Imperial Pacific International LLC would pay the Community Benefit Fund in two installments after the Commonwealth Lottery Commission granted their request of amending Section 16 (b) of the Casino License Agreement.
The commission met on Tuesday to discuss if they would grant an extension on some of the extension request made by Imperial Pacific at the conference room of the Governor’s Office at the Hon. Juan Atalig Sablan Memorial Building on Capital Hill.
CBF is part of the Licensee Development Proposal Requirements, contributions by the investor that would be used to benefit the community.
Section 16 (b) of the license agreement states that “within 60 days of commencing construction work on the first hotel in the Integrated Resort, the licensee shall contribute $20 million toward its community benefits programs.”
“Thereafter, upon the first full year of operation of the licensee’s first hotel in the integrated resort, licensee shall annually contribute $20 million to be used for community benefit programs,” continued on Section 16 (b).
The money collected from CBF will be used for education, scholarships, infrastructure, health care, employee retirement benefits, as may be determined in consultation with the governor.
The commission allowed IPI to pay CBF the first $10 million no later than Jan. 1, 2018 and the remaining $10 million no later than June 1, 2018.
“They want us to put more to the community and I think we responded to that,” said IPI senior vice president for special projects Viola Alepuyo.
Commission has no authority?
Several members of the community, through social media, have questioned the commission’s authority in deciding to grant IPI’s requests.
Section 2 of the Casino License Agreement states that “upon issuance of the casino license the authority of the Lottery Commission over this license shall cease and the Office of the Governor shall have authority for enforcement of the terms and conditions of this License Agreement except for the elements specifically identified for control by the Casino Commission…”
Saipan Tribune tried to get the CNMI Office of the Attorney General’s opinion on the issue but they have yet to respond at press time.
The administration said they remain cognizant on IPI’s contractor problems. “We’re not turning a blind eye. That’s why Gov. Ralph DLG Torres came out on record in requesting the Department of Homeland Security in helping implement the vetting process.”
“Overall, the governor is lobbying on House Resolution 339 of Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan and the CW1 program. This is one of the facets the administration and Legislature is looking into to make sure we do this the right way.”
Workers of some of the contractors have protested for the non-payment of their wages and overtime the past four months.
Alepuyo said IPI does not condone the practice of their contractors but assured they would address the issue. “That is the part of the reason for requesting the extension. Not only on what’s stated on record like the lack of cement and Typhoon Soudelor.”
Acting governor Victor B. Hocog said the extension granted to IPI by the commission is for the best interest of the CNMI since. The extension gives IPI ample time to finish the project that they have started.
“I think it is for the best interest of the Commonwealth that we provide the ample time for them to finish what they have started. Rather than leaving it the way it is, we can’t let that happen. We’re trying to provide them us a little bit of flexibility to ensure that they complete their undertaking,” said Hocog.
“Otherwise they are going to leave all of this investment as an eyesore. Like what happened to La Fiesta, and what benefit that gives us? Let us give the investor the chance to complete the investment but they need to address the problem.”