Parts of Mindanao, Visayas brace for stormy weekend as typhoon Auring intensifies

TROPICAL depression Auring has intensified into a tropical storm category as of Thursday morning as it continues to move northwestward over the Philippine Sea, weather bureau PAGASA reported. It is forecast to further strengthen into a severe tropical storm before making landfall in the Caraga Region on Saturday evening or Sunday morning. The Office of Civil Defense, in a statement late Wednesday, said the national and regional disaster agencies, along with their local government counterparts, met Wednesday afternoon to discuss preparations for the expected “heavy to intense rains which may cause flooding and rain-induced landslides in highly susceptible areas.” PAGASA said based on the typhoon’s forecast track, affected areas from Saturday to Monday will include the Visayas, Caraga, Northern Mindanao, Bicol, CALABARZON, Davao Oriental, Davao de Oro, Davao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Mindoro provinces, Marinduque, Romblon, northern Palawan including Calamian and Cuyo Islands. Tropical wind signal no. 1 will likely be raised by Friday in several provinces in Caraga and Davao “in anticipation of the arrival of strong breeze to near-gale conditions.” As of 10 a.m. Thursday, Auring was located 685 kilometers (km) east-southeast of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur. It was moving slowly with maximum sustained winds of 65 km per hour (km/h) near the center and gustiness of up to 80 km/h.

NEA asks electric co-ops to comply with ‘no disconnection policy’ for poor consumers

THE National Electrification Administration (NEA) called on the 121 electric cooperatives across the country to implement the ‘no disconnection policy’ for lifeline consumers as directed by the Department of Energy earlier this month. In a memorandum dated Feb. 10, NEA Administrator Edgardo R. Masongsong also directed the power distributors to post the Energy department’s advisory “on their respective websites and consumer welfare help desks for the information of all concerned electricity consumers.” Under the Energy department’s order, distribution utilities are required to implement the ‘no disconnection policy’ for poor electricity consumers whose unpaid obligations are due by March. This applies to all unpaid regular bills and installment payments. The department added that all electricity consumers — both lifeline and non-lifeline — who still cannot pay their bills may “enter into socially equitable and manageable payment terms to prevent eventual disconnection of electricity services.” On the other hand, consumers who have the means to pay are encouraged to do so to “help manage the cash flow in the energy supply chain and ensure the continuous supply of electricity.” Early this month, the Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association, Inc. said the extension of the ‘no disconnection policy’ would “disrupt the flow of money in the energy supply chain, and that its effects would extend to outside the power sector.” — Angelica Y. Yang

Manila Bay water quality shows improvement

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) announced on Thursday that it recorded lower fecal coliform levels in Manila Bay last week, based on water samples collected from 21 monitoring stations. In a press release, DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu was quoted as saying that the bay’s water samples, which were collected on Feb. 8, had a fecal coliform count of 4.87 million most probable number per 100 milliliters (mpn/100mL), which was “significantly lower” compared to the annual average reading of 7.16 million mpn/100 mL taken last year. The lowering of fecal coliform levels is in line with meeting the Supreme Court’s previous mandamus in restoring the bay’s water quality to “Class SB” level, meaning it would be suitable for bathing, swimming, skin diving, and other forms of contact recreation. “We will make sure that we continue to clean the waters of Manila Bay until it becomes safe again for contact activities,” Mr. Cimatu, who chairs the Manila Bay Task Force, said. — Angelica Y. Yang

4,400-ha forest in Pangasinan declared as a critical habitat

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Thursday declared a 4,423-hectare forest in Mangatarem, Pangasinan as a critical habitat as part of national efforts to protect wildlife species that are facing extinction. In a press release issued on Thursday, the DENR said Secretary Roy A. Cimatu recently signed an administrative order that named the forest area as the “Mangatarem Critical Habitat.” It is the 9th to be included in the list of declared critical habitats across the country. The Mangatarem Critical Habitat is home to several threatened and endemic animals including Philippine deer, Philippine warty pig, Philippine duck, Flame-breasted fruit dove, Philippine eagle owl, Luzon scops owl, and Rufous hornbill. The habitat also houses several flora species, including endemic plants. “In doing this, we at the DENR can save habitats which are critical for the survival of threatened species or species at risk of extinction, including other associated wildlife, and at the same time provide this land area a legal framework to protect it from destructive uses,” Mr. Cimatu was quoted as saying. — Angelica Y. Yang