Tropical storm Mario once more demonstrated that the government is still not adequately prepared to deal with strong storms and heavy rains. It is really scary to think that more powerful storms, tsunamis and earthquakes can hit parts of our archipelago anytime.
While it is understandable that floods will always inundate some areas during strong storms and heavy rains, the absence of efforts to clean up esteros and other waterways of debris and other forms of blockage before the storms come is infuriating.
It shows the government does not have any forward planning to at least deal with the causes of flooding over the short term.
Isn’t the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) in charge of making sure esteros and waterways are cleared of debris at all times? The municipal and city authorities, together with barangay level officials, are also tasked to work on this lowly but important aspect of public service. Why is the work not being done?
If the MMDA is doing its part but the barangays, the cities and towns are not cooperating then the MMDA must loudly complain, and we in the media—at least we in The Manila Times—will raise a big howl and mobilize civil society and non-government organizations to expose the lazy or indifferent local officials.
Irresponsible citizens throw their solid wastes into rivers. Local governments should go after these bad fellow citizens of ours. But the MMDA chairman who heads the Metro Manila Council should wield a big stick and be prepared to have it out with town and city officials who do not do anything about this serious problem affecting the health and comfort of the citizenry.
What about the Department of Public Works and Highways? What has the DPWH been doing to help deal prevent floods?
Laudably, during the storm some local government units were proactive. One good example is Marikina. The officials immediately carried out forced evacuation procedures to make people living in danger zones, particularly those who reside near the Marikina River, go to safe grounds and shelters. Also deserving praise are the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit lines. They operated regularly, even if the passenger traffic was very low in some routes.
The Philippine Marines also did well. They mobilized some of their assets to ferry people from flooded areas to higher and dry ground.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd and his closest associates seemed unaffected by the miseries of the people badly affected by the storm. While not more than 10 people perished from Mario’s wrath, the usual hundred thousands of people were displaced from their homes and/or saw their property damaged and ended up being in dire need of assistance. Thank God Richard Gordon, Gwendolyn Pang and their key people at the Red Cross, as usual, and the RC volunteers were ready to actively do rescue work and give aid and assistance.
Overall, disaster risk reduction appears to have been better this time than in the last typhoons and flooding. But we still saw incidents when barangays were not ready with the most basic of tools and materials to do quick and effective rescue operations.
We hope the Aquino administration people, specially those in the MMDA, and the local government units get their acts together in preparing an effective program of readiness for the next heavy rains and monsoons.
This way flash floods would be made to become things of the past.
And high floods are made more manageable and less destructive.