GOD, FILIPINOS, ONDOY AND PEPENG

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by Tito Vic Romero,
10/12/2009

A good friend of mine, Ador, wrote:

“Just wondering. . . . If God is really watching over us, why unleash these back-to-backcalamities to our beloved Philippines, the only christianized and the most corrupt country in Asia, claiming hundreds of lives and destroying billion dollars of properties we can ill afford. . . Just wondering . . .”

Salamat, Ador, for wondering aloud about God's watching over us.

First, Pepeng and the landslides in the Cordilleras.

PEPENG AND THE CORDILLERAS

If you love the Philippines you will probably find this interesting.
If you don’t care, you may find this boring.

The Cordilleras can handle rain. Lots of rain. Four great rivers drain these 7000-8000 foot highlands. They all begin within a few kilometers of each other on Mount Data (Do a Google search on Mount Data National Park). 1) The Suyoc on the west side flows into the Abra, which drains into the South China Sea. 2) The Chico on the northeast flows into the mighty Cagayan. 3) The Asin on the east flows into the Magat, which flows into the mighty Cagayan. 4) The Agno on the south drains into the Pangasinan plain and Lingayen Gulf. The mighty Cagayan is largest river in the Philippines. It goes north through Tuguegarao and into the Babuyan Channel. The Spaniards called it the Rio Grande de Cagayan because of its size. The Chico is the post popular whitewater rafting and kayaking destination in Luzon. (Do a Google search on Chico River
Rafting.) You need a descending river to create whitewater rapids. The Abra is well-known to the people of the Ilocos. Look for videos of it on YouTube. The river is so wide. Pangasinenses know too well about the Agno. It’s also such a wide river. People who have read F. Sionil Jose’s Poón (the Ilocano word for tree) know what a mighty force the Agno can be.

This drainage system works when it’s in equilibrium. It’s God’s creation. It’s beautiful and efficient. It breaks down when we humans cut down the trees on the mountainsides, eliminating the tree roots that keep the soil from eroding and creating landslides. The greed of the loggers created the conditions that caused the landslides that killed people. In other forums on the internet, I have suggested a 100-year moratorium on logging on Philippine mountains. In addition, we need to plant trees to restore the mountain forests to their conditions in 1960.

ONDOY AND RIZAL

People built homes where none should have been built.

UP hydraulics engineer Guillermo Tabios says “certain areas such as Provident Villages were flood plains or low-lying areas where water from the river would overflow.

“You’re not supposed to build anything within six times the width of the river. Instead of fighting the river, you should just let the river run its course,” he said, noting that the floodwater increased its speed as it hit Marikina City.

Tabios cited the presence of obstructions along the Manggahan Floodway, which he said was originally designed to be 260 meters in width and a high water level of 14 meters.” (Julie M. Aurelio, “9 hours would have made the difference ,” Philippine Daily Inquirer,
10/08/2009)

ONDOY AND LAGUNA

The Laguna de Bay drains into Manila Bay by way of the Pasig River.
Laguna is the Spanish word for lagoon, a fresh body of water that connects to salty sea water. When unpolluted, a lagoon is typically rich in marine life.

The following is from the “.4M lake squatters must go,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 10/09/2009:

At least 400,000 squatters block key drainage channels of Laguna Lake on the edge of Metro Manila. The squatters are among a million people living on the shoreline of the country’s biggest lake.

“About 300,000 of the squatters are living in and around an illegal open garbage dump on wetlands that block two connecting rivers that are meant to channel excess water from the lake into Manila Bay to the west.

“The channel is constricted,” Laguna Lake Development Authority chief Edgardo Manda said, adding that clearing the squatters and garbage from the wetlands was key to allowing water to flow more freely.”

PEPENG AND PANGASINAN

The flooding of 38 Pangasinan towns (“never happened before,” says 56-year-old Villasis Mayor Abrenica) was caused by the release of water from the San Roque Dam.

Fatima Rosalin, 32, of Rosales, Pangasinan, and other residents in the area said there was no warning that the San Roque Dam in San Manuel, Pangasinan, had opened all of its six spillway gates that same day, spewing excess water at 2,500 cubic meters per second, inundating Rosales.

Teofilo Salazar, barangay captain of Puelay, said he and other members of the barangay council began sandbagging at least two spots in the eastern part of the dike when rains caused the river to swell.
“Before the San Roque Dam was allowed to operate full blast, they should have first attended to the dikes. These are already weak,”
Salazar said. (Gabriel Cardinoza, “We did not receive any warning’”, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 10/12/2009)

This from the column of Rina Jimenez-David in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 10/13/2009:

“And what of those in charge of San Roque Dam in Pangasinan? So the earth dikes were already showing cracks months before Pepeng paid a visit? Why weren’t funds and human resources made available to repair them in time? And why didn’t any official make sure that those living in the path of the rampaging waters were warned and told to evacuate before the dam waters were released? The floods weren’t accidental at all, but the result of a deliberate decision, however well-meaning.
What happened to preparing for the worst?”

SO, WHERE IS IT OK TO BUILD A HOME?

No lower than the nearest bridge or church altar, says urban planner Felino Palafox. (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 10/09/2009)

Palafox says homeowners, especially in places ravaged by the flood triggered by Tropical Storm “Ondoy” two weeks ago like Cainta, Pasig and Marikina, should research the “flood line” of their area. “This flood line should be based on the 100-year flood level, or the highest point reached by floods during this period,” he says. Normally, to get this information, builders would contract a “hydrological” study of the area. “But that is too expensive,” says Palafox, who also laments that some developers only get the 25-year flood level. The best bet, he says, is to look at the latest foreign-funded bridge in the neighborhood. “I would not advise bridges built using pork barrel because the specifications might be suspect.”

Palafox recommends a visit to the parish church and take a measurement of the altar. “In the old days, churches made it a point to construct the altar well above any flood line so they can avoid the altar being flooded.”

CONCLUSION

All are to blame, says an editorial of the Philippine Daily Inquirer of 10/12/2009.

“Now that things have settled down somewhat and relief operations are in full swing, it is time for finger-pointing and assigning blame.
Some blame Nature for being capricious and ferocious. Most blame government for its unpreparedness, for its lack of a ready system for coping with disasters. Very few people blame themselves for the deluge and for the horrific death and destruction.

“Yes, indeed the enemy, insofar as environmental degradation and climate change are concerned, is us. We are, all of us, to blame.”

Thank you, Ador, for this opportunity for all of us to reflect on what happened. It was not God’s doing. It was humans that did it. God is still with us, watching what we’re doing to ourselves and our fellow humans.

Let’s not cut down trees any more. Let’s plant trees instead. Let’s not build homes in waterways or flood plains. Let’s dredge canals and esteros and keep the riverways clear. Let’s be extra cautious when building dams. Let’s fix and strengthen dikes. Let us respect the land and rivers and seas and our fellow humans.

2 comments:

Audrey said...

yep. this is usually the course when something awful happens. we point our fingers on others and tried as much to cleanse ourselves of the blame.

we're lucky we have not tasted nature's wrath. the flood tragedy should be an eye opener not only to the cebuanos but to all Filipinos. love nature. have a discipline.

bisaya said...

i agree. cause of these tragedies are our lack of love of nature. we don't value tree's and everything around us. we should teach ourselves as well as our future children these values, for their sake and for their children's sake.