FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - November 14, 2020 - 12:00am

Typhoon Ulysses lived up to its heroic name, crashing into Luzon’s belly and leaving devastation in its wake. All the flooding in the metropolitan region called up images of Ondoy, that unexpectedly severe storm that inundated many towns and cities.

Credit must be given where it is due. Rescue units from the military and the police swung into action early. Local governments were much better prepared than during Ondoy. There was little more that could be done about the misery severe weather brought.

Over the intervening years, we have invested much in trying to control floods in the metropolis – something I appreciated this week. On Wednesday evening, my 90-year-old father passed on and all of us siblings managed to make it to traditionally flooded Malabon with little difficulty. That is small consolation.

Since Ondoy, our local governments have acquired new equipment to help in rescuing people threatened by floods. All the equipment found good use when Ulysses hit us.

The evacuation centers appeared to be functioning well. They will never be enough, of course. We cannot continue cramming evacuees into old public school buildings whenever severe weather threatens.

There is a suggestion to build dedicated evacuation centers. In Metro Manila, that will surely face the hurdle of land availability.

Over the past few years, as the peril of severe weather looms because of unmitigated global warming, the word “resiliency” has figured more often in the official vocabulary. Happily, no major voice in our officialdom claimed we have achieved the goal of “resiliency.” That would have been utterly tone deaf.

One popular movie actress, in her social media post, correctly warned against claiming the achievement of resiliency. The work we need to do in this regard is much larger than whatever has been done.

This otherwise happy country sits contentedly along the Western Pacific Ring of Fire and squarely on the Typhoon Belt. There is little we can do about shifting tectonic plates and erupting volcanoes. But there is much we can do about mitigating the perils wrought by global warming.

Climate change warms the oceans, melts the icecaps and will cause a rise in sea levels. In this archipelago, the vast majority of the people inhabits coastal communities and relies on the sea for food. We have desecrated our mountains and polluted our rivers. All our major cities grew largely unplanned. Rapid population growth pushed our settlements into hazardous zones.

Considering all these, there are thousands of things we need to do to mitigate risks and protect our people. We have just scratched the surface in building resiliency. We will spend the rest of our productive lives on this task.

Witch hunt

Sen. Pia Cayetano reacted strongly on the Senate floor to Sen. Risa Hontiveros’ call for a public hearing on supposed anomalies in our hosting of the Southeast Asian Games. The call was, indeed, long on innuendo and short of facts.

Our hosting of the Games involved constructing an Olympic-grade sports facility in the heart of New Clark City. It is the best sport facility in the region and will be home to our best athletes training for international competition. It will serve as venue for other sporting events for decades to come – much like the Rizal Memorial Coliseum, built for our hosting of the Asian Games, continues to serve its purpose.

President Duterte gave the task of preparing for last year’s event to the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) led by Alan Peter Cayetano. He did this precisely to ensure the funds mobilized for our hosting of the event will not be lost to corruption.

PHISGOC took the role in place of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) that was, at that time, beset with intense factional infighting and serious charges of corruption. One of our senior sports officials correctly described politicking in the athletic community as even worse than what besets national government.

When President Duterte decided to put PHISGOC in charge, it was considered a wise decision. At the very least, the complex preparations for hosting the best-attended SEA Games to date were completed on time. The construction of the sports facility hosting the event beat all expectations and was done ahead of schedule.

The infighting within our sports community did not abate however, with wild accusations made against PHISGOC. Some of the acrimony floated up to the realm of national politics when some senators began heckling the cost of the caldera, which they deemed excessive. They threatened to investigate last year but never got around to doing so in the afterglow of our country’s exemplary performance in the Games.

A year after, the same charges are being regurgitated by the same clique of politicians. The lightning rod for all these, it seems, is PHISGOC chair Alan Peter Cayatano, who yielded his post as Speaker of the House last month.

In an attempt to fuel controversy, the POC last week called on the PHISGOC to submit its audited financial statement on expenses relating to the hosting of last year’s event. The call was made even as the PHISGOC announced it was submitting its final report on the 30th SEA Games to the SEA Games Federation.

For his part, Cayetano announced he welcomes all inquiries (but not a witch hunt) into how the funds for hosting the Games were spent.

To further emphasize his confidence in the proper management of the Games, Cayetano offered to resign as congressman if anyone can prove beyond reasonable doubt any irregularity on the part of PHISGOC.

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