Gov. Ralph DLG Torres was in Hawaii for scheduled military meetings during the near-miss of Super Typhoon Hagibis, leaving acting governor Arnold I. Palacios at the helm of the government during the Category 5 typhoon.
According to press secretary Kevin Bautista, Torres was in Hawaii at the invitation of the U.S. Department of Defense to represent the CNMI in meetings with the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, or USINDOPACOM. He said these meetings were prescheduled several months ago.
“The meetings also include a working meeting with the new deputy commander for USINDOPACOM,” Bautista said. “He will be there for about a week.”
He did not state, though, when Torres left for Hawaii and his exact date of return.
He assured that Torres was monitoring Hagibis from Hawaii and worked closely with Palacios, CNMI Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the CNMI’s first responders, and other nonprofit organizations during preparation efforts for the super typhoon.
He said Torres and Palacios also worked together on the request to President Donald Trump for the emergency declaration, “which was expeditiously approved.”
Bautista said that the governor also spoke directly with Federal Emergency Management Agency acting administrator Pete Gaynor in Washington, D.C. for the response efforts on the ground.
The White House approved Tuesday the request of the CNMI government for an emergency declaration for the Commonwealth in the wake of Super Typhoon Hagibis, which knifed through the CNMI last Monday and Tuesday. Palacios sent the request to the White House Monday afternoon; the White House approved it early Tuesday morning.
“[Torres] has played a very active role from Hawaii to make sure that emergency protective measures are carried out expeditiously these next few days, as this storm continues to move away from the Marianas,” Bautista added.
Hagibis, which is currently en route to Japan with maximum sustained winds of 160mph, was described by national media outlets as a typhoon that demonstrated “rapid intensification” by jumping the whole spectrum of the typhoon intensity ranking, from a Category 1 tropical storm last Saturday to a Category 5 super typhoon early Monday morning.