Metro Manila and Habagat: Preparedness for Natural Disasters
The Floods have hit Metro Manila again with waters up to 1.5m high and slowly receding while the rest of the Metropolis is still under water.
There was a suggestion to have all the 17 Mayors of Metro Manila work together and think of the Metro’s problems. At this stage, it is crucial for each mayor to collaborate for a bigger solution, but that option is a hardly possible. The problem with Metro Manila mayors is that they are all petty politicians who are more interested in protecting their political interests and their friend than really solving problems of urban management.
The MMDA is largely toothless and relegated to handling traffic management but even at that, limited according to the whims of particular mayors. It has sometimes an ego-war, with MMDA chief Bayani Fernando and a mayor Jojo Binay (with insecurity trying to prove who’s boss) squabbling over what to do to manage traffic at the corner of C-5 and Kalayaan. How can they be expected to work together on other more contentious issues building permits, sanitation, and what to do with informal settlers?
The result is what we see and experience now: confusion, death and disease. Ondoy and Habagat merely showed the seriousness of the problem. With increasing population in Metro Manila and no solution, it can only get more unbearable each passing year.Climate change is upon us and our country has been unprepared for any severe disaster.
Our country also topped the list of the highest number of people affected by calamities like floods, storms and earthquakes in 2011. There were 1,147,270 Filipinos adversely affected, according to the World Health Organization collaborating center, surpassing Japan’s 368,820. The number of disasters that hit the country in 2011 totaled 33, claiming 1,430 lives. The figures are way higher than China’s 21, India’s 11, Indonesia’s 11, and Japan’s seven. It is reported that disasters cost the country P15 billion every year. Wahlström noted that economic growth in areas vulnerable to disasters around the world could not keep pace with institutional capacity to manage resources and disaster risk reduction.
According to Rappler, the UN official observed during her visit to Sendong-devastated Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, that many “municipalities lack practical experience on how to plan (for disaster risk reduction), how to prepare and how to keep it going.” This, she said, is the biggest gap on the ground. For all practical purposes, the inadequacy of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro in responding to floods is also true in Metro Manila, the seat of our National Government.
The UN official is just scratching the surface. The clash of priorities is even more basic – local officials will prioritize projects that enhance their political staying power. For instance, it is to the interest of Metro Manila that the Sierra Madre hills where the floodwaters come from are reforested. But don’t expect them to work together to see that happens.
While we could all point fingers at the Government, the solution to the problem cannot come from government alone. The Aquino Administration is doing its best to respond to this disasters. Local groups and citizens have to step in where the government’s help ends.
Think about this: before the Habagat hit, how many squatters relocated to the treacherous lands along the major rivers? How many residents built enclosures along the waterways, further obstructing flood easements? They would fight for their right to occupy these land but would again ask assistance when danger would hit their chosen risky place for a home.
How many Filipinos, went out to party and drink those previous nights while leaving their insurances unpaid? Who would have thought to invest on a Jacket and flashlights knowing that Ondoy has already happened. Local Citizens need to prepare, too because this is our first line of defense.
And while our local Metro Manila mayors are preparing the Nation for the next Storm, why don’t businesses invest on the Provinces where the water systems are not overloaded by congested populations. And while they are still, small, allow the councilors and mayors to have vision to plan ahead when their residents will reach the 10 millions. . . .this is my dream of a better Philippines. . . .
Life has never promised that it would be easy. God has never promised a lighter burden, but faith and a storm-proof life. That never goes without a lot of preparation.