Brace for ‘Pablo,’ Aquino warns residents

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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'This typhoon is no joke,' the President says the night before Typhoon Pablo makes landfall on Surigao del Sur

MANILA, Philippines – His Cabinet standing beside him, President Benigno Aquino III himself on Monday evening, December 3, led the call to prepare for serious disaster on the eve of the full onslaught of Typhoon Pablo (international codename: Bopha). 

Hindi po biro itong bagyong papasok na ‘to. Malakas na ho ang hangin, napakarami pa ng tubig na ibubuhos sa atin,” Aquino said as Pablo, which will make landfall on Surigao del Sur on Tuesday, December 4, maintained its strength based on the latest state weather update. (This typhoon is no joke. It packs strong winds and pours heavy rain.)

The President noted Pablo will likely make landfall between 4 to 6 am on Tuesday, December 4. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) expects this to happen in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur. 

PAGASA has placed at least 10 areas under Storm Warning Signal No 3, including the two Surigao provinces.

Aquino said some residents doubt if there is a typhoon in the first place. He said residents, for example, cite the sunny weather in their areas, echoing an observation by disaster officials who earlier said people hesitate to evacuate.

Pablo is 600 kilometers in diameter, according to Aquino, and what people see likely covers only 25 miles. “Maliit na maliit po ‘yan,” he said. (That is a very narrow view.)

Aquino thus urged affected residents to evacuate as soon as search and rescue teams, as well as their local government units, advise them to. (Watch more in the video below.)

Sumunod na tayong agaran, at huwag maghintay na pangatlo, pang-apat, o panlimang bisita pa nila bago pa tayo lumagay sa mas secure na lugar,” Aquino said. (Let us heed their calls immediately, and not wait until their third, fourth, or fourth visit before we transfer to secure location.)

Once criticized for supposedly missing in action during disaster, Aquino enumerated the preparations by government agencies for Pablo:

  • The Department of Social Welfare and Development has prepositioned relief goods in key areas
  • The Armed Forces of the Philippines has prepositioned search and rescue vehicles in locations closest to affected areas
  • The Philippine National Police is ready to assist in search and rescue and evacuation, as well as in the clearing of roads
  • The Department of Public Works and Highways has prepositioned heavy equipment in areas whose roads usually get damaged during disaster
  • The Philippine Coast Guard, under the Department of Transportation and Communication, has banned seacraft from going out to sea

Earlier on Monday, the Department of the Interior and Local Government said it has activated monitoring teams in regions that Pablo will hit hardest. 

‘Don’t compare to Sendong’

In a separate press briefing, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council executive director Benito Ramos discouraged the media from comparing Pablo to Tropical Storm Sendong, which killed over 1,470 and affected over a million other Filipinos in 2011. (Watch more about Sendong below.)

“Let’s give a chance for our people to discern (the information). So I will not give them unnecessary alarm,” Ramos said. 

Sendong sustained maximum sustained winds of 100 km/h while Pablo is packing winds of 175 km/h, based on PAGASA’s 5 pm update.

Ramos said mountains in its path – such as Mt Diwata and Mt Diwalwal – could also further weaken Pablo. The typhoon, previously packing winds of 185 km/h, already weakened overnight. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email