Government’s official response to disaster

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    THE government was not remiss, it acted promptly, it committed no error or miscalculation — in responding to the onslaught of typhoon Ulysses, but it will “strive to do better” in case another weather calamity strikes, the presidential spokesman said matter-of-factly on Monday.

    With reports, photos and videos of the desolate Cagayan and leveled Isabela, their residents haggard and hungry, without food, clothes and shelter, streaming from the scene of the catastrophe, Secretary Harry Roque still maintains his poise and proclaims without as much as batting an eyelash that the government coped well with the disaster. We wonder if there are many Filipinos who believed in what he said, considering the evidence to the contrary: 73 people dead, P1.5 billion in infrastructure and agriculture lost, on top of private homes, cars, appliances, etc.

    In the wake of the massive floods, Roque insisted that the national government actually prepared well for the arrival of the typhoon in the region. President Duterte’s mouthpiece admitted, however, that authorities in northern Luzon did “not expect the gravity of the amount of water that descended on the lowlands.”

    ‘We wonder if there are many Filipinos who believed in what he said, considering the evidence to the contrary: 73 people dead, P1.5 billion in infrastructure and agriculture lost, on top of private homes, cars, appliances, etc.’

    Specifically, this is what Roque said about the northern Luzon deluge: “Of course, we always strive to have better response performance especially during calamities. But what we’re saying is with what happened in Cagayan, we really prepared for it. As the governor himself said, they did not actually expect this much water discharge into Cagayan Valley. So, we will strive to do better, I maintain that there was no shortcoming, but we will always strive to be better.”

    After this calamity, the authorities are now venting their anger and training their eyes on the usual culprits: climate change, global warming, deforestation, illegal mining and quarrying — all contributing their share to the disastrous floods of the northern region.

    Several Cabinet officials are proposing that government rationalize the management of dams, particularly when to release extra water when the dams are full, and what volume of water to let go. With President Duterte preparing to leave office as his term ends, it should be obvious that this suggestion should have been aired a long time ago.

    Sen. Richard Gordon’s suggestion, aired yesterday at the Senate hearing on the budget of the Department of Budget and Management, is for the government to augment the calamity funds of local government units, especially those in storm-prone regions such as Samar island, Bicol region, parts of Quezon and Laguna, Catanduanes, Baler, Quirino and Cagayan.

    The senator pointed out that the additional allocation would reach the people faster if added to the budget of LGUs and not retained as national government calamity funds. He proposed to give LGUs the tools to reduce the suffering of the people, including training on disaster preparedness and response.

    This proposal is worth considering, at least because it suggests some action. Very much divorced from Malacañang’s narrative on the resilience of the Filipino, which has become an alibi for delayed action or inaction.