Increased tourist fees to pay for additional customs, quarantine officers
With over $64 million in “ice” infiltrating Guam’s ports of entry in the last five years alone, Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz is calling for a solution to strengthen border security and stop drug smuggling on Guam. If enacted, Bill No. 293-34 (COR) would increase the passenger fee under the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency—ensuring that those at the front line have the funding they need to protect our island’s borders.
“Ice and cocaine are tearing this community apart. That is why I’m asking travelers to pay a little more,” Cruz said. “With their help, we can finally fortify our borders and prevent drug-related crimes before they start.”
The measure was introduced as part of the Speaker’s lifelong efforts to stem rampant drug abuse on Guam. According to CQA, despite the increasing number of drugs coming into the island over the years, the agency has witnessed a sharp decline in drug seizures due to the lack of personnel available for inspection.
At a legislative roundtable hearing held last April, Colonel Philip Taijeron Jr. noted that the agency has lost more than 100 officers over the last 20 years—operating with just 109, instead of the 300 needed to fully address Guam’s current population.
While CQA relies primarily on passenger service fees to funds its budget, the agency has not raised them for several years—despite the Speaker repeatedly pushing for an increase. As a result, Cruz’s measure would increase the passenger fee from $8.29 to $20.00 beginning October 1, 2018—allowing the agency to double their manpower.
Though Cruz’s previous proposals to increase the fee faced pushback from the tourism industry years ago due to claims of cost-sensitivity, Cruz noted that the weighted room rate for Guam’s hotels has more than doubled in the last two decades. Given the current prevalence of drug abuse and the increasing creativity of smugglers’ tactics, the Speaker says he fully expects the industry to support his proposal to increase the fee this time around, for the safety and security of our entire island community.
“Guam can’t be a visitor paradise for anyone if it is drowning in drug-related crime,” said Cruz. “I’m asking that we throw ourselves a lifeline—and, in so doing, save this community from suffering and pain.”