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Editorial

Underwater


First, the (relatively) good news. The inclement weather that paralyzed a good part of Luzon between Sunday and Wednesday dumped a total of 671.6 mm of rainwater—much more than the 455 mm recorded in 2009 (Tropical Storm “Ondoy”) or the 472 mm in 2012 (during last year’s  habagat  or southwest monsoon). And yet the worst weather disturbance in four years claimed the lives of “only” 18 persons.

We place that in quotes because every single human life is important, and because unlike earthquakes which cannot be predicted, storms once tracked can be anticipated; the goal of ensuring that no life is lost during a storm’s passage through the Philippines is difficult but not unattainable. Each life lost is simply one life too many.

But in 2009, Ondoy claimed more than 460 lives; in 2012, about 110 victims died in the floods caused by torrential monsoon rains. It is possible that the death toll from this week’s extreme weather may still rise, but the final tally will be nowhere near Ondoy or even “Habagat 2012” levels.

Credit must be given to the weather forecasters, who helped prepare the country with up-to-date and accurate reports; to local governments, which effected the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people almost without incident; to agencies such as the Armed Forces of the Philippines which helped provide transportation assistance, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development which helped prepare and pre-deploy relief goods; to the Philippine Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations, which sprang into action even before the first rain fell; and to the journalists, soaked and battered, who provided vital information from the field.

The matter of the suspension of classes in affected areas is a good example of what went right. Suspensions were announced ahead of time, sometimes even the day before. Indeed, on Sunday, when the first announcements were made, some wags cracked jokes online, saying the early notice all but guaranteed that the sun would come out on Monday. But it was a good call, repeated over the next few days.

The evacuation of residents from vulnerable areas also proceeded according to plan; when the Marikina River rose to an alarming level, for instance, residents of at-risk residential villages in Marikina dutifully complied with the evacuation order—even though their streets were not even flooded.

According to the latest estimates of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, some 1.73 million people from 119 municipalities and 31 cities in Luzon were affected by the rains. Central Luzon bore the brunt, with some 1.02 million residents included in the tally.

Over half a million people were displaced. According to the NDRRMC count, over 217,000 persons had to seek shelter in a total of 709 evacuation centers, while over 345,000 persons retreated to the homes of families and friends. This is an extraordinary movement of people, conducted under less than ideal conditions.

Now, the (continuing) bad news. Laguna de Bay remains heavily silted; dredging of the lake does not seem to be a top priority, and the infrastructure to drain it of excess water (say, a spillway through admittedly densely populated Parañaque) is not in place.

Floods continue to be a serious problem in the sprawling mega-city that is Metro Manila, because some of the old problems remain. In the first place, there are just too many people: some 12 million are squeezed into an area the size of Singapore. The national government’s plan to relocate a total of 60,000 informal settlers who live on and near major waterways just got underway; this week’s rains render the three-year timetable insufficiently ambitious.

The volume of trash is another, familiar factor; the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority estimates that some 3,000 cubic meters of garbage find their way to the capital region’s rivers and waterways.

Illegal logging in the mountains north of Metro Manila, also worsens the floods; without enough trees, the mountains cannot retain as much rainwater as they used to.

Not least, sheer human stubbornness can get in the way of the no-life-lost policy. As caught on TV time and again, many residents were shown refusing to leave their homes, even when the entire first floor was already underwater. Unfortunately, there is often a steep price to pay.


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Tags: editorial , Evacuation , NDRRMC , pagasa , tropical storms , weather

  • kayanatwo

    23aug13

    nobody asked me, but…..it was a given that every wet season the low lying areas around the metro manila will be inundated by stormwater and by overflowing (poorly designed) drainage system. the question i would like to ask, when was the last time the city of manila and its neighboring cities constructed or built a stormwater drainage system that would channel the accumulated precipitations from paved streets and parking lots?????common sense dictates, the rainwater can not be absorbed by the ground covered by asphalt pavements and concrete surface, and stormwater always flow to the low lying areas of ground surface.

    and why we are still surprised and debating the cause of surface flooding in metro-manila????….”ondoy” and the “habagat 2012″ should have been enough testaments for the natl. and local govt. officials to get their acts together….it was clear, as in broad daylight, there are not enough stormwater drainage systems that are fast enough to empty the flooded streets of metro-manila…..and for all the residents of metro-manila, they all just have to live by the nature’s wrath every wet season….. they all asked for it, now they just have to live with it….

    it is sickening and becoming like an old scratchy vinyl record that play over and over till someone turned it off…that annoying situation which is akin to the flooding problem of metro manila…every dick and harry knew exactly what causes the flooding problems in metro-manila but they only talk about “it” when metro-manila is already submerged and flooded…as always all talks no walks….

    • UPnnGrd

      Hindi iyan totoo! Ang tagal pinag-aralan ng maraming dibisyon ng gobyerno bago nagpirmahan ng kontrata sa mga Belgiyans para mag-dredging. Hindi lang iyon, nagpirmahan na!

    • Scorpio15

      Abala lang ang mga iyon sa mga Research kung papano ma-idivert ang Pera sa Kaban ng Bayan papuntang Bulsa nila.
      Ika nga papano i-dredge at i-drain ang Kaban ng Bayan.

      • WeAry_Bat

        A Php10Billion comment.

  • http://www.yellowmythbusters.gov.ph/ Weder-Weder Lang

    Any which way one looks at it, being underwater is no good news at all. Comparing Typhoon Ondoy to the Habagat that caused the Great Inundation of 2013 offers no consolation at all. In fact, this is a palace spin at its most insulting, adding insult to injury, adding insult to deaths and destruction. Any which way one looks at it, putting a spin to a devastating weather system makes this yellow mouthpiece all wet. But just to rebuff PDI and the palace’s heartless dishonesty, comparing Typhoon Ondoy in 2009 to Typhoon Pablo in 2012 where fatalities exceeded the 1,000 mark, is closer to an apples-to-apples comparison. Second, the Great Inundation of 2013 in parts of Luzon could have been mitigated. And this is what PDI took great pains not to mention:

    When PNoy’s administration took over in 2010, the plan to dredge Laguna de Bay was arbitrarily scrapped. The Belgian government was shocked. The companies that have mobilized financing for this urgent project have sought international arbitration. The very costly proceedings have commenced, causing our government large amounts of money in legal fees. If we lose the arbitration case, the Republic will end up compensating the foreign companies in the billions without any dredging ever happening.” (Submerged by Alex Magno in Philstar 22-Aug-2013)

    If anything, this is a classic example of how a bad political decision can lead to catastrophic consequences to lives, limbs and livelihoods. As if torrential downpours are not bad enough, a politicking president made it even worse. Now that Daang Matuwid’s credibility is under water, swamped by silt and mud, PNoy is slowly drowning in this man-made calamity of his own making. Let’s just hope that he doesn’t get to drag the rest of the country down with him.

    • jerome_jcb

      Is that you…Bobby…Tiglao..? F*&#K YOU..!

  • WeAry_Bat

    I noticed in any extreme weather, at least one fatality is purely accidental, like a coconut falling upon the head of a woman years ago.

    Then there is at least one fatality from…stupidity. Like the man who jumped into a river to recreate what he did during Ondoy, and whose dead, battered and bruised body was found beside the banks later. Which is nothing much to mourn though, the law of natural selection still ongoing. Nothing much could be done also.

    And yes, the amount of water was more than that of Ondoy as the opposite street was flooded in our area.

    So maybe a little good has happened, we don’t see people on rooftops. Maybe the no plastic bags, the local govt. manually cleaning the drainage pipes, the dredging of the small rivers…Not enough but helped a little, maybe.

  • sebastian abao

    From a disaster preparedness perspective, the response implemented and the resulting damages can really be assessed as good news. The preventive measures against flooding that have already been identified but not yet in place is bad news.
    Disaster preparedness against natural calamities should be a continuing concern of the government and citizenry. I’ll leave the pidals and the pdaf kleptocrats for the moment, even if they can be considered as a man-made disaster that wrought havoc too on our people, in our country.

  • http://jaoromero.com/ Jao Romero

    i cannot recall exactly when, but i noticed that right around the time a city sprang up right in the heart of the metro, the worst flooding began. i lived there (in Manila) when that city still wasn’t there. the flooding wasn’t as worse it is now.

    the solution is easy to see. but you cannot force people willingly turning a blind eye to see it. when cities eat waterways, and tributaries are blocked, this is what happens.

    you give back to nature what you took from it and nature will give back to you.

    • WeAry_Bat

      Hello Jao, seems like long time I haven’t read your postings.

      Is this Makati? Mandaluyong? Pasig?

      • http://jaoromero.com/ Jao Romero

        pinagaagawan sya ngayon.

      • WeAry_Bat

        hahaha hula ko na. i noticed in the last few years there are many esteros hidden and running through the city. there is one river unseen by many.

      • http://jaoromero.com/ Jao Romero

        someone told me this years ago when the city was just being built. we were passing through an intersection and he told me that a river used to run through it.

  • TGM_ERICK

    At the very least we learned from Sir Ondoy. Kudos to the men and women of PAGASA, the Disaster Coordinating Councils, the people who evacuated promptly, the people who manned our dams, and the municipal heads who did what should be. PRAISE BE THE LORD FOR ALL OF THESE.

  • TGM_ERICK

    Marcos had viable plans of adapting to the unavoidable floodings of our country. He had plans of constructing spillways to the sea but it did not see the light of the day bacause anything thought or touched by the grand old man is evil. The Manggahan spillway is his project. . Is their anything like it built?

    • johnllander

      May plano pala siya, nasaan? For 20 years niya sa malacanang walang ginawa kundi magnakaw lang.

      • TGM_ERICK

        Kahit nagnakaw may napala tayo. Di itinuloy ni Cory dahil sa mga katulad mo!

      • johnllander

        Anong napala mo sa pagnanakaw niya?

        Isa ka palang loyalista. Tabihan mo kaya siya sa kanyang mosoleyo sa Ilocos!

      • TGM_ERICK

        Oh, God! You are indeed a cadaver lover! It takes one to suggest one!

        WHAT A HORRIBLE PERSON YOU ARE! HAHAHA!

  • UrHONOR

    >>>Underwater<<<

    THAT's better than UNDER THE GROUND.



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