A SUNNY CHRISTMAS
It will be a sunny Christmas after all as Vinta, which weakened into a tropical depression, is forecast to exit the Philippines today.
State meteorologists lifted storm signal no. 1 in southern Cebu prompting the Philippine Coast Guard in Cebu (PCG-Cebu) late yesterday afternoon to allow some passenger vessels to sail to other islands in the Visayas except those bound for Maasin, Southern Leyte, where seas remained rough.
In an interview with Cebu Daily News, PCG-Cebu officer in charge for operations, Rudolph Alain Benolirao said that fastcraft and ferries bound for the towns of Tubigon, Talibon, Jagna, Getafe and Tagbilaran City in Bohol resumed their trips 5 p.m. yesterday.
Benolirao also said once the storm signal is lifted, the gale warning advisory for ships is also automatically lifted.
“Dili pa gyud pabiyahion ang padung Southern Leyte kanang padung Maasin. Kay affected gihapon sila sa dagkong bawd (Trips to Maasin, Southern Leyte are still grounded because of big waves),” Benolirao said.
Benolirao also said that the trips going to Negros Island remain grounded because it is still under signal no. 1.
He said there were at least 2,700 ship passengers stranded since Thursday due to Vinta.
As of yesterday afternoon, no boats were allowed to leave the ports of Liloan, Santander and Bato, Samboan in Cebu to Sibulan and Tampi Ports in Negros Oriental.
Flights out of Cebu still remain uncertain after being grounded due to the effects of Vinta.
As of 5:30 p.m. yesterday, Cebu Pacific announced that its scheduled flight for Palawan today remains canceled. Philippine Airlines, on the other hand, canceled all their flights to Mindanao, originating from Manila and Cebu yesterday.
Stranded passengers are now rushing to rebook their tickets to take the first flights available out of Cebu to their respective destinations.
Areas that are still under Storm Signal No. 1 are southern Negros Occidental, southern Negros Oriental, and Siquijor in the Visayas, and Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, the western part of North Cotabato, and the northern part of Maguindanao in Mindanao.
The severe weather bulletin issued by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) at 5 p.m.
yesterday spotted the eye of Vinta within the vicinity of Sominot town in Zamboanga del Sur, with winds packing up to 90 kilometers per hour and moving west at 20 kilometers per hour.
Engr. Al Quiblat, bureau chief of Pagasa-Mactan, told Cebu Daily News in a phone interview that Vinta weakened into a tropical depression, and southern Cebu experienced only light to moderate rains yesterday evening.
“This Saturday, Vinta will finally exit Mindanao, and we can see improvement in the weather in the afternoon. By Sunday, its center will be in the seas between Sulu and Palawan. Fair weather will prevail on Christmas Eve and this Christmas Day,” explained Quiblat.
Vinta is expected to exit the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) by Monday afternoon, but will probably gain strength again since it will hover above sea waters, the weather specialist added.
Small fishing boats are advised not to return to sea as yet.
“There will be no rains but the wind still has speed from 30 to 40 kilometers per hour, strong enough to create waves with heights up to 2.5 meters.
Even if Vinta will be out of PAR, its presence, which will intensify once it reaches the sea again, will strengthen the northeast monsoon (hanging amihan) we’re experiencing this month,” said Quiblat.
In anticipation of the effects of Vinta, the Provincial Tourism Office (PTO) suspended tourism activities in the entire southern Cebu until further notice.
Southern Cebu is known for its world-class diving spots in Moalboal, canyoneering in the towns of Badian and Alegria, trekking in the forests of Alcoy, and whale shark watching in Oslob.
PTO also reported that 46 tourists were left stranded in Sumilon Island across on Oslob town as motorized bancas that would have brought them back to mainland Cebu were prohibited from sailing due to rough seas.
The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) said there were no casualties or injuries reported.
In a press conference yesterday, PDRRMO chief Baltazar Tribunalo Jr. said five teams from their office will continue to monitor the situation in the affected areas as well as start gathering information to determine the extent of damage incurred by Vinta.
Tribunalo also said the Capitol, together with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD-7), started distributing food assistance to the more than 500 passengers stranded in the ports of Liloan in Santander, and Bato in Samboan.
On the other hand, the Police Regional Office (PRO-7) stayed on full alert for possible landslides and flooding in the region.
“I directed our deputy chief for operations to activate our search and rescue (SAR) teams of PRO-7,” said Police Regional Director, Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino.
He said that all city and provincial SAR teams are on standby to assist LGUs, adding that the police have enough equipment in case of flooding and landslide.
“The police stations are monitoring their area especially those in mountain and coastal areas,” Espino said.
Meanwhile, as Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña leaves tonight for the United States for his annual medical check-up, he advised everyone, especially those living near flood-prone areas, to prepare.
“If there’s a major typhoon, here’s what you do if there’s no water and no electricity: Don’t buy fresh meat. Consume everything in your refrigerator. You buy plastic bags, not for garbage, but for your electrical appliances because your roof will be blown away and your appliances will get wet. It’s very practical and it’s not expensive. Do all your laundry because you will not have water for several days. That’s the time to take a bath and do all your laundry. Buy flashlights or batteries. Fill up your car with gasoline if you have a car, because the line in the gas stations would be so long,” he said during a press conference.
While Osmeña is away, Vice Mayor Edgar Labella will be the acting mayor. Osmeña said he hopes that Cebu City is safe amid the present weather disturbances.
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