THE rainy season is probably "testing the waters" when it unleashed its first notable damage and casualties in "Basyang."
Typhoon Basyang left 23 dead and damaged infrastructures and crops. Comparatively, it's not the worst weather disturbance yet as we expect fiercer ones as typhoons are expected to worsen by the occurrence of the La Nina Phenomenon.
Basyang left the country in haste, crossing Central Luzon and Southern path including Metro Manila. It deviated by the way from its previously forecasted Northern Luzon path. Several landslides were observed, one killing a child while the other incident took the life of a two-month old pregnant. Soil erosions and landslides are now perennial expectations during some heavy rainfall. The lack of trees holding soil in slopes and mountainous areas is to be blamed. What else is new to the denudation of our forests and lofty places?
The recent typhoon is not the most furious for this year's weather pattern. Yet it left some notable damages and losses including sleeplessness in parts of Marikina and Pasig. It can be noted that the two cities were ravaged last year by pounding rains and floods in considerably high level of damage.
Just as how ready are we come more ferocious ones? The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Sciences Administration (Pagasa) is not. In fact, the premier weather agency was scolded by the President of the Republic for failing to report accurate forecast on Basyang's path. Not only PNoy was surprised but hundreds of residents didn't expect that the Metro was a direct hit. Fortunately, Basyang is not that strong to render greater damage as other typhoons did.
It's the President's prerogative to lash at the weather bureau. Perhaps, it's a wake-up call for him too that he needs to give attention and priority to the upgrading of dilapidated and obsolete weather forecasting equipment. We know for a fact that we are left behind by our neighbor countries in terms of scientific and technical facilities on weather projection.
The weather bureau boasted of one newly installed Doppler radar at Aurora province. It's the only one we got pending the installation of others in strategic places. It's a relatively high-tech rain gauge that will give weather forecasters the presumed amount of rainfall.
Its high time perhaps that we equip Pagasa with some more high-tech instruments that will provide us more accurate weather forecasts. A visit last year to PAGASA's main office in Diliman gave me an insight as to how outmoded we are on weather equipment as compared to other countries.
Weather equipment for sure costs a lot, but in an archipelago bounded by the Pacific like the Philippines, it's a must for the government to update, upgrade and equip our weather forecasting system in the country. We need to sacrifice however some funding allocations from other expenditures.
In Pampanga, we are a bit lucky for we incurred no casualty or damage brought about by Basyang's wrath. We need to be prepared however for any eventuality for we are prone to weather disturbances every year.
Speaking of preparedness, the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council III, in partnership with the Office of Civil Defense Regional Office III conducted last Wednesday an Earthquake Simulation Exercises at the Diosdado Macapagal Regional Government Center. It showcased government agencies and private organizations' capabilities in the event a high magnitude earthquake occurs.
Rescue units from the Olongapo City Disaster Management Office and the SBMA Fire and Rescue Department brandished their high-tech equipment and gadgets used for rescuing those trapped in a collapsed structure. Some disaster management councils were awe-inspired and had their wish to have the same equipment that they may use in rescue activities.
The Pampanga Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council, though tested and proven during the old days of Pinatubo havoc, is equipped with great and well-experienced manpower but lacks equipment and gadgets for rescue. Pampanga is the center of the Central Luzon and is also prone to some flashfloods. Some low-lying areas in the province's outskirts perennially suffer inundations. It is the likewise the hub for relief supplies and a proximate gateway to Metro Manila.
While the province is relatively plain in its topography, an unexpected landslide happened at the foot of Pampanga's lone mountain, the Mt. Arayat.
In a chance to talk with Arayat town Mayor Chito Espino, he told me that the municipal government has exerted all its best effort in helping the victims of that hapless incident. He has never been remiss of his duties and responsibilities as the shepherd of his constituents. Housing, livelihood and other forms of rehabilitation were extended.
Yesterday, the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. sponsored a forum on Flooding and Flood Mitigation Projects. The activity is very timely as rainy season has started in the country. Floods are inevitable due to the fact that our rivers are filled with silt and due to poor solid waste management that leads to the clogging of esteros and other waterways.
"Failing to prepare is preparing to fail," so goes a saying. Let's be prepared for yet another typhoon this rainy season.