Officials of the South Korean-based investment giant E Land met behind closed doors with Gov. Eloy S. Inos yesterday morning about their ongoing renovation of Coral Ocean Point and plans for reopening the former Palms Resort Saipan. E Land later cancelled a press briefing that was supposed to happen after their meeting with the governor on Capital Hill.
This comes at a time when some elected officials have expressed doubts about E Land’s ability to move forward with what the investor group earlier claimed is an initial $4 million renovation of Coral Ocean Point as part of an estimated $40 million, multi-year investment plan.
Seong Min Kang, chief executive officer and president of E Land’s Suwaso Corp./Micronesian Resort Inc., told reporters on Capital Hill that he shared with the governor their plans for Coral Ocean Point. But Kang, speaking in Korean, declined to elaborate. Coral Ocean Point sits mostly on public land.
Press secretary Angel Demapan later said the E Land officials told the governor that they are now working on the swimming pool and central building at Coral Ocean Point, which they expect to be completed in 60 days.
Accompanying Kang at the meeting with the governor were MRI chief operating officer Taeho Kim, COP operations manager “Dennis” Seo, and COP’s Bertha Leon Guerrero.
Kang also told reporters that they shared with the governor E Land’s plans for the former The Palms Resort, but declined to give details other than they are still trying to bring in a global brand for this hotel located on the northern part of the island.
The governor’s press secretary also later said that E Land told the governor that they are “nearing” the completion of their plan for the former The Palms Resort.
Demapan said E Land expects to begin renovation in the summer. He also said E Land is bringing in a global brand to the hotel. The Palms Resort is on private land.
Sen. Paul Manglona (Ind-Rota) reiterated his and Sen. Pete Reyes’ (Ind-Saipan) request yesterday to the Department of Public Lands to look at the track record of E Land before DPL decides to negotiate either with E Land/MRI or the Hong Kong-based Honest Profit Corp. for the lease of a San Antonio public land to develop a new hotel with at least 200 rooms.
“DPL should take into consideration E Land’s track record on Saipan. Why do we need to encumber an additional public land, on prime beach location, if we are not sure they can deliver on their promise to develop it? We are not trying to be unfriendly to them, but they are holding a big chunk of public land and may hold another big chunk at a prime location. Maybe other companies could be given a chance too. If DPL feels they need to do another RFP in San Antonio, then they should never hold back,” Manglona told Saipan Tribune.
DPL Secretary Pete A. Tenorio said yesterday they have not decided on the San Antonio lot request for proposal yet. When asked whether DPL plans to cancel the RFP, he said “no.”
Rep. Antonio Benavente (Ind-Saipan), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, separately said the panel will request DPL for some documents related to E Land’s public land leases, among other things.
“E Land seems to be moving slow. We understand some of their hotels are on private land, but some are on public land, so that’s what we’re most concerned about,” he added.
In September, E Land broke ground on its initial $4 million renovation that includes sprucing up the existing 80 rooms, the main building, and swimming pool of Coral Ocean Point.
At the time, Kang said that was “only the beginning. Suwaso Corp.’s majority owner is E Land, through Micronesian Resort Inc.
After the renovation work on existing facilities, E Land has said the next phase is the construction of 200 to 300 new rooms, among other things.
The government is hoping that E Land and other investors will open new or reopen hotels to address the shortage of available hotel rooms, as visitor arrivals to the CNMI have been increasing.
E Land/MRI earlier said it also has plans for its other hotels on Saipan—Pacific Islands Club in San Antonio and the former The Palms Resort in San Roque but the company said it would reveal such plans at a later date.