Country ill-prepared for disasters

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The Philippines is not alien to natural disasters. It is hit by at least 20 storms annually and is located at the Pacific Ring of Fire. In fact, it has withstood countless deadly calamities—from storms to earthquakes to volcanic eruptions—and its citizens live as if calamities were normal occurrences.

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Indeed, no one knows when or when a calamity will strike. However, despite the many disasters and calamities that befell the Philippines, the country is still ill-equipped in terms of disaster preparedness and risk reduction plan, according to GMA Weather resident meteorologist Nathaniel Cruz.

“It should have been long ago. Imagine, with 20 cyclones a year, with climate change—because of warmer temperature, we should expect more intense cyclones,” Cruz told The Manila Times.

He pointed out that factors like personality-based politics particularly in the local government units (LGU), which is further worsened by corruption, weakens the state’s ability to instill an effective risk reduction plan.

“The problem here is that our officials are interchanging. For example, if this mayor is focused on disaster preparedness and the one who replaced him is more focused on development, then dealing with disasters is not a priority,” he said.

While Cruz noted that Yolanda’s damage to infrastructure and other properties could not have been prevented, the people’s lives could have been preserved.

“When a storm passes, whether you are prepared or not, infrastructure will really be destroyed. Power will be cut off, posts will tumble down, and agriculture will be wiped out. But, the thing is, you can restore those after sometime. But the people’s lives… those who died, that could have been prevented,” he said.

In other countries regularly hit by calamities, risk reduction program is a very serious matter. Japan, the world’s most prepared in calamities, for example, has regular and difficult emergency drills and each neighborhood has its own evacuation points and typhoon shelters.

But when disasters strike in the Philippines, schools and gymnasiums become makeshift evacuation centers even if these are located in hazardous areas thus causing more deaths. People, including government officials, have little understanding of what is forecast by state meteorologists. Relief operations, just like what happened in Leyte and Samar, is so slow that survivors can die of hunger.

Indeed, a serious risk reduction plan is long overdue, the former state meteorologist pointed out.

“It’s high time for the disaster preparedness plan of each local government unit to be scrutinized. But the problem is there’s limited resource… because of widespread corruption, no one would even bother constructing [a dedicated evacuation center],” Cruz said.

JHOANNA BALLARAN

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2 Comments

  1. culture of corruption in us the the major enemy. because of corruption in tends to one thinking only to or for himself and his or her family and not the people he or she serves or work for. corruption means more money and money especially easy money is an evil one, you become more greedy as you progress stealing. as for government officials they forget and don’t care their duties are public servant. so anything under the sun is neglected. as we can see all over actually the whole government I mean all government agencies including the military and police needs to be modernized. just look at our sub standard infrastructures. no wonder Ninoy international airport is considered the worst airport in the world and this is the window of the country for tourists and foreign visitors and businessmen. If you the airport is disorganized, hot with the airconditioning broke and smelly toilets, then what more the city and the government? this is what we are, lets accept it and face it, shall we change? or suffer more? its all up to us.

    just my 2 centavos folks

  2. Dr. Fernando Cheong on

    Perhaps the weather reports that emanate from TV channels should be made more comprehensible to the common tao who are more often the victims of these weather disasters. Terms such as “easterlies” , ” westerlies” are beyond my comprehension as well. “Storm surge” and what not terms you use does not impress on the common tao but,if you use terms or descriptions that they will understand then you may expect a more positive response from the people in the barrios.