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Last updateWed, 21 Nov 2018 12am

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    Tuesday, November 20, 2018-6:35:10P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Governor: NMI left out of air-travel-cabotage amendment

GOVERNOR Ralph D.L.G. Torres is disappointed that unlike American Samoa, the CNMI wasn’t included in an interisland air-travel-cabotage amendment which was one of the provisions of the recently enacted Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018.

 “American Samoa celebrated a great victory nine days ago when President Trump signed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018,” the governor said in a statement. “Our colleague, the Honorable Aumua Amata Radewagen, American Samoa’s Republican member of Congress, inserted a favorable clause that streamlines the requirement of foreign carriers who service the interisland routes between Tutuila and Manu’a islands of American Samoa.”

Torres added, “As only a two-term member of Congress, Congresswoman Radewagen, has achieved a much needed reprieve on permitting, creating a better opportunity for air carriers on American Samoa to conduct business, which will lead to cheaper interisland travel for the territory.”

Rep. Angel A. Demapan, the Republican candidate for U.S. Congress, said his opponent, U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Sablan, did not ask for the CNMI’s inclusion in the amendment.

In a statement, Demapan said: “The CNMI remains subject to the 30-day rule of applying for waivers which has been cost-prohibitive for carriers. The residents of the CNMI must deal with once-a-day commercial flights between Guam and Saipan and absolutely no commercial flights out of Rota.”

He said if Kilili had been able to get the CNMI included in Radewagen’s amendment, the Commonwealth would have had the opportunity to approach foreign carriers such as Jeju Air, Philippine Airlines, Cebu Airlines, “or even maybe one of the Japanese carriers flying to Guam.”

According to Governor Torres, “If the CNMI had been included in the amendment, the Commonwealth government could have approached any of these foreign carriers to do a stop on Saipan. This means we could have had more flights out of Saipan with an opportunity for a Rota stop. The primary objective is reducing the cost of travel. This is most important for our residents seeking off-island medical care.  If any of these foreign carriers had the opportunity to stop by Saipan, our residents would more than likely have more reliable air service at a reduced cost.”

Demapan said Congresswoman Radewagen “is a two-term Republican member of Congress who has been able to deliver more for American Samoa in the last four years than Kilili has in almost 10 years with a previously Democrat-controlled White House, Senate and House of Representatives.”

Demapan added, “This demonstrates that the talk about having seniority in the U.S. Congress as being necessary to get things done for the CNMI is clearly not true. I already have a great working relationship with Congresswoman Radewagen and will work closely with her to ensure the CNMI is included in any assistance or benefits extended to American Samoa as well as to the other territories.”

Asked for comment, Congressman Kilili said:

“Section 402 of U.S. Public Law No. 115-254 only affects foreign carriers willing to serve the inter-island route in American Samoa between the islands of Tutuila and Manu’a. Samoa Airways (formerly Polynesian Air), a foreign carrier, has been providing emergency service between the two islands since 2014 and has had to renew its waiver from [the U.S. Department of Transportation] every 30 days. Foreign carriers will now have to apply for a permit every six months instead of every 30 days. DOT grants this waiver only because there is no U.S. air carrier providing service between Tutuila and Manu’a. Once a domestic carrier becomes available to serve the route, the exemption may continue for not more than 5 days.

“Thus, the exemption from cabotage is, again, only for air transportation between two islands within American Samoa. The exemption expires once a domestic carrier establishes flights between these two islands within American Samoa. For the Northern Marianas, that domestic carrier is Star Marianas.

“Is the governor saying that he wants a foreign carrier to fly the routes Star Marianas is already flying? Does he have a foreign carrier who has expressed a desire to fly these interisland routes when Star Marianas already has daily flights between these islands?

“The law clearly does not grant an exemption for a foreign carrier to haul passengers between American Samoa and, say, Honolulu or another destination, foreign or domestic.”