LGUs Warned For Late Class Suspension Announcement

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang told local government units (LGUs) that the late announcement of class suspension in some areas on Tuesday should be the last time it should happen, reminding LGUs of their responsibility to announce class suspension as early as possible.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte also asked the public to be more patient with LGUs because of the new system that transferred to the LGUs the responsibility of ordering the suspension of classes which was previously the function of the Department of Education (DepEd).

"We are giving them a little more time to cope with the new system and we hope that this will be the last time," Valte said.

She said it would be up to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to impose sanctions on LGUs that failed to announce class suspension on time during inclement weather.

According to Valte, local governments should make the announcement as early as 4:30 a.m.

"We will be asking for a little bit of your patience because it is a new system and our LGUs would also need to get used to that system, but again we would like to remind them as well as a reminder from the DILG that the responsibility of suspending classes in your locality is now with your local chief executives," she said.

Valte said the responsibility of announcing class suspension was given to the local governments because the DepEd, which used to announce the suspension of classes, also gets information from LGUs whether or not to have class suspension in their respective areas.

Valte said they had noticed the numerous complaints aired by the public in various media outfits on the late class suspension yesterday.

She said DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo has vowed to remind LGUs of the new protocol.

Valte said President Aquino is continuing to monitor the weather and flood situation, particularly in Metro Manila and nearby areas.

Classes were suspended in most parts of the metropolis yesterday due to heavy rains which caused flooding in major thoroughfares. Valte, however, said there was no suspension of work in government offices.

Based on the DepEd Order, Signal No. 1 will permit the suspension of classes in public and private pre-school and kindergarten classes in the affected areas while Signal No. 2 allows for the suspension of elementary and secondary classes. At Signal No. 3, classes in all levels are cancelled. LGU officials are supposed to announce cancellation of classes not later than 4:30 a.m. for whole-day cancellation and 11 a.m. for afternoon class suspension.

Meanwhile, two dams in Luzon reached their critical water level due to continuous intense rains over the watershed areas yesterday, the state weather bureau said.

Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) hydrologist Max Peralta said one spillway gate of Ipo Dam in Norzagaray, Bulacan had been releasing excess water since yesterday morning.

As of 11 a.m. yesterday, Ipo Dam's level reached 100.75 meters, or 0.11 meters lower than its spilling level of 100.86 meters.

"Before 10 a.m., two gates were opened. Only one gate remains opened due to less rains over the area," Peralta said.

"Water released from the Ipo dam is at 48 cubic meters per second. This is quite minimal and may not flood the downstream communities near the Angat River," he explained.

Likewise, water level in La Mesa Dam in Quezon City remained critical at 79.52 meters, as of 11 a.m. yesterday. This was 0.63 meters short of the 80.15-meter spilling level.

Dam authorities have already issued a red alert for possible flash floods among communities near the Tullahan River.

Communities that may likely be affected by flooding are Fairview, Forest Hills, Quirino Highway, Papri, Goodwill, Sta. Quiteria, and San Bartolome in Quezon City, Barangay Ligon along North Luzon Expressway in Valenzuela and Malabon.

"We have recorded continuous rains over the watershed area until Tuesday noon. From 12 noon last Monday to 12 noon on Tuesday, 108 mm rains have been recorded, which is considered intense rains," Peralta said.

Meanwhile in Malolos, Bulacan, Liz Mungcal, Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) chief, reported to Bulacan Governor Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado, that at around 7 a.m. yesterday, the Ipo dam began releasing water at 109 cms per second.

Mungcal said as a result the Bustos Dam released 120 cms at around 9 am. also yesterday, adding that this amount of water released was safe and tolerable and would not be felt by the community.

PAGASA-Weather Branch assistant chief Rene Paciente said light to moderate rains will continue to affect Western Luzon today, Wednesday.

"Rains will be scattered and light to moderate as the low pressure area (LPA) continues to move away from the country. Improving weather condition can be expected this Wednesday but Bataan, Zambales, Cavite, Mindoro, Batangas, and Metro Manila will still experience scattered rains," Paciente explained.

"We have experienced moderate to heavy rains early morning on Tuesday until the afternoon, but we can expect that light to moderate rains will prevail on Tuesday evening. Rains will continue to subside until Wednesday," he added.

The LPA was estimated based on satellite and surface data at 60 km northwest of Ambulong, Batangas or 50 km west-southwest of Manila yesterday morning.

Paciente pointed out that the heavy rains were caused by the LPA, "packing more rains than winds."

"Because it does not have enough wind to enhance the southwest monsoon, it was just the LPA that brought rains over Luzon," he pointed out.

He cited that from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. yesterday, rain monitoring stations recorded the highest rainfall in Infanta, Quezon at 48 mm, followed by San Jose, Mindoro (42 mm), Casiguran, Aurora (39 mm), Tanay, Rizal (25 mm), Science Garden in Quezon City (21 mm), and Baler, Aurora (20 mm).

He said rains measuring 7.5 mm or above is considered heavy rains.

A yellow warning signal was issued in Metro Manila on Tuesday that alerts authorities and residents of continuous light rains.

The Quezon City government also suspended classes in the afternoon in the grade school and high school levels of both private and public schools.

Greg Banacia, chief of the city's Public Affairs and Information Service Office (Paiso), said that the city government has coordinated closely with the Division of City Schools and the 142 barangay disaster risk reduction coordination committee in recommending the suspension of classes throughout the city.

However, some parents raised howls of protest, complaining that the city government and the barangay officials should have made the announcement much earlier.

With the announcement being issued in the afternoon, the parents said their children would now have to wade on flooded streets and faced the risk of being afflicted with flu and similar diseases.

"The rains were strong from 12 a.m. to 8 a.m. Classes should have been suspended the whole day. Now our children are soaking wet and may get sick," one of the parents complained.

Another parent who was passing by Quirino Elementary School in the city's third district said she decided to let her four schoolchildren go home because of the strong rains and flooded streets.

"I do not want to take the risk what with all the news of live electric wires falling onto innocent passers-by and having them electrocuted. I do not want that to happen to my children," the parent said.

Yesterday's heavy rains also forced the cancellation of six domestics flight.

The Media Affairs Division (MAD) of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport recorded three turn-around flight services out of Manila because of the weather disturbance,

As of 12 noon yesterday, the MAD had recorded flight cancellations between Manila and Naga City as well as Manila and Busuanga in Palawan.

The management of Cebu Pacific cancelled a turn-around flight between Manila and Naga and a flight between Manila and Busuanga. At the same time, Air Philippines also cancelled a turn-around flight between Manila and Naga, with both airline companies citing bad weather as the cause of the cancellations.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DoH) warned against the possible upsurge of leptospirosis as floods inundated parts of Metro Manila yesterday.

Leptospirosis is an illness brought about by animal urine that enters the body through the eyes, nose, mouth and open wounds. Leptospirosis is characterized by flu, headache, red eyes, jaundice, and difficulty in urinating that may lead to acute kidney failure. Dialysis is usually given to those who are suffering from acute kidney failure.

"Those who were exposed to contaminated flood waters get sick of leptospirosis one to two weeks later," DoH Assistant Secretary Dr. Eric Tayag said.

"Leptospirosis outbreaks after floods occur within a month and may continue for several months," he added.

According to the Disease Surveillance Report of the DoH, leptospirosis cases from January 1 to May 26 reached 1,728 which is 211.35 percent higher than cases recorded in the same period last year, 555. Cases were highest in Northern Mindanao and Western Visayas. There were 75

deaths reported within the said period.

"Ages of cases ranged from less than two months to 93 years old. Majority of the cases reported were males. Most of the cases belonged to the 21 to 30 years age group," The surveillance said.

"Leptospirosis has low case fatality rate. However, it changes with advancing age and may reach 20 percent more in patients with jaundice (yellowing of the skin) and kidney damage who have not been treated with renal dialysis," the report added.

Leptospirosis without complications can be treated with antibiotics for a week.

Afternoon classes yesterday in Marikina City, Pasig City, Pateros and Taguig City, in both public and private elementary and high schools, have been suspended by local officials due to the continuous rains.

In Marikina City, Paul Sison, chief of the city's Public Information Office (PIO), said Mayor Del De Guzman ordered the suspension of afternoon classes in both public and private schools in pre-school, elementary and high schools in Marikina City, due to the prevailing bad weather.

However, the suspension of classes in the college level was left by the local city government to the discretion of school officials.

According to the PIO, there are a total of 17 public elementary schools 14 public high schools in the city. Private elementary schools numbered 50 while there are 29 private high schools in the city.

The local city government added that despite the continuous rains, the water level at the Marikina River as of 9:15 a.m. Tuesday remained normal.

According to the PIO, the water level at the river was 13.9 meters above sea level based on the data gathered from the alarm gauge located at Barangay Sto. Nino.

Meanwhile in Pasig City, classes in both elementary and high school levels were also suspended by the local city government due to rains.

In Pateros and Taguig City, the schools division superintendent of public schools in both areas also declared the suspension of classes in both public elementary and high schools for the afternoon shift.

Acting Malabon Mayor Antolin Oreta declared the suspension of afternoon classes in most areas brought by flooding that submerged all low-lying areas of the city yesterday. Oreta announced the suspension of classes in 16 elementary schools and two high schools in at least 14 barangays at 10 a.m.

He likewise directed the local Disaster Risk and Reduction Unit to prepare for possible evacuation of families living along danger zones such as in West Riverside, Tullahan River, and Dona Juana Riverside all in Barangay Potrero.

In Rizal province, the rains prompted local officials to suspend classes in schools in their respective localities yesterday.

In Cainta, Mayor Ramon Ilagan ordered the suspension of afternoon classes from preparatory to high school levels for both public and private schools yesterday.

The ACEM Montessori School located at Karangalan Village in Cainta suspended classes ahead of the local government's announcement since the streets outside the school are flood-prone during heavy downpour.

In Antipolo City, Mayor Danilo Leyble ordered the suspension of classes from preparatory up to high school, both private and public before noon yesterday due to heavy rains.

Reli Bernardo, information officer of the Rizal provincial government, said flood-prone localities have been monitored for possible evacuation or assistance by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council upon the directive of Rizal Governor Casimiro "Jun" Ynares, III.

The local disaster management teams of the respective localities have yet to receive reports of untoward incidents as a result of the heavy rains.

Meanwhile, heavy rains that spawned floods in Metro Manila forced the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday to suspend work in all trial courts, the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan and the Court of Tax Appeals starting at 1 p.m.

Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez said the suspension of work was based on a directive issued by Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio.

The SC suspended its work starting at 3 p.m.

According to Marquez, a 2010 administrative order issued by the SC "grants executive judges of trial courts outside Metro Manila to suspend work for their employees in the absence of an announcement from the national or local government and under certain circumstances so long as it is in line with existing rules and procedure."

He said judges have been instructed to report to the SC immediately any damage that may be wrought by the bad weather on court offices, equipment and records, and injuries that may be incurred by court officials and employees.

The Senate was also forced to suspend work due to the heavy rains yesterday.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile issued the order allowing employees of the upper chamber to go home early so as to avoid being trapped by floods that inundated most parts of the metropolis.

Though there were no scheduled public committee hearings, Enrile advised those with transactions at the Senate to postpone their plans.

The Senate also closed public assistance center yesterday. Last year, the Senate was also forced to temporarily stop work due to typhoon Pedring. -with reports from Ellalyn B. De Vera, Freddie C. Velez, Chito A. Chavez, Jenny F. Manongdo, Francis T. Wakefield, Ed Mahilum, Anjo Perez, Rey G. Panaligan, Hannah L. Torregoza, and Nel B. Andrade

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