The day after Milenyo

Thousands of residents are complaining over the failure of government and power companies to restore electricity last weekend. Probably they have forgotten how life was really worse in the early 90s when blackouts gripped the nation everyday for more than 16 hours. But this is not a reason to justify the disappointing slow process of restoring normalcy in the metropolis and south Luzon. Millions of our people still don’t have electricity, water and phone days after typhoon Milenyo hit the country. Man has already landed on the moon but it seems we are stuck in the Jurassic age.

The shocking destruction wrought by Milenyo exposed the weakness of our physical infrastructure system. Metro Manila can tolerate floods, traffic and air pollution. But swinging electric posts, flying roofs, crashing billboards and overturning trucks are not part of our daily hardships. They are disaster spectacles we only love to watch in the safe distance from our television sets.

Milenyo provides a poignant reminder that our Enchanted Kingdom (formerly known as Strong Republic) rests on shaky grounds. Before creating super regions, shouldn’t it be a paramount concern that communities are (always) prepared to deal with disasters? An effective government ensures that the requirements of a dynamic economy: efficient transportation system, communication, power distribution and water supply are provided, especially in cases of emergency. In fact, a strong typhoon is not an excuse to justify the unsatisfactory relief and rescue program of government agencies and utility companies since the Philippines is ravaged by more than 20 typhoons every year. To paraphrase Sen. Miriam Santiago, we eat strong typhoons for breakfast. So why do we still have a weak infrastructure system?

Milenyo offers an opportunity to make the Charter Change debate more relevant to the people. If many of our countrymen are alienated by the ‘change the system’ mantra, then perhaps we should reframe the discussion by raising issues that really matter in our lives. For example, can charter change prevent massive loss of lives and properties every time a natural disaster hits the country? Can it strengthen our roads, railways, electric posts and roofs? Can it stop flooding, landslides and mudslides (in the urban areas)?

Scientists have a bad news. Global warming will continue to wreak havoc in the future. This means strong typhoons and long periods of drought. More people will be forced to flee their homes because of environmental disasters.

Perhaps the key to save more lives is not the type of government or constitution we have. What we need is a responsive bureaucracy, responsible private sector and united barangays. We have to underscore the role to be performed by communities in providing quick health and relief assistance and the prevention of looting during natural calamities.

Milenyo confirmed our status as a Third World nation. It also highlighted the sorry state of our vital infrastructures. Some may argue that we may be complaining too much. Even the mighty United States could not prevent hurricane Katrina from destroying New Orleans. But if this will always be our reasoning, then we will never be a great nation again.

Related entries:

Disaster preparedness. Kulang na kulang.
Refugee nation. Na naman.
Water runs dry. Magugulat si Rizal.

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First online press conference, my blog entry for global voices online.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted October 6, 2006 at 3:51 am | Permalink | Reply

    “Scientists have a bad news. Global warming will continue to wreak havoc in the future. This means strong typhoons and long periods of drought. More people will be forced to flee their homes because of environmental disasters. ”

    Frightening indeed. We are experiencing somekind of weather turmoil here in Europe. And it ain’t very pleasant.

    We all must learn to respect the environment. Those jeepneys in Manila that belch smoke like there’s no tomorrow are affecting the environment badly.

    Sooner or later, there will be more havoc than we imagine… Let’s be prepared!

  2. Posted October 9, 2006 at 2:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Power was restored in my place late Friday night. What concerns me are the countless impoverished areas which were hardest hit. The affluent can always stay in the hotels and feast on expensive food, what about the poor who barely survive and now has to rebuild whatever is left of their homes?

    Schumey

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