Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Pena: What else can possibly happen?

IT SEEMS that Mother Nature has thrown every possible natural calamity into the Philippines this 2020. The year has just started when Taal Volcano unleashed its fury in January after 43 years of slumber. Ashfall covered large areas, reaching as far as Pampanga. Many places became ghost towns as residents in danger zones were evacuated.

Then in March came the big blow. The N-corona virus, later named Covid-19, started wreaking havoc. Lives were lost. Thousands hospitalized and isolated. Lockdowns, quarantines and health protocols altered the daily routines of people. Companies and businesses shut down and jobs were lost. The year ends with the virus still in our midst.

With the coronavirus still raging, Super Typhoon Rolly battered the Bicol region causing extensive destruction in its path. The storm displaced more than 130,000, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. Thousands of houses were damaged and billions worth of crops lost. Rolly was a Signal No. 5 typhoon and was the most powerful tropical cyclone in 2020.

The nation has barely recovered from the onslaught of Typhoon Rolly when another typhoon hit Luzon a few days after. This time, Central Luzon and Northern Luzon were directly hit by Typhoon Ulysses. Massive flooding was experienced in Marikina and Cagayan. The typhoon’s fury was felt here in Pampanga.

In Mindanao, Tropical Depression Vicky caused an unusually heavy rainfall which resulted in massive flooding that displaced thousands. The rain lasted more than a day. It was considered by local officials as the worst weather disturbance in Mindanao since the 2014 onslaught of Tropical Storm Seniang.

And now, exactly on Christmas day, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit Luzon. In an initial bulletin, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said the epicenter of the quake was located 15 kilometers southwest of Calatagan, Batangas. As of this writing, no damage has been reported.

These calamities, all in 2020, have stretched to the limit the capacity of the national and local government to respond. Calamity funds ran dry, mostly eaten up by the pandemic lockdowns. Health protocols have made disaster response complicated. What else can possibly go wrong? Haven’t we got enough of our share of calamities?

Well, we’ve been battered but certainly not defeated. I believe that all these calamities will make us stronger as a nation and as individuals. Our faith in God, and our resiliency, will carry us through these difficult times. As gold is tested by fire, so will our strength as Filipinos stand out in this extraordinary time.

We look forward to 2021 to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But in case Mother Nature decides to throw another curveball, we will be ready.


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