Weathered promises

With typhoon Paeng dealing deadly casualities, the government deals with the challenge of creating effective long-term risk reduction plans.

It was a disaster—from the onslaught of Typhoon Paeng to the administration’s lackadaisical response. Everything was a disaster.

With an average of 20 tropical storms expected to hit the Philippines annually, disaster preparedness and response must be a crucial priority by the government. However, what happened during Typhoon Paeng proved otherwise—tallying at least 150 dead, 36 missing, and a minimum of P2.74 billion worth of crops lost across 64 provinces due to the lack of long-term disaster preparations, non-implementation of a nationwide state of calamity despite the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s (NDRRMC) recommendation, and the seeming lack of definite plans to address gaps in emergency risk management and response. Certainly, Malacañang’s “Wala po siya sa Japan” response to the circulating question on “Nasaan ang Pangulo?” did not help. If the public’s speculations are untrue, then where was he the whole time?

(He’s not in Japan. Where is the President?) 

“We could have done better in Maguindanao,” President Marcos Jr. commented after Typhoon Paeng brought heavy rainfall and unexpected flooding in Mindanao. Despite his previous vows to strengthen disaster risk management, there is still nothing new. 

During his campaign period, Marcos Jr. tackled his plans for a program that protects the people and environment of the Philippines, stating his interest in using the United Nation Disaster Risk Reduction system as a model. This program would include comprehensive information on disaster risk including hazards, exposure, vulnerability, and capacity. Utilizing information technology, he also planned to create an internet-based disaster risk information roadmap that would address the harmful effects of natural disasters. 

However, after examining the administration’s actual response to Typhoon Paeng, it is clear that some promises were unfulfilled.

Back in August 22, around a month after Marcos Jr.’s inauguration, he continued to mention certain remedies in case such disasters would occur, primarily informing the public how these disasters should be tackled. “As we know, the very first thing that we have to deal with is really communication, to find out what’s going on where, and then doon na tayo makapag-assess, [kung] saan natin uunahin,” he declared.

Yet, Typhoon Paeng’s aftermath proved that these were just empty words, without any concrete action in terms of approaching the situation. The president’s statements reflect his tenure so far, uncovering a lack of accountability, responsibility, and concrete plans that aim to resolve the nation’s most immediate concerns. 

In evaluating the administration’s actual response to Paeng’s onslaught, victims were guaranteed cash aid. According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), they contain “stockpiles and standby funds amounting to more than P1.4 billion,” with “food and non-food items stocked at P708.6 million.” Despite the presence of cash aid and other relief operations, avoiding the same aftermath will boil down to the government’s ability to create long-term solutions for risk reduction.

Delving into the root of dealing with natural disasters, agencies such as the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) are crucial when it comes to dealing with forecasting. However, PAGASA has been calling for additional financial support amid broken and faulty doppler radars in some regions. Dr. Esperanza Cayanan, the deputy administrator for research and development of PAGASA, stressed that these radars are used as a basis for “forecasters [to] issue alert and advisory of color-coded rainfall warning” ahead of time. 

Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM) recently commented on the lack of funding despite the urgency of the situation. “With the increasing threats of climate change, President Marcos Jr. said that this is included in his top priorities. Yet he cuts the budget on departments that address this issue,”they called out.

PAGASA will receive P1.142 billion in the 2023 proposed budget, significantly below this year’s P1.385 billion statement.

Natural disasters are inevitable in a country like the Philippines; however, relief operations and measures for immediate aid still need to be improved. In the middle of it all, the government should look to long-term solutions so that people would not have to suffer in the first place. 

As citizens of the Philippines, we must take up the mantle of responsibility toward our countrymen. The resilience of Filipinos will surely carry us through whatever storm comes next but we can only take so much without the support of our government. We as a nation must be better than what was shown in Paeng and disasters of the past.

The LaSallian

By The LaSallian

Leave a Reply