Torres, Palacios sworn in as governor, lt. governor
With the Commonwealth still reeling from the wreckage of Super Typhoon Yutu that hit just a little over two months ago, the CNMI swore in yesterday Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios to a fresh four-year term at the NMI Soccer Training Center in Koblerville.
CNMI Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexandro C. Castro administered the oath of office for Torres while Palacios took his oath with Superior Court Presiding Judge Robert C. Naraja. Castro also administered the oath for all House members while Naraja did the same on the side of the Senate.
Festivities began on Saturday with the #MarianasStrong inaugural concert at the Marianas Business Plaza, while a Red Mass was held on Sunday for all elected officials at the Mt. Carmel Cathedral.
The venue of the Torres-Palacios inauguration yesterday wasn’t lost on the two as the southern part of Saipan and the whole of Tinian were hit hardest by Super Typhoon Yutu in late October last year.
To this end, Torres and Palacios vowed to devout their combined efforts in helping the CNMI rebuild and recover not only from Yutu but also Typhoon Mangkhut that slammed into Rota in September.
In his inaugural address, Torres said that both disasters changed how he views the Commonwealth. “I think I am seeing the most awful sight in the world: One of our families, sheltering in a tent, surrounded by a destroyed home. The common sight is so painful that sometimes I feel like I can’t open my eyes without seeing someone suffering. There is always a problem that needs immediate attention.
“In dark and difficult moments, I look to our lagoon for peace. The fish are still swimming. The waves are still rolling, and the tides are right in time. The sunset is still perfect in the Marianas. Returning to those same families, I saw things differently because I focused on the people rather than the destruction.”
He added that he now sees the CNMI differently. “I saw a young man who lost his home, only to head right back out to volunteer to distribute food to his neighbors. I saw a public school teacher, living in one shelter and then commuting to work as a shelter manager in another village. I saw children playing, parents cooking, and singers singing.”
Seeing the strength of the people of the CNMI, Torres said he now sees a great opportunity—“the opportunity of this recovery, the responsibility to lead in service; you have given me a tremendous gift. In electing me and Lt. Gov. Palacios, our people have chosen us to lead in difficult times with hope, strength, and unity.”
“In the peaceful times of my childhood, in the difficult days of today, our people are stronger than any storm. We are Marianas-strong! We will rebuild from this typhoon, we will be stronger for the next. We accept the help and friendship of those who came in our hour of need. To all our partners in Micronesia, we will be there for you, should the need ever arise.”
Torres said new beginning symbolizes every inauguration day. “I hope we will all welcome a fresh start, a new approach, even as we face problems that are familiar. Today begins an opportunity to improve our government and improve our Commonwealth. At this time, we all have a chance to rebuild. In guiding this administration, I pledge to keep the values we share as a community. We will look after our neighbors, and we will take care of our Commonwealth.”
Progress in recovery
Palacios echoed almost the same sentiments, with high hopes for the new administration after the CNMI endured the devastation brought by Mangkhut and Yutu. “We are on the road to recovery. While we still have a long way to go, progress is underway. Much is expected of our new administration. Gov. Torres and I accept the challenges this extraordinary time presents and vow to lead the Commonwealth to a new future.”
“Make no mistake. The task at hand is monumental. Before Oct. 25, 2018, we had a thriving economy full of opportunities, the promise of more ventures, growth and progress. We paid down our debt, made good on our promise to retirees, gave our education and healthcare systems record-setting funding, and improved the delivery of utilities to our communities.”
Mangkhut and Yutu ravaged the islands in September and October, the latter being the strongest weather disturbance to hit the U.S. soil.
“Just as we were putting 2015 and Typhoon Soudelor behind us, we are brought back to square one but, in more profoundly difficult circumstances,” said Palacios.
“[Yutu] spared no one. Every household has experienced loss of property in one form or another. For all that we have gone through, we still must count ourselves lucky and in many ways, blessed. As a member of the American family, we have received relief supplies and aid from our fellow Americans whose generosity is unmatched in the world.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Armed Forces, Army Corps of Engineers, and the Guam government with the Guam Power Authority were swift in providing aid and other types of assistance.
“Then came the helping hands in rebuilding damaged homes and our public infrastructure. We are grateful for the many women and men, from near and far, in uniform and in the private sector, who arrived in less-than-ideal conditions. They hit the ground running to fulfill their mission,” said Palacios.
“We also thank the generosity of our neighbors in Micronesia—the Federated States of Micronesia government for its generous financial assistance and Kosrae State [for] its line crew who helped restore power in the hard-hit communities in southern Saipan. We will never forget their time and sacrifice in our hour of need. Their presence eased our worries and lifted our spirits as we felt the kind words of comfort and reassurance of help on the way.”
Rebuilding the CNMI is now everyone’s responsibility, now that those who came to the Commonwealth’s aid are returning home. “Let me recognize the countless men and women of the Commonwealth so many to mention who gave more than a hundred percent of their time and energy to the recovery effort. They put in long hours knowing that the public’s health, safety and welfare are at stake and quick action is critical in natural disasters. They responded magnificently to the recovery effort.”