One local lawmaker yesterday wrote to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security secretary about Guam’s need for a visa-waiver program — or at least the same parole authority that’s been extended for the Northern Mariana Islands — for Chinese and Russian tourists to help bolster the island’s economy.
The triple disasters in Japan have taken a toll on Guam’s tourism industry, wrote Sen. Tina Muña Barnes.
“Natural disasters and the specter of radioactive fallout have led to a 22% decline in visitor arrivals from Japan to Guam,” she said. “Wage hours are being reduced, some industry employees have been furloughed, and too many of Guam’s citizens are being forced out of work and onto welfare.”
Thus Barnes is asking Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to allow Guam free access to these emerging markets to keep afloat the visitor arrivals.
Other U.S agencies are on board to allow the expanded program, according to Gov. Eddie Calvo.
During a recent trip to the mainland, Calvo met with the U.S. State Department, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the White House in Washington, D.C., on this issue, he said.
Calvo learned the State Department is currently seeking closer trade relations between the United States and China — so much so they invited Calvo to participate in two trade missions between American and Chinese governors, he said in a press release.
“The last hurdle is with Homeland Security — everyone else is on board,” Calvo said. “We still need to understand what their objections are, because if we’re just speaking on the technical merits, there is no reason why we can’t have this visa waiver program. I’ve made it clear: the federal government must support Guam in her quest to realize her full economic potential.”
Barnes told Napolitano that if she is concerned about security, she should be assured that Defense Department installations on Guam are secured by the U.S. Armed Forces.
“Surely, any security concerns one might have regarding a China-Russia Visa Waiver program for Guam are addressed in existing base security protocols,” Barnes said.
Source: Guam PDN