THE arrival of yet another strong typhoon in the country this week again underscored the point that nothing beats full preparation in all aspects of disaster management, whether the natural disaster is a cyclone, an earthquake, or a fire.
By now, Typhoon Tisoy has left the Philippine area of responsibility, exiting through Mindoro, leaving in its wake around 10 dead in Luzon and the Visayas. Most of these deaths were caused by drowning in flood waters, uprooted trees that fell on houses and people, travelling on slippery roads and yes, electrocution. Needless to say, some of these deaths are preventable.
Thousands of passengers in seaports, airports and bus terminals were stranded, some for several days, but the airlines and aviation authorities – the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, the Manila International Airport Authority and Ninoy Aquino International Airport – were not remiss in reminding people of the weather situation. The PAGASA was on top of the situation, along with the NDRMMO, in informing the people about the path of the typhoon, its reported strength, probable time of landfall and trail to be taken.
The local governments of provinces, cities and municipalities have been duly notified and had enough time to prepare for the emergency, moving food packs, tents, clothes and other relief goods where they are expected to be used. Local residents have been duly warned, especially those in low-lying areas, to be ready for evacuation and other disaster mitigation measures. Days before the expected arrival of Tisoy, evacuation centers, especially in Metro Manila, have been readied and stacked with provisions.
Despite all these preparations, Tisoy left a messy trail of destruction that caused the lives of at least 11 persons. The number of fatalities could be more as late reports from the PNP and other disaster agencies come in.
More devastating than the inconvenience suffered by thousands of stranded passengers was the damage to agriculture and fisheries sector. The Department of Agriculture said the cyclone affected more than 300,000 hectares of rice farms and nearly 32,000 of corn fields across various regions.
Agriculture officials noted that crops at reproductive and maturing stages are more vulnerable to typhoon damage, and so the DA expects to receive an even bigger report on losses in the agriculture sector in the coming days. Transportation, too, was severely hit by the calamity, with the Legazpi City airport losing its roof and walls, while a number of coastal communities lost fishing bancas and other watercraft.
Landslides were reported in mountain roads of Quezon and Laguna provinces, particularly along the slopes of the Sierra Madre mountain, and the DPWH in the region is quickly restoring the roads.
As we assess the damage done by Tisoy, we may readily appreciate that while we cannot do anything when nature unleashes its fury, at least we can prepare for all contingencies.
Losses in Filipino lives and property would have been higher if the government and the people were remiss in their preparations.