Governor hopes casino will be completed

CASINO RESORT: The Imperial Pacific International casino resort project on Saipan is shown in November 2019. Post file photo

SAIPAN — The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Department of Public Works has yet to lift the stop-work order it issued to Imperial Pacific International, but some IPI construction workers have been seen working at a warehouse in San Antonio and at employee barracks in Garapan.

A former manager of an IPI construction team said those working at the San Antonio warehouse are IPI's H-2B workers from Mongolia, while those working at the barracks in Garapan are H-2B workers from Taiwan.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services rules prohibit H-2B workers from working outside the geographic areas or occupations listed in their job order.

Acting DPW building safety officer Isagani Salazar said IPI is not necessarily disregarding the stop-work order, which was issued due to violations of the building safety code at its Garapan construction site.

Last Monday, construction workers were seen boarding an elevator at IPI's Garapan construction site.

On Thursday, IPI Holdings board of directors Chairwoman Cui Li Jie was seen supervising workers performing a landscaping job at the construction site.

Asked for comment, the IPI construction team said, "IPI was supposed to resume some work on Nov. 9 ... but Monday morning IPI got a call from a DPW officer who said IPI cannot work inside (the) hotel," including "site cleaning outside the hotel."

"So IPI stopped all workers from going into the ... hotel. The workers only worked at some warehouses by instruction of DPW," the IPI construction team added.

On Tuesday, the IPI construction team's resident project director, Jing Zhou, submitted to DPW the names of engineers of record and inspectors – an electrical engineer and an architect from Guam, and a mechanical engineer based on Saipan. Zhou also submitted copies of their certificates.

In his letter, Zhou said IPI has appointed DR Constructors and CM MEP Inspectors to conduct most of the on-site inspections.

He told DPW that these engineers will conduct the inspections along with DR Constructors staff, and will cover mechanical, electrical, plumbing and safety including fire sprinklers and fire alarms, as well as architectural and structural issues.

But Salazar said DPW still could not allow IPI to move ahead with the construction until IPI submits copies of job contracts between the three engineers and DR Constructors.

Construction managers who were recently terminated by IPI said that "in complete disregard of DPW's stop-work order, the IPI management instructed their employees to work on site on Monday, Nov. 9."

But the workers were later told to leave the job site.

Since March, the IPI casino has been shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.