‘Reboot of relief and assistance operations needed’


There is an urgent need to “reboot” the way relief and assistance is being carried out for those affected by Typhoon Soudelor in the CNMI, according to Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), who added that some of the relief and assistance operations in the wake of one of the most destructive typhoons that hit the islands in recent memory were just “unacceptable.”

“Obviously not everything is going as planned,” Sablan said.

He cited Sunday’s apparent confusion in the way relief goods were distributed at the American Memorial Park, where hundreds of people had to queue up for hours—under a blistering sun—to wait for the relief goods

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan explains that there is an urgent need for a “fresh start” on the relief and assistance efforts in the CNMI in the wake of Typhoon Soudelor. (Joel D. Pinaroc)

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan explains that there is an urgent need for a “fresh start” on the relief and assistance efforts in the CNMI in the wake of Typhoon Soudelor. (Joel D. Pinaroc)

“I had to tell people to leave their names and register and then come back after an hour or so,” Sablan said, lamenting that immediately after, some parties disseminated misinformation to make it look like the people were being told to “go away.”

Sablan also cited shelters that are “unacceptable and filthy,” and that through all of these, his plea to federal agencies remain unheard as of yesterday.

“I had a lengthy conversation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and with [representatives] in Washington, D.C. and told them that I was very disappointed,” Sablan said.

He also expressed his dissatisfaction with FEMA, which despite getting thousands of registrants seeking assistance, has failed to conduct visits.

“Not one home has been visited, which is unacceptable, I will continue to pressure FEMA, of course, our government has its own faults too,” Sablan said.

One of the changes, according to Sablan, is that the American Red Cross will now receive all FEMA resources—tents, food, and water—and get the resources out to those in need.

Sablan, however, said FEMA and the federal government promised him a “new and fresh” start. He added that “now is not the time for looking at faults, and I am here to extend help as much as I can.”

“I had a long and contentious discussion with the federal government and they promised to start fresh,” Sablan said.

When asked what concerns FEMA had with the apparent confusion, Sablan declined to comment saying that he does “not want to go in the past, past is past, so let’s focus on the future.”

Sablan also clarified that it is his office that made the request to Pacific Command to tap U.S Marines to come to the CNMI to assist.


On Monday, residents went in droves to the designated distribution centers, only to be told that there will be a delay.

The delay lasted hours, and many of the residents had to queue up under the hot sun to get relief goods.

Some of those who queued up—with children in tow—expressed frustrations over the long queues, and the apparent failure of those involved to give the proper information on the actual time that the distribution will take place.

Some expressed frustrations on the actual relief goods that were distributed, saying that “it is not worth making the trip” just to get ready-to-eat food and water contained in boxes, which many mistook for milk.

Direct aid

A total of 536 people remain in nine school shelters across the island.

“It’s like Saipan in the ‘70s. We are getting our news from the radio like back in the old days,” said Garapan resident Joe Taijeron, legal counsel for the Legislative Bureau assigned to the House of Representatives.

His house withstood the storm, but his family—fiancée Jamika and her 6- and 7-year-old sons—are living with no power or water.

“I see a lot of people rebuilding, and there’s a lot of hammering going on at night. Cleanup is so remarkably slow,” said Taijeron. “There really should be more direct aid to the people, but there isn’t for whatever reason.” (With AP)

Joel D. Pinaroc | Reporter
Joel Pinaroc worked for a number of newspapers in the Philippines before joining the editorial team of Saipan Tribune. His published articles include stories on information technology, travel and lifestyle, and motoring, among others. Contact him at joel_pinaroc@saipantribune.com.

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