(UPDATE 2) 'Pepeng' weakens slightly, to hit Northern Cagayan

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 02 2009 11:17 PM | Updated as of Oct 03 2009 05:32 PM

MANILA - A slightly weaker Typhoon Pepeng (international codename Parma) continues to slow down and has shifted course slightly, threatening to make landfall in Northern Cagayan instead of Aurora-Isabela by Saturday evening, weather bureau PAGASA said Friday.

PAGASA chief weather forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said the typhoon hit its maximum strength of 195 kilometers per hour while at sea but has weakened slightly.

"It is still a strong typhoon. It is now packing sustained winds of 175 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 210 kph," Cruz said in a press briefing. "If there is no change in speed or direction, it will make landfall over Northern Cagayan by [Saturday] night."

PAGASA chief Prisco Nilo said the typhoon could weaken further once it makes landfall. He also noted that the storm could change course either westward or even further north because of a high-pressure area in Hong Kong.

"If it doesn't make landfall, it could go straight to Taiwan or southern Japan," he said.

As of 11 p.m., the center of the storm was spotted 100 km north northeast of Virac, Catanduanes or 380 km southeast of Aparri, Cagayan. It is moving northwest at 13 kph.

Storm Signal No. 3 remains hoisted over Catanduanes while Signal No. 2 is hoisted over Cagayan, Isabela, Aurora, Quirino, Northern Quezon, Polilio Islands, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur.

Storm Signal No. 1 remains in effect in Batanes, Calayan, Babuyan Group of Islands, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Apayao, Abra, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Nueva Viscaya, Benguet, La Union, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, Laguna, Batangas, Cavite, Rizal, Rest of Quezon, Marinduque, Albay, Burias Islands, Sorsogon and Metro Manila.

Cruz said the typhoon is expected to bring up to 25mm to 35mm of rain in affected areas. He said the typhoon will bring stormy weather over Cagayan, Isabela, Aurora, Quezon and Bicol region Friday night to Saturday while the rest of Luzon will experience occasionals rains.

He said the typhoon has already brought 88mm of rain in Daet, Camarines Norte and 71 mm of rain in Legazpi City, Albay over a twelve-hour period Friday. It also brought slight rains in Casiguran, Aurora; Tuguegarao City, Cagayan and Tanay, Rizal.

Cruz said coastal areas under Storm Signals No. 3 and 2 should watch out for storm surges.

State of calamity

Dr. Susan Espinueva, assistant weather services chief of the Hydro Metrological Division of PAGASA, said five major dams in Luzon remain open and are releasing water to increase storage capacity in anticipation of the typhoon. These are the Angat Dam in Norzagaray, Bulacan; Binga Dam in Itogon, Benguet Province; Ambuklao Dam in Bokod, Benguet; Magat Dam in Ramon, Isabela province; and Pantabangan Dam in Nueva Ecija.

President Arroyo earlier placed the entire country under a state of calamity in anticipation of the onslaught of the new typhoon.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro cited two reasons for the declaration of a nationwide state of calamity: 1) due to the forecast that the southwest monsoon induced by Pepeng may affect the whole country; 2) to allow the Department of Trade and Industry to maintain a price ceiling on commodities in the whole country.

The DTI earlier imposed a price ceiling on canned sardines, processed milk, coffee, instant noodles, detergent soap, rice, meat, poultry, sugar, and cooking oil in areas placed under a state of calamity by the national government. These include the Mountain Province, Ifugao, Benguet, Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Sur, Isabela, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Aurora, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan, Tarlac, Bataan, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon, Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Marinduque, Catanduanes, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, and some areas in Metro Manila.

Trade Secretary Peter Favila recommended a list of items to fall under price ceiling be expanded to include liquefied petroleum gas, lubricants and oil-related products, construction materials and funeral parlor services.

Favila said some unscrupulous traders are moving their items out of calamity-hit areas and selling them at a higher price.

He said the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation have been tasked to monitor for and arrest traders who violate the price freeze. He added that President Arroyo has prepared an executive order that will order the importation of basic commodities in case there is shortage.