#WalangPasok: Palace suspends gov't work, public school classes in Metro Manila, other regions

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 12 2020 07:13 PM | Updated as of Nov 13 2020 02:28 AM

Residents retrieve household items from their homes after floods caused by Typhoon Vamco, in San Mateo, Rizal province, Nov. 12, 2020. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

MANILA (UPDATE) — Malacañang on Thursday suspended work in government offices and public-school classes on all levels in Metro Manila and 7 other regions on Friday, November 13, after typhoon Ulysses caused major flooding.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said work in government offices and classes in public schools have been suspended in the following regions, based on the recommendation of the disaster management council. 

  • Metro Manila
  • Ilocos
  • Cagayan Valley
  • Central Luzon
  • Calabarzon
  • Mimaropa
  • Bicol
  • Cordillera Administrative Region

However, agencies that facilitate health services, disaster response and vital services "shall continue with their operations," Roque said in a statement. 

"We leave the suspension of work for private companies, offices and schools to their respective heads’ discretion," he said. 

Roque urged the public to stay indoors and monitor weather updates and government announcements. 

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) later called for the suspension of classes in higher education institutions in Metro Manila and the other regions.

CHED chairman Prospero de Vera colleges and universities to temporarily halt their classes and activities "as needed and upon consultation with their respective local government units (LGUs).

He also called on private colleges and universities to adjust course requirements for their students, especially those who were severely affected by Ulysses.

WHERE STREETS TURN TO RIVERS 

Heavy rain from Ulysses effectively shut down Manila, the sprawling capital of 12 million people, and surrounding areas, turning streets into rivers.

"A lot of places are submerged. Many people are crying for help," said Rouel Santos, 53, a retired disaster officer in Rizal province, next to the capital.

Santos said the flooding caused by Ulysses brought back memories of the devastating tropical storm Ondoy that hit in 2009 and claimed hundreds of lives.

An official from the country's Office of Civil Defense said rainfall dumped by Ulysses so far was "near the volume" during Ondoy, warning that flooding could worsen as runoff from nearby mountains flowed into already swollen waterways.

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The Philippine Red Cross, police, military and other rescuers used boats to reach people stranded in their homes in Marikina City, one of the hardest-hit areas of the capital, where the water in some streets was up to shoulder height.

Residents who were able to escape on foot carried pet dogs, televisions, bicycles and other belongings as they waded through the murky, debris-strewn water. 

"The magnitude of what we're experiencing now is comparable to Ondoy," Marikina City Mayor Marcelino Teodoro said in a television interview.

"We have so many people who until now are stranded on their rooftops or trapped on the second floor of their houses. Some areas that were historically not flooded, such as the City Hall, are submerged."

At least 2 people died and 4 others were missing in Camarines Norte province, Civil Defense said in its latest update. Eight had been injured.

Requests for help were piling up, said Casiano Monilla, Civil Defense deputy administrator for operations.

He said many people had not heeded warnings to evacuate ahead of the typhoon, urging them to do so "while there's still time".

"I didn't expect it to be like this," said Rosalinda Opsima, who fled her home with her husband after the fast-rising water caught them by surprise.

DAMS FILLING FAST 

Schools, which have been empty since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March, are being used as emergency shelters along with gymnasiums. Around 180,000 people were in evacuation centers, Civil Defense said. 

The weather service warned of life-threatening storm surges along parts of the coast, including in Manila, that could inundate low-lying areas.

Flood warnings were also issued for a number of towns north of the capital as authorities released water from fast-filling dams.

Red Cross chief Richard Gordon said he hoped "the worst is over" as Ulysses moved across the South China Sea and people started to return home.

The Bicol region, which Ulysses grazed before making landfall, was hit by powerful winds and heavy rain on Wednesday as the eye of the typhoon neared the disaster-prone archipelago.

Swaths of Bicol remain without power and with only limited or no telecommunication services after Goni -- the most powerful typhoon so far this year -- toppled power lines, flattened houses and flooded roads.

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President Rodrigo Duterte said in a statement the government was "on top of the situation".

The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons every year, which typically wipe out harvests, homes and infrastructure in already impoverished areas.

It is particularly affected by climate change with many people living in coastal areas that are vulnerable to storm surges engorged by rising seas and severe flooding. -- With a report from Agence France-Presse