MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered some of his Cabinet secretaries to go to areas in Luzon that are on the path of typhoon “Ompong” (international name: Mangkhut) as he expects the worst to happen when the country is hit by the strongest typhoon so far this year.
Duterte assured the public that the government is well-prepared for the typhoon’s onslaught, allocating a quick-response fund of P1.7 billion for rescue and relief operations.
The President said he has asked his Cabinet men to go to the areas most likely to be affected by the typhoon to monitor the situation there, as “I cannot be everywhere and anywhere.”
“I said I have dispatched everybody there including my Cabinet members who come from the provinces expected to hit - [Labor Secretary Silvestre] Bello, [Transportation Secretary Arthur] Tugade and the rest,” Duterte told reporters.
Bello and Tugade are both from Cagayan province, one of the areas where the typhoon was expected to hit.
“I have been briefed… I could understand already the apparatus being placed there in the meantime [while we are] waiting for the crisis to happen because every typhoon is already a crisis.”
The President designated Presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino to oversee government efforts for Ompong.
“So all he has to do is to report to me the progress of the whatever is being presented by the typhoon in those places,” he said.
Duterte went to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo on Thursday afternoon to oversee preparations for the typhoon’s impact.
Ompong was forecast to slam into Cagayan province in the northeast Saturday morning and was expected to bring heavy rains within its 900-kilometer diameter.
Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the Philippine Red Cross, said some 10 million individuals could be affected by the typhoon which could trigger floods, storm surges and landslides.
State weather bureau PAGASA earlier raised Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal No. 1 over Metro Manila and 37 other areas as Typhoon Ompong slightly gained speed and changed its course on Thursday afternoon.
In its 5 p.m. advisory, PAGASA said Ompong was last spotted 575 kilometers east northeast of Virac, Catanduanes. It was packing maximum sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour (kph) with gusts of up to 255 kph.
An average of 20 storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people and leaving millions in poverty.
The country's deadliest on record is super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in November 2013.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it expects "substantial damage" on the Philippine path of Ompong.
Storm surges of up to six meters were expected to hit coastal areas, it said, while heavy rains could trigger landslides and flash floods.
The Office of Civil Defense also said towns and cities on Ompong's path are preparing government buildings as evacuation centers, stockpiling food and other emergency rations, and preparing rescue teams and equipment.
Ompong was predicted to reach China's southern coast around Sunday, according to the Hong Kong Observatory. - with Agence France-Presse