‘IPI struggles after US embassies suspend all H2B visa interviews’

CCC commissioner questions designation of Zheng as sole IPI board director
Posted on May 01 2020


Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC has been struggling with the deadline to finish the casino-resort project in Garapan after U.S. embassies suspended all ongoing H2B visa interviews until further notice due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, according to IPI vice president of construction Eric Poon yesterday.

The suspension means IPI is not getting any skilled workers from outside the CNMI, said Poon in his presentation on the construction progress at Imperial Palace Saipan during the Commonwealth Casino Commission’s regular monthly meeting yesterday via video conference.

As this developed, CCC commissioner Joe C. Reyes and CCC executive director Edward C. Deleon Guerrero wanted to know veracity of a document indicating that a certain Dongting Zheng has been designated as the sole board director of IPI.

Reyes said that Zheng’s designation surprised him as this came on the last day of his term as commissioner. “For me this is questionable,” said Reyes, referring to a document signed by Zheng as director.

Poon said a number of H2B workers have left their jobs at the casino due to COVID-19 concerns. Their number of local workers has also been reduced beginning last March, also because of the pandemic, he added.

“The pandemic seriously impacts the site’s current progress,” Poon said, adding that they found it hard to get skilled workers from outside the CNMI to replace the ones they’ve lost

Poon stressed, though, that construction has not stopped. “We’re still working on the tower,” he said.

At present, he said, they have a total of 411 workers for construction, as well as 15 management staff. They have 356 H2B workers—114 Taiwanese, three Thais, 121 Mongolians, 27 Australians, and 91 Turkish. There are 55 workers from local manpower agencies. Poon said they’re working but they need more skilled workers from outside the CNMI.

He said a lot of things are under considerations due to flights suspension and that, with the closure of the Department of Public Works, Historic Preservation Office, and Coastal Resources Management, they cannot get inspections from them. “So all inspections are pretty much suspended,” he said.

When asked by CCC chair Juan Sablan on who is monitoring the construction right now, Poon said they hired three companies to perform third-party inspections.

On the hotel tower, Poon said the building façade cladding installation is nearly complete. “External glazing installation work is in progress. Guestroom interior fit-out work is in progress,” he said.

Poon said levels 3 to 14 mechanical/electrical/plumbing, fire protection system/low voltage installation works are in progress.

For the Cantonese Restaurant and Crystal Bar, he said interior fit-out works are in progress, while interior partition wall installation is completed and decorative ceiling installation is in progress.

“Kitchen interior fit-out works are in progress,” he said.

Poon said the Resort Hotel or the 14 villas are now complete.

He said Phase 2 construction at levels 3 to 13 at the tower hotel are in progress and is forecast to be completed on June 30, 2020.

Poon said Phase 3 construction at Level 2 VIP gaming and Level 14 sky level started in June 2019 and is targeted to be completed on Sept. 30, 2020.

He said beach club construction started in October 2019 and is expected to be completed on Dec. 31, 2020.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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