‘Far-reaching’ economic impact

Cavanagh: Impact for hotels is huge; some already reducing work hours

With no typhoon to blame—when the CNMI gets federal assistance—the economic impact to the Commonwealth of the cancellation of flights due to the coronavirus outbreak will be significant and far-reaching, according to Commonwealth Ports Authority board chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds yesterday.

The dollar impact of such flight cancellations and suspensions on CNMI hotels will be huge, said Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands president Gloria Cavanagh.

This comes soon after President Donald J. Trump issued a proclamation that suspends or limits the entry to the United States of persons who pose a risk of transmitting the 2019 novel coronavirus, which originated from Wuhan, China. That has prompted three China-based airlines to suspend flights to the CNMI this February.

Speaking of her thoughts on the financial impact of these flights cancellations, King-Hinds said that ensuring the personal wellbeing and health of the citizens in the community should and must be a priority. What has been disappointing about these types of discussions, King-Hinds said, are the liberties that people take “to score political points.”

“I’m over it and our citizens are over it. What this community cares about are plans. Plans that articulate how we can climb out of this mess, get back on our feet and get back to the business of building the CNMI,” she said.

At this point, she said, the need is to go beyond projecting impacts and, instead, work together to figure out how to overcome the economic uncertainties that the CNMI will face.

“Otherwise, you’re adding to the problem and not being part of the solution,” King-Hinds said.

Because of the massive decrease in the number of tourists entering the CNMI, the work hours of some hotel workers have already been reduced, Cavanagh disclosed.

“We are hoping to minimize the cancellations of the other two markets and hopefully be able to increase them,” she said, referring to the Japan and Korea markets.

In explaining how President Trump’s proclamation affects travelers coming to the CNMI, CPA executive director Christopher S. Tenorio said in a press release that, starting yesterday, Feb. 3, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is directing all flights to the United States carrying persons who have recently traveled from China to arrive at one of the U.S. airports where the U.S. government has enhanced screening procedures.

If a U.S. citizen or a person exempted by Trump’s proclamation has visited China within the last 14 days, that individual will be rebooked to arrive at one of the designated airports identified in the notification, Tenorio added.

Tenorio said non-U.S. citizens that are not excluded by the presidential proclamation will not be allowed to board the flight and will be referred to the U.S. Consulate.

“This includes individuals entering the CNMI under the Chinese CNMI-Only Parole Program, through ESTA authorizations, the Guam-CNMI visa waiver program, and those holding CW-1 visas,” he said.

Tenorio said the designated airport for the rebooked travelers heading to the CNMI is the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Tenorio said that travelers who attempt to arrive in the CNMI indirectly from mainland China will also be subject to USDHS’ requirements.

“For example, if a traveler from mainland China arrives in South Korea, stays for less than 14 days, and later attempts to board a plane to the CNMI, then the airline will either not allow the individual to board the flight to the CNMI or will rebook the individual to one of the designated airports identified in the proclamation,” Tenorio said.

Even though these restrictions are in place, additional safeguards have been established to protect the CNMI.

Tenorio said if an individual that has visited China within 14 days somehow arrives in the CNMI, that person will be referred to the Commonwealth Health Center by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

He said CHCC will then determine the next appropriate steps, including whether isolation of the individual is necessary.

Tenorio said CPA has worked closely with the Commonwealth Health Care Corp., which runs CHC, and U.S. CBP to establish the necessary protocols.

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
Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.