Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Wake Up Call From Mario

Almost every year during the wet season in the Philippines (officially Junethrough Sept) there's at least one major non-typhoon tropical storm in Metro-Manila that is so intense that it causes extreme flooding and resulting disruption of  normal  activities, not to mention loss of lives and widespread property damage. Beginning  the evening of Sept. 18th  one such meteorological event,  "Mario" (international name Fung-Wong) hit the National Capital Region and continued nonstop into the next night. Not surprisingly, once again MM was caught unprepared, despite endless official talk long beforehand of various plans to prevent or at least mitigate such havoc but which always comes to nothing.  Ten people were killed in the storm.. Reservoir dams were placed on high alert.  And of course normal civic operations came to a  standstill.    This  shut down of most government and commercial functions and the jeopardy to the city's water system. is an example of what happens when the authorities fail to make adequate preparations for a natural disaster.

As expats and retirees, my wife Lydia and I are fortunate that we don't have the same ongoing commuting obligations as the working people and others here in the Philippines, especially in Metro-Manila. This is not to say that we are recluses and have no interactions with the world outside our condo. Naturally, there are family and friends to visit, errands to run, appointments to keep, all of which  can be difficult enough to meet in bad weather just once in a while, let alone on a daily basis. But woe unto those who have to earn a living and must struggle every day to get to and from their jobs which itself is a difficult task even in the best weather.  This is due to monumental traffic jams resulting from such factors as  too many vehicles on the road, an overtaxed public transportation system,  and lack of road discipline. How much more miserable under extreme weather conditions.

The deluge was reminiscent  of a similar prolonged tropical storm (although shorter in duration) named "Ondoy" in 2009 which also flooded  the region including part of Eastwood City where Lydia and I reside. That time I was out and about and got stranded just a few kilometers away from home to which it then took several hours to arrive. Will the damage from Mario turn out to be even worse than Ondoy? if so,  it may be the final straw in the government's inaction in addressing such chaos. Yet on the other hand. as Lydia astutely pointed out to me, Filipinos have a short memory when it comes to these disruptions; and after a while public furor dies down.

The Philippine Congress has been considering whether to grant emergency powers to President Aquino which would give him extreme legal latitude in short-cutting the political process in order to address a looming electric power shortage that is expected to occur in 2015. IMHO, similar powers should likewise be granted to the President to deal with both the storm preparedness  delay issue and the interrelated traffic crisis that continue to plague the region and are only getting worse as time passes.

This time the people mustn't forget and let the matter pass.  If corrective measures aren't taken very soon, another prolonged downpour like the one that we just experienced could be catastrophic..