MANILA, Philippines – Citing a weather forecast of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) of monsoon rains in the early morning “heavier” than last Wednesday and Thursday, the Department of Education (DepEd) announced early yesterday the suspension of classes for the third straight day at the elementary and high school levels in Metro Manila.
But the expected heavy rains did not come in the morning, and Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said the DepEd should not be faulted for the apparent wrong decision on class suspension. Heavy rains started to pour in the metropolis only in mid-afternoon.
“Why should we be blamed for that?” Lapus said.
Lapus shared that he had decided on the class suspension at five a.m. when he was advised by Pagasa that monsoon rains heavier than that of the past two days were in store.
DepEd drew heavy criticism last Thursday for the belated decision to suspend classes in Metro Manila when heavy rains and flashfloods hit many areas in the metropolis, and this led Lapus to decide to suspend classes in the National Capital Region early.
“They (Pagasa) said that ‘you may suspend’ classes,” Lapus said, adding that they have to rely on Pagasa’s advice.
“They are the ones who have the expertise and the equipment to forecast the weather,” Lapus said. “That was our judgment call.”
Heavy rains also prompted city officials to cancel classes at all levels in Baguio City and in Benguet province yesterday morning.
Office of Civil Defense operations chief engineer Alex Uy said education and provincial officials in Abra likewise canceled classes at the elementary and high school levels.
Continuous rains again softened landslide-prone areas in the Cordillera, posing serious threat.
A huge landslide along the national highway (Baguio-Bontoc Road) in Atok town was reported by the Benguet provincial disaster coordinating council, as Kennon Road was also closed to traffic because of rockslides, especially in Tuba town.
Strong winds associated with the surge of the southwest monsoon would continue to affect most parts of Luzon, including Metro Manila, in the next two to three days, state meteorologists said yesterday.
Nathaniel Cruz, deputy administrator for operations and services of Pagasa, said the southwest monsoon was strong and has reached inland areas.
“Even if there is no weather disturbance affecting the country, we will experience strong winds in the next two to three days due to the surge of the southwest monsoon,” Cruz told The STAR in a phone interview.
However, Cruz said the bands of clouds expected over the metropolis yesterday shifted to Central and Northern Luzon and brought heavy downpour over those areas.
Cruz explained that the shifting of cloud bands from Metro Manila to Central and Northern Luzon could be due to the northward movement of the low-pressure area (LPA) off extreme Northern Luzon.
As of 2 a.m. yesterday, the LPA was spotted at 1,160 kilometers northeast of extreme Northern Luzon.
Meanwhile, Cruz said Pagasa has been issuing gale warnings since Wednesday, reminding fishing boats and other small sea vessels not to venture into the seas of western Luzon and Visayas because of big waves.
The big waves would affect coastal areas in Ilocos region, Zambales, Bataan, Cavite, Batangas, Metro Manila, Mindoro and Palawan this weekend.
A gale warning is an advisory issued by the local authority in maritime countries about the existence of winds of gale force or above or the imminent occurrence of gales at sea. The purpose of gale warnings is to allow mariners to take precautionary actions to ensure their safety at sea.
Cruz said a gale warning is equivalent to a severe weather bulletin issued by Pagasa during tropical cyclone occurrence.
He said the enhanced southwest monsoon would continue to bring moderate to heavy rains over most parts of Luzon and western Visayas this weekend, adding that no tropical cyclone is expected to develop within and outside the Philippine area of responsibility in the next few days.
Cruz said at least two tropical cyclones are forecast to enter the country this month.
NCRCOM on standby
Disaster units of the military’s National Capital Region Command (NCRCOM) were placed on alert yesterday in case there is a need to evacuate Metro Manila residents who would be affected by flooding due to continuous heavy rains.
NCRCOM spokesman Maj. Carlo Ferrer said the Disaster Response Task Group-National Capital Region (DRTG-NCR) through the Joint Task Force Land-NCR (JTF-Land NCR) of the command was placed on standby in case heavy downpours cause severe flooding in the metropolis.
Two teams from JTF-Land NCR were dispatched yesterday morning to Barangays San Bartolome and Santa Lucia, both in Quezon City, to provide rescue and evacuation of families as a support for the local government.
Another team from JTF-Land NCR was dispatched to monitor the flooding near the La Mesa Dam area and to eventually conduct rescue and evacuation of families living near the vicinity when needed.
“Likewise, the Disaster Response Task Unit (DRTU) of the army, navy and air force were placed on operational control under NCRCOM, to provide NCR-wide rescue preparedness,” he said.
These units, according to Ferrer, would work in close coordination with the Office of the Civil Defense, Department of National Defense, Metro Manila Development Authority, NCRPO and the local governments of the NCR. – With Artemio Dumlao, Helen Flores, James Mananghaya, Jaime Laude