MANILA - The National Disaster Coordinating Council on Friday placed the entire country under a state of calamity in anticipation of the onslaught of super-typhoon Pepeng (international codename Parma).
Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro made the announcement following a closed-door meeting with President Arroyo.
He 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.
Weather forecasters on Friday warned that typhoon Pepeng (international codename Parma) can cause "very heavy damage" to communities in northern Luzon and increase water levels in flooded areas in Metro Manila badly hit by tropical storm Ondoy (Ketsana).
"It is hazardous. It can create disaster. It is a very strong typhoon with 195 kilometers per hour of winds that can bring very heavy damaged to affected communities," Nathaniel Cruz, chief weather forecaster of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA), said in a briefing on Friday morning.
Cruz said the areas that would feel Pepeng's wrath were provinces in northern Luzon, including Aurora and Isabela. He said the provinces of Quezon, Cagayan, Nueva Viscaya, and Quirino "cannot be spared" by Pepeng, which has been tagged as a super-typhoon by international news agencies.
He said communities in these provinces should watch out for landslides, flashfloods and storm surges.
As the media briefing was being conducted before noon on Friday, Pepeng was already pounding Bicol provinces with strong winds and rains.
As of 11 a.m., the typhoon was 180 kilometers east northeast of Virac town, Catanduanes province with maximum sustained winds of 195 kilometers per hour (kph) and gusts of up to 230 kph.
It was moving fast at 19 kph towards the Isabela-Aurora area.
The typhoon was expected to make landfall in Aurora by Saturday morning and cross northern Luzon throughout the day before exiting to the South China Sea through Ilocos region by Sunday morning.
Storm Signal No. 2 has been hoisted over Catanduanes, Camarines Norte, the northern part of Quezon, Aurora, Polillo Islands and Isabela.
As of posting, areas under Signal No. 1 were Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, Apayao, Kalinga, Cagayan, Babuyan Islands, Mt. Province, Ifugao, Benguet, La Union, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal, southern Quezon, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, Burias Island, and Northern Samar.
The weather bureau said it will raise Storm Signal No. 4 over provinces in northern Luzon as soon as Pepeng intensifies into a supertyphoon.
President Arroyo, meanwhile, ordered disaster officials to conduct preemptive evacuations in areas under storm alert signals.
Price freeze expanded
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.
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.
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.