Disaster response officials: We are preparing for the worst

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 12) — Government agencies are preparing for the worst case scenario as they await the onslaught of powerful Typhoon Ompong, disaster response officials said Wednesday.

Ricardo Jalad, Executive Director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), assured the public that they have been coordinating with concerned agencies days prior to the expected arrival of the typhoon.

"Worst case scenario, 'yun ang pinaghahandaan ng government units," he said in a press briefing.

[Translation: The government units are preparing for the worst case scenario.]

Typhoon Ompong, internationally kown as Mangkhut, has been described by weather officials as a strong typhoon that could potentially bring damage similar to super typhoon Yolanda's impact in 2013.

READ: Typhoon 'Ompong' now in PH

Weather officials define a super typhoon as one that packs 225 kilometers per hour (kph) center winds. Ompong  is forecast to have up to 220 kph center winds. 

The local government units will be the first to respond to the needs of their residents, followed by the regional offices, Jalad said. The NDRRMC will also deploy additional forces and resources if needed for a third round of responders.

"We will have a group of units coming from the uniformed services which we hope to preposition in Clark and they will be transported by any means possible to any regions likely to be heavily affected" he said.

The government units include the Philippine Air Force which may use aircrafts or land transportation, he added.

Apart from the regions expected to be directly affected by the typhoon - Region 1, 2 and 3 - the NDRRMC will also cater to the needs of those affected by the monsoon rains namely Visayas, MIMAROPA, Region 9, Northern Mindanao and CARAGA.

Jalad said some schools are ready to be used as temporarily shelters for evacuees especially those from areas prone to landslides and floods.

However, he said it is up to the local chief executives to decide when residents can leave their homes.

"'Yung advisories are already released by the DILG warning local government units to undertake preemptive, preparedness actions. Ang important kasi diyan 'yung early evacuation protocol nila [What is important is their early evacuation protocol]," he said.

The Social Welfare Department has readied relief goods. Jalad said disaster response teams will also be equipped with additional relief goods and communication equipment.

Jalad said weather officials are also monitoring dams susceptible to releasing water, particularly the Ambuklao Dam in Benguet and the San Roque Dam in Pangasinan, to ensure the safety of those nearby from floods.

Weather officials said typhoon Ompong will bring heavy rainfall to Northern Luzon, and the most affected areas would be Batanes and Cagayan.

The Batanes Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office said they have alerted the cities' authorities to coordinate with each other for assistance.

"Ang mga munisipiyo inatasan namin na magtulungan para at least handa kami lahat sa kung anumang mangyari sa amin," Batanes PDRRMO Chief Dan Esdicul said.

[Translation: We have tasked the municipalities to assist each other so we'll be ready for whatever happens to us]

Esdicul said they have emergency stocks of food readily available for affected communities but said these may not be enough if the typhoon's effects last a week.

"Ang iniisip lang po ay 'yung supply ng bigas ng NFA na kasalukuyan, marami pa stock dito. Maari ng sapat pa sa susunod na mga araw pero pagkalipas na abot pa sa isang linggo na hindi maganda ang panahon, syempre po baka magkulang," he said.

[Translation: What we are worrying about is the supply of NFA rice. For the meantime we have an abundant supply of rice for the coming days but if the bad weather continues for a week, it may not be enough.]

Meanwhile, Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba said they have readied relief goods and instructed security forces in vulnerable areas to remain on alert.

"Three days ago we had alerted lahat ng [all of the] stakeholders, agencies in the province…We have started pre-deploying, prepositioning some of our assets and relief goods," Mamba told CNN Philippines' New Day.

"Inalert na namin including disaster councils of the barangays and disaster council ng mga towns," he added.

[Translation: We have alerted the disaster councils of the barangays and towns.]

Mamba said their sense of urgency comes from their bad experience of super typhoon "Lawin" in 2016, which destroyed thousands of homes in the region.

Lawin hit Northern Luzon, particularly Tuguegarao and Peñablanca in Cagayan, destroying 14,000 houses and leaving 50,000 homes partially destroyed, Mamba added.

"We have had an experience on this two years ago sa [from] 'Lawin' and we're trying our best to be more prepared this time…We learned so much from this and that is why we are trying to relay these again, re-implement the systems we have done noon[before], " he said.

Mamba also said they are relieved that the eastern areas of the region, where the Sierra Madre mountain range is located, remains uninhabited.

"Swerte po namin kasi 'yung eastern borders namin, [we're lucky because our eastern borders], we have the Sierra Madre, we don't have populated areas dito [here]," he said.