Northern Marianas

CNMI opposition to marine sanctuary

In a letter to President Barack Obama, a Marianas Conservation member John Gourley said turning the Marianas Trench into a sanctuary on top of being a marine national monument will give the CNMI less access to natural resources and minerals in the area.

Under that set-up the CNMI would need to obtain permission from the federal government twice - one for the trench being a national monument and another for the trench being a marine sanctuary- before its people can fish or mine in waters around the Marianas Trench.

Concerns at CNMI hotel building site after injuries

A construction worker dying of a heart attack and about 80 serious injuries have been recorded at the construction site of the 190-million, 373-room Imperial Pacific Resort on Saipan.

The US Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez has requested the federal court to issue a warrant to inspect the construction project after an Occupational Safety and Health Administration tried, but was denied entry.

MCC International Saipan Ltd, which operates the construction site for Hong Kong-based Imperial Pacific International, reported that an onsite worker had a heart attack.

CNMI's Tinian hotel to stay open

The closure of the Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino had been announced at the beginning of the month, citing losses suffered as a result of a typhoon in August.

However in a letter to Tinian's mayor, Hong Kong Entertainment chair Wai Chan announced that the premises will stay open.

Tinian Dynasty, which opened in 1998, has 412 guest rooms, is Tinian's biggest employer and taxpayer.

CNMI legislature approves $145m budget

The bill is due to be signed off by the end of the month to avoid a government shutdown.

The Inos administration has raised some concerns about the budget including unclear funding of a five percent salary increase for law enforcement personnel.

There is also concern that benefits outlined for some Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation employees are not funded.

The cut in the Marianas Visitors Authority's budget from $US2.5 million to $US1 million may also be an issue.

CNMI gets over US$25m typhoon assistance

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has given just over $20 million in assistance to households on the island.

In addition the U.S. Small Business Administration has approved nearly $5.9 million in low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, and businesses.

The bulk of the federal funding has gone on household assistance, covering rents and repairs.

It has also provided money for items such as uninsured damage to an essential vehicle, disaster-related moving and storage expenses, and some medical and dental costs.

CNMI airline cuts hours, lays off staff

Star Marianas Air which flies between Tinian and Saipan has reduced its hours and let go of about 10 percent of its staff on Tinian, with more to be retrenched in the coming days.

The Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino is expected to close down before the end of September.

The airline's president Shaun Christian says the resort's anticipated closure has substantially reduced the number of travellers between the islands.

He says hopes of a solution that would encourage the hotel to stay open are quickly fading and the cuts are necessary to keep the airline viable.

CNMI government shutdown warning

A government shutdown would stall the continuing recovery after Typhoon Soudelor left the CNMI in a state of disaster six weeks ago.

The House and the Senate are deadlocked on the new budget, specifically a US$2.5 million dollars allocation to the Marianas Visitors Authority that the Senate wants used to pay the hospital's power bill and for X-rays for Customs.

The CNMI governor is required by the Constitution to submit a budget by April 1st, and the Senate and the House then have six months to pass it.

Storm warnings cancelled for Guam and CNMI

It says the Typhoon Watch has also been cancelled.

This morning, 9am local time, Tropical Storm Goni was 144 kilometres west of Saipan, 128 kilometres west of Tinian, 120 kilometres northwest of Rota and 168 kilometres north-northwest of Guam, packing 104 kph sustained winds. Tropical storm-force winds extend 120 from its centre.

Lead forecaster, Michael Ziobro, says Tropical Storm Goni will develop into a Typhoon either tonight or early tomorrow morning but it will be too faraway from Guam and the CNMI.

He says Goni is moving at 14 kilometres per hour.

Warnings issued as Tropical Storm nears CNMI and Guam

Evacuation centres have been opened in both territories and residents have been urged to secure their properties and stock up on supplies.

Extensive flooding has been reported in Guam, after four inches of rain fell on the island today.

Goni is currently about 185 kilometres east, northeast of Guam and about 120 kilometres south, southeast of Saipan, which is still reeling from a direct hit by category three typhoon Soudelor two weeks ago.

Tropical storm intensifies as it approches Guam and CNMI

The latest storm comes only two weeks after the Northern Marianas was struck by category three typhoon Soudelor, which caused extensive damage.

Michael Ziobro, from the US National Weather Service on Guam, says the storm is moving north, northwest at about 14 kilometres an hour and is projected to pass over Tinian and Rota early on Sunday.

Mr Ziobro says people in both the Northern Marianas and Guam should expect potentially damaging winds and heavy rain.