SMA proposes OPA to serve as mediator in dispute with CPA


Although Star Marianas Airlines Inc. has resumed its regular scheduled flights, the airline still disagrees with the Commonwealth Ports Authority’s new method of assessing airport usage fees and would like the Office of the Public Auditor to serve as the third-party in the ongoing dispute.

According to a letter from Star Marianas president Shaun Christian to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, because the CPA allegedly continues to deny Star Marianas’ argument over the new method in assessing airport usage fees, the airline recommends that a third party, such as the Office of the Public Auditor, examine these regulations and provide an independent assessment of the fees the CPA is attempting to impose on all aeronautical users at the airports.

“Star contacted an independent certified public accountancy firm that is willing to assist the OPA in evaluating the fees the CPA intends to impose. The results of such reviews would be invaluable when the CPA undertakes to amend the regulations. Naturally, such an undertaking will take time,” he said.

During the meeting with Torres last week, SMA expressed its concerns that CPA’s representation of fees the CPA is assessing for use of the CNMl’s airports has been distorted and that several significant provisions in regulations have not been disclosed by CPA.

Aside from proposing OPA to serve as a third party, Star Marianas also suggested two possible scenarios to resolve the ongoing dispute, one of which is reinstating the previous Airport Use Agreement that has since been terminated.

“One would be for the CPA to pursue revisions to regulations in an effort to achieve a fee methodology that can be unilaterally ‘imposed’ on the airport users because it is purely compensatory. Or two, the CPA can, by agreement with the aeronautical users, reinstate the Airport Use Agreement which was previously unilaterally terminated,” he said.

“Star [Marianas] has indicated a willingness to consider the second option, but that would need a fresh CPA management team that is interested in fulfilling the assurances and responsibilities for an airport sponsor receiving federal funding, knowledgeable of the regulations, and willing to work with all aeronautical users that are conducting operations at the airports in the CNMI,” he said.

Last Dec. 23, Star Marianas resumed its scheduled interisland service following a meeting with the CNMI administration regarding airport usage fee subsidy.

It was learned that following the meeting with Torres last Tuesday, the U.S Department of Transportation granted the airline’s request to resume commuter operations after being found fit, willing, and able to conduct its operations as a commuter air carrier.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at

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