.
In other Government of Guam news, the Guam Department of Health and Social Services continues to inspect temporary workforce housing and childcare centers.
Arrivals to the Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan, Tinian and Rota) grew 1,618% to 10,411 visitors in June, compared to 606 visitors in June 2021. The figure marks the first month of arrivals exceeding 10,000 visitors since the start of the pandemic in 2020, according to the Marianas Visitors Authority.
A total of 7,335 visitors arrived from South Korea in June, compared to two visitors in June 2021. The NMI received 89 visitors from Japan in June, compared to two visitors in June 2021.
In other NMI tourism-related news, from Sept. 1 the NMI’s Tourism Resumption Investment Program “will incentivize three weekly flights from Narita to Saipan by United Airlines,” MVA said. The program will continue for an initial six months … to stabilize the Japan market.
MVA is working on rebuilding public awareness of the NMI, especially among the younger generation, the authority said. The NMI also received 955 visitors from Guam, 835 visitors from the U.S. mainland and a combined 1,197 additional visitors from all other destinations in June. Those arrivals included athletes, officials, and fans for the NMI Pacific Mini Games in June.
The Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands releases occupancy figures and rates for the NMI.
HANMI reported 41% average occupancy rate among its 12 member hotels for June compared to 10% average occupancy in June 2021. A total of 23,522 of 56,960 available room nights sold during June, compared to 3,391 of 34,524 available rooms sold in June 2021. Average room rates were $138.89 compared to $144.61 in June 2021. HANMI attributed the increase in occupancy to 54 direct flights from Korea in June and bookings made for the Mini Games.
Arrivals to Guam for June were 28,278, an increase of 280.2% from June 2021. Guam saw 16,298 visitors from Korea in June, compared to 173 in June 2021 and 1,190 visitors from Japan, compared to 455 in June 2021. Guam saw 7,088 from the U.S. mainland and Hawaii, compared to 5,206 in June 2021. U.S. military arrivals for June were 2,477 (air and sea) compared to 1,217 in 2021.
Military arrivals increased occupancy significantly in some hotels in Guam, according to Journal sources.
The Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association has not released occupancy statistics since 2020.
The Palau Visitors Authority reported 1,000 visitors for June compared to 82 in June 2021, and 761 in May of this year. In June, 65 visitors came from Japan, 15 from Korea and 763 from the U.S./Canada, and 40 from Europe.
The Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation – formerly the Office of Economic Adjustment at the U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a $1.2 million grant to fund the two-phased In Water Infrastructure Feasibility Study of all cargo handling wharves and fuel piers and develop the Port of Guam’s “military readiness support feasibility study.” According to an Aug. 8 release from the Office of the Governor, the study “will also support the administration’s ongoing efforts to sustain and enhance the operational effectiveness, resiliency, and sustainability of the Port Authority of Guam, which is vital to Guam’s strategic value.”
The Office of Insular Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior announced Aug. 1 $1.5 million in technical assistance grants for the Marshall Islands for fiscal 2022, largely for safe drinking water and sanitation systems.
OIA earlier announced July 27 a technical assistance grant of $528,574 for fiscal 2022 for the government of Palau to conduct a Household Income Expenditure Survey and to support the development of a physical education program in Palauan public schools.
U.S. Naval Base Guam will participate in the annual Naval Installations Command anti-terrorism/force protection exercise Citadel Pacific 2022 from Aug.15 to 19. Exercise events may cause increased traffic, occasional delays in base access, and gate closures, according to an Aug. 8 release. Residents may also see increased activity associated with the exercise, which will also include activation of public address systems at installations.
Animal Wellness Action of Washington, D.C. “have strongly criticized the Guam Department of Agriculture for allowing at least 132 fighting animals onto [Guam] from Hawaii-based cockfighters between March and July of this year, according to AWA’s review of the territory’s latest live-animal shipping records,” the group said in an Aug. 8 release. Animal Wellness Action has begun releasing names of importers and number of imported birds, following a Sunshine request for shipping records.
For your diary:
Aug. 10 – Friends of Business Summit, Saipan World Resort, noon to 4 p.m. (free event) Hosted by the Northern Mariana Islands Small Business Development Center Network, the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, and the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors. To register contact (670) 234-7150.
Aug. 20 and 21 – 2nd Annual Greg D. Perez International Sportfishing Tournament, Gregorio D. Perez Marina in Hagåtña and at the Agat Marina, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., $200 for captain and one angler, + $35 for each additional angler. Register at W5 Productions/Guahan Soldier shop in Mongmong, Mon-Fri 9 a.m.-6p.m. Sat- 9 a.m.-1 p.m., or online at www.gregdperezfoundation.org For information call (671) 689-2488.
Nov. 14 to Nov. 18 – The Asia Pacific Association for Fiduciary Studies will host Fiduciary Events Week at the New World Makati City Hotel, Manila.
The week will begin with Fiduciary Essentials Training on Nov. 14, followed by a two-day course of Accredited Investment Fiduciary Training, followed by Global Fiduciary Strategist training on Nov. 15 and16. APAFS will host the 20th Pacific Region Investment Conference (PRIC) Nov. 17 and18.