SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/3 December) – The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has upped its warnings against possible disasters as it hoisted storm signal No. 3 over the whole of Caraga Region and five other Mindanao provinces close to Typhoon Pablo’s path.
In its advisory issued 5 p.m., the provinces of Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte (including Samal Island) are now also under Signal No. 3.
Misamis Occidental, the Lanao provinces, North Cotabato and Zamboanga del Norte have been upgraded to Signal No. 2 as PAGASA detected Pablo’s eye at 390km southeast of Hinatuan in Surigao del Sur and forecast to move west at a speed of 26 kph.
Under signal no. 1 are Zamboanga del Sur, Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and South Cotabato, practically including all of mainland Mindanao in PAGASA’s “Severe Weather Bulletin No. 5.”
PAG-ASA said Pablo has sustained winds of 175 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 210 kph. It is expected to be in the vicinity of Cagayan de Oro City by Tuesday afternoon.
Surigao City Mayor Ernesto Matugas has ordered the postponement of its “Light up a tree” program, scheduled at 6 p.m. today (Monday) to usher the Christmas season. He also ordered classes suspended.
Blance Gobenciong, director of the Office of Civil Defense (CD) in Caraga Region and chair of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (RDRRMC), reported that local DRRMCs in the region have already convened to identify resources available for dispatch to the different areas under their areas of responsibility.
In Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur, where Pablo is expected to first hit landfall early Tuesday, an estimated 1,100 families from 14 barangays already evacuated as of 6 p.m. today while thousands more are expected to voluntarily evacuate from 10 other towns later this evening, according to Amado Posas, chief of operations of the OCD in Caraga.
“Thousands more have been warned and informed all over the town of Hinatuan and we hope to evacuate several more before the storm hits the town. Several towns are also following the call for pre-emptive evacuation all over Surigao del Sur but we can’t still verify the exact details in terms of the numbers of families being moved away from the danger zones. All we know is that thousands more are following,” said Posas.
Senior Supt. Arthur Sanchez, Surigao del Sur provincial police director, said in a phone interview that several families along the coastal areas all over Surigao del Sur have volunteered to evacuate.
“Right after our meeting with the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council here in Tandag City, we immediately coordinated with our personnel with all 17 municipalities to take preemptive action in coordination with their respective local government units,” he said, adding preemptive evacuation would save lives.
Sanchez added that hundreds of residents from Barobo, Lianga and Carrascal had expressed wllingness to evacuate while preparations have been made in seven other towns to evacuate residents living in the coastal and low-lying communities.
“We are now on full alert and we have mobilized all our personnel from the provincial level down to the different municipalities here in Caraga,” seconded Chief Supt. Carmelo Valmoria, Caraga regional police director. “I have also instructed our Regional Public Safety Battalion to fully mobilize its Search and Rescue or SAR capabilities and to be ready for any sudden changes on the ground,” he added.
In Bukidnon, Malaybalay City Mayor Ignacio Zubiri declared Tuesday a non-working day, with no classes in all levels after Bukidnon was placed under storm signal no. 3.
The Bukidnon Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office dispatched a radio message to all towns and cities here Monday afternoon warning and seeking precautionary measures, according to Ma. Leah Barquez, point person of the PDRRMC office in Malaybalay City.
“The gist is for them to undertake proactive action/evacuation rather than rescue,” she added.
In Valencia City, the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council convened the leaders of at least 20 of the city’s 31 barangays considered to be prone to flooding , said Jovy Ellacone of the Valencia CDRRMC.
He added that the rescuers and other workers of the CDRRMC are on “red alert” and “are prepared to respond.”
Ellacone said they are more prepared now after Valencia City experienced two flooding incidents in December last year, displacing thousands.
He said the villages were able to hold contingency planning, identifying evacuation routes, among other mechanisms.
“Last year we were caught off guard. We did not make contingency plans,” he added.
As of 6:45 p.m. Monday evening, Ellacone said there had been no voluntary or forced evacuations yet. “It’s a wait and see situation as there is no rain yet,” he added.
In Davao City, the different advertising service providers rolled down the giant billboards approaching Bankerohan and Bolt9n bridges and in other parts of the city even as the city is not on the path of typhoon Pablo.
Engr. Jaime Adalin, officer-in-charge of the City Building Office (CBO), said in a telephone interview that the service providers are required to “voluntary fold” the giant billboards to prevent from causing accident and damage to properties.
“It is part on the rules that they should voluntary fold it,” he said, citing the memorandum issued by Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
DPWH’s memorandum in 2008 states that “the tarpaulins and other advertising materials shall be automatically lowered upon announcement of Typhoon Signal No. 2 bulletin by PAGASA.”
“But even if there would be no Typhoon Signal No. 2, we will still lower it down especially when there is a low pressure area and strong winds,” said Alex Montañez, president of the advertising firm APM Ad and Promo Management Inc.
As of 6 p.m., there were four giant billboards whose tarpaulins were folded in Bajada and about 20 in Bankerohan and at least six along Bolton bridge and the Ecoland area.
Adalin said there are about 800 to 900 billboards all over the city. (Vanessa Almeda, Erwin Mascariñas, Walter I. Balane and Lorie Ann Cascaro/ MindaNews)