MANILA, Philippines - Disaster officials are bracing for at least 18 typhoons, many of which are expected to be strong.
“We cannot predict how many of them are strong because that is a function of the weather (bureau). But we are experiencing erratic weather,” National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Alexander Pama said yesterday.
“I think the prudent thing for us to do is to assume that most of these are strong,” he added.
Member agencies of the NDRRMC met in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City yesterday to thresh out the preparations for the rainy season and vowed to ensure a better response to disasters than during the onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
Malacañang also assured the public the government is now more prepared to deal with flooding and disasters spawned by typhoons and the rainy season.
“We have prepared for this,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said during a press briefing.
“There is no way to go but to improve on what we have been doing… We cannot do otherwise,” Pama added.
He cited more specific advisories and well-defined roles for agencies, local governments and civilian stakeholders, even as he admitted several gaps in the measures implemented to address the impact of disasters that hit the country last year.
“While the relief items were prepared, some were not that necessary while some needed items were lacking,” he noted.
Lacierda also cited the diggings in España, Manila where the Department of Public Works and Highways has created a catchment area to ensure that floods would recede faster.
He said the Metro Manila Development Authority is in charge of making sure that pumping stations would function properly.
He said the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) is likewise “performing marvelously” in identifying the areas where a certain storm will hit.
He said the government has also been relocating informal settlers and removing them from danger zones and esteros.
Rains to continue
Meanwhile, TDepression Ester intensified into a storm as it moved farther away from the country yesterday.
PAGASA weather forecasting section chief Rene Paciente said Ester will still enhance the southwest monsoon and continue to bring rains in many parts of Luzon until today.
PAGASA said the weather disturbance will continue to bring moderate to heavy rains (five to 15 millimeters of rain) over some parts of extreme northern Luzon.
“Ester will continue to enhance the southwest monsoon which will bring moderate to heavy rains over the Batanes group of Islands, Calayan and Babuyan group of Islands, the Regions of Ilocos and Cordillera, the provinces of Pampanga, Zambales, Bataan and Bulacan while the rest of Luzon will have occasional rains,” it said.
As of 4 p.m. yesterday, Ester was spotted at 690 kilometers east northeast of Basco, Batanes, packing winds of 65 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 80 kph.
It was forecast to move east-northeast toward southern Japan at 22 kph.
Paciente said Ester was expected to leave the Philippine area of responsibility yesterday.
Cloudy Independence Day
Paciente said fair weather with isolated thunderstorms would prevail today over Naga City, Camarines Sur, where President Aquino is expected to lead the Independence Day celebration.
In Metro Manila, the public can expect partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated light to moderate rains, he said.
Ester, which developed into a depression from a low-pressure area on Tuesday, triggered the onset of the rainy season in the western section of the country, including Metro Manila, Palawan, Mindoro, Cavite, Batangas, Bataan and Zambales.
Ester is the fifth tropical cyclone to enter the country this year and the first weather disturbance this month.
PAGASA spotted a potential low-pressure area off the West Philippine Sea, but Paciente could not yet say if it will intensify into a cyclone. – With Aurea Calica, Helen Flores