Act of Gloria

Originally posted on Facebook last Sept. 27, 2009.

Typhoon Ondoy may be an act of God, but the havoc caused by the floods is definitely an act of Arroyo.

As Ramil Digal Gulle said in his Facebook profile, the headquarters of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are both in Quezon City. Not to mention, the AFP recently deputized the MMDA as a ‘reserve unit’ supposedly for disaster response tasks. Yet many residents of Quezon City were stuck on their roofs because of flood heights that are normally thought of to be confined in Marikina and the CAMANAVA area.

Several journalists shared online how those stranded on their rooftops would beg them to help them because there was no one else to do so. The Philippine Red Cross’ resources were overwhelmed. As a private institution, the Red Cross (and other similar groups such as the CDRC) are expected to provide support to the national government, not do all of the work.

Simply put, the national gov’t was caught with its pants-down. Not because its agencies are populated with idiots and lazy-asses (although I’m sure the former applies to a few who keep showing their faces on TV), but because they weren’t funded enough to prepare for such a worst-case scenario, or even to conduct projects and programs that would lessen the chance of such disasters happening.

Let us flashback to August where Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III revealed that the P800 million fund for national emergencies was used by Gloria herself for her foreign trips. Still wondering where are the rubber boats, helicopters, flood dikes, and pumping stations? They were turned into lobster and steak dinners and bottles of wine.

While student activists constantly use underfunded schools as an example of how government corruption affects us, the Ondoy floods are a much better example.

The Arroyo administration cannot blame it all on “God” or “Mother Nature” for it had years to prepare, to affect all the factors concerning floods which are within the power of mortals. One such factor is soil cover. Trees absorb water, including floods. The less trees there are, the higher the chances of floods to occur.

Yet tree-destructive large-scale mining continues to this very day in places as near as Rizal and Bulacan. And illegal logging syndicates are destroying the few remaining forests in our country, such as in the Cagayan Valley. These operate with the blessing of gov’t officials, if not run by the officials themselves.

How about the dikes and the pumping stations that keep out water in areas such as the CAMANAVA? It should have been finished a long time ago. But yet again, there is the lack of funds. Are the said funds part of what the Senate has termed “the biggest corruption scandal ever” and involves the brother of vice-presidentiable Puno?

Finally, less people would be killed and affected by the floods if they did not live in flood-prone areas. Many are “illegal squatters” who have no other choice because they cannot afford to rent decent housing facilities, much less buy their own houses. Other countries would make it a priority to build low-cost housing in safer areas. Not this government: this one builds relocation housing sites near garbage dumps (such as in Laguna), or in muddy tent cities (such as in Bulacan). There wouldn’t be such a situation in the first place if the Arroyo administration had done its job on alleviating poverty.

Had the present government performed the way textbooks describe governments, there would be less chance of disasters happening. They may be unable to prevent rains and typhoons from occurring, but they could have certainly prevented such floods.

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