Typhoon Ambo threatens COVID-weary communities, modifications to current response strategies required

OML Center joins ABS-CBN – Bantay Kalikasan for Earth Day Climate Change 101 Webinar
May 13, 2020
Response and recovery to prevent climate-health system chaos
May 22, 2020
Show all

Typhoon Ambo threatens COVID-weary communities, modifications to current response strategies required


  • In the midst of a global pandemic, Typhoon Ambo (international name: Vongfong), the first named tropical cyclone of the Northwestern Pacific Basin typhoon season for 2020, is threatening the lives and livelihoods of many across the Eastern Visayas and Luzon.
  • As the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold with no end in sight, the incoming active typhoon season in the country ushers in additional risks.
  • Typhoon Ambo poses additional challenges to Filipinos by creating more demand on an already strained healthcare system and on disaster preparedness and management structures.
  • National government agencies, local government units (LGUs), civil society organizations and the business sector must focus on modifying current response strategies to increase the resilience of our people.
  • Adapting to multiple hazards requires that we develop solutions holistically, maximizing synergy while minimizing conflicts.

Fast Facts

Typhoon Ambo

Updated: 1200H, 15 May 2020

Location: in the vicinity of Catanuan, Quezon
Maximum wind speed: 125kph
Gustiness: up to 165 kph
Forecast movement: NW @ 20 kph

Typhoon Ambo (international name: Vongfong) maintained its strength and is now over the vicinity of Canatanuan, Quezon moving northwest at 20 kph. It has a maximum sustained winds of 125 kph and gustiness of up to 165 kph. It is expected to weaken as it interacts with the mountain ranges of Luzon (PAGASA, 11AM). 

Compared to earlier forecasts, the latest PAGASA and JMA (Japan) track forecasts show a westward shift in TY Ambo’s track. It is expected to traverse from western Camarines Sur to Infanta, Quezon, cross Luzon, then emerge around Ilocos Sur,  It will then move northward along the western coast of northern Luzon

TY Ambo will continue to bring moderate to heavy (up to at times intense) rains over Bicol, Quezon, and east-central Luzon.  Destructive winds are expected over these areas today. Significant rainfall is expected over north-central Luzon from tonight to Saturday morning. Light to at times moderate rain in Metro Manila tonight until tomorrow morning. 

Other parts of the country will have clear to partly cloudy skies with isolated thunderstorms and rain showers today.


As of 4 PM of May 14, 2020, the Department of Health reports 258 new cases nationwide; National Capital Region with 188 new cases, Region 7 with 16 new cases and 54 new cases from different Regions.

There are 11,876 total number of COVID-19 cases in the country — 8,749 of which are active, 2,337 already recovered, and 790 fatalities.

The following areas are still under enhanced community quarantine until May 15, 2020. 

  • National Capital Region 
  • Region III Central Luzon (excluding Province of Aurora) 
  • Region IV-A (CALABARZON) 
  • The Province of Pangasinan
  • The Province of Benguet 
  • Baguio City
  • The Province of Cebu
  • Cebu City 
  • Davao City

Combined Risks and Respites

The worst impacts of Typhoon Ambo will be felt across most parts of Eastern Visayas and Luzon where around 9,470 COVID-19 cases are being treated and monitored. Typhoon Ambo will also bring additional challenges to over 73% of COVID-19 test sites, quarantine facilities, and hospitals hosting COVID-19 cases in terms of availability of and access to medicines, Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), and potential damage to physical assets (DOH, 13 May 2020).

Map showing TY Ambo’s track (Source: Joint Typhoon Warning Center – JTWC, 15 May 2020) with the number of COVID-19 cases at the provincial level. Inset map is for COVID-19 cases in the different cities/municipalities in the National Capital Region (Source: DOH, 13 May 2020)

Around eight million people or 1.46 million households are estimated to be potentially exposed to Typhon Ambo’s destructive winds and significant amounts of rainfall (PDC, 2020). Areas along the coastlines of eastern Visayas and eastern Luzon are highly exposed to potential storm surge, while those living along floodplains are exposed to flooding, and those in steepy slopes are exposed to landslides. 

In addition to the already disrupted supply and consumption patterns brought about by the enforced quarantine in many areas in Luzon and Visayas, our sources of agricultural food are at risk of damage due to Typhoon Ambo. Our farmers and fisherfolks potentially face losses in income and livelihood. About 57,000 square kilometers of croplands can be potentially damaged due to flooding, landslides, storm surge and destructive winds brought by Typhoon Ambo.

Map showing TY Ambo’s track  (Source: JTWC, 15 May 2020) with potentially exposed croplands due to heavy rains, strong winds, potential flooding/landslide, and storm surges (Source of  Land Cover Data: PhilGIS)

Further disruptions and damages may be expected, particularly to the manufacturing and transportation sectors due to TY Ambo. The impacts will most likely be felt on the production and supply of goods necessary in our response to COVID-19, due to potential damages in transportation infrastructure like roads, bridges, seaports and airports; they may result in delays in delivery and changes in logistics of the distribution of raw materials and products, or further adjustments to a reduced workforce challenged by transportation to, through and from typhoon-affected areas; among others. These impacts relate to accessibility and availability of transportation, two dimensions of transport resilience that when threatened or compromised may result in a weakened transport system (Babiano, 2018).

On a more positive note, Typhoon Ambo will bring in some much needed rain in most parts of the country. Also, in the past, the passage of a typhoon triggered the onset of the southwest monsoon; this may bring milder temperatures particularly in the western sections of the country, a reprieve from the heat. However, too much rain falling in a short period of time poses high risks of flooding and landslides in some areas.

Although there is still no conclusive evidence to show that weather and climate have a direct influence on COVID-19 transmission (WHO, 2020), a group of researchers in Indonesia suggested a correlation between temperature and the number of COVID-19 cases (Tosepu et.al. 2020). Another study also looked at wind as a potential factor in virus transmissions (O’Reilly et. al. 2020). The direct or indirect relationship of climate with occurrence and spread of diseases is an area of study that needs to be further explored. 

Notwithstanding, weather- and climate-related events like Typhoon Ambo and climate change in general may have an indirect effect on how we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Insights: Immediate Term

Preparedness: Because of the undue mental and financial stress brought about by COVID-19 to Filipino families, communities and local government units (LGUs), early warning systems and quick actions are needed. Local quarantine guidelines and policies, particularly those that mandate a schedule of services or access to public goods may need to provide further contingencies for times and days that will be affected by typhoon disturbances that may prevent people from going out. Households will have to plan for longer stretches of periods in maintaining their household supplies to “save for a rainy day.”

Evacuation: On top of the known challenges in evacuation pre-COVID-19, LGUs will have the additional challenge of  ensuring evacuees observe COVID-19 protocols, such as social distancing, practicing proper hygiene practices, providing safe spaces, and avoiding additional risk to the elderly, PWDs, and children.

Response and Relief: With the rainy season approaching, the rains present additional challenges to the government’s delivery of social services. Relief goods may need to be properly sealed to protect against the rain, while distribution may be further delayed. Setting up plastic chairs outside homes for relief goods may not be enough. Long lines for claiming SAP and other forms of assistance will need to be under some form of protection from rain, to prevent further health complications. Tents and other tent-like arrangements that serve as temporary housing for medical professionals and other service providers, or as recovery facilities for COVID-19 patients have to be secured from rains, damaging winds and potential flooding.

These are but some of the adjustments we may have to make in what is still a shifting “new normal” brought about by the COVID-19 situation. The government will need to quickly review its most recent quarantine pronouncements and guidelines to ensure climate responsiveness alongside health and economic concerns. Although dealing with multiple hazards come with complications, building resilience need not be.

Next in this special series

Part 2 of this series will focus on the impact of Typhoon Ambo on communities and elaborate on medium- and long-term preparedness, adaptation and resilience strategies that local and national government units should take into consideration.

Part 3 of this series will highlight the intersections of climate change, future tropical cyclones and pandemics, and how we can promote more holistic and resilient systems.

Read a previously published advisory on preparedness: “Achieving a level of preparedness for disasters”.