The Marianas Visitors Authority has high hopes that a visiting Customs and Border Protection executive would assist in the CNMI’s struggles to keep the immigration lines at the airport short.
In a message to Saipan Tribune, MVA managing director Chris Concepcion said that MVA is looking to discuss with CBP director of field operations at the San Francisco field office Brian Humphrey the long wait times for tourists at the CBP area upon arrival.
The CBP San Francisco field office has jurisdiction over all U.S. ports in the Western Pacific region including the CNMI, Guam, Hawaii, California, and Nevada.
Concepcion said that the unacceptable wait lines of 3 to 4 hours or more is a “major concern for the [CNMI] tourism industry.”
“It’s a black eye on our reputation as a beach resort destination. We seek to dialogue with CBP leaders on what can be done to alleviate the long waits at CBP,” reiterated Concepcion.
MVA, like CPA, has been continuously attempting to resolve or alleviate the long immigration lines at the airport. The latter has a flight schedule in the works that seeks to spread out flights all throughout the day so as not to congest tourist arrivals.
MVA, on the other hand, has funded four automated passport control machines, or APC machines, worth $75,000 for use at the airport and is expected to “arrive any day now.”
Along with the APC machines, the airport was able to acquire chairs and televisions for the tourists. CPA has also allowed their vendor to sell refreshments to passengers as they wait in line.
According to Concepcion, these efforts are still lacking as the problem is mainly due to the shortage of CBP personnel.
“The overall concern is the limited number of personnel stationed in Saipan and what CBP plans to do about it,” said Concepcion.
“We’ve been working closely with CPA and the local CBP office and we’ve seen some positive results so far.”
“With the MVA purchasing APC machines, we continue to see more improvements at the Saipan International Airport,” he added.
Humphrey met yesterday with Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, Lt. Gov. Victor B. Hocog, and both of the CNMI legislative branches.
What was discussed between the government officials have yet to be disclosed but a message from the Torres administration told Saipan Tribune that it would be kept posted when the administration is ready to release contents of the discussions along with information related to Torres’ trip to Washington, D.C. and a recap of the State of the Commonwealth Address.
Humphrey is set to meet with other government agencies today, including CPA, MVA, and Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (D-MP).