CPA calls for 60-day suspension of new flights

THE Commonwealth Ports Authority board unanimously adopted a resolution imposing a 60-day suspension on the entry of new international airline flights into the CNMI.

CPA Board Chairman Jose Lifoifoi said the resolution needs the U.S. Department of Transportation’s approval.

“We don’t have the authority to suspend flights — it’s DOT’s responsibility, so we can only recommend a policy such as this one.”

Board member Barrie Toves said they adopted the resolution in response to Gov. Ralph Torres’s letter to the CPA board dated June 8, 2017.

In the letter, Torres asked for a 60-day suspension of new airline flights, calling it an “important control effort” that should be implemented “as soon as possible.”

“The problem we are trying to address is the large influx of tourists into the CNMI where the tourism infrastructure is inadequate to accommodate them,” Toves said.

“So in order for us to stop the bleeding we need to establish some kind of policy. The governor asked us to establish a moratorium. Although we know we don’t have the authority to do that, we passed the resolution and informed the DOT that this is the policy that we want to implement.”

Commonwealth Ports Authority board members Barrie Toves, Pete Reyes, Roman Tudela, Kimberlyn King-Hinds and Clarence Tenorio review the language of the flight-suspension resolution during a break in their meeting, Tuesday. Photo by Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

Toves added, “It’s alarming to see a lot of tourists coming in and not being sure where we are going to place them. When they come in here, our hotels are not adequate to house them. That’s one issue and we understand the governor, so we’re here to assist him. If we implement the moratorium for at least 60 days, it will give us the opportunity to address the issue…. The current 12 to 14 airline services that we have right now are enough and will not be affected by this moratorium. We’ll see how it turns out. We are anticipating more hotel rooms opening up so we can continue accommodating our tourists.”

He said CPA’s move is “bittersweet…because, as we all know, our economy is now expanding. But we need to limit flights coming in because we don’t have enough accommodations for them.”

CPA board member Pete P. Reyes said the 60-day suspension will give the CNMI government the opportunity to assess the situation.

“Now that the economy is growing so fast, we need to take a break and re-assess the situation because we are now seeing tourists walking on the street, pulling their luggage. We are concerned that there are no rooms to accommodate them, and they are going to areas that may not be suitable due to lack of accommodations,” Reyes said.

“It’s not a permanent suspension,” he added. “It is just temporary to give the CNMI government the opportunity to review the situation and determine how we can best respond to our tourists’ needs. Two months are not enough, but we are also trying to be practical here in making sure that during this period we get something in the works to resolve the issue. If we don’t, then there’s a great risk that we will lose our economy.”

The CPA resolution asks the DOT secretary and the Federal Aviation Administration to proceed with an expedited review of the suspension notice and inform CPA of their decision.

Toves said right now only one airline is directly affected by this moratorium. He said an airline from Beijing was supposed to launch its inaugural flight on June 29 after securing a permit to fly on that date.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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