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Ondoy's Lessons

The past week was not only disappointing, it was, well, tragic. Tragic because a good friend lost his daughter over dengue and also because some of my closest friends in Luzon lost almost all of their belongings to Ondoy's deluge. And as of this writing, clouds of woe darken the northern skies as another typhoon is about to unleash its fury as if the heavens are in conspiracy to hurry the sentence and penalty of a nation already condemned in poverty.

I am not interested to count the economic costs or the fortuitous losses in revenue and opportunities wrought by Ondoy. The sight of the aftermath alone is intuitive enough for anyone to make his best guess. But what is specially concerning is how unprepared we are to deal with post-calamity scenario although I have to admit that the National Disaster and Coordinating Council (NDCC) did what it was supposed to from Ondoy's opening salvo to its height and until its nocuous exit.

What followed thereafter was seemingly beyond NDCCs power to solve -- water and power outage, conveyance of water in inundated areas, inadequacy of temporary shelters as well as shortage of food supplies and medicines. Had it not for the help of our kababayans - the problem could have been any worse than we expect.

From the practical sense, there are only three crucial components to disaster management - preparation, response and recovery. If we were to grade NDCC's report card, NDCC only passed the part on preparation and response and a failing mark on disaster recovery. It appears to me that the private sector is doing a better job in doing all the dirty work to assist victims more than the NDCC itself. But of course, we know that the NDCC cannot do this job alone. We need all the help we can get from both government and the private sector to fast track recovery efforts but the leadership and guidance must and should emanate at all times from the government not from private initiative.

It's such an ironic sight when disaster victims find immediate assistance from NGOs and civic organizations than government for information, rescue efforts, and relief goods distribution when it is supposed to be the "top coordinator and the highest allocator of resources" in times of disaster.

But this is not the appropriate time for buck passing or finger pointing. Nor the proper time to leverage the weakness of the NDCC for it to absorb all the flak and for political mileage as what many politicians have been doing. The best our aspiring politicians can do is to heed the challenge of Senator Miriam Santiago to stop their infomercials and give the money instead to typhoon victims.

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Ondoy should serve as a lesson for the NDCC to review its mandate and function in recovery efforts. As it seems. PD 156 only outlines the role of the NDCC only in "disaster preparedness, prevention, mitigation and response" not recovery. 

Finally Ondoy should also serve as a lesson to all of us Filipinos that the Bayanihan Spirit should not only shine in times of calamity but in those moments when we see a neighbor in dire need.

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