Still sunny in Northern LuzonInquirer Northern Luzon
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Except for an afternoon shower in the summer capital, the sun shone bright here, as well as in Pangasinan, Isabela and Bulacan on Saturday, the day rains accompanying Typhoon Butchoy were expected to drench northwestern Luzon.
But communities in northern and central Luzon, which were hit hard by strong typhoons and floods last year, have started preparing for “Butchoy” even though it was not expected to make landfall anywhere in the Philippines as it crosses the Pacific Ocean toward Japan.
Taking advantage of the good weather in Isabela on Saturday, provincial administrator Noel Manuel Lopez sent out helicopters to deliver emergency relief food and clothes to warehouses in the coastal towns of Dinapigue, Palanan, Maconacon and Divilacan as a precaution.
Relief goods were also distributed to flood-prone towns, including the capital Ilagan.
Lopez convened the provincial disaster risk reduction and management council on Friday for a preventive disaster program.
He also formed an interagency information dissemination team to inform villagers about how they were expected to respond each time a typhoon hits the province.
Isabela Governor Faustino Dy III ordered government personnel to prepare the province’s fleet of dump trucks at the disaster action center, where relief goods and clothes are stored.
The province was prepared for a planned release by Magat Dam in Ramon town of water at 5 a.m. but the opening of its floodgates was called off when the facility’s operators reported reservoir levels dropping from 188.40 meters above sea level on Friday to 188.20 on Saturday, said Saturnino Tenedor, dam instrumentation section chief. The dam’s spilling level is 193 meters above sea level.
“Readiness is our goal now. Disaster preparedness and mitigation is the policy of the provincial government,” Lopez said.
In Dagupan City, most public elementary and high school classrooms now have evacuation maps to serve as guides for students in the event of disaster.
On Friday, the city government staged a ceremonial installation of a map for the Dagupan City National High School.
Each map was prepared by the Dagupan City disaster council. The maps indicate where classrooms are located and provide directions for students to follow during evacuation.
Mayor Benjamin Lim said the maps were necessary in light of the city’s vulnerability to disasters.
He cited as an example Dagupan’s location on the western portion of the Manila Trench which makes it earthquake prone. The cities of Dagupan and Baguio were devastated by the 1990 Luzon earthquake.
The installation of maps is the first phase of the city disaster council’s school-based emergency preparedness and capacity building project which started in January.
Lim said 95 percent of the city’s 1,445 classrooms already have maps installed in key areas. Private schools will also get maps, he said.
Disaster preparedness took on a spiritual nature in Bulacan.
In the capital city of Malolos, Bulacan church leaders made plans to bring the pilgrimage of the cross of Sierra Madre to the forests of Angat to pray for the protection of Angat Dam, which is being prepared for rehabilitation.
Gerardo Esquivel, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System administrator, said he was awaiting President Aquino’s approval of the P5.7-billion rehabilitation project for Angat Dam, which generates hydroelectricity, irrigates farms tilled by 30,000 Bulacan and Pampanga farmers, and supplies Metro Manila with most of its potable water.
Construction of Angat Dam began in November 1961 and was completed in August 1968.
Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros said Angat Dam would be one of the destinations of the pilgrimage from June 25 to July 2.
Oliveros said the first pilgrimage destination is the parish church of Norzagaray, the town that hosts Angat Dam, before the cross is taken to the Angat watershed and forest reserve for a vigil and candle lighting ceremony.
(Reports from Villamor Visaya Jr. and Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon, and Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon)