IF the usual weather trend holds, Typhoon Lando, which is supposed to exit the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) on Saturday, will be the last that we will grapple with this year, and perhaps the last that we will endure under the watch of President Benigno BS Aquino 3rd.
By the vagaries of weather in this era of climate change, there is, realistically, no guarantee that no typhoon will visit the Philippines from this December 2015 to June next year.
It is of greater certainty that President Aquino will leave office at the end of June next year, because that is written in the law of the land.
Zero casualty goal too ambitious
Throughout Lando’s three-day visit to our country, Aquino stayed pretty much in his foxhole in Malacañang. He only came out just before Lando made landfall in Aurora province, to announce to the nation that his government had set a goal of “zero casualty” during the typhoon.
Alas, that goal proved to be too ambitious, even though compared to other recent cyclones, Lando was comparatively mild.
Yesterday, the toll on lives was estimated at 16 dead and some 20,000 people severely affected when the typhoon lashed Luzon. It could be more when the full inventory is done.
Strangely, two of the fatalities were in places which did not lie in the typhoon’s direct path – one, a 62-year-old woman from Subic, Zambales who died from a severe head injury after being hit by a collapsed wall; and a second, a 14-year-old from Quezon City, who died from an eviscerated wound after their house was hit by a toppled tree on Saturday afternoon.
At press time, the damage to property and public works was still being calculated.
A god-sent boon to the nation
In one significant sense, Typhoon Lando proved to be a boon also to the nation. During its three-day visit, Typhoon Lando and the rains it engendered significantly increased water levels in dams in Luzon to help relieve a water supply problem caused by the El Niño phenomenon this year.
PAGASA hydrologist Danilo Flores said rains brought by the typhoon have been “beneficial” to the dams, increasing water supply since Sunday, October 18.
Flores said in a 28-hour period, water level increased significantly at the Angat Dam in Bulacan, which supplies water to Metro Manila. Since 6 a.m. Sunday, water level at the dam increased by 7.21 meters, bringing total level to 202 meters. Spilling level at the dam is 210 meters.
Water levels also increased at the Ipo, La Mesa, Pantabangan, and San Roque dams.
Government, local and national, better prepared
Overall, in the face of this natural disaster, government, both national and local, was more prepared and effective in coping with the typhoon’s severities.
The national government urged local government units to preemptively evacuate their residents living in high risk areas, and the local units generally complied and brought their people to safety.
This time, there was no bickering as to who would be the first to respond or the responder of last resort. This time, there was no finger-pointing.
In this country, one of our oldest sayings is that Mother Nature is a stern and demanding teacher. We live and we must learn lessons.
And we hope that the next time a typhoon comes to visit, we will be prepared and better led.