Only a ruthless dictator can solve metro flooding
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-08-14
Filipinos shouldn’t be consoled that the recent monsoon floods brought out the heroism in some of our countrymen — risking their lives to save others or sharing the little they’ve got. It’s better that we focus on the miseries inflicted here by severe floods that are Filipino-made.

Too many lives were lost, and lives made miserable by metropolitan flooding and the prognosis is that things will get worse because of climate change. Seen from the perspective of previous years’ rainfall, last week’s floods weren’t unusual occurrences but rather a preview of worse floods to come. Per Mahar Lagmay of Project Noah, we had 1,000 mm rainfall in four days last week — compared to 455 mm rainfall in just a few hours during 2009’s Tropical Storm Ondoy.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje is right when he told the government TV network: “There is nothing we can do but to adapt to climate change and the only way we can be prepared for the impact of climate change is to accept that these recent developments in our country, like intense weather disturbances, heavy rainfall, as well as long dry season are now the ‘new normal.” You know that. I know that. But the people mostly affected by floods don’t seem to know that — or are simply in denial.

Many of us could only shake our heads in disbelief and utter frustration when it was reported that many metro residents refused to leave their domiciles, even when it was clear that they would experience severe inundation. Their reason is that they were afraid to lose their few worldly possessions. Granted that most, if not all of these folks who have squatted along riverbanks or creek sides are poor — still there’s no justification for risking one’s life and the lives of other family members for the little that they’ve got. This clearly demonstrates a people’s damaged culture and warped values. Is there hope for a country whose people think like this?

You cannot offer the reasoning that ‘poverty is the absence of choice’ to justify the stubbornness of these people. There is clearly a choice here and the choice is life preservation. Alive they can strive to regain the worldly possessions that they’ve lost. No amount of assessed value can ever justify the willful sacrifice of one’s life or that of a family member. People who think like this could easily shift their damaged thinking to resort to committing crimes like robbery or kidnapping in order to alleviate their social condition. Only individual self-reform can repair our damaged culture — not by amending the Constitution. No Constitutional amendment can prescribe the effective repair that will correct a damaged culture. On the contrary, a damaged culture like ours will ensure the failure of any system, even ideology.

Senator Gringo Honasan has a good proposal — implement a rationalized national land use plan. He correctly pointed to the hindrance, some local government executives who benefit from patronizing the urban poor. Honasan was quoted: “How can you convince people that it is in the national interest to relocate people in hazardous areas when doing so will affect their chances of reelection? How can you convince developers to accept a national land use plan when they have so far been dictating where a city’s infrastructure should be built based on their own interests?”

Last week, a photo of the muck and garbage that invaded the waters of the prestigious Manila Yacht Club went viral and it was very appropriately captioned — The Manila Yuck Club. When we laugh at that or even pass it on, we should not lose sight of the realities that our country is facing with the way our lack of discipline and concern for others is bringing us down and derailing our desired progress. Comic relief is useful but it should not shift our focus from solving the core problem.

The political will of President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) to solve the metropolitan flooding problem during his term is laudable and deserves our full support. Already we’ve seen the remarkable improvements that P-Noy has injected with the way government handles natural calamities. Last week, it was very evident that the government was on the job — but it was our fellow Filipinos who were not willing to be saved or be spared the risks of settling along perilous riverbanks and creek sides. Last week, despite all the previous attempts to promote proper waste disposal, we saw that the problem has worsened instead of lessened.

It seems that only a ruthless dictator can solve our metropolitan flooding problem. Only a ruthless dictator can rationalize land use by depopulating the Metro Manila area and removing obstructive structures to waterways. Only a ruthless dictator can impose a death penalty for improper garbage disposal. That’s an exaggeration, of course, but can you think of a better deterrent? Unfortunately P-Noy isn’t the type to fill the shoes of the ruthless dictator that we need. There’s too much goodness and kindness in our president.

We can only hope for redemption when all our countrymen understand and accept that we’re the bigger problem of our country. We’re the problem and the solution.

* * *

Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

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