Philippine officials prepare for first typhoon to hit country this year

19:35, July 13, 2010      

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The Philippine government is preparing for the first typhoon to hit the country this year, with officials allocating the remaining 500 million pesos (10.8 million U.S. dollars) in its calamity fund to provide relief goods and evacuation to typhoon victims.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) reported Tuesday that typhoon Conson, moving at 120 kilometers per hour, will make a landfall Wednesday. The state-run weather forecaster warned that Conson will cause flash floods and landslides in several areas in Luzon, northern Philippines.

Officials said they have learned their lesson from the disaster wrought late last year by Ketsana and Parma. The World Bank estimates that damage caused by the two typhoons hit 4.38 billion U.S. dollars or equivalent to 2.7 percent of the Philippine Gross Domestic Product.

"His (President Benigno Aquino III) directive was to make sure we are very prepared," Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said in a press briefing. She noted that rain gauges and Doppler radars (an instrument that can monitor the intensity and volume of rainfall) were put up in Metro Manila to help local governments prepare for a possible disaster.

An official from the National Power Corp. has been designated in the field to decide on when water from dams would be released and how much. She said a fair warning would be given to local government units that would be affected by the water release.

Soliman said disaster officials are also providing hot meals to the 300 persons stranded at Tabaco Pier in Albay because boat trips have been canceled as Conson was expected to make landfall in nearby Catanduanes island-province Tuesday night.

But Soliman said that the remaining Calamity Fund may not be enough, and the government needs at least 1 billion pesos (21.6 million U.S. dollars) to address "medium-scale disasters". Disasters on a grand scale - such as that caused by Ketsana and Parma - affected whole regions last year and required more funds for relief and rescue efforts.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said this year's 2 billion pesos (43.3 million U.S. dollars) calamity fund is nearly depleted. The previous administration has used up 70 percent of the allocation, leaving behind a balance of 592.03 million pesos (12.8 million U.S. dollars). The funds were spent on the reconstruction and rehabilitation of areas damaged by typhoons Ketsana and Parma.

Soliman will be meeting with Abad to review the 2010 budget and to look for fund sources to replenish the Calamity Fund.

"We will look at pockets that are available," she said, adding the government might also tap international humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross and the private sector for fund raising.

In a separate briefing, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Benito Ramos, administrator of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), said they are "better prepared" to address typhoons like Conson.

"We are very much prepared now. That (typhoons Ketsana and Parma) was a fortuitous event that we never imaged to happen. We were caught unaware but now, we are better prepared," Ramos told reporters.

The OCD is the operating arm of the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

Ramos said local disaster coordinating centers have lined up their staff and stockpiled on relief goods. They have also set up evacuation centers.

In its latest bulletin issued Tuesday afternoon, PAGASA has advised residents living in low lying and near mountain slopes under signals number 3, 2 and 1 "to take all the necessary precautionary measures against flashfloods and landslides". Those living along the coast in areas under signals number 2 and 3 are advised to be on alert against big waves generated by the typhoon.

PAGASA has put the provinces of Aurora, Northern Quezon, Polilio Island and Camarines Norte under storm signal number 3. Storm signal number 2 is up in Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Quirino, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna Southern Quezon, Marinduque, Camarines Sur and Catanduanes. Cagayan, Kalinga, Mt. Province, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Benguet, Ifugao, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Zambales, Pampanga, Bataan, Cavite, Batangas, Albay and Metro Manila are under signal number 1.

Source: Xinhua


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