IPI casino assets heading for auction

Timothy Shepherd, senior partner of Clear Management Ltd. based in Hong Kong, confirmed that the auction of Imperial Pacific International’s casino assets is going ahead.

The first auction is set for Nov. 30 at noon, with five other auctions to follow at about 30-day intervals until April 29. Equipment for sale includes 365 slot machines (with signage and displays), 39 electronic gaming table gaming terminals, gaming tables with chairs and stools, wheels and displays, and chip sets, cards and equipment such as safes and cash counters. A surveillance system is also for sale.

Speaking with the Journal from Hong Kong on Nov. 11, he said that the thousands of items should sell. “There’s always a market,” he said. The auction site says that from “an initial view the inventory looks secure and in good condition.”

The equipment is between two and seven years old, with some not yet unboxed. Clear Management will be testing the equipment as far as it can before the auction. “We are going to check it.” However, Shepherd said any outlay of funds on the equipment would be limited. “We’re not going to spend a fortune. That would be counterproductive.”

The unpaid balance owed to USA Fanter Corp. is slightly under $2.1 million. Shepherd said the receiver’s job is to get as much for the assets as possible.

While the receivership is currently limited to the casino equipment, Shepherd said, “It seems to us – listening to the judge in this case – she’s happy to let the other assets [go].” As to what might be sold next, he said, “We think the cars and the other vehicles, the art and the fine wine.”

Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona of the District Court of the NMI appointed Clear Management as the receiver on Oct. 27, after granting USA Fanter’s motion to appoint limited receivership.

Shepherd said in his opinion it would be as easy to restock and open the casino as it will be to auction assets. He also said, “It’s a very well-built casino indeed.”

Clear Management is appreciative of its relationship with the Commonwealth Casino Commission, he said. “They are highly professional and very easy to work with in terms of what we’ve got to do – right from the executive director all the way down.”


NMI guidelines for quarantine may change

Esther L. Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., said a change in protocols is coming up. “The protocols we are implementing will put us a step ahead,” she said. “Quarantine will be different for those that have a fully-vaccinated household and those that don’t.” Different protocols would apply for those that are not vaccinated, she said. “This is similar to the CDC guidelines,” she said. Muna said 90% of the adult population has had at least a first dose.

The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. in the Northern Mariana Islands announced 12 new COVID-19 cases on Nov. 11. Since Oct. 28, there have been 90 new cases, of which 68 were identified via contact tracing, 15 were identified via community testing, and seven were identified via travel testing. A total of 428 COVID tests were conducted on Nov. 9, which comprised travel testing and surveillance testing, according to the release. The NMI has seen 381 positive cases since March 28, 2020.

One individual is hospitalized for observation, Muna said. “We have a medical team at the Kanoa [Resort] to monitor the cases,” she said.

Warren Villagomez, chairman of the governor’s COVID taskforce, said the Capital Hotel and the Century Hotel were being used as “temporary use” hotels for a week, although Shirley’s Restaurant at the Century Hotel was open. 

Despite the recent surge, Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres said the NMI had done well in COVID prevention. “We have reached all of our goals practically from Day 1.” Speaking at a media briefing, he told the Journal that if the NMI had not taken swift action in March 2020, the Federal Emergency Management Administration had predicted 6,000 to 8,000 positive cases.

With President Joseph R. Biden opening the U.S. to foreign visitors from Nov. 8, he said, “We can’t stop the airlines coming in.”

The NMI Public School System will re-open on Nov. 15. Torres said residents need to have faith in the process of testing and tracing for COVID also as the NMI prepares for visitors. “We need to open our borders.” As to COVID restrictions and guidelines, he said. “That’s what we have control over,” he said.

Muna said CHCC had declined to take a position on the request by PSS for a vaccine mandate for staff. A public comment period is underway. “We want people to comment,” she said before a decision is made at the end of November or in December. As to a mandate for the business community, she said. “We’re not involved in mandating our businesses. That would be up to the governor.”

Torres also said that he would write to President Joseph R. Biden and Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, on an NMI National Guard, which he said is important for the community. “Having a National Guard here would play a role in national security,” he said. The NMI did not have a Guard to deploy for COVID assistance, he said. The Guard would also be a potential career path he said.


In other NMI news, the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands reported a 33% average occupancy rate among its 11 member hotels for October 2021. The figure is more than seven times higher compared to October 2020, with 14,074 room nights sold in October compared to 2,118 rooms last October. A total of 14,074 of 42,282 available room nights sold during the month. Average room rates were $136.10 compared to $148.22 in October 2020.

Occupancy rates do not include hotel room rentals at Kanoa Resort Saipan and Pacific Islands Club Saipan for COVID-19 quarantine accommodations.


That’s a definite maybe on easing Guam COVID restrictions for the holidays

With days to go before Thanksgiving and the start of the holiday season, the rumor is that numbers for gatherings will be increased. Arthur U. San Agustin, director of the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services, told the Journal on Nov. 11 that easing of restrictions is being considered. “That is in discussion, but nothing is yet finalized,” he said.

After the first two days of vaccinations of children aged 5 to 11, he said 567 children were vaccinated. “We’re very encouraged,” San Agustin said.

As of Nov. 9, 124,359 of Guam’s eligible population (residents 12 years and older) is fully vaccinated, according to DPHSS.


In other DPHSS news, San Agustin has executed a contract with Metrc, an experienced provider of cannabis regulatory systems in the United States, according to a Nov. 10 release from the Office of the Governor.


GVB electronic form has issues, funding for free COVID tests running out

Within the first five days of the new COVID testing program for tourists returning to their home countries, 750 tests have been used, and funding is estimated to run out by early or mid-December, according to Gerald S.A. Perez, vice president of the Guam Visitors Bureau.

From Dec. 23, two new airlines will relaunch service to the island twice a week, Asiana Airlines and Air Busan. Perez said that the electronic customs declaration forms continue to have issues as flights and tourism ramps up. “We anticipate scaling up the number of arrivals and this is going to be a big problem that really needs attention now,” he said.

There have been difficulties with QR codes and languages within the forms, among other issues.

In terms of marketing, GVB has been aggressively present in Guam’s source markets, to include two 20-minute television segments on travelling to Guam. The first aired on Nov. 8, with the second scheduled to air on Nov. 13. The first segment reached 93.5 million viewers through Yahoo! News, 29.3 million viewers through Asahi News, 19.4 million viewers through the Mainichi newspaper and 19.8 million viewers through the Excite search engine.

On island, GVB is waiting on bids for a few projects, including the Tumon Bay streetlight improvement project, for which bids are due by Nov. 29, the landscape maintenance project, with bids being due by Dec. 10, and the holiday illumination project, with the proposal deadline on Dec. 2.

In other GVB news, 13 certificates have been handed out through the marine tour operator’s course and virtual tour models are being developed to highlight key sites with more digital content and inventory.


DOI confirms grants to FSM and Marshalls

The United States Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs will release $61,294,949 in Compact of Free Association funding to the Federated States of Micronesia and $33,732,400 to the Marshall Islands for fiscal 2022. The largest amounts will go to education and infrastructure – with $9,145,218 allocated to the Marshall Islands and $6,230,516 to the FSM for infrastructure funding. Also approved for the FSM is “an amount not lower than $17,626,852” for various schools and health centers. Marshall Islands “assistance [will] be authorized for preliminary engineering, design, and development of a Project Development Plan for the Roi-Namur to Santo Electric Distribution System Project on Kwajalein Atoll,” DOI said in a Nov. 11 release.  


Guam COVID regs violations update

The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services inspected 39 facilities the week of Nov. 1 to Nov. 7 for COVID compliance, of which all but nine were restaurants, bars or taverns, the rest being childcare facilities and one retail outlet.

Violations were “failure to post signage for vaccination requirements in a conspicuous place viewable by patrons and employees,” in eight cases, according to a Nov. 9 release.


Famous carrier on port visit to Guam; US military sees increase in female personnel

The USS Carl Vinson began a port visit to Guam of about a week on Nov. 11.

The Vinson is reportedly the vessel that was the last resting place of Osama Bin Laden before his burial at sea.

The carrier has a personnel complement of 5,000+, an air wing of 67 aircraft with an estimated 2,000+ personnel; and two ships – missile cruiser Lake Champlain and destroyer USS Stockdale, with an estimated 500 and 100 personnel respectively.

While in port, the Vinson will resupply and undergo maintenance. Fully vaccinated personnel will be allowed off the ship. According to a Nov. 10 release the Vinson has “one of the highest overall vaccination rates in the Department of Defense,” although the Navy did not say what that is.


In other U.S. military news, of the more than 1.3 million active-duty members in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, the percentage of women “saw a modest increase” to 17.2%, according to a Nov. 10 release. The largest branch of the military is the Army, with 36.1% of personnel. The average age of enlisted personnel is 27, and for officers 34, with 87.9% of active-duty members located in the U.S. mainland and U.S. territories.


Guam Guard gets federal funding for COVID deployments

Federal funding for Guam for COVID-19 Public Assistance Category B and Guam National Guard Title 32 (of the U.S. Code) costs have been extended through April, according to a Nov. 10 release from the Office of the Governor. Title 32 allows the governor to activate and deploy the Guard. Federal funding for the Guard is also under Title 10.

In addition, in April Maj. General Esther J.C. Aguigui, adjutant general of the Guam Guard, told the Journal that from March to December 2020, deployment of Guam Guard members to Andersen Air Force Base through Title 10 deployment orders has been financially attractive. “We saved $9 million [that] we’ve added to Guam’s economy.”


OSHA looks at heat hazard working conditions

On Oct. 27, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings in the Federal Register. With this, OSHA is beginning the rulemaking process to consider a heat-specific workplace standard. “A standard specific to heat-related injury and illness prevention would more clearly set forth employer obligations and the measures necessary to more effectively protect employees from hazardous heat. The ultimate goal is to prevent and reduce the number of occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities caused by exposure to hazardous heat,” OSHA said. The Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association circulated the proposed rule to members.

Find the notice here: https://www.osha.gov/heat-exposure/rulemaking The comment period ends Dec. 27.


Investment conference postponed

The Asia Pacific Association for Fiduciary Studies announce the annual Fiduciary Events Week, to include the 20th annual Pacific Region Investment Conference has been postponed until November 2022. The event typically take place in Manila.

Those seeking continuing education credits can find them online through the fi360 Pacific Learning and Development at Login – Fi360 Pacific, according to a Nov. 11 release.


And also:

The Federated States of Micronesia announced Nov. 12 booster shots are available for Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine is now available in all four FSM states for children aged five and up. Approximately 70% of the adult population of the FSM is fully vaccinated and 88% of the 45 -plus age group is fully vaccinated.

The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency’s 12-day Operation Kurukuru concluded on Nov. 7. The annual exercise involves maritime surveillance operation with the goal of combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated or IUU fishing. 

This year’s Operation Kurukuru was conducted for 12 days, covering more than 8,880,349 million square miles and 300 vessel identifications. The 18 partners included the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau as well as the U.S. Coast Guard, including the Coast Guard Cutter Myrtle Hazard homeported in Guam.


And for your diary:

Cabras Marine Corp. will host a job fair on Nov. 13 at the Guam Premier Outlets from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Details and application forms are available at www.cabtug.com.

The Marianas Business Journal 2nd Annual Charity Golf Tournament will take place on Nov. 20 at Country Club of the Pacific.

A portion of the net proceeds will benefit the Alee Shelter, which provides emergency/protective shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Sponsors of the event include Ambros Inc., Bank of Guam, Docomo Pacific, Guam AutoSpot, 76 Circle K, Burger King, DMCSI, Royal Bics, Century Restaurant, Delta Tire & Lube Guam, Island Copy, Graphic Center Inc., Elegant Reflections, Lave Lounge, Icon, Sejong Restaurant, Nica’s Crib Lounge, Subway Restaurants, and Chili’s Grill & Bar.

Additional sponsorships are welcome for this special occasion. There are only a handful of player slots available. Contact [email protected] for sponsorships and to secure your slot.

The COVID-19 Economic Disaster Loan program will expire on Dec. 31, but still has funding.

Kenneth Q. Lujan, branch manager for the Guam Small Business Administration Office will be presenting “How COVID 19 EIDL can help your business” on Nov. 17 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. via Zoom. The program will cover: How small businesses can take advantage of this program; what you can do to request a loan increase; how SBA processes your application; and how to prepare a reconsideration request after an unfavorable decision.

To register go to https://pisbden.ecenterdirect.com/events/4911mbj