MANILA, Philippines — A severe tropical storm (international name Jongdari) intensified as it moved farther from the Philippine area of responsibility, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

As of 3 p.m. yesterday, the center of Jongdari was estimated at 1,890 kilometers east of extreme Northern Luzon.

Jongdari would have been named Karding had it entered the country.

With maximum sustained winds of 100 kilometers per hour near the center and gustiness of up to 120 kph, Jongdari is expected to move east-northeast at 10 kph.

The state weather bureau said a new low-pressure area was spotted in the vicinity of San Nicolas, Batangas yesterday.

PAGASA said Batangas, Cavite, Palawan, Mindoro and Western Visayas will have cloudy skies with scattered rains and thunderstorms due to the low-pressure area and southwest monsoon affecting the western section of Luzon and the Visayas.

Metro Manila and the rest of the country will have partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rains due to localized thunderstorms.

Flood deaths

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) listed nine deaths in widespread flooding and landslides in Luzon and parts of the Visayas due to heavy rains in the past several days.

The Departments of the Interior and Local Government and Health are validating reports that 20 others died due to flooding in Luzon.

The families of the fatalities are entitled to P10,000 in cash assistance from the government.

The NDRRMC said initial damage to agriculture and infrastructure in Ilocos, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa,   Western Visayas and the Cordilleras was placed at P1.4 billion.

Price freeze

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) reminded business establishments that a price freeze on basic goods and commodities is in effect in areas under a state of calamity.

A state of calamity was declared in Marilao and Paombong towns in Bulacan, Licab and Nampicuan in Nueva Ecija, Masantol in Pampanga, Olongapo City, Bataan as well as Ramos, La Paz, Camiling, Moncada and Victoria in Tarlac.

“Under Republic Act 7581 or the Price Act, prices of basic goods and commodities are frozen or held at prevailing prices … once an area is placed under a state of calamity. The price freeze is effective for a minimum of 60 days unless revoked by the President,” DTI regional director Judith Angeles said.

Angeles said violators face fines ranging from P5,000 to P2 million and imprisonment of up to 15 years.

She said price manipulation is tantamount to hoarding, profiteering and cartel.

Angeles said the President could also impose a price ceiling upon the recommendation of the Price Coordinating Council.

She appealed to consumers not to resort to panic buying. – With Jaime Laude, Ding Cervantes, Bebot Sison