Casino plans re-opening, new financing agreement

According to a Nov. 11 stock exchange filing on the Hang Seng, Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd. is in negotiation with the Commonwealth Casino Commission on re-opening and a different financing model.

In its filing, IPI said, “As part of the negotiations, it is proposed by IPI, amongst others, that: — the annual license fee be replaced with a gaming license fee based upon a percentage of net profit with a pre-set minimum and maximum amount; — reducing IPI’s minimum hotel room construction requirement to an agreed number of rooms; — separation of the operation and regulation of IPI’s hotel from its casino operations; — the waiver of license fees payable by IPI for 2020 and 2021 and the payment of a reduced amount at the end of the license term in the Casino License Agreement between IPI and the CCC; and — the ongoing CNMI Supreme Court case be dismissed and the dismissal of the CCC Order.”

The company has been informed by the CCC that a written response setting out their settlement conditions will be provided, and the company’s expects this in due course. In the meantime, shareholders and investors should note that the above proposals have not been agreed by the CCC and current negotiations are ongoing and may or may not crystallize, the filing said.

“The substantial shareholder of the company has undertaken to provide financial assistance to the company for the settlement of the annual license fee, which is subject to further negotiation between the CCC and IPI. Subject to reaching settlement with the CCC on mutually agreeable terms proposed by IPI as mentioned above and in the absence of any unexpected situation with a negative impact to the business operations of IPI, the company anticipates that the casino operations at the Imperial Palace Saipan can resume by the first quarter of 2023.”

A further announcement will be made as and when applicable, IPI said in the filing.

 

Where aid comes from in the Pacific

For small islands in the Pacific, funding and loans can contribute significantly to their economies.

According to the Lowy Institute, 2020 was the largest year on record for Pacific aid and development, with $3.3 billion awarded, a 33% increase over 2019, and double that of 2008.

The 2020 figures show that Palau received $82.55 million, the Federated States of Micronesia $184.20 million and the Marshall Islands $173.33 million. The FSM ranked at fifth place among top recipients.

The top three grantors are Australia, the U.S. and New Zealand, with the top three lenders the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank and Japan.

At the U.S.- Pacific Island Country Summit in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 28 to Sept. 29, the U.S. announced increased collaboration on “the key issues of climate change, people-centered development, pandemic response, economic recovery, trade, maritime security, and environmental protection,” and more than $800 million in funding.

See further details on funding at www.usaid.gov/news-information/press-releases/sep-29-2022-usaid-announces-expansion-pacific-region-us-pacific-island-country-summit

The Lowy Institute said that funding information for 2021 and 2022 is incomplete. Readers can find the interactive map of aid and further details at https://pacificaidmap.lowyinstitute.org/

In related news, the FSM will “receive a designated and highly trained climate finance advisor, whose scope of work is to leverage financing for climate change-related action – financed by the Government of Canada and the Climate Finance Access network, according to a Nov. 14 release from the Office of the President. The first cohort of climate finance advisors funded by Canada (who were sent to four different Pacific islands countries) mobilized $50 million in the eight months.

 

Airline pilot awarded EEOC compensation and reinstatement

United Airlines will pay $305,000 to a Buddhist pilot and will provide “other relief” to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency said in a Nov. 8 release.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the pilot was diagnosed with alcohol dependency and lost the medical certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration. One of the requirements of United’s HIMS program for its pilots with substance abuse problems who want to obtain new medical certificates from the FAA is that pilots regularly attend Alcoholics Anonymous. The pilot, who is Buddhist, objected to the religious content of AA and sought to substitute regular attendance at a Buddhism-based peer support group. United refused to accommodate his religious objection and, as a result, the pilot was unable to obtain a new FAA medical certificate permitting him to fly again, the agency charged.

This alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on religion. Under Title VII, employers must make a reasonable accommo­dation for an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs, so long as doing so does not impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the consent decree that resolves the lawsuit, United will pay the pilot $305,000 in back pay and damages and will reinstate him into its HIMS Program while allowing him to attend a non-12-step peer recovery program. The company will also accept religious accommo­dation requests in its HIMS Program going forward, institute a new policy on religious accom­modations, and train its employees, the release said.

 In other United news, the airline is re-introducing children’s meals on flights longer than 2,000 miles “in cabins where complimentary meals are served,” according to a Nov. 10 release.” For select domestic flights (including Hawaii) and international flights departing the U.S., the children’s menu includes French toast with sausage, fruit and a croissant for breakfast, and chicken tenders with fruit, a dinner roll and dessert for lunch and dinner. For international flights returning to the U.S., children will also have the option of ordering the French toast meal for breakfast, but can order a grilled cheese sandwich with fruit, dinner roll and dessert for lunch and dinner,” the release said.

 

Groundbreaking:

A groundbreaking was held Nov. 10 for the Garapan Revitalization Project, which is funded by an $11.2 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The project began with the updating of the 2007 Garapan and Beach Road Revitalization Plan and has a task force comprised of private sector and government members.  

Construction is supposed to take 18 to 24 months and will include repairing and re-paving streets, maximizing on-street parking, planting trees and landscaping, adding bike lanes, and opening Paseo de Marianas, which will become a hybrid street and event space.

 

NMI awaits gubernatorial runoff

Voters in the Northern Mariana Islands will have another chance to pick a gubernatorial team on Nov. 25 at a runoff election.

While the gubernatorial team of Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres and Sen. Vinson Flores “Vinnie” Sablan took the lead in the election in the Northern Mariana Islands, the pair did not gain 50% of votes, so a runoff is required. A deadline schedule allows for absentee ballots with the last date to receive over the counter applications Nov. 17 ([postmarked on or before Nov. 25), and early voting from Nov. 18 to Nov. 24.

The initial results were:

       Torres-Sablan       5,726         38.83%

       Palacios-Apatang  4,890         33.16%

       Sablan-Staffler     4,132          28.02%

In the NMI election, Edward E. Manibusan secured the attorney general spot and Gregorio Camacho “Kilili” Sablan – who ran unopposed as the NMI’s delegate to Congress – received 12,315 votes, according to the NMI Election Commission.  

 

Legislative bills will appropriate more funding for GPA bills, captives, UOG construction

Terlaje

Sen Therese M. Terlaje wants to provide $26,381,000 to provide an additional $500 credit for power bills as the current the Prugraman Ayuda Pra I Taotao-ta Energy Credit Program comes to an end.

Terlaje on Nov. 10 introduced Bill No. 357-36 (COR) which extends the program for Guam Power Authority customers. If passed, GPA customers will receive $500 credit for accounts in the next five months – that’s a $100 credit every month from December 2022 through April 2023.

In July, senators and the governor passed into law legislation for a $500 credit. GPA applied $200 to customers’ bills in August, to make up for the $100 credit for July. Following that, $100 were credited per month for September, October and now November, which is the last month of the current program.

The speaker’s bill follows a recent approval by the Public Utilities Commission to increase GPA fuel surcharge rates. The Speaker made note of this saying, “Ratepayers continue to suffer from increased power rates from the Guam Power Authority.”

 “In October, the Public Utilities Commission decided to increase the Guam Power Authority fuel surcharge to nearly 32 cents per kilowatt-hour which would amount on average to a $22 increase in the total average monthly bill for residents using 1,000 kWh. The new rate will apply beginning in November and will last through January 2023, when the PUC will consider the surcharge again,” she stated.

Bill 357 proposes to use unappropriated general fund revenues collected in excess of the adopted revenues levels of the fiscal 2022 Budget Act. Terlaje noted the government collected $103.5 million more in general funds than was adopted in the fiscal 2022 Budget Act. This still leaves an unobligated general fund revenue amount of $47.5 million for fiscal 2022.

In addition, Bill No. 306-36 (COR) will issue qualifying certificates to captive insurance companies which underwrite insurance risks outside of Guam.

Bill No. 197-36 (COR) will appropriate $5 million from the general fund to the University of Guam for additional financing for the construction of the Student Services Center and the School of Engineering Building.

 

Chain changes hands in Guam and Hawaii

Seattle-based Jack in the Box franchise operator PARS Group LLC has acquired the franchise for Jack in the Box restaurants in Guam and Hawaii from Blue Pacific Management LLC, according to a Nov. 15 release. The acquisition marks the PARS Group’s entry into both markets. 

PARS will continue to operate the 28 Jack in the Box restaurants in Hawaii and two in Guam and will keep in place all current Jack in the Box employees, which numbers about 800 people combined in Guam and Hawaii. The group is seeking new applicants across all locations, according to the release.

Blue Pacific Management acquired the Hawaii Jack in the Box stores from Jack in the Box Inc. in 2006.  Jack in the Box has been moving to a franchise arrangement, according to industry media.  The chain added 20 franchises to its family in 2012 and 13 in 2013, according to Journal files.

The original plan when Blue Pacific Management entered the Guam market was for five restaurants, according to Journal files. The first Jack in the Box opened in 2014 at the Shell gas station opposite Micronesia Mall, sharing the 5,000 square-foot convenience store building, and aimed to employ about 50 people. The second restaurant is a free-standing building at the corner of Marine Corps Drive and Jalaguac Way in Tamuning, which opened on Aug. 4, and hired more than 50 employees.

 

Dealer takes on additional lines

Guam Auto Spot announced Nov. 12 that the company is expanding its line of offerings to include E-Z-Go golf carts and Cushman commercial utility vehicles as the exclusive dealer for the Mariana Islands. 

E‑Z‑GO is a global manufacturer of golf cars, utility vehicles, and personal transportation vehicles. Cushman offers a complete range of heavy-duty, industrial material-handling vehicles, comfortable personnel transport vehicles, and food and beverage vehicles.

 

No details shared after Palau Compact meeting, admiral addresses vet complaints

During meetings from Nov. 2 to Nov. 4 for the biannual bilateral Joint Committee Meeting in Palau, between representatives from Palau and the U.S., “four lines of effort” were discussed to include “defense responsibilities, law enforcement capacity building with a range of capable partners, securing maritime resources and sovereign borders, and preparing for and responding to hazards unique to Pacific island communities.”

No further details were shared in a Nov. 10 release about the meetings.

Rear Adm. Benjamin R. Nicholson met with media in Palau on Nov. 8. The Palau Island Times reported that Nicholson addressed the situation of Palau veterans – both U.S. and Palau citizens – who have served in the U.S. armed forces. The paper reported that Nicholson said concerns have been heard “loud and clear.” A team from the U.S. Veteran’s Administration in Manila was due to meet with veterans in Palau, according to the paper.

See www.mbjguam.com for a variety of reports from governments and veterans around the Micronesia region. Veterans have complained about the need for up-front costs for air fares, the lack of timely appointments and the need to travel to Hawaii for treatment, among other concerns.

Ongoing projects in Palau receiving U.S. Navy construction support include improvements at the port in Malakal in Koror, and to roads and the airfield in the island of Peleliu, according to the paper.

 

And also:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will continue to fund the Marianas Nutrition Assistance Program and Public-School System’s Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer benefits through NAP’s coupon system to households with eligible children. According to a Nov. 12 release from the office of Gregorio Camacho “Kilili” Sablan, $5.6 million worth of P-EBT benefits will go to 11,000 Marianas school children, while $800,000,000 will go towards 2,6000 NAP-enrolled children in child care. The NAP program will issue the benefits through two installments – around Dec. 10 and around March 11. Approval of the plan also means the NMI and PSS may apply for summer P-EBT funding to keep students fed when school is not in session, the release said.

TakeCare Insurance Co. has partnered with CommGap International Language Services, which provides translation/interpretation for more than 200 languages, including Chamorro, Chinese, Chuukese, Japanese, Korean, Marshallese, Samoan, Tagalog, Taiwanese, via phone, video, and written documentation.

TakeCare’s aim is to better communicate with non-English speaking members, or those members using American sign language, when making requests or seeking assistance from the company. This also ensures TakeCare has a clear understanding of the member’s needs and not misunderstanding vital information.

These services are now available for use, on request, through TakeCare’s Customer Service, according to a Nov. 15 release.

           

For your diary:

Guam Community College offerings: GCC’s culinary students will offer Korean lunch plates on Nov. 16, according to a Nov. 15 release.

Since that’s short notice, here are upcoming dates and offerings in the Asian-themed series.

 

JapanNovember 23, 2022GCC Multipurpose Auditorium (Bldg. 400)

Lunch: 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Dinner: 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

ChinaNovember 30, 2022
VietnamDecember 07, 2022
ThailandDecember 14, 2022

 

GCC’s Culinary Intermediate Baking and Pastry student chefs will host a Thanksgiving Pie Sale on Nov. 23, with pumpkin, chocolate or custard pies at $12 each. To pre-order, text your name and order to (671) 686-2914, by Nov. 21. Pick-up is on Nov.23 at the Culinary Kitchen (Building 400) between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., cash only and bring a reusable bag.

Nov. 25 – the day after Thanksgiving – has been declared a Government of Guam holiday, by Executive Order of Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero.

Nov. 29 and Nov. 30: Pay-Less Markets free two-day basic grant writing workshop from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. The workshop will be held at the Pay-Less Corporate Office – Bldg. B, second floor in Hagatna. Seats are limited and for up to two applicants per organization. to please contact Louise Borja and/or Kelly Palomo at (671) 477-9266, or email to [email protected] and [email protected] for further information.

Dec. 9: Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Analyzing financial performance for small businesses, 8 a.m. to 9.30 a.m. in Hagatna. Contact [email protected]/[email protected]. mbj