Parts of southern PHL flooded as storm Auring moves north

PARTS of the southern island of Mindanao were flooded Sunday after tropical storm Auring, with designated international name Dujuan, dumped rains as it moves slowly in a northwest direction. Local governments and regional teams of the Office of Civil Defense posted updates and photos on their social media pages on the situation on the ground. There were no immediate reports of casualties or an assessment of infrastructure damage as of Sunday afternoon. Surigao del Sur in the Caraga Region, covering the eastern side of Mindanao, was one of the most affected areas with its capital city Tandag and several other towns flooded at up to waist-high water level. In the central islands of the Visayas, some residents were stranded after authorities ordered a “no sail policy” due to strong winds and high waves. In the northern islands of Luzon, local authorities have put emergency response teams on full alert as some areas were already under tropical wind signal number one. These include: Sorsogon, Masbate, Albay, parts of Camariñes Sur, and Catanduanes. Camariñes Sur Governor Miguel Luis R. Villafuerte has ordered preemptive evacuation in all areas at risk of flooding and landslides. “Ensure that by 5:00 p.m. of February 21, all families that are living in high-risk areas are already evacuated,” he said in a memorandum on Sunday morning, which included reminders on the observance of health protocols in evacuation centers. As of 1 p.m., the center of storm Auring was about 320 kilometers (km) east of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur and moving northwest at 15 km per hour, according to weather bureau PAGASA. The national weather agency forecasts Auring to weaken into a tropical depression before making landfall on Sunday evening or Monday morning over the Dinagat Islands or Eastern Samar. “After landfall, Auring is forecast to weaken considerably due to significant terrain interaction and the increasing wind shear, leading to deterioration into a remnant low within 48 hours, possibly sooner,” the PAGASA said in its 2 p.m. bulletin. Meanwhile, the national government said around P1.2 billion standby funds have been allotted for relief to affected areas. “We are closely monitoring Tropical Storm ‘Auring’ and the communities on its track,” Presidential Spokesman Herminio “Harry” L. Roque said in a statement. “The Department of Social Welfare and Development has relief stockpiles and standby funds amounting to P1,204,692,327.12 in its Central Office, Field Offices and National Resource Operations Center,” he said. Mr. Roque added that the Health department has allotted P19.5 million worth of medicines, medical supplies, and health kits. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Samal raring and ready to reopen tourism


SAMAL island, the most well-known beach destination in the Davao Region, is eager to reopen its tourism sector and welcome the national government’s plan to declare a uniform easing of restrictions nationwide by March 1. Mayor Al David T. Uy said they have been appealing since the start of the year to the national task force on coronavirus response to place the Island Garden City of Samal under the most relaxed level known as modified general community quarantine (MGCQ). “Since first week of January 2021, we already sent a Letter of Appeal addressed to IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) and we are really appealing to be reverted to MGCQ considering that we totally managed the COVID situation here in Samal,” said Mr. Uy in an interview last week. City Health Office data show the island has recorded 187 coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as of February 20, with the latest three cases confirmed on Feb. 11. Majority have recovered while six have died as of latest available data. The mayor said tourism accounts for up to 40% of Samal’s income, and the almost year-long closure of the industry has severely affected resort owners and workers as well as the local government’s tax collection. “Tourism is a rising industry in Samal and we need the income,” he said, adding that revenue from tourism would contribute to the city’s ability to allocated local funds for COVID-19 vaccines. The city, along with the rest of Davao del Norte province to which it belongs, is under the stricter GCQ level where leisure and tourism activities are still prohibited. — Maya M. Padillo

Ayala group sends aid to residents after increased Taal Volcano activities last week

RESIDENTS affected by Taal volcano’s increased seismic activity last week were given assistance by the Ayala group through the Ayala Foundation. In a statement on Friday, the company said it distributed food and non-food items, such as toys and face masks, to families in three evacuation centers in Talisay, Batangas on February 17 and 18. Government disaster management teams implemented a forced preemptive evacuation after the volcano, which last erupted in January 2020, recorded increased activities last week. The Ayala group said at least 5,000 facemasks were also distributed to the evacuation centers. “As Taal’s seismic activity continues, the Ayala group regularly coordinates with the office of Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas, as well as with the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office and the Association of Barangay Captains,” the company said. Manila Water Foundation also provided 500 units of five-gallon water bottles. Ayala’s telecommunications firm Globe Telecom, meanwhile, put up some of its Globe Jeepney WiFi called Dyip Sagip stations at the evacuation centers. Aside from internet connection, the stations also has provisions for mobile phone charging and free calls. The company said it has spent some P11.4 million to provide assistance to 4,000 families in affected communities since last year’s eruption. AC Motors also gave away 10 Kia 2500 Vans, which are being used by the communities for assistance and other public service programs. — Keren Concepcion G. Valmonte