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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i


Dedicated Regional Air Services Sought For Micronesia
Private sector groups hope 2 carriers can serve entire region

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

HAGTA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, Dec. 14, 2012) – Bringing at least two air carriers dedicated to serve the North Pacific region is one of the main goals of the newly formed Micronesian Council of Chambers of Commerce, according to Ken Uyehara, president of the Palau Chamber of Commerce.

Having its own regional carriers will ease inter-island travels and accelerate the growth of tourism in the region, Uyehara said.

He noted that inter-island travels are currently restricted due to a limited number of carriers serving Micronesian areas.

United is currently the only carrier serving the region.

"The Republic of the Marshall Islands is the farthest that they go. They have a few stops there," Uyehera said. "It’s hard for Marshallese travelers to get to Guam and it’s easier for them to get to Hawaii. If it’s difficult for locals to travel here, then it’s difficult to bring tourists to this part of the world."

On Saipan, Air Papaya is reportedly in the planning stage. The proposed carrier is reportedly a project of JMSH LLC, which owns Alupang Beach Tower, Garden Villa, Holiday Resort Guam, Mai'ana Airport Plaza Hotel, and Tumon Horizon Condominiums.

Competition

"If it’s going to serve the whole of Micronesia, that would be great; that’s what we need," said Uyehara, executive director of the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organization. "But we hope to see not just one, but at least two airlines that will serve the area. If there is one airline that is reliable, it’s good; but competition is always better."

Uyehera said bringing an airline that will serve the entire region is particularly challenging because Pacific island nations and territories have different political structures.

Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia, being independent nations, can enter into agreements with countries to bring foreign air carriers, Uyehera said.

Palau, for example, has agreements with Japan, Taiwan, Korea and the Philippines, allowing any of their carriers to fly in and out of the country.

Cabotage

"It’s much difficult for Guam and the CNMI because agreements are done on a national level," Uyehera said. "Guam and the CNMI have cabotage where only U.S. carriers can connect to U.S. carrier ports. Philippine Airlines can’t pick up passengers from Guam and Saipan and fly them to Hawaii."

Air transportation and aviation regulations are among the issues that the newly formed regional chambers council hopes to address, Uyehara said.

The formation of the Micronesian Council of Chambers of Commerce was sealed through a memorandum of understanding signed on Monday by representatives from the Chambers of Commerce of Guam, the CNMI, Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and Marshall Islands at the Ramada Hotel & Suites in Tamuning.

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