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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Flooding in the Metro, not the poor people’s fault – Samahang Operasyong Sagip

The government’s lack of comprehensive plan to solve flooding to including the unabated cutting down of forest trees, lack of flood defenses or control and most importantly, disaster preparedness and failure to address the root causes of people’s vulnerability to the effects of disaster, not the poor people, are the reasons why almost a hundred people died and thousands more were displaced from their homes because of “Habagat”.

This was Samahang Operasyong Sagip’s (SOS) reaction on the “typical victim-blaming” attitude of the government on the massive flooding caused by the southwest monsoon that badly hit Luzon and affected  89,114 families, left behind 92 people dead, destroyed thousands of homes and damaged P616 million worth of crops and infrastructure.

Christ Ian Mostrales, a registered nurse and coordinator of SOS said that Mr. Aquino should deeply look into the reasons why millions of Filipinos remain vulnerable to the effects of disasters year in and year out.  He stressed that “political and economic disenfranchisement further push the majority poor” into situations and places that put their lives and limbs at risk. 

Instead of blaming the poor for the flood, Mostrales said that Mr. Aquino should review his previous decision on the cancellation of 19 projects under the “Post Ondoy and Pepeng Short-Term Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project” a few months after he assumed office in 2010.  The project sought to repair damaged flood control facilities in Luzon that were ravaged by the two typhoons.  In the absence of a better blueprint for flood solution, Mostrales said that the administration even cancelled the P18.7 billion Laguna Lake dredging project which aimed to permanently solve the flooding in Laguna and adjacent provinces and cities.  Earlier this year, around 79 percent of the P7.5 billion Quick Reaction Calamity Fund was already spent – leaving only P1.6 billion for the typhoons that are expected to hit the Philippines this year. Government allotment for disaster preparedness, mitigation, and rehabilitation has had a very meager share in the national budget allocation.

In exchange for these long-term solutions, the Aquino government resorted to stop gap solutions like the clearing of waterways and drainage systems of all makeshift structures that block them – with DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson saying “even going to the extent of blowing up structures that block waterways to ease flooding”.  

Mostrales reiterated that the statement is insensitive especially considering that most families whose houses have been demolished in Damayang Lagi, Quezon City and Isla Puting Bato in Tondo Manila experienced a double whammy when their new homes were ravaged by floods.  The “illegal structures” of urban poor families are not the main problem why there is flooding and demolishing these structures will not solve the problem of flooding and congestion.

“Who would want to live in dirty esteros, landslide-prone areas, river side, break waters, or shorelines if these people were properly employed, earning a livable wage, or were not displaced from their lands in the countryside because of large scale mining and land-grabbing?”

“The Philippines experience an average of twenty tropical cyclones per year.  Hence, the government should focus more in long-term structural enhancements and more importantly, capacitate the people by providing adequate social services and equal economic and political opportunities to mitigate the adverse effects of disasters,” Mostrales ended.

SOS is a network of organizations, volunteer health workers, professionals and students that aim to render assistance to disaster victims through various responses such as disaster preparedness and mitigation initiatives, relief and medical missions and post disaster rehabilitation efforts.  It was formed in the early 1990s in response to the big earthquake and lahar flows of Mt. Pinatubo. ##   

Christ Ian Mostrales – 0923-1016178 / (+632) 929-8109
Spokesperson/Coordinator, SOS

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