The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said Thursday that it has not been negligent in issuing timely and adequate warnings and advisories related to the strength of typhoon “Ulysses” even if many residents in Metro Manila and nearby provinces seemed to be caught by surprise with the sudden flooding in their areas.
Requests from people asking to be rescued from the roof or second floors of their houses, specifically in Marikina City, Pasig City, and Rizal, due to the overflow of the Marikina River have flooded social media and the NDRRMC Operations Center, according to Assistant Secretary Casiano Monilla, Office of Civil Defense deputy director for operations.
“Patuloy ang paglilikas natin but since yesterday or even the other day, inililikas na ang ating mga kababayan especially doon sa traditionally naaapektuhan ng bagyo. We were not caught flat-footed dito sa event na ito.
Kung minsan lang kasi, kapag nag-ikot ang local officials ay hindi kaagad sumusunod ang mga kababayan. Mas nagrerely tayo kung ano ang ating nararamdaman, kung ano ang prevailing na situation na nararamdaman other than the advise na binibigay ng PAGASA,” he said in a virtual media forum.
(We are still conducting rescue operations but since [Wednesday] or even [Tuesday], we have already conducted pre-emptive evacuation of our countrymen especially in areas that are traditionally affected by typhoons.
We were not caught flat-footed by this event. Sometimes, the residents don’t listen to local officials even if they are already warned. They usually rely on what they are feeling or the prevailing situation rather than the advise given by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration)
The NDRRMC has yet to provide data on the extent of damage of Ulysses and how many people were affected.
But NDRRMC chairman and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, in a separate interview, said the damage has been “huge.”
“[There was] huge damage. [There were] totally flooded villages and low-lying areas were flooded,” Lorenzana said when asked to describe the extent of Ulysses’ effects.
Lorenzana said he has briefed President Duterte about the deployment of troops to save some residents in Marikina who were asking to be rescued due to the overflow of the Marikina River.
“I just came from the Palace. I briefed him what our troops are doing in Marikina to save people from their rooftops,” he said.
Social media users were quick to point out the similarity in the devastation of Ulysses to typhoon “Ondoy” in 2009 which inundated a vast portion of Metro Manila after hours of intense rains. Ondoy left 747 people dead and billions of damages in agriculture and infrasture.
In Marikina, Mayor Marcelino Teordoro said Ulysses brought the water level of Marikina River to 22 meters as of 11 a.m. Thursday, which was higher than the 21.5-meter level reached during typhoon Ondoy.
Monilla said local government units (LGUs) have the responsibility to conduct search and rescue operations on their affected residents but he noted that the NDRRMC is behind the LGUs to augment their capabilities.
“Ondoy really served as a lesson especially sa area ng Marikina at Pasig sa NCR. Nagkaroon na sila even the early warning signals. Sa amin naman, ang pagdirect ng operations ay aming nirerely sa LGUs at kami lang ay tumutulong sa local governments in harnessing the response units para madagdagan ang units na nagre-rescue sa ating mga kababayan (Ondoy really served as a lesson especially in Marikina and Pasig in the National Capital Region. They established early warning signals. On our part, the direction of [rescue] operations rely on the local government units and we just help them in harnessing the response units which will rescue our countrymen),” he said.
“Because highly populated ang lugar it could be a challenge relocating them. Ang Provident [Village] nga which serves as a lesson in Ondoy ay affected din sa ngayon. Highly urbanized kasi ang Metro Manila that’s why it’s really a challenge paano i-relocate ang mga tao na laging affected ng ganito,” he added.
Meanwhile, the NDRRMC has also tapped the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and several private companies to deploy their manpower and assets for search and rescue operations.
Gen. Gilbert Gapay, AFP chief, said the Joint Task Force NCR has been leading the rescue efforts in Metro Manila. They were aigmented by two disaster response units from the 7th Civil Relations Group, 101stSearch and Rescue volunteers, and private group REACT PH.
Another search and rescue unit from Bantay Bayan volunteers were deployed in areas on Tullahan River and Caloocan City to conduct search and rescue operations.
The Joint Task Force Bicolandia, Northern Luzon Command (NolCom), and Southern Luzon Command (SolCom) also deployed thousands of soldiers to coordinate the search and rescue operations in Bicol region, Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos (Region 1), Cagayan Valley (Region 2), Central Luzon (Region 3), Calabarzon (Region 4A), and Mimaropa (Region 4B).
Monilla said they have received reports that major dams in Luzon have been releasing excess water which may inundate Central Luzon and parts of Metro Manila.
“Ang Angat, Ipo, La Mesa, at Wawa dams nagpapakawala ng tubig dahil sa patuloy na pagtaas ng tubig dulot ng ulan na hatid ni Ulysses so baka abutin pa hanggang mamayang hapon o gabi (Angat, Ipo, La Mesa, and Wawa dams were releasing water because of the continuous rain brought about by Ulysses so the [flooding] may persist until afternoon or evening),” he said.