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There’s The Rub

Perspective

Frankly, I can’t understand the complaints about the way government has been handling the storms and floods of late. Let’s have some perspective on this.

A couple of years ago, Ondoy ravaged Metro Manila. The event caught the residents of Metro Manila totally unprepared. Pagasa gave no warning of it. What seemed like just another case of bad weather turned into a torrential downpour that would not stop. The result was one of the worst disasters ever to have hit the capital. In many parts of Marikina and other low-lying areas, waters rose to a level that sent people scrambling to the roofs of their houses, huddling in the cold and rain, crying desperately for help. Scores died, thousands lost at least their property, if not their homes, to Nature’s fury.

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Indeed, the event caught government totally unprepared. For 12 hours at least after Ondoy barged like a vicious holdup gang into Metro Manila, government was nowhere to be found. It was only much later, after a whole night of terror for those caught in dire straits, that government registered its first feeble response. Gibo Teodoro ordered rescue operations, which only emphasized the extent of government’s uselessness. Courtesy of public property being literally up for grabs by public officials, there were only a couple of rubber boats with which to attempt to rescue the trapped. If anybody, or anything, needed rescuing, it was only government from the clutches of the gang that was holding it hostage.

At that people were thankful government was merely useless. It could have been worse, it could have been harmful. Its officials could have attempted to profit from it the way they had profited from the hunger of the people. Fortunately, it was the pit of the campaign period, giving candidates the incentive to look pogi by launching all sorts of relief drives. Had the relief effort been left only to government, the ravaged would have been left ravaged, or ravaged twice over the relief goods never coming to them, relieving only the need of those left behind to make hay while the skies wept.

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OPINION

Last Thursday, Falcon swooped down on the country. For Metro Manila at least, it wasn’t as bad as Ondoy, but it brought its share of misery. The first night it hit, it ground traffic to a halt at least for a few hours. Waters rose in various parts of the capital, climbing to the floors of cars and jeepneys and making streets impassable. It drove out the occupants of shanties near Marikina River and elsewhere to places of refuge. So far there’s been no report of casualties and destruction of property has been minimal.

Metro Manila didn’t bear the brunt of the storm, however, the provinces up north did. Still, the destruction wasn’t epic either. Falcon did render 40,000 people homeless and left 11 persons missing, 10 of them fishermen from Virac, Catanduanes lost at sea, and one woman was carried away by floodwaters in Albay. But the damage to agriculture and infrastructure has not been as awesome as in the past.

Doubtless a great deal of it is due to luck. Falcon, for all its fearsomeness in water tumbling all over the place for days now, has not been as vicious as the super storms that have devastated Albay and other provinces over the past years. Nor has it been as unrelenting as the rains that have battered Mindanao these past months and turned parts of it into veritable lakes. Thank God for small blessings.

But an even greater deal of it is due to government. Pagasa of course didn’t predict the amount of rain that would fall on Metro Manila on Thursday night, but some things, such as a storm and a low-pressure area changing courses and running into each other are just not completely predictable. It did predict the storm, and it did predict roughly the extent of its impact for the provinces that lay in its path. In the same way that it has predicted reasonably accurately the weather disturbances, as they are felicitously called, over the past year and given the public good time to prepare for them.

More to the point, when Falcon hit the country last Thursday you could at least reasonably count on government to be there to try its damndest to help. Maybe not as efficiently as the Japanese responded to the tsunami that overwhelmed them last April, maybe not as thoroughly as the US have done to its places pummeled by hurricanes and tornadoes. But then the Japanese and US governments do not have to deal with a horrendous lack of equipment, vehicles, and money courtesy of a previous administration having ransacked the public motor pools and carted off everything.

Nene Pimentel says P-Noy (President Aquino) should stop goofing off and buckle down to work. He says P-Noy should do more than just visit Mindanao and comment on the situation there. Well, the guy isn’t given to grandstanding. And how clean up the Rio Grande de Mindanao of three-foot hyacinths short of blowing them up, which presents all sorts of risks, with what precious little the previous regime left behind? Ask the Ampatuans where the hoes went.

P-Noy should buckle down to work? Gloria Arroyo should return what she stole. Joseph Estrada too. Corruption kills, and kills pitilessly.

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When Falcon hit the country last Thursday, you could reasonably expect government to be part of the cure and not of the disease. You could reasonably expect government to mount a relief drive to assist the distressed, to take in private donations and distribute them rather than steal them (or put premature campaign paraphernalia in them), to not try to figure out how to profit in some way from your misery. When Falcon hit the country last Thursday, you had the comfort of knowing you had a government on your side and not against it. As you would when other disasters strike.

And you complain?

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TAGS: Falcon, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Joseph Estradra, Ondoy, President Benigno Aquino III, storms, tropical depression, typhoons, weather
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