Sunday, 12 August 2012

Questions on the Flooding

The Manila skyline from walled city of Intramuros with the garbage-inflicted Pasig River in the foreground. 

It's not just the Philippines that gets devastated by flooding caused by excessive amounts of rainfall. Great Britain, because of its geographical location, also has its fair share of these catastrophes. In 2007, the country experienced a series of destructive floods across the land as rainfall doubled the average. In Sheffield, the River Don over topped its banks with two casualties reported, cattle being swept away 3.5 miles across fields and the lower half of the city submerged up to 6 feet (1.83m) under water. 

Let's not point out the obvious differences between the countries: one a third world nation, the other a had-been superpower. Let's look at the people's reactions and the government's response. 

In the very recent disaster that turned Philippine capital Manila into a 'water world', the Filipino public rushed to give aid to the thousands of people who were evacuated. Valiant efforts of celebrities with their big smiles were photographed as they carried on their relief operations. Phrases like 'Proud to be Pinoy', 'Hero Time', 'Filipinos are waterproof and can weather any storm' amongst others popped out in social media sites like Facebook. In times of adversity, the nation's pride gets stronger, so they say.

It would have been admirable if scenes like these do not have to happen almost every year. All that effort poured in rehabilitation and yet no one has dared to ask serious questions on why this tragedy has to strike repeatedly. 

The government response in the 2007 flooding in Great Britain had been an increase in the government spending on risk management and flood defences. An independent review had been carried out and the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 was passed. Thus, this summer, despite the record amount of rainfall in Sheffield, there was no repeat of the 2007 disaster. 

In browsing through the internet, there have been in fact, graduate studies made with regards to the flash floods and landslide disasters in the Philippines. The University of the Philippines will also be taking part in a presentation entitled 'Chronicling and mapping the physical and social components of the 2009 flood disaster and the disaster risk reduction initiatives of urban poor communities in Metro Manila, Philippines' during the 4th International Disaster and Risk Conference in Switzerland by the end of August. 

But to put together a credible disaster and risk management plan for the Philippines seem to be a Herculean task. The head of DPWH reported today that the flood control plans would take up to six years as it would need to go through a bureaucratic process typical of a third world and corrupt society. Meanwhile, we will be expecting more ravages of floods and more opportunities for the rest of the country to 'feel good' about themselves by doing charitable works. 

Of course I admire the gallantry of these individuals who are putting themselves on the line, doing something useful to make even a small bit of difference in other people's lives. But if we continue to embrace the victim mentality and just accept that 'these things happen', 'God is punishing the country for the RH bill' or 'we live in a tropical country', then we will always be stuck in a situation where in every step forward we will be pulled two steps backwards. 

Despite no one responding to my posts, this will be the question that most of my compatriots are asking: "With all your rantings, what have you done?" With better understanding of the situation and having realised that there are alternatives available, I am hoping to instigate a desire in Filipinos to demand for something better. A like-minded individual online has given this response to the same question
It would be better to act on a situation after critical analysis and not just that get up and go attitude which so marks the Pinoy mind.
No, I have not physically contributed to the rehabilitation that is taking place back home, my charitable contributions belong to the WWF who is fighting to save the planet in a sustainable way. But yes, I am praying for my country, praying for the minds to be opened to seek out credible solutions to the problems of the society rather than putting things in the hands of fate. 


  1. The “sermon” of the officiating priest in last Sunday’s The Feast which we attended ruined my supposed to be “a great day”. Yes, he mentioned that 'God is punishing the country for the RH bill' and ended by piercingly looking at all of us and “demanded” that whatever amount we bought for ourselves we must donate the same amount to the flood victims, as if the “flock” who attended the mass were oblivious or conscienceless to the sufferings of our countrymen. The whole sermon left a sour note which I carried the entire day. I agree with you that Filipinos and our government must do some critical analysis on the recurring flood crisis, find the optimum concrete and lasting solutions and ACT ON THEM. Filipinos are one of the brilliant minds and talents in this world, only that, yes, in our own country, we have the “victim mentality”. I was asked by some why my daughter and son prefer to reside and work in other countries and not here in the Philippines. Is it not obvious? In the places where they stay, they have clean environment and law abiding citizens, thanks to their government’s no nonsense approaches for the welfare of their populace. Here, in the Philippines, those who hold power holds the purse for their own selfish concerns and unsatiable plunderers of their own country. Our government and our people has a “knee-jerk” reactions on the annual deluge, the same attitude shown to the usual bombings and senseless killings, especially in Mindanao, i.e. our armies and law enforcers doing tight security checks and routines only after the bombings or killings occurred.
    Our government under PNoy must not only do ” long range flood control master plan” but also adopt appropriate urban planning and management in every cities in the Philippines.
    General Santos City folks are now jubilant of another SM Mall opening but for me, everytime SM Malls open, I grieve. Hundreds, if not thousands of our cities’ medium and small businesses will be dead and all earnings will be siphoned by just one owner. This is not mentioning that, as we look around us, these SM Malls are making our country a concrete jungle. I will not wonder if one day our country will no longer be called Philippines but “Shoemart”

    1. Thank you Tita Mel. It's great to know that there are people who feel the same way and who see the way our country is moving as a backward way of progressing. You couldn't have said it all in a much better way and with as much passion as I hope more of our country men will have. I was very disappointed when I went home last year, the image in my mind had been the Gensan of my childhood. But the city has moved on and I'm not sure if its for the better especially with the erection of the new SM mall that would surely cripple the local businesses and would create mountains of rubbish. It's very different here in Europe, people support their local butchers and would frequent their neighborhood shops rather than buy big name brands. I hope our countrymen would do the same.


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