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    Friday, May 24, 2019-6:51:31P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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IPI says construction delayed by typhoons, visa rule change

THE combination of devastating typhoons and a crippling new federal policy has stalled the hotel-casino project in Garapan, according to Imperial Pacific International.

The CNMI was hit by Typhoon Mangkhut and Super Typhoon Yutu last year.

Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security delisted the Philippines from countries eligible under the H-2B visa program.

IPI executives led by chief executive officer Mark Brown and senior vice president for special projects Viola Alepuyo attended the Lottery Commission’s special meeting on Tuesday.

During the meeting, the commission approved two of the four amendments requested by IPI.

The first amendment will credit IPI with the number of rooms that will be built by its partners at future development sites. The casino law requires IPI to build a 2,000-room facility.

The second amendment will reduce from 51 percent to 10 percent the statutorily mandated majority shareholder controlling interest.

IPI also requested an 18-month extension of the current project completion deadline which is Feb. 28, 2021. IPI is proposing a new deadline: Aug. 31, 2022.

The Lottery Commission has tabled this proposed amendment along with IPI’s request to reduce the U.S. hire quota of 65 percent to the statutorily mandated 30 percent.

In a letter to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, IPI said although the current deadline is one year and nine months away, the hotel developer is “gravely concerned about meeting this deadline.”

“Policy decisions made by federal agencies have negatively impacted IPI’s construction workforce. IPI was the first company in the CNMI to successfully get H-2B visa approvals for construction workers,” IPI said adding that most of its H-2B workers were from the Philippines.

Because of DHS’s decision, IPI said it had to repatriate over 500 H-2B workers from the Philippines.

“This wreaked havoc on IPI’s construction and development plans,” IPI added.

It said it had to find a country where workers will be most compatible with the remaining H-2B workers from Taiwan on a Chinese-owned development on U.S. soil.

IPI decided to hire construction workers in Thailand, but since no H-2B workers from Thailand had traveled to the CNMI, IPI said it had to pioneer the process of getting approval from the Thailand government and the U.S. State Department.

IPI said it was also not spared from the effects of Typhoon Mangkhut and Super Typhoon Yutu which hit the CNMI’s three main islands in September and October 2018.

IPI said Typhoon Mangkhut damaged beyond repair one of its tower cranes which had to be dismantled. It took four months to install the replacement, IPI added.

IPI noted that the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport was shut down for weeks due to devastation caused by Super Typhoon Yutu.

Even when the airport opened, relief and building materials for recovery were prioritized so IPI said it was unable to bring in the materials it needed to repair its construction equipment.