Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan) has introduced a bill that would make the Commonwealth Ports Authority the lead agency when dealing with potential investors that want to offer flights to Saipan.
Senate Bill 19-79 aims to amend 2 CMC 2122 to authorize CPA to develop and expand air service in the CNMI. It is still at the committee of Public Utilities, Transportation, and Communications headed by Igisomar in the Senate, and the Commerce and Tourism chaired by Rep. Joseph Leepan Guerrero in the House.
Igisomar said airline investors have a hard time dealing with the CNMI on which agency could help them open an airline route here.
“We want to empower CPA to be the lead agency to coordinate all forms of interest when it comes to new airlines. So that when an investor comes in, they know where to go to,” Igisomar said.
Still, airline investors must still comply and follow all regulations set by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“We have federal regulations and limitations, and they need to comply with those requirements. But investors find so many obstacles and they don’t know who or where to go to when it comes to discussing of offering flights to Saipan,” said Igisomar. “They either go to the Governor’s Office, to the Legislature, CPA, the Marianas Visitors Authority or the Commonwealth Development Authority. But at the end of the day, who is coordinating it? Nobody and we want to empower CPA to be that lead agency in dealing with these investors.”
Igisomar said that having no lead agency to negotiate and deal with airlines already cost the CNMI a new carrier that could offer flights here. “The CPA, if it gets clear authorization, will put all regulations together to better assist them. Can you imagine how an investor feels on this issue?”
“Early this year, Orange Air, an airline out of Florida, thought of opening a flight to the CNMI. But they didn’t know who to talk to and they left. Nobody is helping them and they pulled out because we can’t assist them. I’m a legislator and I can’t be there. That’s why I’m encouraging the agencies to work with these type of investors and see what they could do.”
He said the CNMI should also get into a healthy competition with Guam when it comes to attracting tourists to visit the island and in bringing in new airlines. “First we need better service to get the airlines in. There are plans of infrastructure development and upgrades for the airport and seaport.
“Tourism is our main industry and one of the most important facility is the airport. We need all the help we could get and we rely on the airport for the tourists. The CPA should arrange their priorities,” added Igisomar.
Showcase island culture
He said the islands’ culture should greet tourists once they land at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport. “I would like [the CPA] to also promote our language, Chamorro and Carolinian. I’d like our airport to have instructions or signs in Chamorro and Carolinian.”
“I would like our airport to showcase our culture. This is who we are and we should be proud of it. The Chamorro and Carolinian languages should be the priority and the translations as secondary.”
“When I go to another country, the instructions are in their language and English secondary. We have our own culture. Tourists come here to hear our language and watch our dances. They want to experience our culture and we must showcase it to them.”