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Home Sections Ecology and the Environment The “Bahay Kubo” Mentality and Government Neglect, If Not Stupidity and Cluelessness, Are to Blame for Storm-caused Deaths and Destruction
The “Bahay Kubo” Mentality and Government Neglect, If Not Stupidity and Cluelessness, Are to Blame for Storm-caused Deaths and Destruction PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Ecology and the Environment
Written by Bobby M. Reyes   
Tuesday, 29 September 2009 08:29


Part II of “Tropical Storm Ketsana Is a Wake-up Call for Filipino Political Leaders and Voters to Deal with Global Warming”


Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock;  (25) and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. (26) And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; (27) and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it. –  Matthew 7:24-27



T he fable of “The Three Little Pigs” was probably lifted from the parable about building a house founded on rock that Jesus Christ told when he was preaching on Earth. The “Bahay Kubo” is actually the Filipino version of the house made of straw, as epitomized in the said fable.

 

The Philippines experiences annually deaths, injuries and destruction caused by Mother Nature in form of tropical storms, the stronger typhoons and monsoon rains that convert puddles into ravaging floods. But the country’s governmental and private-sector policy-and-decision makers have refused to listen to journalists like Tony Abaya (and ahem, this writer) and technocrats like Felino Palafox, Jr., and even its experts at the Weather Bureau like its then Director Kintanar.

 

The Three Little Pigs’ Story as a Case Study

In the early 1980s, I wrote a case study about the need to develop a modern ceramic industry in the
Philippines
. I mentioned in it the fable of “The Three Little Pigs” as the metaphorical argument why the Filipino people must start building permanent houses made of strong materials like bricks, roof tiles and use a foundation of rocks and cement in elevated areas that are far from residential districts that are below sea level. I titled my work, “A Psycho-Ceramic Medicine for the Economic Ailments of the Philippines.”

I quoted also then Director Kintanar of the Weather Bureau of the
Philippines
(then renamed and still called the “Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration” or PAGASA.)


Editor’s Notes: 1.) Here is the hyperlink to the PAGASA website:
Government agency for weather forecasting, flood control, astronomical observations, and time service.
http://www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph/


2.) Here are the latest article and photos about the Philippine Floods from TIME magazine:

 

Philippine Floods: Why Wasn't Manila Prepared? - TIME

 

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1926646,00.html?xid=thepage_newsletter



D irector Kintanar said that nobody could reduce the strength of the seasonal typhoons that wreck havoc on the Philippine environment, especially the national economy. He said further that the typhoon’s effects could be mitigated by building houses made of stronger walls and roofs.


 

Some are saying it’s [the flooding of key Metropolitan Manila areas] an act of God. It’s not. It’s neglect on the part of the government – Architect Felino Palafox, Jr., as told to the BusinessMirror

 

Government study foresaw flood–Palafox

 

QUOTE.
Written by Dennis D. Estopace / Reporter   

Businessmirror

Monday, 28 September 2009 21:39

 

T HE government was warned 32-years ago that ceding control of urban development may have adverse consequences, such as the devastation experienced by the metropolis on Saturday.

 

“Some are saying it’s [the flooding of key Metropolitan Manila areas] an act of God. It’s not. It’s neglect on the part of the government,” architect Felino Palafox, Jr., told the BusinessMirror on Monday as casualties of Typhoon Ondoy grew to more than a hundred dead and thousands of people displaced.

 

In the document sent by Palafox, the Metro Manila Transport, Land Use and Development Planning Project (Mmetroplan) already cited the Marikina Valley as among the areas deemed “unsuitable for development.”

 

The area that includes the city of Marikina was among those that sustained the most damage, according to news reports. In one hard-hit site alone, Provident Village, TV reports said 58 bodies had already been recovered, presumably people who never had time to leave their homes as floodwaters rose too quickly.

 

“Development should be restricted by the application of controls in three major areas—in the Marikina Valley, the western shores of Laguna de Bay, and the Manila Bay coastal area to the north of Manila,” said the report submitted in July 1977 to then-Public Works and Highways chief Alfredo Juinio.

 

“We’ve told government all along [that] this would happen because of the flooding [in] the same month in 1970,” Palafox said.

 

He said he was working for the government then when he and a group of researchers undertook this World Bank-funded study on a land-use plan that was finalized by Hong Kong-based consulting firm Freeman Fox and Associates.

 

Palafox cited a recommendation from the study that the government should monitor the Marikina Riverbank so that the water would not reach 90 meters. Likewise, no structure should have been allowed within nine meters from the riverbank, he added.

 

“Dahil hindi sinunod ’yun, parang massacre ang nangyari [Because the recommendation was not heeded, what occurred was virtually a massacre],” he said.

 

The three-volume report also noted that “urban development is spreading into [these] areas which are, in their present state, unsuitable for development—either because they are low-lying and liable to flooding, or because development is without adequate facilities for the treatment and disposal of sewage [the norm in Manila] and so will continue to contribute to the severe pollution of areas, such as Laguna de Bay.”

 

The study added: “The unsuitable areas for development, where pressures are nevertheless considerable, are primarily the flat coastal areas to the north where extensive areas are liable to flooding and where increased pressures for reclamation are likely to further exacerbate this problem.”

 

Another is “the Marikina Valley, to the east, where the land is liable to flooding and where development with inadequate provision for the treatment and disposal of sewage is contributing to the severe pollution of Laguna de Bay and where flooding is a problem in the adjacent areas.”

 

Finally, the study said the pressure for development, but requiring control, includes “the western shores of Laguna de Bay where development without adequate facilities for the treatment and disposal of sewage is contributing to the severe pollution of Laguna de Bay and where flooding is a problem in the adjacent areas.”

 

“In order to avoid development contributing to longer-term flooding and water pollution, it is necessary that the short-term development is restricted in these areas. Only when remedial measures to deal with the problems have been implemented, should the development of these areas proceed on a significant scale,” the study said.

 

“Lessons are to be learned, for sure, but these have been taught three decades ago,” Palafox said.

UNQUOTE.
 

L ike then PAGASA Director Kintanar, much-respected journalist Antonio C. Abaya has been dishing out warnings after warnings on the need for the Philippine government to act in mitigating the effects of disasters and natural calamities on the people, especially the teeming impoverished masses. But to no avail.

 

The only thing that governments can do in times of unpredictable and unavoidable disasters would be to mitigate their effects on the population, by anticipating them and conceptualizing solutions. In this respect, the Arroyo administration has been remiss and clueless. – Antonio C. Abaya



 

H ere are excerpts from the latest column of Mr. Abaya about “Mitigating Disasters” and his indictment of the cluelessness of the Filipino national leaders – from President Arroyo to the wannabe Presidents – on what to do in dealing with natural calamities, which can be actually described as “man-made disasters.”


QUOTE. 

Mitigating Disasters
By Antonio C. Abaya
Written on Sept. 28, 2009
For the Standard Today,
September 29 issue

It was a case of too much rain too soon. In just 15 hours, some 411 millimeters fell, exceeding the September average of 391 millimeters, and beating the weather bureau's one-day record of 331 millimeters set in 1967. (Manila Standard Today, Sept. 28.)

And, strictly speaking, Typhoon Ondoy was not even a typhoon, only a tropical storm with winds of only 85 kph when it made landfall on the eastern coast of
Luzon. But what it did in its counter-clockwise spin was suck monsoon rains from the southwest, i.e. the Indian Ocean
, which it dumped with reckless abandon on Metro Manila and some 25 neighboring provinces.

Was this climate change wreaking havoc on Planet Earth? Barely two weeks ago,
Taiwan and then Mainland China
were also deluged by a similar weather system, with even stronger winds.

But media have pointed out that back in 1972 (Typhoon Yoling) and in 1967 (Typhoon What's-her-name) also caused massive death and destruction from flooding and devastating winds, long before anyone invented the term `climate change.'

(Rachel Carson, in her 1960s book "The Silent Spring" warned about water and air pollution, but not specifically about climate change.)

 

Editor’s Note: Please read about Ms. Carson’s book in this article, The Filipino "Silent Springs" (With Apologies to Rachel Carson)

A nd I recall that in May of 1959 or 1960, when I was a student in Northwestern U in Illinois, Metro Manila was inundated by massive floods that lapped up to the floor of my room in Horseshoe Drive in Quezon City. In my lifetime, that landmark level has never been equaled, not in 1967, or in 1972, or in 2009.

But the disaster of 2009, inflicted on a Metro Manila and adjoining provinces with an urban population and automobile density more than double that in 1967 or 1972, has set a record of sorts, recorded for posterity in many still photos and video clips uploaded in Facebook.

Could any government have prevented the disaster that overtook the metro and adjoining provinces over the weekend? I doubt it.

Sir Nicholas Stern, author of The Stern Report commissioned by the British Ministry of Finance about three years ago, cautioned that even if the world were to suddenly and magically stop spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere today (or three years ago), the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere would continue global warming for the next 30 years.

So, assuming that greenhouse gases are indeed responsible for global warming and the resultant aberrations in the world's climate, there is nothing that any government can do in the foreseeable future to correct things. More devastating storms, more frequent droughts and desertification, more extremes in temperature, more melting of polar ice, more flooding of coastal areas. Welcome to Planet Earth in the 21st century..

It may or may not have any connection to global warming, but an international airline pilot – friend of my son Hochi – recently told him that the frequency and intensity of air turbulence along his routes is more severe now than it has ever been in his 14 years as an international commercial pilot.

The only thing that governments can do in times of unpredictable and unavoidable disasters would be to mitigate their effects on the population, by anticipating them and conceptualizing solutions.. In this respect, the Arroyo administration has been remiss and clueless.

One of the most-deplorable effects of the Ondoy Disaster has been the forced evacuation of thousands of residents to the roofs of their homes, as floodwaters engulfed their second floors. Many had to spend up to 15 hours in this condition, without food, without drinking water, without adequate clothes on their backs, in the driving rain. At least one woman is reported to have died of hypothermia.

Neither the national government nor the local governments nor the Philippine military had/has amphibious vehicles or rescue rafts to save these thousands, stranded on their rooftops. Desperate cell phone calls to DZMM TeleRadyo and ANC Channel 21, pleading for rescue, went tragically unheeded because no one had amphibious vehicles that could traverse the flooded streets which even big trucks and buses could not navigate through..

It does not give me pleasure or pride to say "I told you so!" But in my column of January 03, 2005, titled Coping with Disaster, written more than four years ago, right after the tsunami that hit Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand and killed some 250,000 people, I wrote the following:

"The Philippine military should develop amphibious vehicles (similar to the DUKWs of the US Army and the Schwimmwagen of the German Wehrmacht in World War 2) for use during floods, to tow rafts for rescuing survivors. With global warming, we can expect our lowlands to be vulnerable to more frequent floods during the coming rainy season . . ."

W ell, no one paid any attention to me, least of all the Philippine military whose chief concern at that time was how its comptroller (Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia) managed to accumulate so much wealth on his P27,000/month salary, to be able to maintain 40 bank accounts in his name, buy a condo in the Trump Tower in Manhattan and a house and lot in Ohio, and have two of his sons arrested in San Francisco airport with undeclared $100,000 in cash on their persons. To date, the case for plunder against him has not even reached trial stage.

But I digress. President Arroyo should invite tenders from manufacturers of amphibious vehicles in the
US, Canada, Japan, China, Russia, Australia, the UK and Europe for at least 50 such vehicles, for immediate deployment to our flood-prone areas. One second thought, let's just wait one year and risk one or two more Ondoys, because, as sure as water is wet, someone in her government and/or her family will just overprice the transaction and make millions of pesos in the crooked deal.

Rescue rafts can be made here, even from bamboo poles, but they have to be rendered unsinkable with Styrofoam floatation chambers. One amphibious vehicle pulling a train of four rescue rafts can save up to 100 people. A rubberized dinghy (not `rubber boats') can accommodate only 10 to 15 persons. An amphibious vehicle can be useful even on dry land, where a rubberized dinghy would be useless.

What I don't understand is why Gilbert Teodoro, two years secretary of national defense and concurrent chair of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, never thought of amphibious vehicles and rescue rafts to mitigate the effects of flood disasters.

Neither did he think, in two years, of unmanned aerial vehicles and metal detectors to improve the efficacy of the AFP in dealing with the insurgency and terrorism.Tony Abaya on Secretary Teodoro:
What good is a degree from the Harvard Law School and being bar topnotcher if you cannot come up with practical solutions to practical problems? And Gilbert Teodoro is so eager to be president.

But, as far as I know, neither have the other presidentiables conceived of any practical solution to mitigate disasters. Not Manny Villar or Chiz Escudero or Loren Legarda or Noli de Castro or Jejomar Binay. Our leaders cannot seem to see beyond their noses. Certainly neither can Noynoy Aquino.

While hundreds of thousands of his gibbering fans in Metro Manila and the Lingayen-Lucena Corridor (where 51 percent supposedly chose him over the other presidentiables) are picking up the pieces of their lives shattered by Ondoy, Noynoy and Mar chose to seclude themselves with the leader of a religious cult in
Davao
.

They were "consulting" one Apollo C. Quiboloy, identified as the spiritual leader of The Kingdom of Jesus Christ – The Name above Every Name, which claims six-million followers nationwide. (Philippine Daily Inquirer, Sept. 28).

So if it is not the Pink Sisters, it will be the likes of Quiboloy. Like his mother, Noynoy, I fear, will sublimate to management by prayer if he becomes president. Some countries have all the luck. *****

Reactions to
tonyabaya@gmail. com. Other articles in www.acabaya.blogspot.com and in www.tapatt.net # # #

 



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