The country was struck by a devastation brought by Typhoon Ondoy (international codename Ketsana) at the close of September. About 20-25 tropical typhoons pass the country every year, but Ondoy was a wrath. It was the first of its kind since the Great Flood of 1972. Ondoy's rainfall in about 6 hours was good for a 6-month volume. It caused massive flooding. 20 feet of flood waters (about 6 m). About half a million displaced, and more than 200 died. Cost of damage to properties and infrastructure pegged at 5 billion pesos (US$106 million). And while the figures are increasing by the day as official reports continue to come in, the country is again in peril with the coming of stronger typhoons. Environmental officials report of expected massive mudslides and landslides, while health officials warn of disease outbreaks. As a sorrowful reality in disasters, the aftermath is always said to be "disastrous" than the disaster. Catholic leaders are invoking the highest prayer for divine intercession - Oratio Imperata - to shield the country from further destruction.
It is climate change and global warming taking revenge against mankind's utter disregard of environment. No doubt, as Al Gore warned in An Inconvenient Truth, natural disasters are getting worse and ruthless in the 21st century. This crisis, however, is compounded and exacerbated further by systematic inaction of world's governments, including the Philippines.
Resilience among Filipinos is already tried and tested in times of disasters and calamities. It is a reliable Filipino virtue. But the country has to be warned against wasting this virtue into nonchalance, especially among the government officials and leaders of the land.
In its September 29 issue, Time Magazine has appropriately described Ondoy's aftermath. The country has never really did enough preparation, especially long-term mitigation. This is the province of the government, given all its mandate and resources. Click here for the Time report.
We need more calamity and disaster management and preparedness programs in government offices, business and schools. Expand and increase the drills (fire, earthquake, typhoon, flooding, landslides, etc) and clean-up operations. Make it mandatory through school curriculum. Conduct more regular public drill activities done by the military, Red Cross and Boy Scouts. Legislate dedicated appropriations through affirmative laws and ordinances. Improve the drainage systems and waterway facilities. Curb illegal logging and regulate golf courses and posh subdivision construction. Solve the garbage problem. Explore and develop bystander rescue programs, as we also enhance the regular rescue agencies. Most of all, it is of utmost urgency to seriously build the forecasting capacity and resources of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration.
The agency's acronym, PAG-ASA, is crying out loud! It means HOPE in Filipino language. The Philippine government should not rob the Filipinos of the much-needed hope for implementing the necessary reforms in disaster mitigation and management.
The upcoming 2010 elections should be an opportunity for the Filipino people to make the government accountable and press the candidates for categorical disaster programs to defend and promote the people's hope!
Resilience does not lose the hope!
Government's ineptness does!