Sangil: Recalling the aftermath of Pinatubo's eruption

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IT'S a deja vu thing. The headlines of national papers: Forced Evacuation in 12 towns, 2 cities. Ashfall hits Metro Manila. Gov't struggles vs defiant evacuees. Duterte leads nation in aiding victims. The banners of all newspapers almost every day after the Taal volcanic eruption. As if I were reading the newspapers in 1991. The headlines are similar except instead of Pinatubo, it is Taal. In the aftermath of Mt. Pinatubo eruption, thousands of people were evacuated from their homes to temporary shelters. The Department of Public Works and Highways mobilized machines and manpower. All the river channels were inundated by the lahar flows. Immediately, donations flowed. I know a local official who pocketed a bundle of the cash donations. That's sad.


One of the things I still remember was that the American servicemen hurriedly left before the Pinatubo's big bang. What was sad really, they left the affected local residents to fend for themselves. They didn't lift a finger. And you know what? They brought all what they can except those second hand cars, kitchen utensils and sink. Big brother kuno, PWE! And some of those kitchen utensils found their way to a restaurant in Cebu reportedly owned by a Philippine Air Force general. He, he he. Napaka-small time.


When almost everything subsided, then Senator Ernesto Maceda, chairman of the senate Blue Ribbon Committee, conducted a probe on the alleged billion peso lahar scam. Engineering mitigations were undertaken without the benefit of biddings. It was all emergencies. Collusion between some contractors and officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways collected huge amounts. They never had it so good. No contractor nor official of the DPWH was brought to court though.


The government established the Mt. Pinatubo Commission with the late retired Colonel Jaime Venago and his mistah Col. Antonio Fernando as executive director and assistant executive director, respectively. The commission immediately responded to the many requests of local government officials. Mass housing projects were built with the assistance of the Philippine Navy engineering brigade.


After the June 15 Pinatubo Big Bang, it was succeeded by lahar flows cascading to several channels, but it was four years later when a huge volume of lahar cascaded and buried 18 of the 21 barangays of Bacolor town. Even three storey houses were completely buried. The San Guillermo church was half buried and is now a tourist destination. The end result was diaspora among the townspeople. Until today, 29 years after, a great number are still settled on resettlement areas.


Kudos to Pampanga Governor Dennis "Delta" Pineda. He immediately responded to the needs of Taal volcano victims. He led a 50 truck convoy and brought materials, food, equipment and personnel to help. Angeles City Mayor Carmelo "Pogi" Lazatin did the same. So did Mabalacat City Mayor Cris Garbo and Candaba Mayor Rene Maglanque. Pampanga mayors had a meeting and everyone agreed to help. Magalang Mayor Romy Pecson donated P100K. Mexico Mayor Teddy Tumang, Bacolor Mayor Diman Datu and others did the same. Relief packs were part of their donations. It is payback time, said Governor Pineda. The victims needed help, so we help, Mayor Lazatin said. Lazatin also led a convoy last Wednesday last week and handed his donations personally.


Some casinos inside Clark cannot be depended upon. They help little, and their posed photographs are bigger than what they donated. I thought my friend Chairman Lee, owner of SunValley should know that there's no in-placed Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program in their organization. No camsamnida.


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