(Fr. Shay's columns are published in The Manila Times,
in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)
The waters of the great flood of Metro Manila and Laguna may have receded somewhat, yet they have left behind destroyed communities and thousands of impoverished families. The emotional scars remain, caused by the loss of loved ones, children and parents, drowned, and thousands of homes, lovingly built brick by brick collapsed and in ruins. That's the aftermath of the floods.
Lack of prevention has been underlined as the biggest cause of such human suffering. No foresight or emergency response teams were ready. Few trained disasters or emergency medical personnel were available. Billions of public funds that should have developed public safety emergency plans and resources have disappeared through corruption, waste and mismanagement.
Why is it that we have to see the bloated bodies of dead children, parents and heroes, swept away by flood waters and a torrent of national and international criticism before government officials and big business tycoons feel the sting of shame and are forced to act however sluggishly for the public good and not always for there own gain.
Every year there are floods and the engineers, bankers and politicians know why and they know what should have been done. The Manila Times has revealed in an exclusive report a few weeks ago that one major cause of the floods are the alleged corruption riddled delays of a vitally important multi-billion peso flood alleviation project.
The huge mega project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) worth US$14 million, known as the Pasig-Marikina River Improvement Project was supposed to start last 2007 and be complete in 2013 yet hardly a bulldozer has moved or a backhoe mobilized. It is the Marikina Valley that has been most devastated by the floods. We have to research the factors that are causing such disasters, is it incompetence, politicking, corruption? Hundreds have died because of the snail like pace of project implementation.
Likewise the Kamanava Area Flood Control and Drainage System improvement Project in the same area Northeast of Metro Manila worth US$15 million has also been delayed. It was due to be completed last 2007. It is 90.5% complete but until now that vital last section has remained uncompleted due to the haggling and bargaining going on over money and payments for the right of way compensation.
The necessity for such flood control projects is simple, the forests have been cut down, the soil is washing away so there is nothing left to absorb the rains. Corrupt politicians protecting logging companies and promoting the interests of foreign mining companies are behind the loss of 70% of the forest cover of the Philippines over the past 60 years. The archipelago was one massive rain forest at the turn of the century, now it is has just a few scraps left.
Even those remaining forests could be a starting point for regeneration and reforestation, but they too are being hacked to the ground, all laws forbidding it are ignored. Three weeks ago, I saw a huge truck hauling massive cut trees through the heart of Manila.
Reforestation is one of several important things that the G20 nations of global community need to do to slow global warming. The forests and the seas are the great absorbers of the deadly CO2 gas that we generate by burning coal and oil in our power stations and cars. Yet it is too late to reverse global warming by replanting trees alone. Climate change is coming on faster than predicted. We have to turn to renewable sources of energy on a massive scale and stop burning fossil fuel.
While the insatiable and criminal greed of Wall Street financial traders and the irresponsible bankers of the world brought the global economy to the brink of disaster, it is becoming clear they are too powerful to restrain, regulate and control.
Perhaps they could be directed to turn their propensity for profit to funding the next great industrial revolution of renewable energy and the electric car. Such massive investment is needed to save the planet from irreversible climate change and reduce the severity of the floods, droughts and famine that are on the way to the poorest of the poor everywhere. END
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Contact Fr. Shay Cullen at the Preda Center, Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, Philippines.
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