Philippine Offices Reopen as Fifth of Manila Still Submerged

Philippine financial markets and offices reopened today even as a fifth of the Manila region remained under water after the worst flood in three years.

The weather bureau dropped its rainfall warning to yellow, the lowest in its three-step color-coded system that moves up to green and red. The capital may see rainfall of up to 15 millimeters (0.6 inches) in an hour, it said on its website. That compares with as much as 40 millimeters yesterday.

Yesterday’s deluge killed at least 15 people on the main Philippine island of Luzon and forced 130,000 to flee their homes, according to police and disaster officials. Flooding crippled transport links in the capital, forcing the closure of schools and offices. The downpour was enhanced by the effect of Tropical Storm Haikui lashing China, the weather bureau said.

About 20 percent of Metro Manila, an area half the size of Los Angeles, remains submerged, down from about 50 percent yesterday, Civil Defense chief Benito Ramos told reporters. “Every time there are floods, we evacuate people then we bring them back,” Ramos said.“They should be relocated to higher ground to solve this problem once and for all.”

The latest flood comes after Storm Saola earlier this month killed 53 people in the Philippines and damaged more than 400 million pesos ($9.6 million) worth of farm output and infrastructure, the nation’s disaster risk reduction agency reported on its website. While the Philippines is regularly battered by cyclones that form over the Pacific Ocean, rain in the past few days was due to the annual monsoon and not a storm, Ramos said.

Shanghai Storm

As the Philippine capital mopped up, Haikui made landfall south of China’s Shanghai, lashing the region with heavy rainstorms and canceling flights of the nation’s three largest airlines.

The China Meteorological Administration said today that Haikui, the third typhoon to hit China in a week, had poured 350 millimeters to 434 millimeters of rain in Xiangshan, Ninghai and Taizhou of Zhejiang province since this morning. Average rainfall in the eastern portion of Zhejiang has been more than 100 millimeters, it said.

Yesterday’s flooding brought renewed criticism of the Philippines’ efforts to prepare for natural disasters.

“They shouldn’t just respond to crises, they should prepare for them,” Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform in Manila said by phone. While President Benigno Aquino’s administration bought Doppler radar and enhanced forecasting, little improvement has been made to infrastructure, Casiple said.

Stores Open

“People shouldn’t wait for floods to rise up to their necks before they evacuate,” Ramos told reporters. “They should heed warnings from local government officials. They should understand that rescuers are also at risk especially at night.”

Typhoon Ketsana flooded Manila and parts of Luzon in September 2009, killing more than 400 people, and causing crop and other losses of 11 billion pesos. The damage caused by typhoons and other disasters in 2011 reached 59.2 billion pesos, Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan told lawmakers this week.

SM Prime Holdings Inc. (SMPH), the Philippines’ biggest shopping mall operator, said all its 44 outlets will open today and none were flooded, Cora Guidote, senior vice president at SM Investments Corp. (SM), the parent company, said by phone.

After a delay of a day due to the flooding, the National Statistics Office said inflation accelerated to 3.2 percent in July from a year earlier, up from 2.8 percent in June and a faster pace than economists surveyed by Bloomberg predicted.

The peso rose 0.1 percent to 41.792 per dollar at the noon break, according to Tullett Prebon Plc. (TLPR) The Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) Index gained 0.6 percent to 5,315.38. The yield on the 4.625 percent July 2017 bond fell five basis points to 4.55 percent, data from Tradition Financial Services showed.

Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV) and unit Aboitiz Power Corp. (AP) scrapped their analyst briefing on second-quarter results today.

To contact the reporters on this story: Clarissa Batino in Manila at cbatino@bloomberg.net; Joel Guinto in Manila at jguinto1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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