Monday, September 28, 2009

Metro Manila under water

Code-named 'Ondoy'--the strongest typhoon that ever hit the Philippines-- brought with it more than 400 millimeters of rains and destroyed the lives and properties of an undetermined number of people who were caught by surprise when floods rising up to 20 feet deep inundated most Metro Manila streets Sunday.

Hardest hit were the cities of Marikina and Cainta, along with the rest of the Rizal province. At this time, nobody knew exactly what caused the sudden rise of water that caused tens of thousands stranded on the streets after they were caught waiting for transportation on their way back home. In previous typhoons, the Angat Dam has caused a lot of worries to millions of residents living in and around its area. When there is excessive volume of rains, it always thought that Angat Dam, which supplies water to La Mesa Dam in Balara, Quezon City, before it is distributed to the whole of Metro Manila households, would overflow. But when it does, it is hundred percent sure that the surrounding areas will be flooded. The rush of water coming from the Angat Dam would too much to bear. When it could no longer hold enough water, it has no option but to release the excess water.

Now, the flood victims have no way of knowing if it was really the release of water in Angat Dam that caused the heavy flooding. I live in Marikina for
more that 25 years now. And my family was not spared. I knew very well that the local government does its job by maintaining the Marikina River at all times. But when this magnitude of overflooding takes place, some people may just wonder that, perhaps, the river was heavily silted which might be the reason why it overflowed to the city streets. Perhaps, it is also about time that Pag-Asa--the weather center in the Philippines--should be given attention by upgrading its equipment and other facilities. As of now, Pag-Asa doesn't have a Doppler alert station where it would be capable of determining the volume of rain that is going to hit the ground.

And it's so funny to hear and read that even the chief of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) failed to rescue his only daughter who was trapped in her office by the rampaging floods in Cainta, Rizal that day. It was right that MMDA chairman Bayani Fernando did not lift a finger to use rubber boats that were supposed to rescue thousands of people who were in the same situation. Otherwise, he could have been flashed all over the tri-media for grave abuse of discretion. Indeed, a wise move and decision from the MMDA chair. Luckily, his daughter survived the hard ordeal.

My family told me it was a traumatic experience to undergo such a kind of bad experience. I knew how they felt. In fact, I've never experienced this horrific problem that hit Metro Manila before. Now, my wife is trying to convince me to transfer to another place in order to forget what happened. I believed that there are still places outside Metro Manila that are safe from floods. One of these place is Antipolo City. However, the only drawback of living in Antipolo City is the scarcity of water. Here, water is rationed on a daily basis. While those with money may just build their own water pumps to source out water from the ground. But is the suburbs free from this kind of malady? I don't think so.

For as long as man never ceases to abuse its surroundings by wantonly throwing thrash all around, overflooding of city streets will not stop. The government can only do so much. What the people need at this time is discipline, if they really wanted to live a good life. Throwing garbage into the creeks and rivers is not right because it clogs the water tributaries. Hence, the overflowing of rivers and creeks. But the local government, too, must have fair share of the responsibility. It must see to it that people, particularly those living in squatter areas, must not dispose of their garbage anywhere for good sanitation purposes. The local government must also come up with enough budget to keep its rivers free of flotsams and heavy siltation by dredging them as required. In this way, overflooding can be at least minimized.

I just hope and pray that another typhoon of the same magnitude will not visit the Philippines again. Otherwise, it would be another great disaster for so many people, particularly those living along the river banks, creeks and coastal areas. And the call to modernize the facilities of the Philippines weather station should be taken seriously, too.

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