Senator Edgardo J. Angara said that disaster preparedness and risk reduction measures should be prioritized in the 2013 budget deliberations.
“We must look into the government’s disaster management plan and make sure that risk mitigation and adaptation are prioritized in next year’s budget, so that we could put them into action as early as possible,” he said.
Torrential rains brought by the Habagat or Southwest monsoon swept through the country this past week, dumping one month’s worth of rain in just two days over Metro Manila and neighboring provinces. Widespread flooding, landslides, and massive damage to property put 22 different areas under a state of calamity. Schools, businesses, and government offices were in a standstill for one week.
“Although we cannot stop these natural disasters from happening, we can minimize the damage by reducing our country’s risk and vulnerabilities. We must shift our focus from relief and rehabilitation to prevention,” he said.
Angara, Chair of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology, observed that this situation is reminiscent to Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, when a large amount of rainfall in a short period of time caused massive destruction. The big difference, irony even, was that there was no typhoon in the country's area of responsibility. The nonstop rains were brought about by a monsoon that was enhanced by a typhoon in the region.
“Because of the lack of a storm signal, people may have underestimated the potential impact at first. Many simply did not expect the Habagat to hit us so hard. At the same time, we are not yet familiar with PAG-ASA's rainfall bulletin,” he explained.
The veteran legislator also emphasized the importance of familiarizing the public with weather indicators and reports, such as the color-coded rainfall warning and measurement scheme being used by the national weather bureau.
“Aside from preparing our roads, canals and buildings, it is equally important to educate the people on these matters. We could conduct disaster preparedness seminars and workshops for our barangay leaders through our LGUs. On a national level, we could use the media to teach the public how to interpret the weather bulletins and also give basic survival measures so that everyone knows what to do in cases of emergency,” he proposed. (30)