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Disaster in Calamity Preparedness

By: Straighter than Fiction

Hindi pagkain ang kailangan ng mga kababayan natin. Ang kailangan nila ay labanan ang tunay na dahilan kung bakit wala silang makain!” ― Ricky Lee, Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata

This quote was said inside the fictional world of Ricky Lee’s Amapola, where mananangals are the only heroes to save the country and fight against aswang patrollers. And yet, this quote is as real as it gets. Why are Filipinos suffering when there can be a way to not suffer at all?

As if the pandemic is not enough burden on top of the third-world life, typhoons recently ravaged several areas in the country. Super Typhoon Rolly hit the Bicol region and Typhoon Ulysses drowned Cagayan. Amidst the relief operations and donation drives, the cry for better disaster preparedness and the disdain for the resilient mindset are called into question.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported a total of 25 deaths caused by Rolly and over 73 casualties caused by Ulysses – which alone affected approximately 3,452,360 individuals or about 827,260 families. These accounts of damage could have been lessened or even prevented if there were adequate plans for evacuation, sustainable household environments, and effective flood management systems. These bare minimum strategies to help mitigate disaster risks require sufficient funds to operate and be executed. Even so, reports show a PHP 4 billion cut on the NDRRMC calamity fund for 2020 which went from PHP 20 billion in 2019 to the current PHP 16 billion. In fact, the council’s budget was even cut to more than half from PHP 38.9 billion in 2016 to PHP 15 billion in 2017. This obvious neglect in prioritizing the safety of the people is a mockery to all Filipino taxpayers.

Meanwhile, the agricultural sector had more than its fair share of tragedy brought by the recent calamities. One can even claim it as the most affected field, as the Department of Agriculture (DA) reported damages worth PHP 12.8 billion in the sector. The rice industry alone suffered 120,000 metric tons of production loss, which is exactly 2,617.39% higher than the 4,416 metric tons of production volume in the first quarter of 2019. While the DA already allocated PHP 6.5 billion to help affected farmers, this did not silence the cry of the producers for better crop insurance policies, immediate calamity warnings and relief, and even the basic right to own their lands. Such issues were already raised even before the recent typhoons destroyed the fruit of their hard work–and yet were still overlooked.

Some people use toxic positivity to defend these instances of leadership incompetence and lack of substantial readiness. They argue that Filipinos are strong and can always bounce back with a smile immediately. On the contrary, all this unpreparedness leading to tragic events while in the middle of a global health crisis is too much for anyone to handle, even for the proudly “resilient” Pinoys. The bitter truth is that words of encouragement cannot fill an empty stomach, rebuild a source of income from the ground up, or revive a lost loved one. Resilience does not make any concrete and progressive difference.

Imagine the affected residents going to an evacuation center with the whole barangay thinking that maybe they are safe from the angry waters in the streets, but not from a deadly virus spreading within said supposed haven. Imagine receiving the authorities’ attention only when it affects the produce market and not on the other times local farmers needed them. Demanding the government’s accountability in situations like this is the citizens’ duty to uphold everyone’s well-being.

In the end, one should argue that Filipinos do not need to be resilient in times of calamities. What they need is to eradicate the need to be resilient.

Amapola, the gay mananganggal from Ricky Lee’s novel, fought for the freedom of his people with an advocacy for concrete solutions and not superficial band aid efforts. Filipino lives are not cheap. Prioritizing safety is the bare minimum.


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