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Opinion

EDITORIAL - Facing Chedeng

The Philippine Star

Super Typhoon Yolanda imparted a costly lesson in weak disaster preparedness. Since then, residents of coastal communities have learned to heed storm warnings and evacuation alerts. Immediate disaster response, appalling for Yolanda, also improved.

Levels of preparedness, however, were inconsistent or remained inadequate in several areas. Last year the five most destructive weather disturbances to hit the country, as listed by the weather bureau, still left over 200 people dead. In mid-July, Typhoon Glenda killed 106 people and shut down Metro Manila, where many areas were without electricity for several days.

In December, the nation was better prepared for the fury of Hagupit or Ruby, although it still left 18 confirmed fatalities. Ruby was the most powerful typhoon to enter the Philippines last year. Fortunately, it was no Yolanda. But it left a sense of over-preparation that might have contributed to some backsliding when another typhoon struck shortly before New Year’s Eve. Seniang left 66 dead and six missing.

Now an off-season typhoon that is shaping up to be a Category 5 monster howler is threatening the country this Easter weekend. President Aquino is reportedly staying in Manila to oversee preparations for Typhoon Maysak, which has devastated several Pacific islands. Yesterday officials involved in disaster-related activities began giving regular briefings to the public. People are monitoring the path of the typhoon, locally named Chedeng, as it roars toward Luzon.

Metro Manila and more than 20 provinces are in the path of the typhoon. Weather forecasters are monitoring the possibility of storm surges as Filipinos go on Holy Week pilgrimages and enjoy the Lenten break. Local officials must be ready with evacuation protocols for coastal communities and those at risk of landslides.

Evacuation facilities continue to be among the weak aspects of disaster preparedness. The inadequacy of evacuation centers is one of the biggest reasons why people refuse to leave their homes despite warnings that they are in the path of disaster. Another concern is peace and order; even during typhoons and floods, burglars strike. Authorities must ensure the protection not only of lives but also of property in case of evacuation.

Chedeng might spare the Philippines or weaken in its approach. The nation’s experience with typhoons, however, has shown that it’s prudent to err on the side of over-preparedness.

 

CHEDENG HOLY WEEK IN DECEMBER METRO MANILA NEW YEAR PRESIDENT AQUINO SUPER TYPHOON YOLANDA TYPHOON TYPHOON GLENDA TYPHOON MAYSAK YOLANDA
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