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    Friday, October 19, 2018-4:04:21P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Toves says CPA working on airline policy

BARRIE Toves said the Commonwealth Ports Authority has already established a policy that will  help the CNMI  qualify for the federal Essential Air Service program.

Toves said it is just a matter of the board’s adopting the policy so the CNMI can move forward with its plan to address airline issues.

Barrie Toves laughs during the Senate public hearing on his re-appointment to the Commonwealth Ports Authority board, Thursday. Photo by Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

Toves said the problem is that the CPA board has no quorum, adding that his term expired several months ago.

On Thursday, Toves, who was reappointed by Gov. Ralph D.L.G. Torres, appeared before the Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations which conducted a public hearing on his nomination.

His colleagues on the CPA board, other CPA officials, friends and other supporters urged the Senate to confirm Toves’ nomination.

CPA board member Pete P. Reyes said Toves, who has been a board member for 10 years, was instrumental in handling the military issue at the height of the divert-airfield negotiations.

He dealt with the issue well with full sensitivity and complete understanding of the community’s major concerns, Reyes said.

He added that Toves has a comprehensive knowledge of airline issues.

Rep. Leepan Guerrero said Toves’ caliber  and background make him a great asset to the board and to the entire CNMI.

CPA Deputy Director Ed Mendiola said Toves has been involved in the establishment of  concession rules and regulations which are now in the final stage of preparation.

He said Toves is needed on the CPA board to ensure the completion of the process.

In an interview, Toves said he understands the senators’ concerns, especially since United Airlines pulled out of Rota.

“They emphasized the need to be more aggressive in addressing the issue. I told them that the board has already adopted a policy for us to [get a] new airline to provide Rota-Guam flights. That is in the works already; unfortunately, it just so happens that we were caught off guard when United decided to pull out without giving us time to prepare for it. We know it is going to impact Rota, and that’s why we had been addressing it even before it happened. The CPA board’s Committee on Airport Facilities which I chaired and the finance committee are working on that. [CPA board member and attorney] Kimberly King-Hinds is taking the lead as she has legal knowledge and expertise. She’s the perfect board member to take the lead and work with the governor’s office to see how the U.S. Department of Transportation can assist us through the Essential Air Service program. We still need to have U.S. congressional action in order for the CNMI to qualify for that like Alaska and Hawaii.”

The airline-subsidy issue was also discussed during the public hearing.

“As far as a subsidy is concerned,” Toves said, “CPA is  kind of worried because we cannot set aside  regular funds and establish a subsidy program for a particular airline. If we are going to implement a subsidy program we will have to standardize it so other airlines can also participate….  It will still not address the issue of a regular flight service for Rota.”

He said if he is confirmed, he will follow up on these issues.

“It’s just a matter of the board members’ coming together and adopting the needed policies,” he added.