(UPDATE) Tropical storm "Helen" will continue to bring heavy to intense rains as it moves toward the West Philippine Sea and out of the country by Thursday afternoon, the weather bureau said Wednesday.
In its 5 p.m. update, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomic Services Administration (Pagasa) said Helen has maintained its maximum sustained winds of 75 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gustiness of up to 90 kph.
Pagasa forecast heavy to intense rainfall (15 to 25 millimeter per hour) within the 500-kilometer diameter of the storm. Helen was spotted at 90 kilometers North of Laoag City 4 p.m. Wednesday.
It is expected to move west northwest at 17 kph and be out of the Philippine area of responsibility by Thursday afternoon, Pagasa said.
Public storm warning signal number two, meanwhile, remain over the provinces of Cagayan, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, Apayao, Kalinga, Abra, and the Batanes, Calayan and Babuyan groups of islands.
Isabela, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Pangasinan, Benguet, Ifugao, Mountain Province, La Union and Northern Aurora also remain under storm warning signal number one.
"Residents living in low-lying and mountainous areas under public storm warning signal number two and one are alerted against possible flashfloods and landslides," Pagasa said.
"Likewise, those living in coastal areas under public storm warning signal number two are alerted against big waves or storm surges generated by this tropical storm," it added.
Pagasa also advised fishing boats and other small seacrafts not to venture out into the seaboards of Central and Southern Luzon, and Visayas.
Helen is also expected to enhance the southwest monsoon that will bring rains over the rest of Luzon and Visayas particularly over the western section.
"Moderate to occasionally heavy rains and moderate to occasionally strong winds are expected over Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Southern Luzon tonight," Pagasa noted.
It meanwhile warned of possible flooding in areas near dams where water levels remain critical due to large rainfall volume.
Dams in critical levels are La Mesa dam at 79.16 meters versus its spilling level of 80.15 meters, and Caliraya dam at 286.7 meters and a spilling level of 288 meters.
The Philippines on Sunday called on neighbouring Southeast Asian nations to push for an immediate halt to China's reclamation in the disputed South China Sea ahead of a regional summit. China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, with overlapping claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. Recent satellite images suggest China has made rapid progress in building an airstrip suitable for military use in contested …