OCTOBER 1, 2006 (STAR) By Aurea Calica - Officials issued appeals to the public yesterday not to panic and refrain from hoarding as the government stepped up efforts to bring back normalcy in areas devastated by typhoon "Milenyo."

Malacañang officials are concerned that chaos might hit the streets if the situation drags on. Residents in areas still without power and water have started flocking to stores to stock up on food, bottled water and other supplies.

"We have to effect rapid normalization," President Arroyo told the National Disaster Coordinating Council and representatives from power retailer Manila Electric Co., National Transmission Corp. and government agencies concerned.

Emergency crews worked nonstop to bring back electricity and clear roads obstructed by trees, billboards and debris blown over by the typhoon.

Mrs. Arroyo wants everything back to normal by middle of next month.

She ordered government-run media organizations to issue regular updates to the public, especially on the work done to restore electricity.

"They need to know where Meralco is now. It should be done by the hour," the President said during the NDCC meeting at Malacañang.

Communication companies are also having problems with their own facilities, disrupting cell phone and Internet services. Mrs. Arroyo even had to personally go to Sorsogon yesterday because the officials could not relay what was happening in the area.

Trade Secretary Peter Favila said the public must be assured that they would have electricity soon and that there was no need to stock up on fuel and supplies.

"There are long queues in gasoline stations and people are buying by the drums for their generators. There is actually no need to do that," Favila said.

Mrs. Arroyo said the government would see to it that supply of rice and other basic commodities would be sufficient.

Meralco president Jesus Francisco said the company would try to restore electricity in Metro Manila this weekend.

Francisco reported to Mrs. Arroyo and the NDCC that 100 percent of circuits in the northern area of Meralco’s service area from Caloocan City to Bulacan have been restored, 60 percent in the central area including Rizal and Metro Manila, and 47 percent in the south.

He said they are having the most problems in areas in the south such as Muntinlupa City and the provinces of Batangas and Quezon because of the devastation caused by Milenyo.

"But we have to make it clear that when say the circuits are restored 100 percent, it does not mean that electricity is back, especially in residential areas, because it is only the circuits that were repaired," Francisco said.

Two-thirds of Metro Manila have been without power since Thursday when Milenyo slashed across Central Luzon on its way to the South China Sea.

Mrs. Arroyo is exasperated with the progress and ordered things speeded up.

She also ordered the military, the Philippine National Police, local governments to ensure law and order. "We need the PNP and all the barangay tanod (village watchers) to keep their guard up because the electric wires are being stolen. They should secure the electric wires, transformers and electric posts."

Mrs. Arroyo said this was also delaying efforts to bring back electricity.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the government will make an assessment today and determine if government offices and schools can reopen tomorrow.

Ermita said the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration warned yesterday that another typhoon might hit the Bicol Region and Luzon, including Metro Manila, between tomorrow and Wednesday.

Some schools had to be repaired first due to damage caused by Milenyo’s strong winds and rain.

Mrs. Arroyo said the school buildings must be safe and sound before students would resume classes.

"The Department of Public Works and Highways will inspect all the school buildings. We will be asking the provincial government to submit their provincial rehabilitation plan," Mrs. Arroyo said.

Some roads still do not have traffic lights working because of the power outage, causing bottlenecks.

Businesses have the discretion whether to reopen or not, Ermita said.

GMA seeks full restoration of power supply in Metro Manila in 48 hours 09/30 5:20:09 PM

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo directed Saturday the different government agencies and private parties involved in the relief, rescue and rehabilitation operations in the wake of typhoon Milenyo to effect the full restoration of power supply in Metro Manila within the next 24 to 48 hours.

"We have to effect rapid normalization in Metro Manila and other areas. Rapid normalization, that is our primary goal now," she said.

The President made this directive during the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) meeting this morning at Malacañang’s Aguinaldo State Dining Room, as the country braced for another approaching weather disturbance.

The weather forecasting center Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) reported that a new monsoon forming 1,500 kilometers east of the Bicol region is moving towards Northern Luzon. It is expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility tomorrow (Sunday).

The President convened the NDCC meeting this morning shortly before flying to Sorsogon to assess the damage wrought by typhoon Milenyo on agriculture, government facilities, private establishments and households in the Bicol region.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Jesus Francisco, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), reported that the power firm is doing everything possible to restore power in all parts of Metro Manila by midnight tonight.

Ermita said electricity has been fully restored in the areas north of Metro Manila, from Malabon City to Bulacan while 60 percent of the power supply was back between Alabang and Manila, although only 47 percent of the power supply from Alabang going to Cavite and Batangas had been restored as of this morning.

"The effort is to have Metro Manila energized within the day," he said.

The President’s instruction is to make sure that operations of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) are back on track soonest to ensure the smooth flow of mass transit traffic and help commuters using MRT and LRT, Ermita said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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