Nature’s injustice

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Friday, December 7, 2012


TYPHOON Pablo was pure unmitigated disaster for the most badly hit province of Compostela Valley. As usual, poor farmers who live in fragile houses built on hillsides and river banks suffered the brunt of the storm’s rage. As usual, the well-off were safe and warm in their strongly-built houses in more developed town-centers.

Safe and dry, local government executives of Metro Cebu were heard to declare it a miracle from Sto. Niño or San Pedro Calungsod that the typhoon veered away. Really pathetic that they could think God wrought them a miracle but disaster on others who are all equally God’s people. I can only wonder who they would have blamed if the typhoon had hit them as badly as Compostela Valley.

But we are decent folks, good Christians and good Muslims that we always rally around victims of a calamity to help them with their emergency needs. Instead, however, of coming to their rescue every time disaster strikes, why can’t Muslim-Christian Philippines keep rural folks fundamentally safe from floods and landslides even before a disaster strikes?

I watched some TV footage and I could not help but see pre-disaster neglect of the countryside by society in general and by government in particular. Otherwise, how could people be so helpless like you see them on TV? Why have we not built them all-weather roads and bridges so they are not cut-off from help when a disaster strikes?

Better still, why have we not capacitated them to build strong, all-weather houses?

I know the blame game does not help now but, lest people forget, it is not nature’s injustice or Sto. Niño’s special love for Cebuanos that explain the catastrophe that struck anonymous poor people in Compostela Valley and elsewhere. I’m sure those folks also believe in a God and have their patron saints. Surely, we are not saying their God and their patron saint abandoned them. Isn’t it closer to the truth that government has always placed a low priority on countryside development?

During the war our parents could run to air raid shelters built to withstand the bombs falling from the sky. Because we have regular confrontations with nature, why aren’t we building evacuation centers specially designed to withstand winds and floods? We have to stop the practice of simply designating a school or a gymnasium as evacuation centers when they are not built for the purpose. We should learn a lesson from New Bataan where many died in a designated-only evacuation center.

Indeed, only the anonymous poor suffer immensely in a calamity. But it is not nature’s fault they are poor. It is, therefore, not nature’s but man’s injustice that causes them to be the most vulnerable in a calamity. Think about it.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 08, 2012.

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