PGTW: After the storm

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 17 July 2014, Thursday

After the storm

Typhoon Glenda took, as of presstime, 17 lives and injured more and left many homeless.

As of 3pm yesterday, 84 percent of Metro Manila or 4.5 million customers were still without power. Restoration was expected to roll out first in Quezon City, Makati, Ortigas, and parts of Alabang and Sucat, with 60 percent of power in Metro Manila to be back on by 6pm.

Transport was nearly at a standstill in many areas because of fallen trees, and LRT and MRT operations were still suspended as of 4pm yesterday.

According to the Philippine Coast Guard, as of 2pm yesterday, 4,927 passengers, 463 rolling cargoes 46 vessels, and 66 motor bancas were stranded. Many airline flights did not take off for safety reasons.

Classes in public and private schools in many areas such as San Juan, Cavite, Marikina, Pasay, and Pateros are still suspended today. Gumaca, Cavite, and Muntinlupa are under a state of calamity.

Glenda was a windbag of a storm, rather than a waterbearer. Strong winds tore off sheets of galvanized iron roofs and felled trees that blocked roads and smashed cars. Two parked aircraft belonging to Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines were dragged by the wind; the latter could have hit the NAIA 1 building if it had not first smashed into an air bridge.

Although floods in areas such as Makati quickly subsided once the worst of the rains ceased, around noon yesterday, some areas still remained waterlogged. The damage to property was extensive though has yet to be assessed.

These and other facts and statistics are readily available, and indeed updates on social media were frequent even with power out in many parts of the city. However, familiarity with the depredations of the weather has made many of us inured to the numbers and the images we are deluged with in the wake of the storm. What’s new, we ask?

What’s old is the fact that each time the rains come – something that we have known for centuries is inevitable, like the flooding of the Nile was an annual event to the ancient Egyptians – we are still caught helpless, and the city shuts down.

The economy is booming, we are told. The stock markets are approaching the 7,000 mark again, our quarterly GDP scores are the healthiest in Southeast Asia, and remittances and the success of key industries such as business process outsourcing and tourism are boosting investor confidence in the country.

But are these sustainable? How can they be when everything halts in the face of a storm, which we have several times a year?

Both local and foreign analysts warn that our inadequate infrastructure will result in the retardation of economic growth. Already this week, rotating brownouts, something we thought happened only in Mindanao, were being implemented in the metro and other parts of Luzon. Lengthy lines of commuters for the LRT and MRT and stranded passengers are an unpleasant reality for the medium-term because government cannot supply an immediate solution. Broadband speeds are sluggish compared to the rest of the region, and not even the complaints of senators, the highest lawmakers in the land, can force telcos to improve this.

Is it a question of knowledge and skill? Most of what we need to know, we already do, and what we do not, is easily acquired.

Is it a problem of political will? Surely this administration realizes the importance of infrastructure for the country’s development; only the deaf will not hear and the dumb not understand this.

Is it a lack of resources? Then those who used the PDAF, DAP, Malampaya Fund, and other reserves of money must explain, to the satisfaction of the public, what happened to the billions of pesos that should have gone to building energy plants, bullet trains and bus-rapid transit systems, effective storm management systems.

A substantial amount of any money the country has left should go to public construction and the beefing-up of national defenses, especially in the face of saber-rattling China.

We already know what needs to be done. All that remains is for those whose job it is, to do it. If they are not doing it, then do not vote them into public office again. Ever.

Then perhaps next time, we get people who can get things done, and storms like Glenda will not exact such heavy tolls upon us again.

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