Governor to declare public health emergency

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GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres this week will issue a public health emergency declaration following President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration amid the Covid-19 pandemic that is now crippling the world economy.

The local economy, which depends on tourism, is rapidly declining as a result of continuous cancelation of flights from the CNMI’s Asian markets.

Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Priscilla Iakopo on Sunday said South Korea’s Asiana Airlines will temporarily cease operations on March 22.

But she said MVA has not been informed by Japan’s Skymark Airlines that it will also suspend its Saipan flight service.

On Thursday, MVA said Jeju Airlines will suspend its Busan, South Korea-Saipan flight service starting in April, and that T’way Air will also suspend its Nagoya, Japan-Saipan flight service, but the airline has not yet announced the date.

In an interview on Sunday, the governor said: “I will be coming forward to address our community and our people regarding President Trump’s national declaration and we will also declare an emergency in the CNMI,” the governor said noting that the president has expressed support for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which “builds on an $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus spending package enacted into law on March 6.”

Torres said his administration will continue to work with the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and federal partners “to get as much [federal assistance] as we can.”

He reiterated that the administration’s priority is to keep the CNMI coronavirus-free.

“But even if we remain coronavirus-free, the reality is that tourists are just not flying.”

Torres said the authorities do not want to alarm the community, “but we will continue to provide factual information about the situation we’re facing today.”

He said the CNMI is looking forward to the revival of the tourism industry.

For his part, Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig said the administration had anticipated the cancelation of flights from South Korea, the CNMI’s main tourism market.

He said the administration expected Asiana Airlines to cease its Saipan flight service this spring.

“So we reviewed our budget and anticipated more cuts — we are bracing for ‘no arrivals,’” he added.

Meantime, he said, the governor is in constant communication with Washington, D.C. regarding federal assistance that may be provided to the CNMI.

“We’re hoping that they will respond to our request for an economic stimulus while we go through this economic downturn,” the Finance secretary said.

He added that the president’s national emergency declaration on Saturday indicates that federal assistance will be available soon.

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