Less than 300 working on IPI project

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Posted on Feb 28 2019

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Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC vice president for construction Eric Poon, left, answers a question by Commonwealth Casino Commission member Alvaro Santos in yesterday’s meeting at the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library. (Jon Perez)

Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC informed the Commonwealth Casino Commission that less than 300 individuals have been working at the Imperial Pacific Resort construction site. This development is concerning for the Commonwealth Casino Commission especially with the projected date of completion of the resort hotel.

CCC executive director Edward Deleon Guerrero told IPI officials that they should provide monthly progress reports to the commission. “Because all the facilities need to be new. Public Law 18-56 said that it has to be new and you can’t buy an existing hotel”

“For gaming, it requires a new facility and an amendment was only allowed for Mariana Resort & Spa. It is critical to continue to update the commission.”

Imperial Pacific vice president for construction Eric Poon Poon, in his report to the CCC in yesterday’s monthly meeting at the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library technology room, that they are projecting that the construction of the resort hotel would be done by the end of this year (Dec. 31) despite the shortage of skilled workers that they are currently experiencing.

IPI sent home its H-2B skilled laborers from the Philippines after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security barred citizens from the said country to avail of the said temporary work visa program.

A total of 264 individuals—that included 15 management staff—are currently working under the casino-hotel project with 226 skilled workers from Chinese-Taipei that are using H-2B visas. There are also 12 from sub-contractor USA Fanter Corp., while another 11 from the Czech Republic are technicians installing the two crystal dragon chandeliers.

Poon said their current situation on construction laborers is no secret. “Everybody knows that we have been facing labor issues as workers from the Philippines are barred based on a new U.S. policy removing the Philippines from the H-2B working permit.”

“We’ve lost over 500 workers just within a month. It is difficult for us to accept, but we have to face it. Right now, we are working with our human resources to figure out on how to bring more workers in and continue the rest of the project.”

CCC commissioner Alvaro Santos asked Poon if it is possible they could still meet the projected date of completion of the casino resort with their current labor situation. “You only have 226 workers, is this forecast accurate based on your issue? Are you still confident that it can be completed by December 2019?

Despite their workforce issues, Poon said they are still looking at the projected date of completion while also hoping that their labor problem would improve. “We hope things won’t get any worse; we’re hoping we can get H-2B [skilled] workers from Philippines back as soon as possible.”

“[But], it depends on the approval of the U.S. [federal] government and we are also working with the CNMI government closely with this,” said Poon, who added that local officials know that they need the skilled workers to finish the construction project.

He said they are looking to get more workers in other countries that are still eligible for the H-2B visa program. “We’re looking for more workers and try to meet the deadline forecast that we have. The current H-2B workers are focused on the resort hotel—the rooms and corridors—and within the 226 we have painters, carpenters, and welders.”

“Those [workers] are focused on the area, which is part of Phase 1, the resort hotel. Obviously, if we have more workers, that would be great and we could move the project more forward. What we have now, we try to achieve with that number.”

CCC vice chair Joe Reyes suggested that IPI should look into skilled workers from other countries like India and Mongolia after he had a friend tap laborers from the said countries for a construction project in Diego Garcia.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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