Assistance needed as typhoon calamity adds to pandemic woes

Published October 17, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin


Severe Tropical Storm Maring (Kompasu) slashed across the Cordilleras, the Ilocos Region and Mimaropa region (islands of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) early last week, causing massive floods and landslides and inflicting casualties in affected areas.

Continuous rains over a 24-hour period between October 11 and 12 — estimated as being equivalent to over a month’s volume of rain — fell in Baguio City, Dagupan City and Laoag City. Measured at 625.3 millimeters, the Baguio rain volume was 130 percent over the normal level, flooding even the Burnham Park area, an all-time favorite tourist destination in the summer capital.

Rainfall over Cagayan and Calayan islands attributed to Typhoon Maring over the same 24-hour period was measured at 47 percent and 36 percent, respectively, of the average monthly rainfall.

Weather specialists noted that since the massive rains fell on mountainous areas, these eventually reached the low-lying areas — thus raising anew the inadequacy of forest cover to stem the flood tides.

Casualties reported from La Trinidad, Benguet, were on account of landslides. Recall that years ago, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) warned about landslide-prone areas marked through geo-hazard studies as being unsuitable to housing. Authorities must look into whether appropriate preventive measures have been adopted.

The calamity brought on by typhoons compounds the woes caused by the pandemic. Last year, a triad of strong typhoons struck the country: Quinta (Molave), Rolly (Goni), and Ulysses (Vamco). Severely affected were the Bicol and Cagayan Valley provinces, aside from parts of Metro Manila and Rizal.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more difficult for people affected by natural disasters to bounce back and recover. To begin with, crowding and close contact occur in evacuation centers thereby violating the physical distancing protocol. Most of those displaced also belong to the marginalized sectors composed of the poorest families. Their breadwinners are also likely to have been affected, too, by layoffs and job losses.

Damage to crops is another area of concern. The Department of Agriculture’s latest estimate is that losses incurred in the three northernmost regions — Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and Cordilleras — is at P447.79 million. Were it not for the fact that significant portions of standing crops had already been harvested before Typhoon Maring struck, the losses would have been greater.

Quick response teams have been deployed; augmentation teams are also ready. Food packs have been distributed and adequate replenishment is available at the DSWD field offices. With a grassroots-based disaster relief and risk reduction councils in place in every municipality and local government unit, the DSWD and other national agencies are assured of real time information on the situation on the ground.

What is most essential is that our people are given sufficient lead time to prepare for typhoons and similar calamities. Disaster preparedness is every Filipino family’s business. Government must ensure that the citizenry is adequately informed and enabled to mitigate the risks and the harm that natural calamities inflict.