Typhoon Basyang is another reminder that we ought to learn from our disasters.
You can berate the Pagasa and other government agencies for not doing their jobs well enough or at all. If that were all a President needs to do in order to set things right, fine! Fire away and enjoy the applause.
But, on a place called Earth and in a country called the Philippines, recriminations and blaming doesn't provide relief for those who were affected or ensure that when the next disaster comes, people will be prepared to deal with it.
We now have a President whose Inauguration was peppered with the word 'pagbabago' and then, about fifteen days into his administration, we see this:
- Pagasa makes a wrong prediction on a typhoon's path
- People are not warned and made to prepare
- Vital infrastructure as well as private buildings and homes are destroyed, basic services are disrupted (power, water, communications) for days.
- Officials are taken to task, promises are made to fix what needs to be fixed.
- Disaster relief is distributed, calamity funds are disbursed.
If you look at the newspapers or Google the news streams last year, guess what? You'd find the exact same pattern of events.
Look a year before that and a year before that. Look at every year before this year and you will see the same thing happening over and over and over again.
Okay, I'll give the President a break. Maybe there's nothing much you can do in 15 days to prepare for and prevent the problems we encountered when Basyang hit Metro Manila squarely.
Then again, perhaps, for someone who has been working on solutions to ending the cycle of disaster and poverty for decades, something might have been done to prevent some of the damage we suffered.
Perhaps, instead of saying 'wang-wang', he would have sounded the sirens to warn the people that the typhoon season is fast approaching and people needed to prepare.
Perhaps he would have sounded the siren to signal the necessity of checking vital infrastructure that might get hit by strong winds or floods.
Seeing as our weather prediction equipment and personnel are almost useless, perhaps an arrangement could have been made for us to acquire the weather prediction capabilities of Japan, Hongkong, and Malaysia -- which have sophisticated weather satellites.
Perhaps, rather than quibble over who gets to be AFP chief of staff, he would have mobilized the NDCC BEFORE the disaster and not AFTER.
Perhaps, instead of a communications group, it would have been better to prioritize an EMERGENCY BROADCAST SYSTEM/DISASTER WARNING SYSTEM so that people can either be warned or informed.
Nevertheless, to fix the problem, here are six steps that can be done by ANY community in order to lessen the impact of any disaster.
(1) Predict possible threats in the community;
(2) Plan what to do in times of disasters;
(3) Prepare the community for what it would need;
(4) Practice or conduct first aid trainings and emergency evacuation drills;
(5) Report instantly pertinent information about the disaster to LGUs, the Red Cross, and other authorities;
(6) Respond immediately to those in need.