Batanes, Cagayan gear up for possible effects of Super Typhoon Mawar

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 26) — Preparations are underway in Batanes and Cagayan to brace for the effects of Super Typhoon Mawar, which is forecast to enter the country’s weather monitoring area by Friday night or early Saturday morning.

The Batanes Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) said it has prepared food packs and heavy equipment, as well as evacuation centers.

Tropical Cyclone Wind Signal No. 2 or 3 may be raised over Batanes and Babuyan Islands in the northernmost portion of Luzon – once Mawar enters the Philippine Area of Responsibility and is renamed Betty, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

Speaking to CNN Philippines’ Balitaan on Friday, Batanes PDRRMO officer-in-charge Dan Esdicul said preemptive evacuation is on hold just yet because of good weather.

Esdicul said flights are still operational, especially for tourists who wish to leave the area before the storm draws near.

Should there be power and network outages, he said the local government is equipped with radios for communication.

The head of the Cagayan PDRRMO meanwhile said local authorities have already identified coastal communities in the northern part of the province as "areas of concern" or at risk of landslides and floods.

These include Sta. Ana, Gonzaga, Sta. Teresita, Buguey, Aparri, Ballesteros, Abulug, Pamplona, Sanchez-Mira, and Claveria, and the island municipality of Calayan, said Cagayan PDRRMO chief Ruelie Rapsing.

PAGASA has warned that Mawar will bring heavy rains over Cagayan Valley from Sunday until Tuesday next week.

Rapsing told CNN Philippines' The Source that 70% of Cagayan is highly susceptible to flash floods and rain-induced landslides.

While there are areas of concern, he said they are also monitoring areas near the Cagayan River which will be also affected if Mawar will dump more rains in the area.

Local authorities have pre-deployed floating assets like aluminum, rubber and fiberglass boats across the seven quick response stations in the province, he said. Each station also has an ambulance, a rescue vehicle, and a search and rescue vehicle which is night-capable, he added.

Rapsing said the PDRRMO also has three trucks for pre-emptive evacuation, as well as ambulance trucks.

A recommendation from their disaster response officials will soon be made on pre-emptive evacuation, but implementation will still depend on the local chief executive, he noted.

In another interview, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) spokesperson Raffy Alejandro said pre-emptive evacuation will surely be implemented, especially once storm signals are raised. Specifically in Batanes, around six municipalities will be covered, affecting at least 18,000 individuals, he noted.

For now, the NDRRMC said it is focusing on augmenting resources in Cagayan and Batanes. According to Alejandro, all of the agency's response assets are on standby, including those from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Philippine National Police.

The AFP-Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) said in a separate statement that 850 boxes of relief goods were brought to Basco, Batanes via C130 aircraft on Thursday.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) also said it has deployed personnel in a number of regions in Luzon to help in rescue operations should these be needed.

"Inalerto rin po namin 'yung mga tauhan namin dito sa mga units ng Manila, Cavite area para nang sa ganon, kung magkulang 'yung mga tauhan sa northern Luzon ay pwede po tayo rumesponde at tumulong," PCG Spokesperson Rear Admiral Armand Balilo told CNN Philippines' Newsroom Ngayon.

[Translation: We have also alerted personnel in our Manila and Cavite units who can be tapped to help northern Luzon.]