‘We need to start planning for the opening of our borders’


Since the rampant spread of the COVID-19 pandemic back in 2020, the CNMI has taken the lead in terms of safeguarding its borders. However, although it has ensured a low community transmission count compared to the rest of the world, keeping the borders closed is not sustainable and, according to the Commonwealth Ports Authority, the community needs to start planning on re-opening the CNMI’s borders.

With the CNMI slowly but surely welcoming back airlines, and with new airlines interested in establishing a Saipan route, CPA board chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds says the CNMI has to prepare for the inevitable, which is re-opening its borders to the world.

“The CNMI has been leading the nation in terms of response and containing this pandemic. However, we need to start planning for opening up our borders and resuming a new normal in the way we live our lives. This virus is not going away. Our current protocols are unsustainable. The science is telling us that the vaccines are working. It is not a cure but it does significantly lessen the likelihood of hospitalization and acute sickness. The issue has always been about making sure that our health care system has the capacity and is not overburdened. The science is also telling us that if we wear masks, practice social distancing, and wash our hands, the likelihood of transmission is significantly reduced,” she said.

“This is not something that the government can do for us. This is our responsibility to each other as members of our community. We need to start thinking about that and start mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves for that inevitability. In a few weeks, vaccines for our kids will be rolled out and I encourage our community to get all our kids vaccinated to protect them. We will soon come to the point where we will have no choice but to open up. We all need to do our part to be responsible citizens and work together to see each other through this,” she added.

Currently, King-Hinds said, CPA has allowed regular flights from Jeju Air, T’Way Airlines, pursuant to the Travel Bubble arrangement in place. However, CPA and MVA is in the process of having new airlines fly into Saipan from Korea, specifically Air Busan and Air Seoul. Although the CNMI has a Travel Bubble in place, soon, this program will expire and regular flights will resume and the CNMI has to prepare for that.

“Right now, we have Air Seoul and Air Busan requesting to fly in. There is no issue with accommodating their arrivals at the airport but we are mindful that there are existing COVID-19 Task Force requirements that must be worked out that is still in place to ensure the health and safety of our community and that there are sufficient accommodations for our guests to ensure that their visit is enjoyable and memorable,” she said.

Right now, CPA has temporarily held off making a decision on Air Seoul and Air Busan’s application to fly to the CNMI.

King-Hinds also pointed out that the requirements needed to have scheduled flights to the CNMI includes a certificate from the U.S Department of Transportation and a landing permit, among other things.

“They submit their certificate from DOT and request for landing permit, among other things. But those are the two that are most important,” she said.

Kimberly Bautista Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Bautista Esmores 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 kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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