COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
In the early nineties, there was one December where it practically rained the whole month, night and day. It must be 1990, and the waters unceasingly dropped towards the end of that year, not so strong but continuous nonetheless.
But there was no calamity – of Northern and Eastern Samar being flooded to dangerous levels or even our neighboring towns experiencing flood in their area of locality. The only news I heard was the landslide in Agas-agas, an area between Mahaplag and Sogod where the road cuts through a mountain made of soft ground that soil erosion is a perennial problem.
From the mid 80s to mid 90s, the calamities we had then were brought about by strong typhoons, very strong indeed compared to the ones we’re experiencing lately in the past years. Before, the climate was more defined, with long dry spells for the dry season, and long rainy days for the wet season. The rains were a blessing from the heavens, watering our farms especially those with no irrigation.
With the destruction of nature, our ecological balance has been disrupted resulting in the extremes in weather and climate. But the Philippines being located at the Pacific Rim, we expect typhoons to really visit the place, and Leyte-Samar is known as a typhoon belt. So the calamity we are more likely to prepare is the typhoon with its accompanying flood – not, the, rains.
Why has the rain become a calamity? Floods and landslides are widespread and not anymore confined to the really problematic areas. My answer to this is greed – of men in big business engaged in commercial logging in cohorts with politicians and government officials. They have denuded our forests. As a result, there are not enough trees to hold the rains in this large tract of uninhabited lands, especially the upland areas that the waters practically flow down to the plains.
For what our ever present kaingeros can slash and burn for decades and decades, it would take only a year or two for a logging company to clear the same area of forest cover. In Leyte alone, the forest still covered 42% of the island in 1939. By year 2000, the area was greatly reduced to 12% or less than 90,000 hectares. How much more in the island of Samar where logging was more rampant? So, people in Leyte and Samar, with our naturally wet and dry season, expect a flood in your area every time it rains for a week or two.
Local government should push for massive reforestation in the uplands and other uninhabited areas, even with just mahogany trees where seedlings are freely distributed by the DENR. Other hardwood trees would be better like Toog for it absorbs water heavily and can grow twice the height of a coco palm in a long time. It is very sturdy and enduring and not readily available for cutting.
Then laws should be strictly imposed in the cutting of trees; well, a log ban is necessary for the time being to protect the existing ones. And the people, the people should be vigilant not to allow indiscriminate
logging once new trees are again ready for cutting. Otherwise, with the perennial rains, floods will wreck more havoc in the years to come.