To Make A Difference
December 12, 2012
As we face anew the difficult task of recovering and rebuilding from the devastation caused by Typhoon Pablo in Mindanao, we ought to revisit the lessons of the past and relearn the lessons we seem to never learn. Community awareness and action in disaster risk reduction, sound development planning, and the political will to make things happen can make the difference in saving lives and building a safe and resilient community.
Typhoon Pablo’s wrath has left its indelible mark in southern Philippines. As of Tuesday, December 11, 2012, the death toll has risen to at least 714, while 890 others are still missing. Based on the latest report by the NDRRMC, the estimated total cost of damages in areas devastated by typhoon Pablo now amounts to P7.1 billion, with P3.47 billion in damages to infrastructure, P3.61 billion damages in agriculture and P18.38 million in damage to private properties.
Once a beautiful town in Davao Oriental, Cateel is now in shambles due to typhoon Pablo. Homes were destroyed. Buildings that served as evacuation centers gave in as their walls and roofs were battered by strong winds and heavy rainfall. Many lives were lost. Typhoon Pablo obliterated an entire town in just a blink of an eye.
What should we realize and learn from this experience?
Our times and climes have changed, Mr. President. The enormous development challenge that our nation faces—achieving inclusive and sustainable growth along with reducing losses from disasters—calls for more effective and responsible local governance.
Unless we learn to adapt to these changes with a brand new way of thinking and pursuing economic growth, improved quality of life, and disaster resilience amid a changing climate, our development goals may remain as elusive as ever.
Iba na ang ating panahon. Iba na ang ating klima. Magiging mailap sa atin ang kaunlarang matagal na nating minimithi kung ating ipagwawalang bahala ang kahalagahan ng paghahanda para sa mga likas na panganib at ang mga epekto nito.
When the heavy rains of Typhoon Gener triggered major landslides in the populated barangay of Cunsad in Alimodian, Iloilo last July, roads and farmlands were destroyed, yet no lives and limbs were lost. We wonder and ask: How was this possible? What role did the local government play in saving human lives?
In this Iloilo town, the natural signs of impending landslide such as ground fissures and displacement showed up as early as last year, which the municipal government under Mayor Juanito Alipao immediately reported to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of DENR for risk assessment. Upon the advice of geologists to relocate the residents, the local leadership acted quickly to explain the landslide threat to families at risk and to persuade them to heed the advice.
In the aftermath of the devastating landslide in Cunsad, residents were so grateful to the local government for having saved their lives and properties. Now, all 51 barangays of Alimodian have drawn up their hazard-risk maps and have been aware of the dangers they face from typhoons and other natural hazards as well as of how to keep safe from harm.
In hindsight, had the local governments acted promptly on the flood risk assessment for Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City and heeded the call to relocate residents at risk, the impact of Typhoon Sendong (Washi) about this time last year would not have been an unprecedented tragedy.
Matuto tayo sa ating mga naging karanasan. Isa lamang ang Alimodian sa mga halimbawa na nagpapatotoo na kaya nating maging handa. Ipinapakita rin nito ang kahalagahan ng papel ng lokal na pamahalaan upang akayin ang isang pamayanan na maging matatag at handa laban sa mga likas na panganib. Bagamat, hindi man natin kayang diktahan ang lakas ng isang bagyo o ng isang lindol, nasa atin ang kakayahan upang maiwasan na humantong ang mga ito sa isang trahedya.
Para sa bawat lokal na pamahalaan, mahalaga na magkaroon ng maagap na sistema na magbababala sa mga mamamayan, ang mga tinatawag na early warning systems. Makakatulong ito na masabihan ang mga tao na lumikas dahil sa nakaambang panganib na dulot ng isang bagyo, lindol, o tsunami.
Bukod sa mga early warning systems, makatutulong din ang paglilinis ng estero, nang sa gayon tuloy-tuloy ang pagdaloy ng tubig. Hikayatin din ang mga mamamayan na magtanim ng mga puno, sa halip na putulin ang mga ito ng walang kapalit na bagong punla. Sabihan ang mga mamamayan na huwag nang magtatapon kung saan saan; sa halip, matututong paghiwa-hiwalayin ang mga nabubulok sa hindi nabubulok na basura, matutong mag-recycle. Napaka-simple ng mga pamamaraan na ito, pero kung hindi natin gagawin, patuloy na malalagay sa panganib ang ating mga komunidad.
Fundamentally, adapting to our fast changing environment entails constant assessment of risk in our midst. It is high time that every local development planning and programming seriously considers the threats posed by natural hazards and climate change and aim at reducing exposure and losses in lives, livelihoods, and properties. Hazard maps and risk assessments must be basic planning tools used by every local government. Our LGUs must know where it is safe to let their constituents reside, where it is appropriate to build infrastructure, and where it should be off-limits to people and structures.
Typhoon Pablo has unveiled the vulnerability of our Mindanao communities to typhoons, landslides and flash floods. Our local leaders, therefore, need to appreciate how disasters are linked inextricably to the vicious cycle of poverty, socio-economic inequality, and environmental degradation.
Dapat na isama ang mga geo-hazard maps sa pagpaplano ng bawat barangay, ng bawat lungsod, ng bawat probinsya. Sa pamamagitan ng mga geo-hazard maps, malalaman ng mga tao ang mga lugar na dapat iwasan na tayuan ng mga bahay o ng mga gusali. Maiiwasan din natin ang paglantad ng ating mga komunidad sa mga panganib.
Poverty breeds disaster vulnerability where those who have least in life risk life most. Ang mga mahihirap ang laging nahaharap sa peligro dahil sila ang madalas na nakatira sa mga mapapanganib na lugar at mga mahihinang estruktura o gusali. Ang mga mahihirap ang nagdurusa sa mga pangmatagalang pinsala at epekto ng mga sakuna dahil wala silang sariling kakayahan na makabangon agad mula sa trahedya dahil maging sa pang-araw-araw nilang pangangailangan ay salat sila.
Thus, it is only in addressing altogether poverty, livelihood, environment, and disaster risk that local governance can make a genuine difference.
With climate change and extreme weather events as the ‘new normal’, our country cannot afford recurring tragedies and disaster losses from typhoons such as Sendong and Pablo in Mindanao. It is estimated that in every destructive typhoon season, we lose as much as 2% of our GDP and further costs the country 2% for reconstruction or a combined economic setback of almost 5% every year.
Certainly, reducing disaster risk effectively for sustainable growth is a mark of good governance and good political leadership. To make a difference in this sphere is clearly the leadership challenge of our fast changing times.
Nawa’y sa susunod na bagyo, lindol, o anumang likas na panganib, wala ng tatay, nanay, anak o kapatid na magdurusa sa pagkawala ng kanilang mahal sa buhay; wala nang kailangang magbuwis pa ng buhay. Sa pamamagitan ng lokal na pamahalaan, hubugin natin ang ating mga pamayanan na maging matatag, malakas at handa laban sa mga likas na panganib. Bigyan natin ang bawat mamamayan hindi lamang ng pag-asa, ngunit maging ng tiwala na harapin ang kinabukasan.
Maraming salamat po.