By Mar S. Arguelles
LEGAZPI CITY --- Disaster councils in Bicol were placed on alert and directed to prepare contingency measures against possible flooding, lahar flows and landslide as Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut International name) was expected to enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) yesterday, the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) said.
Jsar Adornado, OCD Bicol operation chief, said that OCD has advised on Tuesday various provincial, city and town disaster risk reduction and management offices and response agencies to activate their disaster plans as Typhoon Ompong is expected to pass through Bicol specifically through the eastern flank on Saturday.
The advisory has put to task various DRRMOs to activate on a 24/7 hour basis their respective disaster operation centers, he said.
Adornado said the disaster preparation is a preemptive measure as Typhoon Ompong hovering Bicol could bring moderate to heavy rainfall that could trigger flooding, lahar flows, and landslides in low lying areas in the region.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Bicol reported that10,466 family packs are available at DSWD warehouses and P3.2M in standby funds.
Other disaster response agencies likewise put on standby their respective trucks and equipment in case they need to implement evacuation procedures.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Bicol would issue as a standard operating procedure a “no sailing” order in various ports in Bicol once the weather bureau hoists Storm Signal No. 1 signal in any part of the region.
PCG has advised fishermen in coastal villages in the eastern flank of Bicol covering the provinces of Catanduanes, Albay, Camarines Sur, and Camarines Norte to avoid sailing and going fishing due to rough seas spawned by Typhoon Ompong.
The local weather bureau said Typhoon Ompong is intensifying further as moves westward at 20 kph, packing a maximum sustained winds of 200 kph and gustiness of up to 245 kph.
A report by Bloomberg said the approaching typhoon is intensifying in the Pacific and is forecast to barrel through the Philippines and Taiwan this week before heading to Hong Kong and south China.
Classified by the Hong Kong Observatory as a super typhoon, Mangkhut (now Ompong within the Philippine territory) is forecast to pack maximum winds of 230 kilometers (143 miles) per hour by Friday before gradually weakening. The typhoon, expected to be closer to south China by the weekend, will bring heavy rains and storm surges on its trail.
The latest typhoon approaching is threatening the farmlands in Northern Luzon just before the rice and corn harvest. The staple grain is the second-biggest item in the Philippine consumer basket, and record prices boosted inflation to 6.4 percent in August, the fastest pace since 2009.
Bloomberg said the storm may damage as many as 156,793 metric tons of rough rice and 257,100 metric tons of corn in the Philippines worth as much as P13.5B ($250 million), Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol wrote on his Facebook account Tuesday.
Surging prices are adding to risks to the Philippine economy and the central bank has pledged strong action to restrain inflation. President Rodrigo Duterte ordered more rice imports as prices climbed to a record, vowing to use the military and police to raid warehouses if there’s a scheme to artificially prop up prices.
The typhoon is expected to be 135 nautical miles (250 kilometers) off Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan on Sept. 15 before heading to Hong Kong, according to the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center.