The Philippines shut financial markets along with government offices and schools in Manila and nearby provinces after heavy rains led to what may emerge as the capital’s worst flood in three years.
Central bank Governor Amando Tetangco said there will be no clearing and trading today, while Philippine Stock Exchange and Philippine Dealing & Exchange Corp. heads said in separate mobile-phone messages they suspended trading. President Benigno Aquino ordered the suspension of work and classes at all levels as the civil defense chief said the capital’s floods may hit levels reached when Typhoon Ketsana struck in September 2009.
The latest flood in the country regularly battered by cyclones that form over the Pacific Ocean follows criticism of the government’s lack of preparation for such calamities and may add strain on the nation’s economic growth. The damage due to typhoons and other calamities in 2011 reached 59.2 billion pesos ($1.42 billion), Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan told lawmakers yesterday.
“Agriculture will take a hit, especially if the storm worsens and damage spreads to the rice growing areas,” said Radhika Rao, an economist at Forecast Pte. in Singapore. “We could see inflation head higher in the third quarter. The central bank will be mindful of loosening in September.”
The central bank last month cut interest rates a third time this year to a record low, as easing inflation gives policy makers scope to spur economic growth that led Southeast Asia at 6.4 percent in the first quarter. Standard & Poor’s last month raised the country’s debt rating to BB+, one level below investment grade, citing improved prospects for economic growth.
Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (TEL) and Globe Telecom Inc. (GLO) canceled briefings on their second-quarter results today. The government’s statistics office also deferred the July inflation report, without providing a new date.
The latest flood comes after Storm Saola killed 53 people in the Philippines and damaged more than 400 million pesos worth of farm output and infrastructure, the nation’s disaster risk reduction agency reported on its website today.
In December, Aquino ordered a probe of the government’s response to the most lethal tropical storm to hit the country in three years as the death toll exceeded 1,000. Typhoon Ketsana flooded Manila and parts of Luzon, killing more than 400 people.
“This could be as bad as Ketsana if the floods persist until tonight,” Civil Defense Chief Benito Ramos said by phone. “Right now, it’s a long way from that level.”
The local weather bureau said it had issued a “red warning signal” for Metro manila, which experienced heavy to torrential rain of 16 millimeters (0.6 inch) to 40 millimeters an hour from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. local time today, and was expected to continue in the next two hours. “Residents in high-risk areas are advised to take precautionary measures and watch out for the next warning,” it said on its Twitter account.
In Quezon City in the Greater Manila, the storm dumped 221.7 millimeters of rain overnight from 8 p.m. yesterday to 8 a.m. today, the weather bureau reported. By contrast, Typhoon Ketsana dumped 341 millimeters of rain in six hours.
Heavy rains in recent days caused rivers and dams near the capital to rise, Office of Civil Defense director Susana Cruz said. Thousands have been evacuated. Monsoon rains will continue until tomorrow, Fernando Cada, a forecaster at the weather bureau told DZMM radio.
The government has dispatched military trucks and rubber boats to rescue residents in heavily flooded areas, Ramos said, without specifying the number of people evacuated.
In Marikina City and San Mateo town, residents were evacuated as early as last night as the Marikina river overflowed, he told DZMM. Neck-deep floods were reported in Las Pinas and Paranaque cities and waist-deep in the Caloocan, Malabon and Navotas areas, he said.
Water reached the second floor of some houses in Quezon City, Ramos said on the radio broadcast. Flooding was also reported in the provinces of Laguna, Bulacan, Bataan and Pampanga, he said.