ON TAKEOVER OF MARIANA RESORT
It has been reported that Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC will absorb all affected employees when the casino operator takes over the operation of the Mariana Resort & Spa by the end of the month. But before that happens, IPI would need to obtain the approval of the CNMI Lottery Commission and the Department of Public Lands in order to be allowed to take over the operations of the Marpi hotel.
DPL had already issued a notice of intent to award the more than 55,000-square-meter properties leased by the Kitami family-owned Kan Pacific Saipan Ltd. to IPI, which was the lone company that submitted an RFP when KPS’ lease expired. That effectively ends KPS’ 40 years of doing business in the CNMI, with more than 100 of their employees facing an uncertain future.
Kan Pacific Saipan Ltd., which operates Mariana Resort, also operates and maintains the Mandi Asian Spa, Mariana Country Club, the 50-meter Olympic-size swimming pool, and a baseball field.
Kan Pacific plans to retain close to 30 of its Mariana Resort employees and will transfer them to their other businesses—the Zen Teppanyaki restaurant in Garapan, the Mariana Lounge along Beach Road, and Mariana Grand Service, a tourist transport service.
IPI Special Projects senior vice president Viola Alepuyo told Saipan Tribune that their company is willing to absorb all Mariana Resort workers who will be affected by the shutdown. “But we have to make it clear that we will hire all of the employees as long as they are willing to stay and if we’re allowed to [take over] Mariana Resort.”
“Because right now, we don’t have a hotel. So, it doesn’t make any sense for us to hire 141 employees without a hotel. We would hire them, if we’re allowed to run Mariana Resort, if ever DPL gives us the permission to take over the operations of Mariana Resort.”
IPI had submitted three requests to the Casino Lottery Commission. The three members of the commission—chair Mark Rabauliman and commissioners Larrisa Larson and Robert Guerrero—unanimously voted to grant the first one, extending the date of completion to Feb. 28, 2021 of the initial gaming facility in Garapan.
The other two requests refer to IPI being allowed to operate a less than five-star hotel and to already operate the completed portions of the IGF. The second request is tied to the Mariana Resort, which is considered a three-star facility.
Alepuyo said she doesn’t want to look like she’s pointing fingers when it comes to granting their request to take over and operate Mariana Resort. “We just want to make sure that people understand that we can’t hire them yet if we’re not running Mariana Resort because there won’t be any operations.”
She added that they could not even put the workers in their Garapan facility since the hotel is not operational yet after the construction project encountered unforeseen and other issues like Typhoon Soudelor and other work-related problems.
Alepuyo said they couldn’t officially hire the workers after Sept. 30 until the request for proposals they submitted to DPL and the CLC waives the five-star quality requirement. “Right now, it is already [Tuesday], we submitted the RFP but we haven’t received any decision yet.”
“I don’t want to say that they are guaranteed to be hired and then at the end of the month they are knocking at our doors and saying ‘you guaranteed me a job.’ The only way we can guarantee them a job is when we’re already granted to operate Mariana Resort.”
She added that procedures and steps need to be followed when they absorb the workers, even those guest workers under the work visa category. “I can’t guarantee that we can hire CWs if we don’t follow the procedures. I mean, does the guarantee to hire all employees automatic?”
“If, there are, in fact, CWs, we will follow whatever the procedure is set by law to make sure we do what’s necessary to get them on board. I’m sure that we need to be given some time in order to transition. There needs to have a transition period.”
Still, it all boils down to CLC and DPL allowing them to operate a facility that’s less than a five- or four-star hotel and give them the authority to take over Mariana Resort.
“We have to be given authority by [CLC] to operate something that is less than five- or four-star. And then, when all that is done, we need a transition period with the current management of Mariana Resort.
“But the most important thing is going to be the employees. That needs the most immediate attention. Why? Because there are some people that require us to do extra steps to make sure they are really employed.”