Forty-one days after Super Typhoon Yutu levelled large swaths of Saipan and Tinian, the Saipan Chamber of Commerce met last Wednesday to take stock, praise everyone’s efforts to regain some normalcy, and give thanks for the CNMI now being in its way to recovery.
Speaking to Chamber members and guests in last Wednesday’s Saipan Chamber of Commerce general membership meeting at the Fiesta Resort & Spa-Saipan’s Hibiscus Hall, Chamber president Velma Palacios praised businesses’ efforts to sustain operations a few days after Super Typhoon Yutu devastated Saipan and Tinian.
The CNMI tourism industry was the hardest hit by Yutu as hotel reservations and packaged tours were cancelled by mostly the Chinese and Korean markets. Saipan’s roads were also unsafe and littered with typhoon debris.
Palacios also praised the personnel involved in bringing the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport back to its regular operations.
“And we can see that tourists are back. They are coming in,” said Palacios. “Everybody has done a fabulous job in cleaning and getting the Garapan area back. We do need our tourists. We do need our economy to continue to grow and we need everybody here that’s visiting us.”
She added that the community remains upbeat even after Yutu. “We can see that, although we are suffering and we are in recovery, we’re still smiling and remain optimistic. It shows that we are a resilient people.”
“We are working together and it is not only the community but also all the businesses, even by a lot of businesses that were also impacted by the typhoon.”
Palacios also praised the efforts of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., with the help of the Guam Power Authority and other partners, in bringing power back to the islands.
“As they continue to provide power to all parts of the island, it is wonderful that businesses are coming back to normal operations and it is a great thing because we need it for our economy. We need to continue to have everybody spend money so that it can go back to our economy,” said Palacios.
She said people in the CNMI still have a lot to be thankful for, including the efforts of the many organizations, individuals, and local and federal partners in helping the community in its recovery efforts.
“Thank you all for what you’ve been doing and I just couldn’t be happier. It is a great day. We just celebrated Thanksgiving and we still have a lot to be thankful for,” said Palacios. “As you can see, we are recovering swiftly because of our CNMI government, with the help of our local and federal partners, the first responders, the [Federal Emergency Management Agency], [U.S. Small Business Administration, CUC, [local Department of Public Works], the [Saipan] Mayor’s Office, GPA, Pohnpei, Yap, Colorado, and everybody that came out here that have been giving us support.”
She also praised the decorations being put up around the island. “It brings out the Christmas spirit and for a while we forget about the disaster.”
Fiesta Resort’s Hibiscus Hall was decorated with a Christmas tree and other festive trimmings. One Chamber board member even attended the meeting dressed in a Santa Claus suit.