UOG alum places 2nd in business strategy competition

Posted: Aug 31, 2015 By Isa Baza  KUAM

It's a game that brings together students from some of the top business schools in the world - and University of Guam graduate Jung Jin Cho ranked second place in his group during the August 2015 Best Strategy Invitational, part of the Business Strategy Game.

Cho said he used a numbers based strategy to outrank his peers. Dr. Annette Taijeron Santos said Cho's success shows the quality of business administration degree programs at UOG.

Young Junior Achievement entrepreneurs bring ideas to life

Posted: Aug 31, 2015 By Ken Quintanilla 

 

More of our island youth demonstrated their interest in businesses. This past weekend dozens of high school students attended the Junior Achievement Guam company program. JA is a program for high school students to learn more about work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy.

Meg Tyquiengco is the chairperson of the board for Junior Achievement and told KUAM News, "We have our eleven sponsoring companies - Bank of Guam, Bank of Hawaii, Calvo's Insurance , Community First, First Hawaiian Bank, Guma Tasa, IP&E, Tan Holdings, Triple J, Pacific Islands Club , and United Airlines, and they are all sponsoring anywhere between 25 to 35 students 30 and they're gonig to teach them how to create a business, build a product, market and sell it, and there will be a competition. And then they will liquidate that company , give a return of the investment to stockholders and then after that we have a competition in January that will send the two top teams to Korea."

The two teams will then compete against the top teams in 26 other countries in the Asia Pacific Region.

Report: Guam's economy continues to improve

Posted: Aug 31, 2015 By Nestor Licanto  KUAM

 

As the new fiscal year draws near, Guam's economy continues to improve. That's the assessment of long-time Department  of Labor economist Gary Hiles in his 2016 Economic Outlook Report.

"The economy on Guam has been gradually expanding for the last four years," he summarized, "and we're expecting for 2016 that it will continue expanding and perhaps start accelerating with the beginning of the military buildup, the marine relocation to Guam."

The Record of Decision was signed just this weekend; it was the final step in the defense department's lengthy federal environmental assessment. Hiles says it will trigger a more than decade-long run of military construction projects. He says Department of Defense predicts a gradual rise in activity that will add about 2,000 civilian jobs by 2016, ramping up to a high of more than 7,000 laborers by 2021.

But for the near term, Hiles says it was private sector construction that helped most, noting when asked about what stands out as highlights of his outlook, "Well, in this year the opening of the Regional City medical hospital has been a big highlight, and also the major employer - the Dusit Thani hotel - has opened in Tumon. So two major employers and a number of smaller new restaurants have opened recently. And that employment will continue and expand some more in the future as those businesses get more fully ramped up."

In his report, Hiles says there are a number of other private and local government construction projects in the pipeline, their impact on the level of economic activity and revenues for Fiscal Year 2016 will of course depend on the timing. Hiles says a short term leading indicator of future construction activity is the number of building permits issued, adding, "Building permits are fairly strong. We've seen an increase in the number of permits in commercial which can lead to jobs in the future. There's also a number of bond funded projects, primarily for the utilities. the airport will be doing a number of projects, as will the water and power authorities. So these bond-funded utility projects will play a significant component in the construction work in the years ahead."

Hiles report also discusses how a dramatic drop in fuel prices will have a significant impact here. He said, "Two of the main factors are, on the demand side because china's economy is slowing down a bit. That demand is slowing down. And with the deal with Iran, we'll expect to see more oil coming out of Iran. So the supply has expanded, also the supply of fuel has expanded with the fracking industry in the united states so enormous. the United States has gone to almost being self sufficient in some fuels.

He says as a result of lower fuel prices local consumers will have more money to spend within the community.

Externally, he says it will also provide a stimulus to Asian economies that are net petroleum importers, such as Japan, Korea and China - countries which also happen to be Guam's primary source of tourists. "Surprisingly a deflationary factor is with the reduced price of fuel that we've experienced in the last year, and that's an important factor because our economy depends a lot on fuel. Fuel for vehicles, transportation, that's the consumer expense. But also for the airlines to bring the tourists. When the fuel prices were very high, there was fuel charges added, but now some of those fuel charges are being reduced or eliminated. So that's helpful, encouraging for tourist industry. That makes tourists flights to Guam more affordable," Hiles said.

And speaking of  Guam's main industry, he says estimates call for modest growth in tourism, adding, "The Visitors Bureau put out a forecast of slight increase in tourism for 2016, but kind of hidden in that is the impact of tourism will expand because tourists are spending more.

"Our major source of tourism is Japan and their economy is fairly flat. And so the Japan arrivals are down compared to historical numbers, but we're fortunate that the Korean market has picked up and basically filled in the slack so resulting in a net increase in tourists recently."

But Hiles notes there is one issue- especially in this region- that cannot be predicted, and that's Mother Nature. Case in point: Typhoon Soudelor's devastation in Saipan, of which he said, "There's always the possibility of weather disturbances, typhoons, earthquakes other natural or health issues so, you just never know for sure. It's unpredictable."

              

 

Record of Decision signed

Monday, 31 Aug 2015 03:00am

BY ROBERT Q. TUPAZ | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

“THE Marines are coming” will become a common cry for the next several years on Guam as the island preps and builds for the permanent presence of U.S. Marine Corps forces.

On Saturday, the Navy announced the signing of the Record of Decision (ROD) for the long-anticipated relocation of Marine units from Okinawa, Japan to Guam.

“This proposed action is needed to ensure consistency with the new force posture adopted by the Department of Defense in accordance with the April 2012 Roadmap Adjustments international agreement,” said Cmdr. Daniel Schaan, director of Joint Guam Program Office (Forward). “It provides for a materially smaller force on Guam than was originally proposed in the 2010 final environmental impact statement, while fulfilling U.S. national security obligations in the Western Pacific.”

The ROD finalizes the process as Marines relocate to Guam and covers training operations in the region including exercises scheduled to be conducted in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Briefing

Gov. Eddie Calvo will receive a briefing today at Adelup regarding the decade-long process that will increase the military presence on Guam. Calvo said the heightened effort was designed “to protect our shores and our nation’s allies in the Asia-Pacific region.” He added that with the signing of the ROD the process of an $8 billion investment in Guam will begin anew.

“This buildup 2 has given us time to understand better what we need to do to strengthen our economy so we don’t see a huge rise with the buildup, and then plummet once it’s completed,” Calvo said in a statement. “Also, the downsize in the buildup numbers and extended time frame of 13 years, as opposed to the seven years we were looking at before, help to ensure a smoother transition of Marines into our island community.”

Calvo added that the ROD encapsulated the four pillars that he and then-Under Secretary of the Navy Robert Work agreed to in 2011.

The ROD reflects decisions in the supplemental environmental impact statement, noted Calvo. According to the ROD, the housing area and training range will stay within the military’s existing footprint. The decision includes: The primary base and cantonment area to be located at Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Guam in Finegayan; Family housing will be at Andersen Air Force Base; The live-fire training range complex will be at the Northwest Field area on Andersen Air Force Base; and there also will be a hand grenade range at Andersen South.

Organized and trained

JGPO said the ROD enables the Department of the Navy to ensure that the relocated Marines are organized, trained and equipped. The ROD is required at the conclusion of the environmental review of any federal project or program and outlines the decisions the Navy has made to implement the proposed realignment actions and specifies associated mitigation measures.

In its release JGPO stated that Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Bailey, deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations, Headquarters Marine Corps, underscored the strategic importance of Guam to the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.“The Marine Corps has a historic friendship with the people of Guam; we look forward to continuing that partnership,” Bailey said.

JGPO, Calvo and Aguon encouraged the island community to read the ROD in its entirety. JGPO touted the final product as a process that thoroughly considered public and resource agency comments on the SEIS, interagency discussions, and Guam community and leadership discussions.

The announcement comes a week after the Department of Defense announced an award of a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity small-business contract with a maximum value of $100 million for the design and engineering services for projects funded by government of Japan direct cash contributions and U.S. funds for the development of infrastructure and facilities covered by the Defense Policy Review Initiative and other projects under the purview of Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific. On Aug. 12, the Navy released a request for proposals for the first phase of utilities and site improvements at Finegayan with proposals due Sept. 14.



Staffing pattern shows average legislative salary exceeds $33K


Monday, 31 Aug 2015 03:00am


BY ROBERT Q. TUPAZ | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


EXCLUDING lawmakers, the average hourly wage at the Guam Legislature exceeds $16 per hour or $33,280 annually.


This amount does not include the fees for legal services. At the end of the current fiscal year alone, lawmakers will dole out $209,133 for lawyers and another $5,700 for specialized services.

Lawmakers also spend more than $1 million in rent for their two-year term.

Click here to view Senatorial Offices Top Paid Staff

According to the latest legislative staffing pattern dated July 31, lawmakers receive an annual base salary of $85,000 before benefits are added.

Benefits

Sens. Michael San Nicolas, Tina Muña-Barnes and James Espaldon received the largest government match for benefits, bringing their total compensation to more than $115,000 each per fiscal year.

Seven other senators also receive more than $100,000 in compensation after salaries and benefits are computed.

While the average legislative staffer’s rate stands at $33,280, 16 staffers, including five of the six employees paid to staff the Office of Finance and Budget, exceed the amount paid to lawmakers before their pay increases were retroactive to January 2014. Five of OFB’s six employees earn in excess of $65,000 per year.

In the staffing pattern report, San Nicolas had the highest number of staffers with 17; however, 11 were listed as part-time or with terms of employment ending at different dates in August.

As for office budgets, Sen. Dennis Rodriguez Jr. expended the most with $328,463 reportedly budgeted for staff. Democratic colleague San Nicolas came in second with $326,230 of his budget allocated for staffing.

Lowest salary rates

Sens. Mary Torres and Frank Blas Jr. spent the least on staffers. Blas listed his staff expenses at $116,479.84 for three members. Torres budgeted $78,023.67 for two staffers – the least number of employees in any senatorial office. However, Torres did contract with attorney Benjamin Sison Jr. for more than $33,000.

Sen. Brant McCreadie employs lawyer Ignacio Aguigui for legal research at $30,000 annually and Sen. Rory Respicio, chairman of the committee on rules, contracts attorney Mary Louise Wheeler for $10,800. In addition, the legislature employs attorney Therese Terlaje as its counsel of record at $90,000 and the legislature’s central office is assigned attorney Julian Aguon for $45,000.

Vincent P. Arriola, executive director of the Guam Legislature, said it is the prerogative of individual lawmakers to employ lawyers or staffers whom they feel would best assist their offices.

“Personnel requirements are determined by individual senators for their offices in line with their policy goals and needs for specialized expertise,” Arriola said. He referred questions about employment and contracts to specific senators. “Should you require a more detailed response, we would refer you to those respective senators.”

Senatorial staffers Jason Tedtaotao and Edward Lee draw the most in total annual compensation among all legislative staffers. Tedtaotao earns $88,822.24 from Sen. Tommy Morrison’s budget as chief of staff. Lee, a staff assistant with Sen. Tony Ada takes in $79,645.94. Both Lee and Tedtaotao possess advanced degrees and have extensive experience in the legislature serving in various capacities with several lawmakers.

Tony Ada also pays the most per average per employee at $58,970. Tony Ada employs just three people with a reported staff budget of $176,911.75.

Vendors

There were two expenses listed for vendors at $5,700 collectively. Sen. Frank Aguon Jr. paid Stephen Michael Cruz $3,000 for investigative services relating to the nomination of Chief of Police Joseph Cruz. Respicio allotted vendor Maria K. Raiford a $2,700 contract to provide “public education/relations.”

As for rent, the legislature reported contracts for the entire term of the 33rd Guam Legislature. The central offices of the legislature cost taxpayers $504,000 paid to Tai Hong Corp. before utilities.

Several senatorial leases reflect amounts between $48,000  to $72,000 per legislative term for senators not located in the main legislative hall.

Sens. Tom Ada, Aguon and San Nicolas pay their landlords the most with $72,000 each per term. Aguon and San Nicolas are located in the DNA building in Hagåtña. Tom Ada’s office is on Aspinall Avenue near the legislature. He rents from Ada's Trust & Investment Inc.



Legislative branch budgeted $8.4M for fiscal 2016


Monday, 31 Aug 2015 03:00am


BY ROBERT Q. TUPAZ | VARIETY NEWS STAFF


THE Guam Legislature will receive $8.4 million for its fiscal 2016 budget.


Its current operating budget is $7.78 million for the offices of elected lawmakers and its central operations. As well, the legislature operates the Office of Finance and Budget which was budgeted $340,863 for FY 2015 which ends on Sept 30.

The amount is appropriated through the general fund and is inserted into the annual appropriations measure. However, unlike other agencies or departments of the government of Guam, the legislative branch is exempt from defending its annual allotment for legislative offices or the OFB.

According to Vincent P. Arriola, executive director of the Guam Legislature, local statute automatically provides a 2-percent ceiling of the annual budget projections for lawmakers and the legislature.

“Unlike the vast majority of government entities, the legislature’s budget was determined by law through a popular initiative passed nearly 20 years ago,” Arriola said. “The 1996 initiative set the legislature’s budgetary ceiling at 2 percent of the government’s revenue projection for that fiscal year.”

Arriola said that the legislature’s budget has more than complied with this statute allotting approximately 50 percent less than the amount allowed by law.

The substitute Bill 37-33, the FY 2016 budget bill, adopted a $665 million budget for government operations for fiscal 2016. Two percent from the proposed budget equates to some $13.3 million. Add on top of that an additional $200.7 million from the government’s special fund revenue, and according to Guam law, the legislative branch alone could have appropriated in excess of $17.3 million for its budget.

Previous budget

In October 2014, lawmakers received a budget of $7.78 million for current year needs. With the proposed $8.4 million budget for FY 16, the branch of government that controls the purse strings of public service seemingly provided themselves with an increased appropriation of $629,436. Not so said Arriola. “According to the Office of Finance and Budget (OFB), the legislature’s budget is, in fact, a $96,000 decrease when compared to its actual funding level from all sources in the current year,” Arriola said.

At the start of the current term of the 33rd Guam Legislature, lawmakers agreed to set budgets for each office. Offices held by members of the majority party receive more than the minority party. Thus, the office of each Democratic legislator, each of whom is chairperson of a legislative committee, was provided $331,516 through the end of this fiscal year. Minority senators received $191,256 for their office operations.

Speaker Judith Won Pat, who in addition to her regular senatorial duties was provided a budget of $387,284 for her office. The speaker is often tasked with a host of ministerial duties including hosting official visits and receiving or transmitting correspondence from other branches and all senators in addition to other government business.

The Guam Legislature has no classified personnel on staff. All employees work as unclassified employees but can receive government benefits enjoyed by individuals in classified positions such as retirement, medical, dental and life insurance benefits and can accumulate sick or annual leave. “Staffing decisions including compensation are a prerogative of individual senators,” Arriola said.

Two classes

There are two classes of legislative employees. A legislative class I employee may receive all the government benefits with the office paying the government’s matching contribution as required by law and depending on the employee’s years of service. A legislative class II is only entitled to annual or sick leave. There are no restrictions on “double dippers” – former government employees pulling both a government pension and drawing a full or part-time salary with the legislature.

Another area of the legislative branch that may seemingly receive a budget increase if the FY16 budget is adopted by the governor or overridden if vetoed is the OFB. The OFB is the legislature’s equivalent of the executive branch’s Bureau of Budget and Management Research and the governor’s fiscal team. The office is led by the chairperson of the Ways and Means Committee or its successor committee. In this case, Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz is chairman of the current committee on appropriations, therefore, the OFB falls under his authority.

The proposed budget passed by lawmakers last Monday provided a $399,000 budget versus the current operating budget of $340,863.

Arriola said that the according to OFB, the increase from $340,863 to $399,000 is to partially restore the OFB appropriation to what it was five years ago.

“The OFB appropriation back in FY 2007 was $455,071 and continued to decline to its current level at $340,863,” Arriola said. “No other government entity has received a similar sharp reduction in appropriation level over the same period.”

He provided a history of the appropriations to the OFB from fiscal years 2007 through 2015.

Below are the Office of Finance and Budgets' appropriations by fiscal year:


  • 2007 – $455,071

  • 2008 – $455,071

  • 2009 – $428,567

  • 2010 – $428,567

  • 2011 – $392,460

  • 2012 – $378,737

  • 2013 – $359,232

  • 2014 – $340,863

  • 2015 – $340,863





First vehicles to use liquefied petroleum gas hit the road

Thursday, 27 Aug 2015 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE first two vans outfitted to run on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) instead of standard gasoline were donated yesterday to two local nonprofit organizations as part of a pilot project for using alternative fuel.

According to Bob Koeppen Jr., commercial and administration vice president of South Pacific Petroleum Corp. (SPPC), LPG performs just as well as regular gasoline, but puts out cleaner emissions. SPPC is the island’s sole LPG supplier. SPPC hopes to expand its LPG customer base to include fleets of vehicles in the future, depending on the success of the pilot project, according to Koeppen.

Compared to traditional fuel, liquefied petroleum gas offers cleaner emissions and is conceivably better for the environment, which is why other locales offer cars that run on LPG. “In a lot of places around the world, there have been a lot of LPG conversions to help with air emissions,” Koeppen said.

On Guam, school buses could be one of the larger markets that would benefit from the use of LPG fuel over traditional fuel because of the cleaner air emissions. “If the government wanted to buy a bunch of LPG school buses, you’re looking at (cleaner) air emissions, less of a carbon footprint,” he said.

Triple J Ford partnered with SPPC to supply the two Ford LPG Transit Connect vans donated to Harvest House and the GCA Trades Academy. The vans have dual fuel capacities, with LPG being one of them. Jeffrey Jones, president of Triple J Enterprise, said several vehicles are now in stock that are able to run on LPG should customers decide they want to purchase vehicles that run on LPG.

A lot of thought went into choosing a gas station to house an LPG pump, Jones said, but eventually Triple J and SPPC decided on the Ocean Vista 76 service station on Airport Road near the Route 16 overpass. The LPG pump sits separate from the other pumps and currently it only refuels the two donated vans – the only LPG vehicles on the island.

The separate LPG pump station cost an estimated $10,000.

Advanced technology

Technology to provide LPG fuel for vehicles has advanced significantly in recent years, which is why it is more feasible now than it was previously to offer LPG for vehicles, Koeppen said, adding he has been trying to get LPG vehicles on Guam for years.

Koeppen said SPPC gets its liquefied petroleum gas from Asian countries, including China, Philippines, Indonesia or Japan. “We have no control over that, that’s the shipping company,” Koeppen said. “(The cost) to bring in the LPG is very similar to what we bring in the fuel ship,” he said. Similarly, the per-gallon price would be about the same for customers using liquefied petroleum gas instead of traditional fuel in their vehicles, according to Koeppen.

However, if Guam companies offering LPG could avail of federal tax breaks, that would be a big factor in the price per gallon of LPG, Koeppen said.

Many companies in the nation are turning to LPG conversion to take advantage of tax breaks, Koeppen said. LPG operators would get tax credit of 50 cents for every gallon of LPG fuel sold, he said. It is unclear if those incentives apply to Guam. Koeppen said he has asked the Department of Revenue and Taxation “a few times” if the tax incentive is available to Guam companies.

DRT was unavailable yesterday for comment.

Partnership

The pilot project was a partnership between SPPC and Triple J Ford. Jones said the companies are hoping to serve customers that might seek out LPG-fueled vehicles. He said many Ford cars sold at Triple J can be converted to run on LPG. “The cars are available, the fuel’s available. So we’ll have to see how it goes,” Jones said.

Most of SPPC’s current LPG customers are hotels, restaurants, bakeries, laundromats or schools where it is used for cooking or heating water. According to 2010 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Guam consumes 2,700 barrels a day of gasoline.

The U.S. EIA analysis of the island stated that the island’s petroleum consumption by year varies, “but recently it has averaged nearly twice the U.S. consumption per capita.”

LPG consumption is minimal, compared to motor gasoline consumption on island, about 0.4 thousand barrels a day in 2010, according U.S. EIA.

First woman takes command of NavFac Command Marianas

Friday, 28 Aug 2015 03:30am

BY FRANK WHITMAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

CAPT. Stephanie Jones today is to assume command of Naval Facilities Engineering Command Marianas during a change of command ceremony at the NavFac office complex in Apra Heights. Jones will relieve Capt. Glenn Shephard who assumed command in August 2013.

Jones will be the first woman to hold the top position at NavFac Marianas.

Jones joined the Navy in 1989 and most recently was executive officer of NavFac Mid-Atlantic based in Norfolk, Virginia. Prior to that, she was assistant chief of staff for training and readiness at First Naval Construction Division in Little Creek, Virginia, and commanding officer of Naval Construction Training Center at Gulfport, Mississippi. Among her numerous other assignments, Jones was regional engineer for Joint Task Force 76 in Kandahar, Afghanistan; and public works officer at Commander Fleet Activities in Okinawa, Japan.

Her decorations include the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star.

Jones is qualified as a Seabee combat warfare officer, a registered professional engineer in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a member of the Defense Acquisition Corps and a certified energy manager.

She graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and received her commission through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps program. She holds a master’s degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M University, a master’s degree in economics from the University of Oklahoma and is a graduate of the executive program of the University of Virginia, Darden School of Business.

Jones grew up in Annandale, Virginia.

Third woman

Jones will become at least the third woman in a top military leadership position on Guam. Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar assumed command of Joint Region Marianas, the most senior military position on Guam, in August 2014. Capt. Jeannie Comlish became commanding officer of U.S. Naval Hospital Guam in June 2014.

Macy’s to open expansion next summer

Thursday, 27 Aug 2015 03:00am

BY JOHN O'CONNOR | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

MACY'S shoppers can look forward to an expanded outlet next summer when the expansion project at its Micronesia Mall store is completed. According to Ryan Torres, store manager for Macy’s Guam, the two-story, 45,000-square-foot expansion will be completed late next summer and will house the store’s home care department and an expansion of the men’s department.

The expansion is being built adjacent to the men’s and children’s departments of the Macy’s store. Both floors of the expansion will be around 22,000 square feet. The men’s department will be gaining additional space on the first floor. A men’s Finish Line shop and luggage department will be stationed on the first floor. The second floor will house Macy’s home department where shoppers can find kitchen appliances, furniture and other home essentials. Maternity wear and a kid’s Finish Line shop will join the home department on the second floor.

Torres said positive customer feedback contributed to the expansion. “Our local customers continue to be an important part of our business, including tourists and our U.S. Armed Forces,” Torres said. This will be Macy’s second expansion at the Micronesia Mall. Construction started early this year and the contractor is BME & Sons Inc., according to Phillip Schrage, senior vice president of group operations and leasing for Micronesia Mall. The expansion will include new parking in front of the building and a new entrance directly into the expansion. Schrage said BME will transfer the building to Macy’s for outfitting in January.  

The first expansion was completed in 2009 and added men’s and children’s sections into what had been the mall’s expo hall. The main store sells women’s apparel, jewelry, handbags, shoes, women’s Finish Line products and cosmetics.

After the expansion, the men’s and kid’s sections will sell men’s apparel, watches, fragrance, children’s wear, home essentials, men’s and children’s Finish Line products, maternity wear and luggage.

 

KUAM tours the new Dededo Farmer's Co-Op

Posted: Aug 26, 2015 Ken Quintanilla  KUAM

 

It's been years in the making and in a few months, island farmers will have a place to call their own as the new Farmers Co-Op facility will finally be completed bringing with them a new location for the Dededo Flea Market.

"Right now, you'll see a lot of the farmers you see them on the side of the road, for example, Ernie Wusstig. You see him promoting his product," said Stacia San Nicolas. But that may all change as island farmers will now have a new home, with the near completion of the new facility in Dededo. San Nicolas, the Farmers Co-Op general manager, added, "But with this now, everybody will be able to come to one location, and bring all their products here and the people can come here to shop. So it's one location for all the farmers."

A groundbreaking ceremony was held nearly a year ago on the 6.9-acre property located at the intersection of Marine Corps Drive and Santa Monica Avenue. While the facility itself is 10,000 square feet, the total project cost came out to around $3.9 million. "We're going to have a kitchen here as well for people come and learn how to make more of the produce they have, we'll have office space, we'll have the open market for the vendors," she explained.

The Farmers Co-Op is part of the Guam Economic Development Authority's HOT Bond projects. GEDA real property assistant manager Diego Mendiola along with Architects Laguana gave the Farmers Co-Op their first tour of their new home. "I'm extremely excited because I also farm, my family does," Mendiola said. "So lately I have to drive around the island to deliver and sell produce, but now I'll just have one place to go and everything will be done, so I'm extremely excited."

He adds delays in construction were due to the weather. Meanwhile, the Farmers Co-Op facility will also accommodate the relocation of the Dededo Flea Market - a move Dededo mayor Melissa Savares says is a long time coming. "Of course I'm excited, it's something we've worked for a long time for many years to find a home for a new facility which is going to be safer, away from a curved intersection, heavy traffic area," he said. "It's in between housing areas, so people can come and not only get fresh produce over the weekend and have that physical activity and walking over because it's closer to a lot of homes."

Savares says fees will remain the same. The new facility will provide 180 vendor stalls measured at 16-x-16 along with more parking even for ten tour busses. Like the Farmers Co-Op, vendors will soon be given a tour of the site, as well.

The entire project for the Farmers Cooperative Association of Guam Facility and the Dededo Flea Market is expected to be completed in October and open 60 to 90 days thereafter

Senators move education budgets forward

Thursday, 20 Aug 2015 03:00am

BY ROBERT Q. TUPAZ | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

WITH the adoption by lawmakers of the budget proposal contained in Substitute Bill 37-33, lawmakers breezed through most of the education-related funding. The Guam Department of Education, Guam Community College and the University of Guam will receive $287 million collectively for their budget needs.

Of the education budget, $450,000 was allocated to the First Generation Trust Fund Initiative. The fund created through Public Law 33-07, supports public high school graduates wanting to obtain post-secondary education.

The law establishes a trust fund account for each eligible ninth grade student in Guam’s public schools to be used upon graduation from high school for attendance at the University of Guam or the Guam Community College. The breakdown provides $250,000 for UOG and $200,000 for GCC.

During session, lawmakers continued in the committee of the whole with Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, legislative chairman of the committee on appropriations, walking them through each section.

Senators started yesterday’s discussion with the de-appropriation of the expected savings of the debt service resulting from the recent passage of Public Law 33-60, a bond refund measure that will net at least $2 million in debt service savings by next month. Beginning in 2016, any other savings are for the sole use of Guam Memorial Hospital and health-related costs for medical services provided to the community.

Amendment

An amendment was offered to prioritize the current and any additional savings to the Department of Public Health and Social Services for the local match of the Medicaid program. As well, money not captured by DPHSS within 30 days will be re-appropriated to Guam Memorial Hospital for Medicaid claim payments and outstanding vendor payments.

The remaining will be provided to the Guam Department of Education for its outstanding vendor payments.

If the measure passes the legislature and is signed by the governor, GDOE will see receive more than $238 million for its operations in fiscal year 2016.

The education board wanted a $328 million budget; GDOE officials cited the 14-points of An Adequate Public Education Act, provisions of the Competitive Wage Act and its impact on fiscal 2016 operations as justification for its requested, but denied, $90 million-plus increase. Additionally, GDOE cited funding for two charter schools and expanding the preschool pilot program, needed capital improvement projects and long-delayed addressing of safety and deferred maintenance requirements at the schools as reasons for an increase.

GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez on Tuesday evening said the department was reviewing the budget package and would provide comment upon final review on their plan to do without the additional requested amount.

Guam Community College will receive just over $18 million from federal grants-in-aid and the general fund, up from the current level of $16.4 million.

The University of Guam will receive $33 million from federal grants-in-aid and the general fund alone. An additional $9.3 million from other funds including revenue generated from tuition brings UOG’s budget to more than $42 million.

The budget session continues today at 9 a.m. in the committee of the whole. Senators recessed yesterday as they began reviewing the budget requested by the governor.


Express Med 2 opens new location in Mangilao

Thursday, 20 Aug 2015 03:00am

BY JACQUELINE PERRY GUZMAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

EXPRESS Med 2 celebrated the grand opening of its Mangilao location, according to Anna Jane Bautista, pharmacist-in-charge of the new facility.

The Mangilao location is located in the new American Medical Center clinic on Route 10 Vietnam Veterans Highway in Mangilao.

There are now two Express Med locations in Guam; the first is in Dededo.

“Both Express Med locations have drive-thru windows,” Bautista said. “We also have a third drive-thru pharmacy located in Sinajana, it is Minutes RX Pharmacy in ‘The Village.”

Bautista said “Our drive-thru windows are open to service patients around the area, offering convenience for people coming to and from the north and south of Guam.”

Express Med in Dededo was Guam's first drive-thru pharmacy. “We are in the same building as American Medical Center that houses various specialty physicians,” she said. “Express Med Pharmacy has established its good name through excellent customer service.  Express Med pharmacies carry a wide array of pharmaceutical and medical supplies and over-the-counter medications.”

The new pharmacy is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Express Med 2 has four employees, according to Bautista. One is a pharmacist, two are pharmacy technicians and one essential pharmacy personnel, she said.

The unique drive-thru service provided by Express Med at its locations offers convenience to its customers. “Patients pull up to the drive-thru window and either drop off prescriptions or pick them up,” Bautista said. “Doctors and patients can send or call in prescription requests ahead of time. ... Patients can also drop off their prescriptions, park in the designated areas and our pharmacy will process the medications requested.”

Express Med pharmacies accept most insurance. Bautista said. “We process Medicare, Tricare, Staywell, Netcare, Take Care, Select Care and other private local insurances. We also accept Medicaid and MIP patients.”

LabTech in the American Medical Center in Mangilao is the sister company to Express Med. “It is a medical laboratory also opened simultaneously with the pharmacy. LabTech has seven convenient locations around Guam. Lab Tech AMC Mangilao is a full laboratory where most common lab tests are done,” said Bautista.

       

Consultant looking for Guam support for Cruz

Thursday, 20 Aug 2015 03:00am

BY JACQUELINE PERRY GUZMAN | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

DENNIS Lennox, a consultant for the presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, has been on Guam for a week and will stay for another week and a half.

Lennox is on a listening tour, visiting Guam, Saipan and American Samoa. “It is an opportunity to listen and learn. For far too long Washington has really ignored the concerns of the people of Guam and the other two territories. Sen. Cruz wants me to hear those concerns and bring them back to him,” he said.

Lennox said he met with Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio and has plans to meet Gov. Eddie Calvo this week. Lennox met with all of the island’s Republican senators, Republican party leaders, businessmen, clergy and voters. “We are trying to get as many opinions and viewpoints as we can,” he said.

“I have come to realize that Washington has treated Guam like its foster child,” Lennox said.

Another part of his visit includes putting together a team for Cruz. “We already have a campaign chairman in Saipan. We will be announcing that soon and we will be announcing a Guam team, a campaign committee soon,” said Lennox. “The caucus in Guam and the CNMI isn’t until March 2016 so there will be a lot of announcements from now until then.”

Important role

Lennox said Guam could play an important role in the selection of the Republican presidential nominee.

“You can vote in the Republican nomination process, so for purposes of the nomination, Guam is no different than any of the states on the mainland,” Lennox said. “Sen. Cruz also sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee which is very crucial for Guam for defense issues and also the economic impact that the naval and Air Force presence has.”

Lennox said he has plenty of material to bring back to Cruz. “I’ve heard a lot of different issues since I have been here. I am here to take those concerns back to the senator so we can begin to address those issues and not only raise them in the Senate but also so that when he is in the White House,” he said.

One of the problems that Guam faces, Lennox said, “is that it doesn’t have a voice in Washington, D.C. It has a delegate who cannot vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, and it has no representation in the Senate. Our first priority is to ensure the voice of Guam is heard loud and clear in Washington D.C.”

Some of the issues Lennox has listened to include war reparations, veterans issues, earned income tax credit issues, Compact-impact, and general infrastructure and economic development issues such as the CNMI undersea cable that was cut recently.

“Really, that is a federal government issue. The federal government needs to step in and improve the infrastructure in the CNMI and across the Pacific as well,” he said. “It is a national security issue because, of course, with everything that’s happening in the Pacific, it is vital that all the territories are connected to the United States,” he said.

On the issue of political status, Lennox said, “Senator Cruz respects the people of Guam to decide the political status for themselves. It’s a decision that Guam has to determine.”

Lennox met with former Gov. Joseph Ada and discussed political status issues and scenarios. “He is a great voice for the people of Guam and he offered a lot of valuable insight for Sen. Cruz,” Lennox said.

The cuts made by the Obama administration have been a troubling issue for Cruz, Lennox said. “Our Navy is the smallest it’s been since World War I. By the time Obama leaves office our Army will be the smallest since World War II. With everything happening in the world, the troubled Middle East with ISIS on the rise and close to taking over Iraq, with Iran about to get a nuclear weapon, with Chinese aggression and Chinese currency devaluation --- which is economic warfare --- and with North Korea ... this isn’t the time to be cutting back our military, we need a strong military capable of protecting American interests, our vital interests on Guam,” he said. “Guam is not only where America’s day begins, but it’s also the gateway to Asia. We need to leverage Guam’s strategic position to be an economic asset to the United States but also to continue its strategic military importance.”

Underfunding of veterans’ services on Guam is another troubling issue for Cruz. “There is no veterans’ hospital on the island. That’s deeply troubling because Guam has one of the highest rates of military service in the various states and territories and it is outrageous that there are men and women who served our country with honor and dignity who aren’t getting the services and equal treatment that they deserve,” said Lennox.

Lennox also said the Cruz campaign is concerned with investing in Guam’s infrastructure. “We want to do that while preserving and protecting the local cultural identity. The beauty of Guam is this rich culture, this rich melting pot that you have here,” Lennox said
             

Fishing community to benefit from projects

Thursday, 20 Aug 2015 03:00am

BY ROBERT Q. TUPAZ | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

GOV. Eddie Calvo yesterday announced a couple of contracts for construction and repair projects at two separate seaside locations. The combined costs of the awards amount to $682,310 and is planned to enhance and benefit the fishing community.

According to officials at Adelup, fishing improvements are planned for Hagåtña and Merizo. In Hagåtña, a fishing platform will soon be available for the use of island residents. In Merizo, a modern pier and boat ramp will be realized with a repair contract.

“We need to encourage people to build a stronger fishing and marine industry,” Gov. Eddie Calvo said in announcing the awards. “That’s why we’re building modern infrastructure, so we can support fishermen and entice young Guamanians to fish and to explore oceanic careers.”

Calvo signed a contract with Mega United Corp. to build a 136-foot fishing ramp at the Paseo de Susana. The fishing ramp will cost $549,370.

The new fishing platform at the Paseo will be ADA-accessible, constructed of fiberglass panels above the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ wave absorber at the Paseo.

The government of Guam, in coordination with the nonprofit Guam Organization of Saltwater Anglers, also has a coordination plan in place with the Corps of Engineers for the inspection and maintenance of the platform and wave absorber.

The Merizo pier contract was awarded to Rex International for necessary repairs to the village’s pier and boat ramp. The contract amount was listed as $132,940. The contractor will remove the existing structure, then install cast-in-place marina-strength reinforced concrete. The contractor also will seal any existing cracks, and replace the pier rubber bumper that is bolted to the 50-foot long metal channel.

“The projects are part of Gov. Calvo’s overall capital improvements agenda – a precursor to the capital improvements projects plan to be developed under the Imagine Guam program,” a statement from Adelup said. “Part of that agenda is to modernize infrastructure for fishing and other marine activities and industries.”

 

Guam refinancing bonds get A-minus rating from Fitch

Thursday, 20 Aug 2015 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

FITCH Ratings gave the government of Guam business privilege tax refunding bonds an “A-” rating, according to a press release from Business Wire.

This week, the Guam Economic Development Authority issued a notice of sale for the government’s BPT refunding bonds of $404.8 million. According to the statement, the bonds will be sold by negotiations next week.

The legislature passed a bill that would refund Guam’s general obligation bonds for 2007 and 2009 for business privilege tax bonds. The legislature and the governor were at odds over how much refunding the bonds would save the government and how those anticipated savings should be spent.

In its statement, Fitch states that Guam’s debt levels are “quite high with tax supported debt equal to approximately 56 percent of personal income and $7,146 per capita” and that “Guam expects an increase in its debt limit based on a recent property revaluation.”

Fitch Ratings explained that an “A” rating denote that the issuer’s capacity for payment of financial commitments is “considered strong.”  An “A” rating is not as good as “AA” or “AAA” credit quality but still better than “BBB,” “BB,” “B,” “C” or “D” ratings. Fitch is one of the top three credit rating agencies in the United States.

According to GEDA, the government intended to take advantage of the low-interest rate environment which is the reason that the government had to work quickly and introduce legislation for the refunding of the two general obligation bonds by the end of July. The government also hopes to achieve $2 million in debt service savings this fiscal year. Guam can realize up to $48 million in gross savings over the life of the bonds, GEDA officials have said.

Heated discussions

Originally, Sen. Michael San Nicolas introduced a bill that would refund the two general obligation bonds from 2007 and 2009 for another general obligation bond but heated discussions on the session floor about how to appropriate the anticipated savings prompted San Nicolas to withdraw his measure.

The governor introduced another bill, with the appropriations San Nicolas disagreed with, and called the legislature into a special session but divided lawmakers did not act on the governor’s bill, stating that the bill had not had a public hearing.

Eventually, on July 31, Vice Speaker Cruz introduced Bill 151 which would allow the general obligation bonds to be refunded as general obligation bond but ended up withdrawing his name from the measure, in part because of Sen. Dennis Rodriguez’s amendment that would direct the anticipated savings from the refunding of the bonds and use the savings for health-related matters.

Navy awards $75M MACC contract

Thursday, 20 Aug 2015 03:00am

BY JASMINE STOLE | VARIETY NEWS STAFF

NAVAL Facilities Engineering Command Marianas announced yesterday a multiple award construction contract for various locations on Guam that was awarded to 11 small-business firms on Tuesday. NavFac’s award was for various contracts that may total up to a maximum of $75 million over five years.

According to the notice details on the Federal Business Opportunities website, the companies will be contracted for various projects or services, including new construction, renovation, modernization, routine repair or maintenance to be completed at different federal or military facilities on Guam and in outlying areas in the Pacific.

One project from this Multiple Award Construction Contract (MACC) was the repair of floor slab inside a walk-in freezer at Building 24016 on Andersen Air Force Base, which is the base exchange. S.K. Construction was awarded $383,278 for the task order.

All other companies were awarded a task order for the one-year base period, with a $10,000 minimum guarantee.

In addition to S.K. Construction, NavFac awarded the MACC contract to Advance Management Inc., Dawson Federal Inc., GSI Pacific Inc., Hawaii Pacific JV LLC, Ian Corp. which does business as Ian Construction, InfraTech International LLC, Leading Tech Construction Co., MILCON Construction LLC, Talion Construction LLC and Wolf Creek Federal Services Inc.

The contract is for a one-year base period, with four one-year options, for a total duration of 60 months, according to the original synopsis. The minimum guarantee for each contractor for the life of the contract is $10,000 and the maximum aggregate dollar value for all awarded contracts, including the base period and all options, is $75 million.

Of the 11 companies, four are based in Hawaii, including Dawson Federal, GSI Pacific, Hawaii Pacific JV and Talion Construction MILCON Construction is a Texas-based contracting company and Wolf Creek Federal Services is a company of Chugach Alaska Corp. The remaining companies are based in Guam.

The contract was set aside for certified 8(a) small businesses. According to www.acquisition.gov, section 8(a) of the federal Small Business Act established a program that allows the U.S. Small Business Administration to enter all types of contracts with other agencies and award subcontracts to eligible businesses as a sole source or competitive basis.

This MACC contract was posted in June and awarded on Tuesday, Aug. 18.

 


State-of-the-art dialysis center opens in Sinajana

Posted: Aug 06, 2015  By Jolene Toves   KUAM

Another new medical facility opens its doors this evening. The Village Medical Complex offers a variety of clinical services, but its primary feature is a state-of-the-art nephrology clinic. Founder Dr. Saied Safa says diabetes continues to be a big health risk on Guam, and the newly-opened dialysis center in Sinajana fills a gaping need.

"The patients from south and central, they're always lacking or having difficulty to have access to dialysis units. So this was a long-term thinking. It took a long time actually to find the ideal location that could help the patients from south and central Guam," he said.

The dialysis center is being operated under franchise with US Renal Care, which partners with more than 200 centers across the country. Scott Sasserson, chief operating officer, told KUAM News, "Dr. Safa provides us with his medical expertise.  We're able to provide him with the operations that are necessary from the day-to-day standpoint. Whether it's the supplies, the machines, the staff, all of that. So it's a good partnership from that standpoint. We're thrilled about this complex and this facility because it's really, as Dr. Safa said in the beginning,  its created some more access."

The 32,000 square foot Village Medical Complex also includes internal medicine and ophthalmology clinics, a drive-through pharmacy, and a health food cafe.

Chinese Chamber of Commerce organizes Saipan aide

Posted: Aug 06, 2015 By Nestor Licanto  KUAM

 

The Chinese Chamber of Commerce is also looking to lend a hand to help the typhoon victims in Saipan. They are seeking donations to fill another 40-foot container with dry goods for Saipan storm victims.

Benson Au-Yeung is the business group's president, and told KUAM News, "No better reason for us to help out the closest island to Guam, which is are our friends from Saipan. You know, we all know from Saipan, friends and families from Saipan. And also we do business in Saipan. Some of us even have branches in Saipan."

He added, "So I called in my board of directors, the committees, we put together some type of letters and sent out to our members to see what we can collect and the result was very good. Everybody even before I even sent it out, everybody's already contacting other people because everybody just got friends or people they know from Saipan right. I can't begin to mention all the names but I appreciate everybody for all the support."

The Chinese Chamber is accepting dried goods such as bottled water, rice, canned food, batteries, flashlights, beddings. You can drop them off at the Chinese Chamber office.

The deadline for donations is next Wednesday, August 12.

  

National Science Foundation strengthens UOG's research capabilities

Posted: Aug 06, 2015 By Jolene Toves   KUAM

 

A $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation is opening doors and elevating the University of Guam's research activities. President Dr. Robert Underwood said, "We are now going to be part of a network, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPCoR), which is designed by the NSF to help universities develop their research capacities."

In addition to this grant UOG now has access to other EPSCoR grants in other federal agencies like NASA and Department of Defense. Dr. Underwood says this is a major activity for the UOG Marine Lab, noting, "Because we will be working mostly with coastal management and will be placing sensors in Pago Bay and we will be upgrading our cyber-infrastructure and will be developing a STEM pipeline for students that goes all the way back to high school."

Dr. Underwood says the sensors will assist them in their attempt to keep track of issues within the environment changes caused by land activity as well as climate change. "Much of the data that we have regarding climate change particularly in the Western Pacific is inferential data, not direct data. Data that is actually collected by us, so this enhances our capacity to collect the data but it's in an enormous amount of data, so we have to update our cyber-infrastructure," he explained.

The update will allow the research information to be shared amongst research institutions for analysis placing the university on a new category in terms of research. He says they want to also grow the masters program in the sciences, specifically environmental science and biology, in order to be able to develop the research capacity. The grant will primarily fund research projects he says UOG needs to match the activities, adding, "So we are matching some of our financial aid assistance to students but more importantly we can't really even the $6 million because already we have been contacted by NASA to get a couple of hundred of thousands of dollars, we have already been contacted by DOD."

He says this is monumental for the university because it is the only university in the Western Pacific that is devoted to research so they must develop their internal capacity. He adds that UOG is the only US masters- and baccalaureate-level program on this side of the International Dateline, and people around the world will be wanting to attend the University of Guam.  

Airport to meet the needs of the future

Monday, 27 Jul 2015 03:00am

VARIETY NEWS STAFF

THE A.B. Won Pat International Airport Authority, Guam is to be congratulated as it holds the opening ceremony for its recently completed 12,000-foot primary runway. The opening is the culmination of a series of federally funded runway projects that began about seven years ago. With the extended runway, the airport can now serve as a point of origin for long-haul flights including nonstop flights to the West Coast of the United States in the event that an airline decides such a route would be profitable enough to operate.

The size, design and capacity of Guam’s airport is a major feature of the island’s infrastructure that has allowed Guam to develop the sophisticated, lucrative tourism industry that it has. One does not need to travel too much in the region to have learned that the A.B. Won Pat International Airport is the largest and most modern of those in the Pacific islands outside of Hawaii. And it appears to have the extra capacity to accommodate the island’s needs into the future.

In addition to the air cargo operations of the airlines and the customs station, the remaining space of the 160,000-square-foot air cargo facility adjacent to the airport also accommodates non-aviation businesses. Presumably, should the need arise, that space could be converted to house additional air cargo business as it was designed, and located, to do.

The recently announced construction of a commuter terminal also has the potential to stimulate interisland business, tourism and family travel. Also in progress is the construction of a concourse isolation corridor to meet post-9/11 security concerns about the potential interaction of arriving passengers who have not been screened by Transportation Security Administration agents with passengers who have been screened. The new corridor will provide a more permanent and substantive response to that particular security concern.

The capacity of the airport has resulted in its ability to accommodate airlines such as Air Busan, Jin Air Dynamic Airways and T’Way Air that have recently begun serving Guam. And the airport continues to solicit additional airlines to fly routes that include Guam.

We, along with the rest of the community, have been concerned over the accusations and litigation surrounding the luxury retail contract, the bottleneck of tourists at the immigration checkpoint and the poorly maintained restrooms. We are hopeful that these challenges will be appropriately addressed.

But we continue to commend those who are responsible for the growth and operation of the airport.

 

      

Grant bodes well for UOG

Thursday, 06 Aug 2015 03:00am

VARIETY NEWS STAFF

OUR congratulations to the University of Guam on its recent $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation through the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program for coastal ecosystems research. The university is, of course, in an ideal location for ocean research, and its marine lab has taken advantage of that by attracting high-caliber faculty and students. The new grant reflects a recognition by the National Science Foundation of the university’s capability to do significant research.

The nature of the research which the university will be undertaking is critical not just due to local concerns, but because of the changing climate and other environmental stressors around the world. As the university release states, “Guam will function as a ‘living laboratory’ to investigate the sustainability of marine coastal environments under changing sea levels, sea-surface temperatures and water quality conditions in the Western Pacific.”

The current grant will no doubt attract the attention of the academic world and make UOG’s marine lab more attractive to more top-level researchers and, we understand, bode well for future research grants – all of which benefits the university as a whole.

The current grant comes on the heels of news that a team from the university’s Cancer Research Center has had a research paper published in the Journal of Health Communication. It is another testament to the quality of research at UOG.

We continue to view the University of Guam as an important community and regional resource. It offers a high-quality choice for the tertiary education of local residents and a repository for local information, ideas and research. Among its functions, it can, and does, serve to prepare residents to take their place in the local community to meet local needs and solve local problems based on local knowledge and practices.

We look forward to continued positive developments at the university and the benefits to the community from a vibrant college environment and its alumni.