With the deluge of disaster images and pleas for rescue during the height of the recent widespread flooding, it did not feel good to be safely stuck at home. I wanted to go out and help but was immobilized, thinking that I might even end up becoming part of the problem.
Questions ran through my head. Why should our people suffer? Is this inevitable? If such rains would now form part of our lives because of climate change, what should we do to at least mitigate its effects?
It was incredibly absurd that some attributed the disaster to God’s wrath over the House of Representatives’ vote ending the debates on the reproductive health bill. But then, what can we expect when some legislators perform their duties guided by such beliefs as “the number six is the devil’s number”?
I do not wish to make fun of people’s religious beliefs but sometimes, they become so extreme that the line between religion and superstition disappears. One ends up chuckling at the stupidity of some remarks.
On the contrary, the loss and distress of our people are heartbreaking— more than two million affected, tens of thousands needing rescue and evacuation, lives lost, homes and livelihood destroyed. For them, starting anew is a huge challenge.
Jen only reached the second grade and was a child laborer in one Negros Occidental hacienda. She worked in our home for some years before marrying a young carpenter. Though unschooled, Jen is trustworthy and possessed an innate intelligence, thus, we employed her.
Ondoy destroyed her Marikina house and just as her family was recovering, the recent flooding hit them again. Barely able to escape with nothing saved except the clothes on their backs, she now wonders how to start anew.
Jen has one child. Multiply this story by tens of thousands and imagine how more difficult it will be for families with many young children.
We hail the Filipino’s resiliency and never-say-die spirit. We praise our bayanihan tradition. And rightly so. But I say, never again should our people be subjected to such suffering!
How? It will not be easy. Earlier similar disasters failed to make us learn the hard lessons.
I agree that the culture of preparedness is good. But as in other things, prevention is as, if not more important.
There are things that ordinary people can do like putting garbage in bins and not on streets, trash segregation, composting, recycling and reusing things, drastically cutting down on using plastic, politically-correct consumerism, planting instead of cutting trees and plants, water and power conservation, etc.
Small and simple acts done by many will impact positively on preventing the repeat of disasters.
Beyond these, however, we need the government, both local and national, to do difficult, complex, and expensive but strategic solutions and preventive measures.
I don’t claim expertise on this. My ideas are borne out of self-study, observation, and limited knowledge on how things work, or do not work. Still, I would like to add my voice to those searching for strategic solutions to prevent or mitigate effects of calamities.
For one, the :”pwede na yan” attitude should go. For instance, that asphalted utility holes issue should not have happened. In all government and government-approved projects, extra care should be taken on their possible impact not only on the environment but on people when typhoons, earthquakes, and similar natural calamities occur.
I am fully aware that this means fighting the corruption that goes with deals on and in implementing projects.
The Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, R.A. 10121, is a good law that needs to be STRICTLY and FULLY implemented.
Needless to say, environmental degradation must be arrested and efforts to rehabilitate need strengthening. Mother nature is a very good friend but a fierce enemy. She punishes everyone, not only those who hurt her.
Whatever happened to the National Land Use bill that’s been in Congress for many years? We need a PLAN on how we use our lands. And this should respect our natural terrain. Areas not fit for residential use should be reserved for other things.
This is going to be extremely hard because some villages are in some of these areas and still others are occupied by informal settlers. But if we don’t do this, more lives will be sacrificed and entire communities, destroyed.
As a student of Philippine history, I learned that the city of Manila and its environs were and are, NOT solid tracts of land. They are islands separated by natural bodies of water. The 1905 Burnham Manila plan obviously respected our waterways because these would prevent floods. They naturally flow out to the rivers, bays, seas and eventually, the ocean.
But what did we do? We covered and built on some. We still have many though. When you go around the Metro, look for the creeks and you’ll be amazed at how many we have. But be prepared to also be disgusted at how much garbage they carry. A massive clean up is necessary to make them live again and help minimize flooding.
Infrastructures such as flood ways, better drainage system, etc. are needed. The Department of Public Works and Highways says it has a flood prevention program plan but it will be expensive and needs five years to complete. I am all for national government and experts looking into this, and if good, to immediately embark on it.
Lastly, Metro Manila is too congested as people from the provinces continue to flock here in search of a better life. The long-term solution is to develop the rural areas. Balance industrialization with modernized agriculture and livelihood will be created. There will be less reasons to go to the metro and those here who are without employment may be encouraged to go back to their provinces.
Big dreams, I know. But these are doable.
Never again should millions of our people suffer!
firstname.lastname@example.org and @bethangsioco on Twitter