The Philippine government’s plan for preemptive evacuations on storm signals should be taken seriously. The proposed upgrading of PAGASA’s weather forecasting equipments should be implemented immediately. NDCC needs to improve on its capabilities and resources when handling sudden large scale calamities. The Philippines has so much to do to better prepare for and to better manage the aftermaths of storms as damaging as Ondoy (Ketsana), which caused more than 300 lives, millions of people displaced and an early estimate of more than US$100M in damages.
More than ever, NDCC and its regional operations need immediate improvement in terms of preparedness, planning, assessment, execution and appropriation. The government was overwhelmed when Ondoy wreaked havoc on virtually the entire South Luzon — including a deluge on 80% of the nation’s capital. Being overwhelmed is not expected from and is never an option for the government when hundreds of lives are in danger. Unfortunately, as the government itself admits, its capacity was tested to the limit… though, in my opinion, and if I may add, a little, too, soon.
The priority is always to save lives — before, during and after the storm. A preemptive action plan in preparation for a possible calamity costs less than actually losing so many lives. I saw a video from CNN showing what we can learn from Cuba which was violently struck by consecutive hurricanes far more damaging last year afterwhich they reported to’ve lost only 7 lives. Cuba’s effort to evacuate the people, even as far as going house to house to pick them up, saved thousands. Their government’s information campaign to prepare the people with detailed steps on what to do before, during and after the hurricane were aired on the radio for days before and towards the dates of the landfalls. The evacuation and relocation centers were also guaranteed by the government of food, water and medical supplies. The Cuban government also provided financial support and assistance so that the people who lost their properties could rebuild their homes and recover sooner. Cuba has thousands of lives to prove that it can be done and that it can be successfully achieved with exemplary and worthwhile results.
Some lessons are learned the hard way, yes, but this one is perhaps one of the most heartbreaking for the nation. Year after year, the Philippines get slammed with storms one after another. We thought we’re ready already. We didn’t see this one coming. We’ve seen the effects now and can clearly identify the shortcomings.
I call for the people to be prepared, yes, but we must acknowledge that the people can only do so much by and for themselves. I expect far more from the Philippine government after this. Please act now and do it fast. We can never afford to lose more than what we already lost. Be ready. Be prepared. Learn and never let it happen again.
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