Government utilities brace for Betty

Lawrence Agcaoili - The Philippine Star
Government utilities brace for Betty
Members of Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) prepare their rescue equipment on May 25,2023 in anticipation of tropical cyclone Mawar, which is expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility this weekend.
Photos by Michael Varcas / The Philippine STAR

MANILA, Philippines — Various government agencies and the country’s telecommunications companies as well as the utilities for water and electricity are bracing for the impact of Super Typhoon Betty (international name Mawar) in the country today.

The super typhoon, according to the weather bureau, was to enter the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) either last night or early today.

In separate advisories, mobile giants Smart Communications and Globe Telecom said they have prepared their network assets to keep connectivity services once Betty hits land.

Both companies said they would deploy support teams in areas that are expected to be ravaged by the storm, ensuring that mobile services will remain active, especially for disaster response.

The Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) has also put in place the necessary measures to mitigate the possible impact, placing its teams on standby and ready to respond to reports of power outages.

In Baguio and Benguet, power distributor Beneco also made sure it has enough inventory of materials like poles, transformers and line hardware.

The government’s P18.3-billion calamity fund is also on standby to support disaster relief operations as Super Typhoon Betty continued to intensify, the Department of Budget and Management announced.

Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said the agency is ready to support government efforts “to aid our countrymen who may be affected by the wrath of the super typhoon.”

President Marcos also assured the public that sufficient precautionary measures have been put in place by various local government units (LGUs) that are likely to bear the brunt of the approaching super typhoon and the possible heavy monsoon rains.

Speaking to reporters after attending the 125th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Navy in Manila yesterday, Marcos said the government has been preparing for the storm’s possible impact, including the prepositioning of relief goods in areas that are expected to experience inclement weather, mostly in Northern Luzon. “We have been preparing for most of this week already... So, what we do is we leave it to the LGUs right now to make the call on what they should do but we tell them that the national government is here to assist,” the President said in mixed Filipino and English. Pangandaman said the government is prepared for the super typhoon.

“We are ready to support all operations for disaster rescue and relief with the necessary budget. Identified frontline government agencies may mobilize their Quick Response Fund (QRF) allocated in their respective budgets,” Pangandaman said.

The QRF is a built-in budgetary allocation that represents pre-disaster or standby funds for agencies to immediately assist areas stricken by catastrophes and crises.

Based on latest data, the government still has some P18.3 billion in its calamity fund, including the P1.5-billion carryover from last year’s budget that could be used for various disaster relief operations until the end of 2023.

Since the start of the year, calamity fund releases by the government amounted to about P3.9 billion. Agencies may tap into the available National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund for this year’s budget under the General Appropriations Act.

This can be used for aid, relief and rehabilitation services to communities as well as for repair, rehabilitation and reconstruction works in connection with the occurrence of natural or human-induced calamities in the current or two preceding years.

For government employees, the state-run Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) is preparing its emergency loan program to assist members and pensioners who may be adversely affected.

GSIS president and general manager Jose Arnulfo Veloso said members who have existing emergency loan balance may borrow up to P40,000 to pay off their previous emergency loan balance and still receive a maximum net amount of P20,000.

Those who are without any existing emergency loan as well as pensioners may apply for P20,000 loan.


Marcos said Betty was not only expected to graze the country’s northern section but was also likely to trigger monsoon rains in parts of Southern Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

“There is a difference with this typhoon because it will not just pass near north of the Philippines, apparently it will also pull the habagat (southwest monsoon) – and there is a chance of heavy rains including over Southern Luzon, the Visayas and maybe Mindanao,” he said. “That’s why we have already warned the LGUs to prepare in case of heavy rains and flooding.”

The Chief Executive also stressed that the national government is in constant coordination with the LGUs for the immediate deployment of additional resources if necessary. “We are in constant contact with them also to find out what they need, what is the situation in their respective areas and then with that, we will be able to respond properly.”

The Philippine National Police (PNP) mobilized at least 22,000 police officers for disaster response operations, including the 1,000 to 2,000 policemen in Metro Manila.

Brig. Gen. Redrico Maranan, the PNP’s chief publicist, said members of the police contingent are on standby and ready to assist LGUs in search and rescue operations as well security coverage in evacuation centers in places that could be hit by the typhoon.

Already, the PNP has prepared the deployment of 18,000 rescue and retrieval equipment and about 2,200 mobility and sea assets for search, rescue and response operations.

Police chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. also ordered the activation of the PNP disaster incident management task force to ensure cohesive actions in coordination with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and LGUs.

The military’s Northern Luzon Command airlifted 850 boxes of relief goods on a C-130 cargo aircraft on Thursday to Basco, Batanes in advance preparation for the typhoon. According to NOLCOM spokesman Maj. Al Anthony Pueblas, a box of relief goods includes food, water and other items essential for survival during disasters.

Sen. Bong Go reiterated the importance of preparedness and cooperation at this time, stressing the necessity for proactive measures when dealing with natural calamities. — Helen Flores, Emmanuel Tupas, Elijah Felice Rosales, Richmond Mercurio, Art Dumlao, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Bella Carias


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