Of heroes and the incompetents in Manila’s floods
By Dionesio C. Grava
It is said that experience is the best teacher. So why is it that each time heaven opens up and flooding occurs everyone appears unprepared including the fat bureaucrats who seem to be facing a crisis for the first time? How many more calamities would have to devastate so many of our people before lessons are learned and a functioning system set up? Ondoy with its many victims and destruction is a recent memory. Have we learned from it? Have our bloated officialdom any wiser from these seasonal disasters aggravated by the people’s follies?
The region is in a typhoon path and it is a given that when the rains come-a-calling silted rivers and clogged arteries conspire with high tides to cause water to overflow turning roads into virtual canals. Rivers need to be widened but hundreds of thousands are building their homes on the banks of waterways and throw refuse on the water. Are their rules and laws that define people’s conduct in order to safeguard the health and safety of the community?
It’s over a week now since heavy rains inundated most of Metro Manila causing unimaginable destruction and sufferings. More than 50 lives are reported lost and hundreds of thousands of residents scurried for higher grounds or to evacuation centers. Although these flooding will soon ebb, the sufferings will linger a little longer. It will even cause to make life much more difficult for many permanently. Lost memories, lost love ones. The cleaning of debris and the rebuilding of homes and lives. Diseases are feared to follow.
During a recent Senate hearing Senator Loren Legarda bared that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has committed to change certain phases of their flood control in response to a geologist’s revelation that the entire Metro Manila is sinking fast. It turned out that Dr. Fernando Siringan had informed the DPWH about such finding in the past but department officials did not follow scientists’ suggestion to widen the rivers to address the issue of flooding.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Floor Leader Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday denounced the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) for incompetence causing the so-called “MMDA-made floods.” He wanted an investigation on why MMDA headed by anti-flood czar Francis Tolentino failed to supply needed fuel to water pumps, which engineers requested 21 days before the flooding occurred.
Officials responsible for flood control and emergency services will convey the appearance of busybodies when the water recedes. There will be promises about flood-mitigating systems to be constructed and adequate rescue equipments acquired to minimize sufferings and destructions next time. The squatters occupying what used to be open canals and riverbanks and creeks will be resettled. In fact the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) had already come up with plans to centralize evacuation centers and designated M. Manila into four flood zones.
And so people will be assured once more of changes to be made and a sense of security conjured. But when the rains inundate the capital again the same scenario of destruction and deaths and people desperately clinging to trees or in the rooftops for days would be back in the news. Hastily commandeered rubber boats and rafts toyed by the swift current would have hard times reaching victims. Many of the marooned would be left hungry and shivering in the cold — scenes of desperation and worse.
HEROES. It seems that during the first hours of each disaster the people themselves employ their own devices just to survive. Courageous rescuers would be in the frontlines helping fellowmen in distress. Personnel of TV and radio networks help maintain a semblance of sanity connecting people to anxious kin and directing authorities and rescuers to those needing urgent attention.
Also to be lauded to high heavens are the instantaneous assistance from people and organizations in neighboring areas and internationally. The Philippine Embassy informed that numerous Filipino-American organizations in the Washington, D.C. area such as the Filipino Cultural Association of the University of Maryland College Park, the Ateneo Alumni Association of Metropolitan Washington D.C., the regional office of ANCOP Foundation USA, Feed the Hungry, Inc., and the Asia America Initiative are taking part in relief efforts to help the flood victims.
In California, ABS CBN Foundation International is also soliciting contributions. So are Apd.de.ap Foundation and the Search to Involve Pilipino Americans. Attendees to the Pistahan sa CBS Studio Center on August 25 will be allowed free admission if they prefer to donate.
Friends, sympathetic governments and charitable groups everywhere are constant reminders that compassion continues to be a pillar of hope for people in need. There are angels deserving of our gratitude.