Wrong forecast? Palace defends PAGASA

By Aurea Calica, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 31 2012 12:50 AM | Updated as of Jul 31 2012 08:50 AM

MANILA, Philippines - As powerful winds and heavy rain brought by tropical storm “Gener” lashed Metro Manila yesterday, Malacañang defended the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and other agencies against criticism that weather advisories were not up to date.

The Palace suspended classes in college as well as work in government in Metro Manila due to the inclement weather.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. issued Memorandum Order Circular No. 32 yesterday suspending college classes and government work, except in agencies involved in the delivery of basic and health services, response to disasters and calamities, and the performance of other vital public services.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the public could check developments through Twitter or other forms of social media in the Internet or media organizations like radio, television and online editions of newspapers.

He said the NDRRMC and PAGASA had been informing the public about the situation and the advisories were released as early as 8:03 p.m. on Sunday.

Lacierda said the timeline will show that the agencies’ updates on the developments have been regular. He also pointed out that the media outfits following the Twitter accounts of DOST-PAGASA and NDRRMC were able to provide updated information to the public.

Asked about those who have no access to Twitter, Lacierda said AM radio stations were giving information.

DSWD readies assistance

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has pre-positioned some P2.10 million in standby funds and P4.72-million worth of relief goods for local government units affected by Gener.

The DSWD Region 2 has readied 750 family food packs and 500 packs of relief clothing.

As of yesterday, some 109 families (523 persons) from Simpatuyo, Sta. Teresita in Cagayan were affected by nearly two feet-deep floods.

A total of 65 evacuation centers were set up around Region 2, the DSWD said.

Some 2,638 families composed of 13,170 persons were affected from 11 barangays in four municipalities of Bulacan and in Occidental Mindoro.

Three evacuation centers were set up in Bulacan providing temporary shelter to 82 families or 340 persons.

In Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, 50 families or 250 persons were given relief assistance.

In the National Capital Region, the DSWD has sent augmentation assistance to the residents of Baseco Compound in Tondo, Manila.

The DSWD is assisting the Manila City government in the relocation of families along the seawall in Roxas Boulevard.

OVP conducts relief operations

As this developed, Vice President Jejomar Binay will be conducting relief operations in different areas in the country affected by Gener.

Binay said yesterday his office had already delivered 150 bags of relief goods containing noodles, corned beef, sardines, biscuits, blankets and clothes to residents of Baseco Compound who were evacuated to the Baseco covered court in Manila.

The Office of the Vice President is also set to conduct relief operations in Sablayan, Mindoro and Bago, Negros Occidental.

“We are already in coordination with officials of the local governments affected. We only need to check the areas and see what the affected residents need,” Binay said.

The Vice President, through his 2012 Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), has allocated funds for relief operations as well as other social services, including the provision of school supplies and burial assistance.

Emergency response

Meanwhile, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome said the PNP is continuously monitoring developments on the effects of the weather disturbance to identify priority areas for deployment of police disaster rescue units.

“All PNP resources and personnel will be made available for disaster response operations at the beck and call of national and local disaster risk reduction and management authorities,” he said. Bartolome has placed all Luzon-based Police Regional Offices (PRO) and National Support Units (NSU) under a high state of operational readiness to facilitate rapid response to emergency situations as a result of heavy rains, high winds, inundation and landslides.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), on the other hand, rolled down tarpaulins from advertising billboards along EDSA and on other major roads at the height of the storm.

Among those rolled down were billboards along East Libis, Baesa, Caloocan City; at Vito Cruz corner Osmeña Highway; at Duhat Street near Nagtahan; at Soldiers Hill, Potatan, Muntinlupa City; near the MMDA compound at EDSA northbound; at the Polymedic Hospital; C5 northbound near Market! Market! at C5-Katipunan northbound; and at Ilaya Street in Barangay Barangka, Mandaluyong City.

The MMDA has also advised other billboard operators to voluntary roll down their tarpaulins until Thursday.

The MMDA also deployed road-clearing crews to clear debris in major thoroughfares.

Among those cleared was a large tree that was knocked down in McKinley Hills in Taguig and another felled tree along Hemady street in Quezon City.

MMDA crews also cleared the Roxas Boulevard seawall of debris washed up from Manila Bay. – Cecille Suerte Felipe, Helen Flores, Jose Rodel Clapano, Mike Frialde, Rainier Allan Ronda