The Commonwealth Ports Authority is expected to be more aggressive on raking in airlines to service inter-island passengers.
According to CPA board member nominee for Rota Barrie Toves, several senators who attended yesterday’s public hearing for his nomination voiced out their emerging concern for inter-island travel in the vernacular.
Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Governmental Investigations chair Sen. Francisco Cruz (R-Tinian) was present in the public hearing, along with Sen. Steve Mesngon (R-Rota), Sen. Sixto Igisomar (R-Saipan), Sen. Jude Hofschneider (R-Tinian), and vice chair Sen. Just Quitugua (Ind-Saipan). Sen. Teresita Santos (R-Rota) was absent.
Toves pointed out that Rota is most affected by the recent pullout announcement of United Airlines as they severed ties with Cape Air Express in Micronesia. He added that difficulties in servicing air-travel passengers were increasing, and that he was almost not able to make it for his public hearing.
“…[The senators] emphasized the need for CPA to be more aggressive in trying to address this issue,” he said. Toves added that back in May 2018, the board has already adopted a policy that opens up assistance for airlines wishing to establish flights servicing Rota and Guam.
Toves noted that the CPA board was able to task CPA board member representing Tinian, Kimberly King-Hinds, with reviewing what possible assistance the U.S. Department of Transportation may provide with her law background.
“We are going to need a U.S. congressional act in order for the CNMI to enjoy the same essential programs that Hawaii and Alaska are enjoying at the moment,” he said.
When it comes to subsidizing airlines to service routes that are not so feasible, Toves said it isn’t so simple as to just outright paying the airlines for their services.
“…We can’t set aside our revenue funds and establish a subsidy program for a particular airline. If we are going to implement a subsidy program, we are going to have to standardize it; all other airlines participating in our facilities are all qualified for that,” he said.
However, Toves said CPA may consider subsidizing the route itself since it may prove to be more beneficial. He added that either way, subsidizing airlines—whether for inter-island or international travel—should be standardized so that no single airline is favored.
Toves stated these are some of the things that he wishes to follow through if the Senate confirms him to the CPA board.
As of publication, Toves said they could finally establish a quorum for the CPA board, which includes King-Hinds, chair Jose Lifoifoi, Thomas “Kiyu” Villagomez, Roman Tudela Sr., and Pete P. Reyes.
Tudela, Reyes, and King-Hinds all supported the nomination of Toves, who has served the board as a member since 2008.
CPA executive director Chris Tenorio, CPA deputy director Ed Mendiola, Port manager Ronny Taisacan, and Rep. Joseph “Lee Pan” Guerrero (R-Saipan) also supported Toves’ nomination.