The double tragedies of the devastation wrought by “Sendong” on Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and other parts of the country, and the deaths caused by landslides in Compostela Valley, bring several issues into sharp focus. If our government could be reminded that there are more important issues than placing former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her cohorts behind bars, it would do well to address these issues, or else, we will be resigned to seeing these tragedies repeated sometime in the future.
Issue #1: Local government officials should be more aggressive in enforcing laws and emphasizing safety.
It’s amazing how many times we read about mayors and other local government officials washing their hands and saying that they had warned people about the dangers of living in geo-hazard areas, and, yet, we see no action beyond the warnings. If the officials had any real concern about the people living in dangerous situations, they would take concrete measures to deal with the situations.
Issue #2: The government should step in if the local government officials are not doing their job.
While the probes initiated by the President are welcome, and, hopefully, will have real results, the fact of the matter is that government officials, once more, were caught with their pants down, and the probes are merely after the fact. I’m not sure what should be done in this situation. Perhaps the various Cabinet officials should direct their people to make sure that local government officials are properly informed about potential dangers, and make concrete suggestions on what should be done. Local government officials who do not heed these suggestions should be held accountable if something such as what happened last week happened.
Issue #3: More resources should be allocated to better weather forecasting and geo-hazard mapping.
Admittedly, our experts at PAGASA can only do so much, but, if they were better funded, and better equipped, perhaps they would be able to give us ample warning of potential dangers.
Issue #4: Clear alternatives in terms of shelter and livelihood should be provided to those displaced from potential geo-hazard areas.
One of the reasons why people live in areas that could be flooded, or work in conditions that are life-threatening is that they believe they have no other options available to them. Of course, this is not something specific to those affected by the recent disasters; with majority of our countrymen living in poverty, there are many who work in dangerous conditions or resort to illegal activities in order to survive. This, then, is the challenge of each of the leaders who have made Malacañang Palace his or her abode: to lift Filipinos living in poverty from their station in life.
Unfortunately, since our leaders, from the President all the way down to the mayors, appear to be more interested in playing their own “Game of Thrones”, with the lives of our countrymen as the playing pieces, it’s difficult to see whether these issues will ever be adequately addressed.