Saturday, October 10, 2009

After relief come the tough decisions about the future in the Philippines

Ping Galang has a long article in about the aftermath of the flooding in the Philippines: cenes of devastation and misery caused by immense flooding in recent weeks are reminiscent of the Great Flood of 1972 that submerged virtually the entire plains of Central Luzon and parts of Metro Manila.

…With resources not enough and government hardly prepared to cope with the mammoth needs for timely rehabilitation and recovery, people’s misery subsequently turned into anger and disenchantment. Then-president Ferdinand Marcos, at the time only months away from the end of his second and last term, saw that as an opportunity to clamp down on the growing dissent and prolong his tenure by placing the country under martial law in September 1972.

The effects of the epic floods of 1972 and 2009 are not at all different. There is loss of people’s lives and heavy damage to farms and crops in the rural areas and to private property in cities and towns. With floodwaters lingering, many areas – from coastal villages in northern and western Luzon to towns in Rizal near the Laguna Lake, and even in some parts of southern Mindanao – are not expected to stage any recovery any time soon.

…It would be a tragedy if the Arroyo administration, which is due to end in mid-2010 after the May election, will also resort to iron-fist tactics in tackling the difficult reconstruction period in the aftermath of the Great Flood of 2009. Martial law, even in another form or shape, should not be an option this time.

…There is no shortage of ideas from local experts on how to build communities that can withstand natural disasters like floods and earthquakes… [One 1977] study, which was submitted … to the Department of Public Works and Highways, said, among other things, “the unsuitable areas for development, where pressures are nevertheless considerable, are primarily in flat coastal areas to the north where extensive areas are liable to flooding and where increased pressure for reclamation are likely to exacerbate this problem."

This and other relevant studies in the past should now be dusted off and evaluated in the light of more recent prognoses from various reports about future implications of climate change. Two such reports, separately released early this year by the Asian Development Bank, listed the Philippines among countries that could be the “most vulnerable to climate change."...

A resident of Bay town in Laguna, Philippines, pushes a makeshift raft loaded with wet rice. He recalled that the last time this extent of flooding occurred was in 1972. Shot from RRI Images, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

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