Another truth and consequence

PERCEPTIONS - Ariel Nepomuceno - The Philippine Star

The inevitable consequence of truth is always logical. Specific results arise from the hard facts, no matter how much we try to bury our heads in the sand. No amount of wishful thinking or futile efforts to cover reality can change the outcome of factual situations.

I received emails and phone messages that generally subscribed to what I’ve written in my previous column, where I enumerated a few truths that expectedly resulted to our collective difficulties as a nation. Some readers suggested a number of truth and consequence causal pairings. I decided to discuss some that this space would allow me to share.

I’ll begin again on the first truth for today’s column. This is the natural fact that our country sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire. This means, we have at least 24 active volcanoes. Actually, not many are aware of, the Philippines experiences daily earthquakes that are caused by volcanoes. Not all such movements are felt though, because majority of them are below magnitude three.

This daily occurrence of earthquakes due to volcanoes is worsened by the fact that we are threatened by the Manila Trench on our west and the Philippine Trench on our east. Then there are known faults that traverse all our main islands of Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

The big question therefore is, are we prepared for major earthquakes? Actually, no country can really fully and perfectly prepare for big earthquakes such as the one that hit Turkey and Syria. The most we can do is to mitigate the possible destructive impact of a major tremor.

We must more strictly ensure compliance with the provisions of the National Building Code, which require the building structures to withstand an 8.4 magnitude earthquake. There must be no cutting corners allowed when construction permits are applied for.

A wide survey of existing structures, especially high-rise towers and those built prior to the said building code, must be conducted so that those that need retrofitting or condemnation must be identified to avoid endangering the lives of the trusting occupants who are not aware of the dangers that they are facing. According to a 2011 study, 35 percent of our low-rise buildings and 25 percent of medium-rise buildings were built before the stricter National Building Code was in effect.

Communities must regularly be practiced on what to do. The concerned government agencies such as the uniformed services, Office of Civil Defense, Bureau of Fire Protection and other agencies must be well-equipped to do their mission of saving the victims.

The second truth is the annual phenomenon of typhoons that regularly visit the country. A minimum of 20 strong tropical cyclones enter our country every year. And many such cyclones are too strong that they always carry with them the devastations caused by harsh winds and torrential floods.

As a result, our agriculture is constantly kept on its toes. Floods will continue to ruin our properties unless we seriously employ comprehensive engineering solutions to address the predictably annual onslaught of floods and winds. Yes, we cannot stop these because of the location of our archipelago, but there are already proven solutions that we must simply adopt and sustain to protect our communities.

Third truth, our weak economy will encourage our citizens to explore better chances in other countries.  Let’s accept this fact, many Filipinos will try, and try hard, to jump on the bandwagon that lures them into the adventure of creating a better future by working abroad. No matter how terrifying some of the stories are, many of our citizens will ignore the challenges that they will face in foreign lands where the culture is different and where they will humbly work as second-class citizens who are vulnerable to abuses and injustices.

We can always dream of making our economy stronger, empower our middle-class, support our small and medium enterprises and develop an essentially inclusive investment environment. However, such efforts will take much time before our people would truly enjoy the benefits of real growth and progress.

For the meantime, let’s ensure that our more than two million documented and undocumented overseas Filipino workers will not be victimized by unscrupulous scammers, illegal recruiters are jailed and that our embassies abroad sincerely listen to and serve them well.

To succeed collectively as a nation, we must look at our common mirror and clearly see where we are. First step is to recognize our so-called incontrovertible truths, then the rest, as they say, would follow.

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