‘No Internet, no remittance’

Relatives not able to send money home

While some people worry about not being able to update their social media accounts because of the lack of Internet connection on Saipan, others have more pressing concerns—not being able to send money to their families in different parts of the world.

Aside from banks, wire transfers are one of the services that just cannot function without a reliable and speedy Internet connection.

Companies such as LBC and Western Union are still not able to process transactions since Wednesday last week.

Even though Internet access was made available to businesses yesterday morning, its almost negligible capacity is not enough for wire transfers to work.

Upon learning that Internet connections were back up yesterday, Victor Villamon had hoped to finally send money to the Philippines but was dismayed to find out that he still could not do so.

“This is my second time to come here,” Villamon said.

“The Internet is too slow, we still cannot process anything,” LBC employer Romeo Quizon said.

“It is very inconvenient for our customers because normally they expect to be able to send money and all of a sudden, we have no capability,” Western Union’s Juanpan Guerrero said.

LBC manager Val Gatchalian said they received some complaints from their customers who were already irate as almost a week has passed and they still cannot send money home.

He said some customers are worried about payments that have to be made or dependents not getting their allowance.

“One even thought the relative just didn’t want to send money and the family member became angry,” Gatchalian narrated, showing how much the Internet problem on Saipan is rippling to other places.

Since Wednesday, LBC has been operating half-days only as they were not able to process transactions anyway. However, yesterday, they stayed until the afternoon hoping that speedy Internet access will become available.

Gatchalian said they are losing about $1,000 to $2,000 per day in terms of actual revenue due to the Internet problem. Peak days are during the weekend, especially Friday when most offices have their payday.

Reaching out to IT&E

Western Union said that remittances of about $500,000 worth were lost because of the network problem that has been going on for five days now.

“The business loss is huge,” Guerrero said, adding that there are 11 agents on island that are mostly dependent on wire transaction revenues.

He added that they are sending a letter to IT&E to formally ask them how long the Internet problem is really going to take.

“We want it in black and white,” he said.

Guerrero hopes that IT&E will “get its act together” and that it will give credit to its customers. He also added that the backup system failing to support the network just “shows how bad their system is.”

“This should not have happened,” Guerrero added.


According to Gatchalian, they are looking at alternative ways on how to send money should the network problem take long.

He said they will ask their compliance office in the U.S. mainland if they can transfer money through their offices there.

Rustan’s Foreign Exchange, on the other hand, is able to process bank-to-bank transfers, which take longer for recipients to receive, unlike wire transfers. They said pick up services are not possible at this time because of the Internet problem.

Frauleine S. Villanueva-Dizon | Reporter
Frauleine Michelle S. Villanueva was a broadcast news producer in the Philippines before moving to the CNMI to pursue becoming a print journalist. She is interested in weather and environmental reporting but is an all-around writer. She graduated cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in Journalism and was a sportswriter in the student publication.

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