‘CBP requirement hampers SMA plan to resume Rota-Guam flights’


U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s requirement to have a CBP officer on Rota for the preclearance of departing passengers from Rota to Guam is hampering the plan of Star Marianas Air to schedule flights between the two islands, according to Sen. Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota).

Sen. Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota) also told Saipan Tribune yesterday that this recent CBP requirement of having all outbound passengers cleared from Rota to Guam has been a challenge for the resumption of SMA’s direct flights from Rota to Guam.

Santos said that prior to voting “yes” for the adoption of the committee report to confirm Agi Quiutugua’s nomination as director for the Marianas Visitors Authority during a Senate session on Rota, she pointed out that it was recommended during their last Rota Legislative Delegation session that the delegation meets with the Commonwealth Ports Authority and MVA regarding the CBP requirement.


Santos said it was suggested that the quick fix is to temporarily assign a CBP officer on Rota, but that this may not be cost effective since the traveling public and/tourists will ultimately be burdened by the cost of such an assignment.

The senator said the Rota delegation will be meeting with both CPA and MVA to see how they can resolve this matter.

Asked about the CBP requirement issue, Manglona said yesterday that he is still following up on a meeting with CBP CNMI Ports director Jeff Hofschneider, who is off island until around April 9, 2022.

“I’m very concerned that CPA and MVA don’t have a real plan for resuming Rota-Guam direct flights,” he said.

Manglona wrote CPA executive director Christopher S. Tenorio last March 17 requesting assistance in addressing the concern so that the community would be able to fly directly to and from Guam. In the letter, the senator requested Tenorio to identify an alternative accommodation, such as a virtual clearance, if possible, to secure these flight services.

In his March 18 response to Manglona, Tenorio said CPA supports direct flights from Rota to Guam, but it is not within CPA’s authority to decide whether “virtual clearance” is an acceptable CBP alternative to their physical presence on Rota. Tenorio said he forwarded a copy of Manglona’s letter to Hofschneider.


In his letter to Tenorio, Manglona disclosed that SMA had written to Warren Villagomez, the chairman of the CNMI Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force, in November 2021 to express their intention to resume scheduled passenger flight services between Rota and Guam beginning January 2022.

He said the people of Rota have relied on this flight route, although costly, to connect to Guam due to its close proximity. Manglona said the flight service between Rota and Guam has provided residents a greater opportunity for medical care, education, and access to affordable commodities.

The flights, however, were suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Right now, Rota residents have to travel from Guam to Saipan then Rota, which is more expensive.

“Our people have waited patiently for the resumption of these scheduled flights as chartering flights are very costly during these times of financial hardship,” Manglona said.

He said during the process to resume these flight services, SMA learned about the U.S. CBP’s requirement, which was only implemented after the onset of the pandemic.

The senator said SMA has expressed on numerous occasions of their commitment to the Rota residents to once again provide direct flight services between Rota and Guam.

At present, Manglona said, each time a chartered flight from Rota to Guam is scheduled, SMA would have to fly a CBP officer from Saipan to Rota and back to clear departing passengers.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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