Editorial: Waiting game-A A +A
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
SOMETIMES, the chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, the former senator Richard Gordon, can be so blunt that he sounds like his nickname.
Last night, though, he was exactly right. Asked in an ANC interview what he found different about the widespread flooding in Metro Manila and nine provinces, he pointed out that there was no severe weather, just monsoon rains. And what was the same? “The usual apathy,” Gordon said.
Like Gordon, PNP Director General Nicanor Bartolome said one of the biggest problems in coping with floods is that people in danger zones “wait until the last minute” to evacuate. They should trust the government enough to leave their homes when they are told, Gordon said. They further endanger the overworked rescue teams when they at first refuse to evacuate, only to demand swift rescue hours later, when the water has started lapping at their roofs.
Floods in Metro Manila and parts of Metro Cebu have become a fact of urban life. This isn’t news. The observation that floods have become more frequent in Southeast Asia began to surface in the 1990s yet. They show no signs of abating.
These floods are no longer just spawned by extreme events like typhoons. Denuded mountains do little to keep water from rushing down to floodplains; in fact, they are danger zones as well, prone to landslides like the one that killed nine people in Metro Manila yesterday.
Poor choices in land use management and unplanned urbanization have made communities vulnerable to floods even when no storm threatens.
Cebu residents who have had to wade through floods on A.S. Fortuna in Mandaue or parts of Mabolo in Cebu City know this all too well.
Twelve provinces and the National Capital Region will continue to bear with moderate to heavy rains today, the weather bureau warned. Perhaps to strike a note of urgency, Pagasa keeps hope out of its terse advisories. “Expect landslides/flashfloods in mountainous areas and floods in low-lying areas,” it said yesterday.
We have not lacked recommendations. Among them are for an early warning system; more accurate and more localized forecasting; preparation of flood hazard maps to guide local governments in building slope protection and other infrastructure; and the clearing of houses and other structures on riverbanks or close to the coast.
“Train people to be self-reliant, proactive and ready before the onset of floods,” the United Nations warned as early as December 2002, in a flood risk assessment in Asia. In other words, teach them to get out of harm’s way before it’s too late.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 08, 2012.