‘You can go to hell’


Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC chief executive officer Ray N. Yumul provides an update on IPI’s operation to remove three tower cranes during the Commonwealth Casino Commission board’s monthly meeting yesterday at the Springs Plaza Building in Gualo Rai. (Ferdie De La Torre)

The long-running saga about the removal of the tower cranes at the casino project site in western Garapan came to a head yesterday, with Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC chief executive officer Ray N. Yumul losing his temper and telling Commonwealth Casino Commission board chair Edward C. DeLeon Guerrero that he can “go to hell” in reaction to a comment the chairman made about the cranes.

It came to a point where casino commissioner Mariano Taitano had to tell Yumul to calm down and not yell at them as they’re just frustrated because the IPI cranes pose a hazard to the surrounding businesses.

In his report to the board about IPI’s actions to remove the tower cranes, Yumul said that IPI and CCC are both constrained by funding and have had to cut staff. He said that IPI is reaching a point where they can only do so much with what they have.

“It’s not my decision. It’s not my funding. I’m trying to help the community. And if you’re going to sit there in the Philippines and tell me that I’m being ridiculous, you can go to hell,” Yumul told DeLeon Guerrero, who is in the Philippines for personal reason and had joined the meeting via a video call.

He assured, though, that the tower cranes are going to be taken down. “I am doing everything in my financial power now. I only have so much,” said Yumul, pounding on the podium. That’s when Taitano admonished Yumul to calm down and not yell at them.

Casino commissioner Ramon M. Dela Cruz also came to DeLeon Guerrero’s defense, saying the chairman was only saying that IPI representatives have been coming to CCC board meetings month after month, assuring CCC that they’re doing something about taking the cranes down.

Dela Cruz pointed out that IPI cannot even produce the $10,000 needed to purchase the hydraulic machine to remove the crane’s pins and frames. “If IPI cannot put up $10,000 to ensure safety for the neighboring establishments, what are you telling us? Every day is a different excuse. Every time we meet is a different excuse,” he said.

Dela Cruz said the excuses come not just from Yumul but also from IPI senior vice president for marketing and public affairs Tao Xing or IPI chief engineer Eric Poon. He said Poon, who is the most knowledgeable person in construction, was not even present at the board meeting and may have already resigned.

“And what the chairman is saying is that all of us are frustrated. You should be concerned because we’re trying to work together. You know, we’re not just regulators, we’re concerned members of the community also,” Dela Cruz told Yumul.

Dela Cruz said Yumul should take into account that the board’s concern is legitimate, and that he should not get upset and get insulted because it’s part of his work.

Dela Cruz urged Yumul to work with them because if he fails to do that, they can take a more drastic approach against IPI on many of these issues.

“This is serious violation!” Dela Cruz said.

He said the fact of the matter is that they keep repeating themselves about IPI’s culture of non-compliance when they meet every month.

“It’s getting already to the core of everything that we do here. Please work with us. Don’t try to get insulted with chairman’s remarks because it’s very true,” Dela Cruz said.

Yumul said that DeLeon Guerrero wants to make a political point; Dela Cruz said it’s not political but a safety concern.

“I keep repeating myself that, God forbids, there’s a tropical storm tomorrow, and that thing comes tumbling down, what are you going to say?” Dela Cruz asked.

Yumul noted he even stopped cashing his payroll checks just to make sure that the removal operation will not stop. Dela Cruz said that’s beside the point.

Yumul later apologized after answering a few more questions by the commissioners.

Before the argument, Yumul was giving an update on IPI’s tower cranes 1, 5, and 6 that are standing along Hibiscus Road. Yumul said that, at this point, he can say that IPI’s parent company in Hong Kong has committed to providing the funds necessary to take down the cranes. He said he does not anticipate stopping the removal work going forward.

To remove crane number 5, , the process is conservatively estimated to take between one to two months. “I want zero casualties. I want zero injuries as much as possible. Safety is paramount for everybody,” said Yumul, adding that he understands the urgency to take the cranes down.

Dela Cruz said the commission is anxious to see that the cranes be removed because of the typhoon season and those cranes pose a threat to businesses in the area as well as to the public as a whole.

DeLeon Guerrero said the cranes have been a major issue for the CCC and the community for over a year now. “It’s been standing there for more than six years,” DeLeon Guerrero said.

He said Yumul and IPI know that the cranes should have been taken down a year ago, and that IPI has requested to extend the deadline to finish the casino/resort project, yet they can’t even remove the cranes.

“At the end of the day, we as regulators are responsible not only to the game industry but to the community,” Deleon Guerrero said.

Demapan asked if IPI is working with the Department of Public Works and what agency approves the deconstruction of the cranes.

Last Dec. 22, DPW Secretary James A. Ada wrote Yumul about the status of the removal of Tower Crane No. 5. Ada said Poon stated that the removal of that crane was suspended last Dec. 7 due to breakdown of a hydraulic machine.

He said Poon mentioned that Seafix has the available hydraulic machine and offered it to IPI for $10,000, but, IPI could not afford to buy or lease that machine. Ada said IPI has never informed DPW about their plan whether to continue or not.

Yumul said $10,000 is expensive as a similar machine costs only $3,244. Yumul said he was asking as a resident and community member to consider the dire situation IPI is in, but Seafix’s price is too steep.

He said CCC knows full well the financial condition of IPI as the company is always in court.

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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