Govt awaiting Rota damage assessment


The Inos administration is looking at tapping federal disaster funds in the aftermath of the damage brought by Typhoon Vonfong. However, initial assessment of the CNMI Homeland Security and Emergency Management on Saipan and Tinian is short of the minimum $1-million threshold in public damage needed for states to seek disaster funds, as per guidelines set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“After Vongfong left us, Homeland Security and FEMA made an assessment for Saipan and Tinian. So far, the assessment did not reach the $1 million in damages in order to declare a state of disaster,” said acting press secretary Ivan Blanco.

In a text message, HSEM special adviser Marvin K. Seman said his office couldn’t release the damage to Saipan and Tinian in dollar amounts as they “are validating the information first.”

Damage assessment on Rota, which took the brunt of Typhoon Vongfong early Monday morning, has yet to be finalized.

This early, though, Sen. Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota) is already vouching that the public damage to Rota following the passage of Vongfong can easily breach, if not exceed, the $1-million threshold if combined with the damage totals on Saipan and Tinian.

He said this will allow for the governor to request a disaster declaration and pave the way for the islands to receive federal disaster funds.

Manglona said the East Harbor ramp, for one, incurred major damage from the typhoon and could cost a big chunk of money to repair. Rota roads and agricultural crops also got the ire of Vonfong, he said.

“I look forward to the island of Rota getting FEMA funding. Everyone knows that local funds are very limited and we need funds very much to repair our roads and the East Harbor after the typhoon,” Manglona said in a telephone interview with Saipan Tribune.

Sen. Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota) and Rep. Teresita Santos (R-Rota) also look forward to federal disaster assistance if the $1-million disaster threshold is breached.

Manglona, Hocog, and Santos flew back to Rota immediately after Vongfong passed through the island earlier this week.

Blanco, meanwhile, said Inos is awaiting HSEM’s assessment on Rota before deciding whether to request a disaster declaration from President Barrack Obama.

“Rota, they’re still doing the assessment now because of the problem with the flights. If you recall, Cape Air cancelled their flights to the island. Right now they’re still on Rota doing the assessment. They’re still ascertaining the damage and that would include the crops as well as public facilities and homes.”

Blanco also said from what he gathered from Seman is that most homes that were blown away at the height of Typhoon Vongfong on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota were already termite-infested.

“They’ve seen better days,” he said.

In the event the CNMI reaches the $1-million public damage, federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Insular Affairs, Army Corps, and FEMA, among others, will be provided to the islands, according to Blanco.

He said the Inos administration is also impressed with how emergency responders—both federal and local—performed during Typhoon Vongfong.

“The emergency responders—I was there and I witnessed this first-hand—are professionals. Both the federal and local emergency responders, especially under the leadership of Marvin, performed perfectly.”

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at

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