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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Flashback — Jan. 1999-Jan. 2001

Jan. 18, 1999

CPA presses ahead with port fees hike

The Commonwealth Ports Authority will meet with the Legislature and airline executives this week to explain the urgency of carrying out a rate increase at the airport so that it can repay its $53 million debt. Carlos H. Salas, executive director, said he will discuss with officials of Continental Micronesia and Northwest Airlines on Guam the planned rate hike. A similar meeting was also held with Japan Airlines executives. A week ago, CPA officials led by board chairman Roman S. Palacios talked to Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio seeking his support on the rate increase. Amid mounting losses from its operation, Salas had expressed concern that the ports authority will not be able to meet the required 1.25 percent debt service requirement. If the ports authority fails to implement an increase, it will be forced to seek subsidy from the government to be able to pay for its obligations, he said.

House acts on retirement bill

The House of Representatives has set in motion an administration’s request to remove a retirement bonus given to civil service employees in fear the benefits may throw the cash-strapped government into deeper financial woes. A bill grandfathering those employees eligible to receive the bonus passed the House last Friday as members assured recent retirees that they will receive their money once the local revenue collections improve in the next few years. Rep. Heinz Hofschneider, author of House Bill 11-359, said the proposed measure will guarantee payment of the bonus equivalent to 30 percent of the employee’s annual salary at the end of his government service.

Jan. 18, 2000

Probe on canceled 80MW power project mulled

An investigation may be conducted by lawmakers to look into the cancellation by the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation of Saipan’s 80-megawatt power plant after the government corporation spent over half-a-million dollars for procurement of a project that took nearly three years. Senate Floor Leader Pete P. Reyes at the same time questioned the study on the island’s power load that was undertaken by independent consultants hired by CUC based on information the utility firm had provided. Asking utility officials to justify expenditures of at least $500,000 only to junk the project, the outspoken senator raised the possibility of the probe to determine who should be held liable for what he claimed as “wasted taxpayers’ money.”

Debt-to-equity conversion for CUC’s $107M loan eyed

The Commonwealth Utilities Corporation is hoping to retire its debt amounting close to $107 million through a plan which will be announced by next month as part of the efforts to forge ahead with the new power project proposal for Saipan. CUC Executive Director Timothy P. Villagomez has been tasked by the board to develop the scheme to wipe out its mounting financial obligations to the Commonwealth Development Authority. According to CDA Board Chairman John S. Tenorio, the government’s chief lending agency will propose a debt-to- equity conversion which will be more acceptable to them than other options, including debt forgiveness.

Jan. 18, 2001

CPA probes oil leakage at airport

Two key agencies have deployed a full scale investigation in search for the culprit behind the estimated 6,000 gallons of jet fuel that has leaked at the Saipan International Airport grounds. The Division of Environmental Quality has signaled the Commonwealth Ports Authority to start invesigation of the incident after receiving reports indicating possibilities of a potential contamination problem at the airport. DEQ issued a Notice of Violation, ordering CPA to evaluate the extent of the contamination, if any, and develop a cleanup action plan. Acting DEQ Director Antonio I. Deleon Guerrero said an initial investigation from Mobil Oil Marianas Inc. reveals that the leak occurred from a faulty gasket in a fuel line between a storage tank operated by the company and the airport refueling facilities.

NMI keeps close watch of Asian economies

As economic uncertainties cloud major countries in Asia from which the CNMI source its biggest tourism markets, business analysts are predicting yet another year of slow business activities for the Northern Marianas. In preparation to the anticipated persistence of low economic output this year, the Commonwealth Development Authority has started taking aggressive measures to assist local entrepreneurs weather dwindling business turnout due to weaker consumer confidence. Business experts at the development authority have been mobilized to conduct counseling sessions with the agency’s clients who may be in search for ways to survive the economic contraction, thereby, continue paying their loans from the CDA.

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