AT least 56 provinces in parts of Southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao are deemed critical areas as Typhoon Hagupit approaches the country.
The list was disclosed Wednesday during a meeting of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the weather bureau.
Of the 56 provinces, 44 are in Alert Level C, and may suffer heavy damage to agriculture and disruption of travel and electrical power.
Provinces under Alert Level B are expected to suffer moderate damage to agriculture with rain of five to 10 mm/hour (moderate to heavy) and winds of 30 to 60 kph.
Metro Manila is in the list under Alert Level A, with rain of 5 to 10 mm/hour (moderate to heavy), and winds of 30 to 45 kph.
In the briefing, Office of Civil Defense Director Alexander Pama said government agencies had notified all local government officials in Eastern Visayas, which was battered by super typhoon Yolanda last year, to prepare for any eventuality.
He said that extensive preparation for Hagupit’s disastrous effects are underway and residents were advised to heed the call of their respective community leaders in case the typhoon makes landfall.
More than 14,000 families—survivors of Yolanda--are still staying in tents and bunkhouses as the construction of permanent housing has just started. More than 8,000 died or went missing when Yolanda struck in November last year.
On Wednesday, weather trackers said typhoon Hagupit was still 1,610 kilometer east of Davao City with maximum winds of 140 kph and gustiness of 170 kph.
Weather bureau forecaster Aldczar Aurelio said Hagupit could enter the Philippine area of responsibility on Thursday.
“Based on the data we’ve gathered, there’s a 75 percent chance in favor of Hagupit heading towards Eastern Visayas while only 40 percent chance of veering off towards Japan,” Aurelio said.
“There’s a high possibility that Hagupit would hit landfall in Eastern Visayas,” Aurelio added.
Even if Hagupit veers toward Japan, the provinces of Nueva Viscaya, Isabela and Cagayan Valley will still experience stormy weather, he said.
While Hagupit is unlikely to be as strong as Yolanda, it could still do heavy damage, Aurelio said.
Interior Undersecretary Austere Panadero said all LGU officials have been alerted and advised residents in flood-prone areas to move to higher ground.
Panadero said all disaster and emergency units from the police and military have started deploying personnel with appropriate tools in preparation for the storm.
The military said it has repositioned troops and their disaster assets Wednesday, especially in areas prone to storm surge, landslides and flash floods.
Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, commander of the Southern Luzon Command said the command has already provided all the available equipment for disaster operations for search-and-rescue and evacuation to the 9th and 2nd Army Infantry Divisions.
The same action was taken by the Eastern Mindanao Command led by Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad whose command includes the 8th, 1st and 4th Infantry Divisions.
Based on the current tracking of Hagupit, which will be codenamed “Ruby” once it enters the Philippine area of responsibility, the storm is likely to make landfall in Eastern Visayas or somewhere in Mindanao.
The Palace said President Benigno Aquino III has allocated P4.69 billion in quick-response funds in preparation for the entry of Hagupit.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the administration still aspires for zero casualties.
“It’s always an aspiration. So if we always have an aspirational goal of zero casualties, then the attitude of government people and the ordinary citizens would be in a manner that would make sure that we are kept safe or we ourselves make the initiative to keep ourselves safe from the calamities,” Lacierda said.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the Social Welfare and Transportation And Communications departments have the biggest standby funds at P1.01 billion and P1 billion, respectively.
Agriculture has P406 million, Education, P564 million; Health, P500 million; National Defense, P448 million and the Office of Civil Defense, P764 million.
“The departments can use these funds to mobilize the necessary resources and manpower to extend relief and immediate assistance to victims,” Abad said.
He said the national government can also draw from the 2014 National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund to deal with the after-effects of typhoon Hagupit if it hits the country.
Additional funds will likewise be made available once the proposed 2015 budget is approved in Congress and signed by the President, Abad said.
“Given our country’s location along the typhoon-belt in the Pacific, the national government knows it must prepare for any calamity. But we cannot predict the future. That’s why it’s essential that our national budgets have special purpose funds... to address any contingency,” Abad said.
The Interior and Local Government Department on Wednesday directed all local governments in Hagupit’s likely path to brace for its entry.
LGUs in Regions 5, 6, 7, 8 and Caraga were expected to covene their respective local disaster risk reduction management councils. With Joyce Pangco Pañares, Florante S. Solmerin and Rio N. Araja
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