BRITISH philosopher Edmund Burke once said, “Those who don’t know their history are destined to repeat it.” True enough, the vicious cycle of the University being transformed into a swamp during the rainy season happens so regularly that we Thomasians have become accustomed to it.

Marine life once again thrived in the University’s grounds as tropical storm “Falcon” turned Sampaloc district into a giant catch basin.

Even with the “(tolerable) rain” or “shine” policy of the anticipated Thomasian walk, it still had to be postponed because “flood” was not part of the deal—chairs spread across the football field had to be stored again and the expensive stage set-up at the grandstand had to be dismantled. It was a different initiation—instead of passing through the century-old arch, the freshmen, along with other Thomasians, had to tread through the inundated streets outside UST, suffering from static traffic and potential skin diseases.

Let’s face it, the campus is built on a flood prone-area and even with the University’s multi-million sewage treatment project, it is not enough to cover the whole flood of the Sampaloc district.

Such catastrophe could have been easily averted if government bodies such as Pag-asa modify their suspension protocols, as classes are only stopped based on the typhoon signals and not the amount of rainfall. As a consequence, some classes still continue amid strong rain because it is “just signal number one.”

In addition, classes are suspended at a very late notice, at a time when the floods begin to rise.

Although the damage and casualty were less than that of Ondoy’s in 2009, it has nonetheless showed that the supposed “flood management” projects devised by the government were as useful as a busted flush. Elevating the roads in España Boulevard and Dapitan Street was a mere panacea that probably worsened flooding in the campus since elevated grounds may only offset the water on these streets to UST.

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Even if cleaning the canals were done regularly, no major overhaul was done to the general drainage system. Other countries have already adapted a more sophisticated rainwater collecting system, but we are still stuck with such system during the American occupation.

What is more disappointing is that Metro Manila has long been given the necessary flood control blueprint to take on the floods, but it has been taken for granted. Dubbed as Effective Flood Control Operation System (Efcos), it is supposed to give early warning signals on authorities for overflowing banks along the Pasig River. It also suggests ways on how to control the excessive water level to divert it to Laguna Lake for temporary storage or to the Manggahan floodway, which was designed to lessen the water level of Marikina River in case of overflowing. It was the perfect apparatus in mitigating potential disaster brought about by flood and in disseminating advisories to the public. The apparatus costs a staggering P 1.1 billion, which was made possible through a grant from Japan.

During his term, former Metro Manila Development Authority chair Bayani Fernando seemed to ignore this technology because of its cost for maintenance (the Japanese were “cunning” enough to make their repair parts only available in their country). If that was the case, then the Efcos project should not have pushed through in the first place. Just like the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, the Efcos has become one of the Philippines’ many white elephants.

Aside from its in-your-face culture of corruption, this is one of the many disappointments I have with the government. They seem to ignore the new technology that has been handed to them, making Philippines one of the most backwater countries in Asia.

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Felino Palafox, Jr,, an urban planner and architect, has already given multiple proposals on how to lessen flooding in Metro Manila. Aside from obligatory clearing of canals, waterways and riverbanks, he has also proposed all of the floodwater to be diverted to Laguna Bay via the Manggahan floodway, but this was not heeded by the government at all.

Of course the government is not the only entity at fault. Ordinary citizens also have the duty of making sure that their sewage is well maintained by simply not throwing their garbage here and there along with the “If I don’t see it, it’s not happening” mentality. This plea has been so trite, and we Filipinos never really learn from history, do we?

I hope that we, along with the local authorities concerned, would not wait for another Ondoy and Falcon to finally shape up. Disasters such as these are easily prevented if we had the discipline and political will to do so.


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