Illustration by Carla T. Gamalinda

IS THE the government ready for another “Ondoy”?

The answer seems uncertain. While the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration said the bureau is already capable of predicting the impact of tropical storms similar to “Ondoy,” Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Francis Tolentino claimed that the metro’s clogged drainage systems and waterways would cause massive flooding should rainfall similar to ‘Ondoy’ hit the country.

The weather bureau also said that it has acquired new weather equipment such as the Doppler radar that can foresee the amount of rainfall before the actual precipitation. On the other hand, the MMDA said that the sorry state of infrastructure and waterways would cause massive flooding similar to the scenario during the onslaught of “Ondoy.”

The government keeps on saying that the people have to be alert for another similar disaster, but what could we expect from the government in return? Well, we can only surmise based on how officials handle simple problems such as the date of the holiday and a more serious predicament like a hostage crisis.

Thomasian architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. gave the government 23 recommendations for urban planning, which included clearing of rivers, esteros, waterways and lakes. Sadly, none of recommendations was followed. What the previous government adopted was a Los Angeles model designed for the convenience of vehicles through road widening for cars, instead of elevated walkways for people.

Palafox also noted that government’s priority should be the creation “disaster-proof cities” and “disaster-proof living zones” through flood-control infrastructure, tree planting, drainage, spillways, dikes, water-retention basins and cisterns.

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At face value, Palafox’s recommendations may be simple but requires huge amount of political will. The government should start clearing the illegal settlements and shanties that largely contribute to the pollution and clogging of the sewerage and waterways. It should start implementing the law at least to minimize the effects of natural disasters.

Renaming the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) to National Risk Reduction and Management Coordinating Council will not actually do the math. The government should start rethinking and developing a new and concrete urban development plan.

Last year, “Ondoy” dumped a month’s worth of rainfall in just six hours, killing 464 people and leaving 10,000 families homeless. The storm also ruined P10.5 billion worth of agriculture and infrastructure. The UST campus was not even spared the storm’s fury as nearly 3,000 Thomasians were trapped in the campus, and half-a-million worth of infrastructure was damaged.

The government must come up with an urban developed plan that would make our cities liveable and safe, ensuring that the nation will make it not only through another “Ondoy”, but also past other disasters.

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