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A Disaster Waiting to Happen

by Echo Park Community Coalition (EPCC) Monday, Oct. 12, 2009 at 2:28 PM
epcc_la@hotmail. com 213-241-0906 1740 W. Temple St. Los Angeles, Ca 90026

The tremendous outpouring of love, brotherhood and assistance by our compatriots in the United States to all our “kababayans” whose lives have been devastated by Typhoon Ondoy captures the essence of our Bayanihan spirit. True to our Filipino core values, organizations, institutions and individuals of various political persuasions bonded together and in their own unique and creative ways extended immediate assistance to our brothers and sisters and continue their plans for long term relief . Most recently, President Obama expressed his “deep condolences for the loss of life and devastation caused by recent storms in the Philippines”. “As part of this effort, the U.S Agency for International Development, has so far allocated .8 million to respond to the disaster.”

EPCC News

October 11, 2009

EDITORIAL

By: Arnedo S. Valera, Esquire



A disaster waiting to happen



Washington DC--- The tremendous outpouring of love, brotherhood and assistance by our compatriots in the United States to all our “kababayans” whose lives have been devastated by Typhoon Ondoy captures the essence of our Bayanihan spirit. True to our Filipino core values, organizations, institutions and individuals of various political persuasions bonded together and in their own unique and creative ways extended immediate assistance to our brothers and sisters and continue their plans for long term relief .



Most recently, President Obama expressed his “deep condolences for the loss of life and devastation caused by recent storms in the Philippines”. “As part of this effort, the U.S Agency for International Development, has so far allocated .8 million to respond to the disaster.”



In a crisis of this magnitude, all forms of humanitarian assistance and donations from the international community should be welcomed. The Philippine government needs to lay an environment to make the flow of goods and monies to the beneficiaries easier, with less red tape and without burdensome taxes being imposed even if these donations do not pass the DSWD accreditation.



But the most important perspective right now is to draw lessons from this disaster and reflect on the concrete experiences of our “kababayans “ so we can regroup and adopt alternative courses of actions in order to address the causal effects of this kind of calamity. We need to do this as a peoples and as a nation. To this end, we are sharing our reflection and analysis:



It was a sight never seen in the Philippines in recent decades: whole villages under water, human corpses lying along drainages and tunnels, vast swathes of fields and highways inundated. The human toll was high, scores of persons remain missing, property losses total PhP8.3 billion at the latest count.



The widespread devastation wrought by Typhoon Ondoy on Sept. 26 in major parts of Luzon, including Metro Manila, where up 15 to million people live and work, was portentous that more and bigger disasters will take place in the years ahead. Climate change is creating havoc in the Philippines: Dry season is longer but wet season brings bigger volumes of rainfall. Parts of Manila are flooded even on rainless days – a sign that tide is getting higher causing rivers to swell even more.



It is an irony that a country which used to pride itself with having one of the greatest bio-diversities in the world has increasingly become a disaster area. Lying in a major earthquake ring with active volcanoes, the Philippines is visited by at least 20 typhoons a year. In recent months, small twisters have hit several towns including Metro Manila knocking down trees and homes in their paths – something unheard of in the past.



More alarming, however, is that losses in terms of human lives, economic destruction, damage to infrastructures, buildings, and other property have mounted in recent decades. Man-made disasters have aggravated the adverse effects of natural calamities. Industrial pollution and toxic wastes have made many rivers biologically dead. Mining operations, land-use conversions, proliferation of malls and subdivisions, forest denudation, urban poor demolitions, and other forms of development aggression have resulted in mounting losses compared to natural calamities. There is food and water crisis in towns that are most vulnerable to man-made disasters.



It used to be that low-lying, coastal communities and other villages located in hazardous zones occupied by hundreds and thousands of poor families are hardest hit by both natural- and man-made calamities. Now, it’s no longer the case as evidenced by the losses wrought by Ondoy: even middle-income villages went under water forcing their residents to join the armies of evacuees who used to come mainly from depressed areas. Ondoy left thousands of cars, vans, and other vehicles soiled with mud, sometimes beyond repair.



But probably an even worse disaster is that the national government has reportedly dried up its reserve funds for calamities. There are allegations that hundreds of millions of calamity funds were siphoned off to finance presidential trips and lavish dinners. Every year, millions of dollars in foreign aid earmarked for calamity are unaccounted for. Last week, Arroyo’s defense secretary begged for international aid for the typhoon victims.



Another thing is the ill-preparedness of the country’s disaster councils. The equipment of the national weather agency, Pag-asa, is not even capable of forecasting the amount of rainfall when typhoon strikes. Dams disgorge excess waters without warning thus catching millions of people unaware and defenseless. The devastation caused by flashfloods in Metro Manila would have been mitigated had a flood control proposal in the late 1970s highlighted by the construction of giant spillways dumping flood waters to the sea been implemented.



For a government such as the Arroyo regime that lacks long-term vision, it is no surprise that addressing disasters or preparing for typhoons is devoid of foresight or strategic plan. For a government with leaders engaged more in the trade of corruption instead of thinking what’s best for the country, disasters, whether natural- or man-mad are merely waiting to happen. #

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