Mar 012013

editbannerVolume No. 63

October, 2009

What We Can Learn From Typhoon Ondoy
In these times when even small acts of compassion are needed, let us help in any way we can the victims of this recent calamity.  If you have not been affected, share what you have, volunteer your services in the relief efforts, mobilize your community and organizations in the relief efforts for the affected urban poor communities whose entire homes and belongings have been swept away.

Now for a second look at what happened. Many Metro Manila residents of communities and villages whose homes were deluged in the floodwaters had to go to their rooftops, texting and calling the police and the authorities, and radio stations and television asking for help. They were sending distress signals even through public television and radio stations. Water was fast rising and many had to retreat to the second floors of their houses (if they had any), or on their rooftops. No help came from the authorities, and citizens and neighbors had to fend for themselves. Government did not exist except on radio and television.

Citizens could only help one another with their own resources. A resident of Provident Village in Marikina exhausted her celfone load with text messages calling for police assistance while dripping wet and shivering on a rooftop, but nobody came. She was eventually rescued by a neighbor. Countless citizens of MetroManila and the rest of the country experienced this last Sept. 26, 2009.

The National Disaster Coordinating Center (NDCC) is useless. It claimed at the height of the Ondoy floodwaters that it only had 13 rubber boats available. The Navy only two amphibian vehicles to go to the rescue. The Secretary of National Defense Gilbert Teodoro who is supposed to be pointperson was clearly caught unprepared by events – he did not know what to do. He should have resigned as Secretary of National Defense the day that he announced weeks ago that he was running for President under the the Arroyo administration’s party. And Arroyo should have immediately appointed a new defense secretary who can focus on his work as defense secretary and disaster management pointperson, instead of campaigning as administration party candidate.

The national government is supposed to have at least P 2 billion pesos for calamity funds available. Why did they not have enough rubber boats and amphibians to use for calamities like these. And, is it true that P 800 million pesos of the P 2 billion calamity funds which are itemized as “contingency funds” of the Office of the President were reallocated for Presidential trips overseas? We are just asking.

What was the President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo talking about  during her July 27, 2009 State of the Nation Address last July  27, 2009 when she proudly announced to wit :

”  Fifth, international authorities have taken notice that we are safer
from environmental degradation and man-made disasters. (applause)
As a country in the path of typhoons and in the Pacific Rim of Fire, we must
be prepared as the latest technology permits to anticipate natural calamities
when that is possible; to extend immediate and effective relief when it is not;
the mapping of flood-and-landslide -prone areas is almost complete.
Early warning, forecasting and monitoring systems have been improved, with
weather-tracking facilities in Subic, Tagaytay, Mactan, Mindanao, Pampanga.
We have worked on flood control infrastructure like those for Pinatubo, Agno,
Laoag, and Abucay, which will pump the run off waters from Quezon City and
Tondo flooding Sampaloc. This will help relieve hundreds of hectares in this
old city of its age-old woe. (applause)

Patuloy naman yung sa CAMANAVA, dagdag sa Pinatubo, Iloilo, Pasig-
Marikina, Bicol River Basin, at saka river basin ng Mindanao. (applause) ”

We are not pointing fingers nor do we want to blame anyone for a natural disaster.  But the authorities whom we have entrusted with taxpayers’ money and the vast resources of government are expected to do their part, and anticipate disasters (natural or manmade) like these. Many distressed citizens cursed their government for not moving to assist them last Sept. 26 and 27, 2009.    As Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo wrote: ” If only curses could kill”.
Since the country is geographically typhoon and disaster-prone because we are also in an earthquake belt, may we suggest the following:
1. An entire Department of Calamities & Disaster Management  should be organized with priority given to disaster-prone areas of the country. The so-called contingency fund normally allocated under the Office of the President should be managed by this new department which should have meteorological scientists, climate change experts, etc. The PAG-ASA and Philippine Volcanology Service can be placed under this new Department.
2. Schools and universities can integrate in their curricula modules on disaster preparedness and management. Communities and neighborhood associations should be given similar orientation and seminars as part of their preparedness for calamities.
3. Instead of involving them in counter-insurgency operations for which they are useless since they are most vulnerable to “agaw armas (disarming)operations ” of rebels, the Citizens Armed Auxiliaries and the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Units should be directed solely at disaster and calamity response in all communities. Anyway, paramilitary units and private armies are supposed to be prohibited by the constitution. Of course, they should be disarmed, and only equipped with rubber boats, and other disaster management equipment critically required for such operations.
4. The entire Armed Forces of the Philippines(AFP),  the Philippine National Police(PNP) and all law-enforcement agencies should be fully oriented and equipped for calamity and disaster management operations. Many units of the AFP and PNP didn’t know what to do last Feb. 26, 2009 because in the first place, they did not have the equipment and facilities to move to the sites of the calamity. It was too late, or the citizens just had to fend for themselves.
We hope that all these observations and recommendations will not again be taken lightly by those whom we have entrusted with the vast resources of authority. Power and authority is entrusted for the public good, not for private / or personal gain. We do not know who said or wrote that, but we think that is the reason why governments exist.

* Article by Roland G Simbulan – For a full professional background of Professor Roland G. Simbulan (Click Here)


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