Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Feb. 2) - In December, the Transportation Security Administration ordered the Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport to implement measures to physically separate departing and arriving passengers within the terminal. The federal agency wants to prevent contact between departing passengers who have gone through security and arriving passengers from countries that lack the security screening standards of the TSA.

While there is no question as to the sound reasoning behind this mandate, Guam's airport terminal wasn't designed and constructed to facilitate such separation. That means the only way to fix the problem is through new construction.

Building a wall down the middle of the concourse to keep outgoing and incoming passengers separated is one possibility. Doing so would cost about $2 million, according to Gerard Bautista, airport operations superintendent. But Bautista says that the best long-term solution is adding a third floor to the terminal, which would cost about $25 million.

In either instance, the airport doesn't have a funding source for construction. If it has to undertake the construction on its own, the result may be higher airfares, according to Bautista.

That would be a serious blow to tourism, which is the main financial engine that powers the island's economy. Guam's visitor industry is finally seeing solid growth after years of being in the doldrums. The last thing the industry needs is an untimely cost increase that could negatively affect visitor numbers.

The solution to this problem is simple: The airport security measure isn't optional. It's a requirement laid upon the government of Guam by the federal government. If the only way we can abide by the federal mandate is to spend millions of dollars on a fix, then that burden must fall squarely on the shoulders of the federal government. This is the fair and right way to handle this situation.

To make this happen, our elected officials are going to have to take a strong, united position to make the case for the federal government to fund this federal mandate.

February 3, 2005

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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