Philippine Airlines loses sight on Saipan

Hopes dim for Northern Marianas service

By Moneth Deposa
Saipan Tribune

Philippine Airlines may not be extending air services to the Commonwealth of Marianas Islands, according to the Marianas Visitors Authority.

MVA managing director Perry Tenorio said the CNMI has not received any communication from the Philippines' flag carrier regarding the revival of the flight service.

Although it may help CNMI tourist arrivals, Tenorio said the agency is not banking too much on the idea because the CNMI “lost” its potential market from the country when Manila opened its testing facilities for the National Council Licensure Examination for nurses last year.

Last year, PAL president and chief executive officer Jaime J. Bautista was quoted in a newspaper report that the airline company plans to have flights to Saipan, San Diego, Chicago, New York, and Seattle.

“MVA is not aware of any plan [of Philippine Airlines].and if that opportunity comes up, we need to evaluate fully well the impact on our tourism,” he said, noting the decline in arrivals from the Philippines, which usually sends hundreds of nurses to the island to take the NCLEX.

“Our goal [for the Philippine market] is like educational tourism for NCLEX.but since Manila opened its testing facilities we lost the only important component in keeping that market,” Tenorio said.

The CNMI recorded a 71-percent drop in arrivals from the Philippines after the nursing test was offered in Manila beginning August 2007. Before that, MVA posted 461 nurses who took the exam on Saipan the previous year.

Between August 2007 and July 2008, only 130 Filipino nurses took the exams at PearsonVue testing center in Garapan.

Nurses from the Philippines and other foreign countries need to take and pass the NCLEX to be eligible to practice in the U.S. and its territories, including Guam and the CNMI.

Between 2002 and 2008, the CNMI nursing board recorded 1,557 foreign nurses taking the exams on Saipan.

Barely a year after NCLEX was offered in the Philippines, the number of nurses who opted to take the test in Manila shot up to 20,410, resulting in the lower number of nurses taking the NCLEX on Saipan and in other areas like Hong Kong.

The drastic drop in the number of Saipan-bound nursing graduates from the Philippines was one of the major reasons cited by Continental Micronesia when it discontinued direct flights between Manila and Saipan effective July 16, 2008.

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