As a resident of Quezon City in Metro Manila, I grew up with typhoons and floods during the monsoon season that normally lasts from June to September. People in cities have learned to live with floods, and perhaps, not learned from the experience enough to change mindsets, lifestyles. Our drains continue to be clogged, motorists get stranded on the road, families still live in danger zones so much so that entire communities get evacuated, lives and livelihoods are lost, year in, year out.
|A recently released Post-Disaster Needs Assessment tells of big numbers: total damage and losses following typhoons Ketsana and Parma was US$4.3 billion. (Photo by Nonilon Reyes)|
My mind raced back to the remote town of Balangiga in Eastern Samar, as the Philippines government, development partners and the private sector were discussing the findings of the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) in a recent dialogue in Makati City.
The PDNA—prepared by a team of local and international experts from the government agencies, private sector, civil society and development partners—tells about big numbers: total damage and losses following two typhoons, Ketsana and Parma, was US$4.3 billion. And resources needed for the Philippines to pick up the pieces and eventually get back on its feet is equally big—more than US$4.4 billion (pdf). There were discussions about how the PDNA could serve as a framework for recovery and reconstruction, but my mind kept telling me that one of the key principles to effectively address floods and disasters in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon—on top of the required resources, processes, and governance reforms—lies in the experiences of residents of that remote town in the Visayas Islands.
|For 24 hours last Saturday, Typhoon Ondoy dumped 455 millimeters of rain on Luzon, causing massive floods and destroying lives and property in Metro Manila. (Photo courtesy of IRRI Images under a Creative Commons license)|
Muelmar Magallanes, an 18 year-old construction worker, had already saved 30 people from the raging floodwaters last Saturday. Shivering and exhausted, he dived back into the murky waters to save a mother and a baby girl who were bobbing up and down among the floating debris and brought them to safety. Then he was gone, swept away by the torrents. His body was found the following day.
Magallanes is one of the more than 240 casualties caused by Tropical Storm Ondoy (international name: Ketsana). For 24 hours last Saturday, Typhoon Ondoy dumped 455 millimeters of rain (double the volume brought to New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina) on Luzon, causing massive floods in Metro Manila and the adjoining regions, destroying lives and property, and creating anguish and devastation in the metropolis.