‘Vaccinations boost hope for Travel Bubble with Japan’

Governor says other countries looking at how CNMI implement COVID-19 protocols

Seeing the sustained strides that Japan is making in its vaccination drive against COVID-19 gives hope for the CNMI in its aim to launch a Travel Bubble with Japan this December, said Gov. Ralph DLG Torres Friday.

When asked during his radio press briefing about the Marianas Visitors Authority’s plan for the Japan Travel Bubble, Torres said he is happy that MVA is looking into such a program with Japan and that MVA is looking at launching that program in mid-December 2021 and into January 2022.

“I look forward to it. I do want to congratulate Japan as well for moving forward with their vaccination,” he said, adding that he hopes to bring back Skymark Airlines, which he said they worked so hard to bring in but was unfortunately stopped because of COVID-19.

Torres is hoping that other Japanese airlines or even other international airlines will create a route from Japan to Saipan.

He also praised the work that the CNMI team has done to keep the community safe, including the work of Governor’s Authorized Representative Patrick C. Guerrero, COVID-19 Task Force chair Warren Villagomez, and all the first responders, nurses, and doctors since Day 1.

“Our community listened and followed through because they believe in that leadership,” he said.

The governor said out of over 250 positive cases in the CNMI, the last 60 positive cases have been identified in the last three weeks only because of the delta variant.

“I know how strict we are. And I think people understand that now and appreciate that, and not just them, but even other countries,” he said.

Torres said other countries are also looking into the CNMI’s protocols. “And this pandemic, it’s a two-way thing. So we can be safe here. But until our partners are able to open up their quarantine site and increase their vaccination, or herd immunity, it’s very difficult to have that conversation,” the governor said.

He said it’s critical to diversify the CNMI’s tourism markets, and not just focus solely on Japan, Korea, and China. Torres said there is a need to venture out to Australia, perhaps even Vietnam, New Zealand, and Singapore.

He said diversifying the CNMI’s tourism market is the only way for the CNMI to have a stronger foundation for economic stabilization.

With respect to the CNMI-South Korea Travel Bubble program, the governor said CNMI is the only destination that South Korea has ever signed a Travel Bubble with.

“That is a big thing,” said Torres, noting that it’s because South Korea trusts the CNMI’s system and trusts the people that’s running the protocols.

He said to have South Korea encourage their people to only come to the CNMI puts the CNMI not just in a better position, but also showcases Rota and Tinian.

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
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