What if worse disaster hits this woeful land?
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - September 12, 2018 - 12:00am

What will government do in case of worse disaster? That’s asked with worry. For, in recent relatively mild shocks, government proved impotent.

The transport department was weighed and found wanting in the Xiamen Air runway mishap. The Manila International Airport took hours to collect the passengers and days to tow the plane from the mud. Hundreds of departing flights had to be cancelled or delayed. Arrivals were diverted to other islands or back to ports of origin. MIA’s supposed twin gateway Clark was shown incapable of taking in more than a dozen planes at a time. Only one of its two runways is operational after all. To think that the Secretary of Transport has been billing Clark as MIA’s eventual replacement. That’s the same transport chief who has yet to start building the common railway station that he signed up with three conglomerates two years ago. Much more, to return to the Chinese maker the new but unworkable trains he inherited from equally inept predecessors.

In the wake of successive storms, agencies did so little. Communities and farms stayed flooded for weeks in northern to southern Luzon; garbage piled up in the streets and clogged the waterways; lethal rat and mosquito disease spread. People couldn’t work; properties and crops were destroyed. Yet, national and local officials came up with no long-term solutions. Politicians merely played distractive comedy-dramas on national television. Foremost were the Speakership fight, weeks of political realignments, and now the attempted arrest of a soldier-senator, and the President instead of the suffering folk unburdening himself.

Food shortages began after the New Year. Newly delivered only the previous quarter to government warehouses, the rice buffer suddenly depleted by end-January. Retail prices soared. Half-a-million tons of emergency stocks were imported, followed by a similar reorder. Eight months later, rice continued to sell high. The National Food Authority, despite 40 years in existence, could not determine when and where to deploy grains. It fought with its governing council of Cabinet members, who on the other hand just surrendered. The president threatened to jail hoarders and price manipulators. Yet the latter after announcing in the media that they’re friends with the president, were unperturbed.

Prices of other foodstuffs rose. The agriculture secretary declared a “golden age” of Philippine food produce, then ate bukbok rice. Fish ironically had to be imported into the archipelago from mainland Asia, dunked in formalin at that. Poultry, pork, and beef prices rose, along with vegetables. The price of sili has shot up so high that spicy meals are now a status symbol. At best, officials advise Filipinos, landless and cramped in makeshift dwellings, to plant their own vegetables. Or to just order half a cup of rice on those rare occasions that they dine out.

Fuel taxes continue to inflate consumer prices. All blame was put on external factors: Donald Trump’s tariff wars with China, crude oil price spikes in the world market, whatever. Even domestic economic growth was made to appear to cause high inflation. All other ASEAN economies are growing and hit by oil price increases, yet their inflation rates are only half the Philippines’ 6.4 percent. And that nine-year high is forecast to rise further.

Government looks helpless.

In that light is asked: what will it do if, God forbid, more super-typhoons strike, more floods and landslides isolate populations, and the dreaded Big One – the inevitable movement of the West Valley Fault – occurs?

Imagine the country reeling from destructive winds and sea surges. Floods sweeping away vehicles and overwhelming houses. Mud and rocks rumbling down mountainsides onto villages. And fires raging simultaneously all over Mega Manila, when earthquake topples thousands of buildings and tears up roads. All the more agencies will be immobilized.

In such event, the defense department should be the lead agency for emergency response and rescue. But what will it do? The country has just learned, from the recent political drama between the President and the senator, that the department cannot even keep its records intact on mutinous soldiers.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website https://www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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