The typhoon is packing maximum sustained winds of 155 km/m (96 mph) and gusts of up to 190 km/h (118 mph) but is forecast to spare the mountainous region a direct hit. Current projections show the typhoon veering northeast toward Taiwan or southern Japan.
Although it's expected to slow down considerably, authorities warned of dangerous tidal surges, flash floods and landslides as it blows past the northernmost province of Batanes from Tuesday to Wednesday. Disaster-preparedness officials said the typhoon's course could change abruptly and there was no room for complacency.
Mawar tore through Guam last week as the strongest typhoon to hit the U.S. Pacific territory in over two decades, flipping cars, tearing off roofs and knocking down power.
Army troops, police, firefighters and volunteer groups were standing by for search and rescue operations in northern provinces and more than a million food packs have been prepared for any contingency, officials said.
More than 4,800 people have been evacuated to emergency shelters in Cagayan, Batanes and other provinces, Alejandro said. He added that the number of the displaced was expected to rise given the precautionary evacuations that were underway Monday in flood- and landslide-prone regions.
Classes and office work, except those involved in disaster-preparedness, have been suspended in most of Cagayan and Batanes provinces, where occasional downpours and gusty wind were reported Sunday night. Flights to and from the provinces have been canceled and fishing and passenger vessels prohibited from sailing.
Villa said the local government lent ropes to villagers living in high-risk communities to strengthen their houses as the typhoon approached.
About 20 typhoons and storms each year batter the Philippine archipelago, which also lies on seismic faults where volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur, making the Southeast Asian nation one of the world's most disaster-prone.
In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened entire villages, swept ships inland, demolished about a million shanties and houses and displaced more than 5 million in one of the country's poorest regions in the central Philippines.