Typhoon Sendong’s Aftermath: A Deja Vu

With hundreds of fatalities and victims still on the missing list, the onslaught of Typhoon Sendong literally has taken the South by storm. And as its wrath slowly subsides, the whole country is once again facing another period of scapegoating: finding who is to blame for a catastrophe that could have been prevented in the first place, just like the rest of the calamities we have faced in the past. Without any doubt, we might welcome Christmas full of grief, finger-pointing, and lots of blame-mongering.

According to renowned broadcaster Korina Sanchez, wrong information and complacency combined have turned the typhoon victims defenseless against the fury of Mother Nature.  And frustrating as it may sound, the fact that we faced the same ordeal with Ondoy almost two years ago is a strong evidence that we Filipinos really need a crash course in History. Albeit disasters such as this kind are out of our own control, its drastic effects could have been controlled, if not totally prevented, if and only if certain measures are ALWAYS followed to prevent people from being caught off guard by the deadly wrath of nature. But who is to blame? Is it PAGASA? P’Noy? Or the people themselves? We can only wonder but eventually it would take us nowhere.

PAGASA caught sleeping on Sendong

According to reports PAGASA issued its first storm signals on Thursday, December 15, less than 24 hours before it forecast the storm’s landfall in Mindanao. However, as early as Tuesday, December 13, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) of the US Navy was already tracking a powerful storm heading for Mindanao. There was no word then from PAGASA. On the same day, December 13, a weather blogger, typhoonk, declared that Sendong/Washi “looks like a meanie.” Furthermore, the US agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA) had been forecasting the storm’s western course for nearly a week. There was no mention of these forecasts on the PAGASA web site either. What’s worse, NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council), which usually takes it cues from PAGASA, issued its first bulletinon Sendong only on Thursday, December 15, at 11 a.m. Does this mean that PAGASA should take all the blame? PAGASA has been notorious for giving late and questionable weather forecasts which has led the public to develop a notion that there’s no “pag-asa” (hope) that PAGASA will improve its performance. True enough, despite  its past shortcomings, PAGASA is using once again the we-lack-equipments-and-meteorologists kind of reason to shield them all from public mockery.

Where the hell is P’ Noy?

Typhoon Sendong clearly has  put a sudden halt to the distasteful politicking and bickering inside the Aquino administration. But just like a deja vu of the Manila bus hostage drama, Aquino has been questioned once again of his whereabouts during the typhoon tragedy. According to reports, “as the nation mourns”, Noynoy was apparently busy “laughing at [the] jokes” and “enjoying [the] performance” of Filipino starlet Valerie Concepcion even as the death toll from Typhoon Sendong climbed to more than 400 in Cagayan de Oro City. If we have to believe the said reports, then P’Noy should not be taken seriously to its promise of running the government not in “Arroyo” way because this lack of concern, much to the public’s chagrin and dismay, would put him under the same crappy category as his predecessor.

People, Nature, and, Complacency

According to GMA News, Undersecretary Benito Ramos, operations head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), has claimed to reporters that Mindanao residents were warned about the dangers posed by the storm days earlier but they elected not to move to safer areas. We could attribute their unpreparedness to the fact that typhoons and heavy rainfalls usually take a detour away from the Mindanao area. Nobody saw it coming but neither PAGASA nor President Aquino could have prevented the typhoon from reaching its current death toll if people themselves were not willing to evacuate from the comforts of their homes. And who would do that if they’ve been told that the typhoon would hit them at a mere signal number 2?

The aftermath of Typhoon Sendong will bring us all into a period of soul-searching, of finding lessons from each soul perished, and of reflecting about the reality that Filipinos have short-term memories and always learn their lessons the hardest way. But this is not a time to point fingers to one another but rather a perfect time to start making peace with Mother Nature. We don’t want to let illegal logging and poor waste management to take its toll on us and eventually wipe us all from the face of the earth, do we? Protecting our nature and establishing proactive measures for disaster management should be on top of our government’s priorities because in the end, prevention will always be better than cure.

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