Lessons to Learn from the Cotabato Flood

FOR WEEKS, news about the great flood in Cotabato City dominated the primetime news. We saw how theTamontaka River and the Rio Grande de Mindanao inundated thousands of homes and establishments and displaced more than 30,00 families living in 35 of the 37 barangays of Cotabato City.

evacuation center in cotabato city
Evacuees stay at the gymnasium of Cotabato Central Pilot Elementary School

We saw how the locals put together their resources to address the problems. The local government fed and looked after the evacuees. The civilian men, and later, the military helped unclog the Delta Bridge of the water hyacinth that had been carried by the current from the Liguasan marsh.

It had been like that for two weeks.

Then we saw the father of the town, Mayor Japal Guiani, pleading for help from the national government, only to be dismayed by an unenthusiastic response. We saw how the DSWD claimed to have shelled out 7 million pesos to help, only to realize that none of which has reached the people until the 18th of June.

Now, what should we learn from all of this?

1. Traditional Politics jeopardizes the people’s welfareWe visited three of the evacuation centers in Cotabato City last Sunday and saw hundreds f affected families. Those were the people who were displaced by the floods. Those were the people whose sufferings are lengthened and worsened by political bickering.

A problem as big as the Cotabato Flooding is something that requires the cooperation of the different government officials and agencies. And a disaster requires a quick response. By the way it looked, the local government had to handle the situation on its own and had to cry out loud before the concerned agencies decided to help.

2. The decisions made in the past affect what happens today. What we do today affects the future. The flooding in Cotabato is a perennial problem. On the average, Cotabato City lies only a few meters above sea level. Some areas are even lower, making the city very vulnerable to floods. In addition, it is also bordered by two large rivers and is a catch basin for its elevated neighborhood.

 

a kid on a banca in cotabato city

Given this, there should have been measures done by the past administration to prevent floods or to lessen its impact. Disaster response and coordinating team should be ready at all times. I admire the local government of Cotabato City that despite the seeming lack of attention from the national government, the city seems to handle the situation well.

Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo criticized President Benigno Aquino for his cold treatment towards the Mindanao River for Peace Project, the masterplan for the development of the water resources in Mindanao.  (Related article on this)

If a plan like that exists and 50 million pesos had been released to implement it, then why had it not resulted to better facilities for the Cotabato City where the Rio Grande de Mindanao is located? The previous administration should answer this first before criticizing the current administration.

Furthermore, after seeing what happened in Cotabato City, what should the government do to prevent this from happening again? Cotabato City is not the only flood-prone area in Mindanao. What should other local governments do to prevent the same from happening in their respective areas? The current administration should answer this.

3. We need safer, disaster-ready citiesMunicipalities and cities who have not established proper drainage systems and solid waste management should start making efforts to build these infrastructures to prevent flooding. Instead of just being ready to repair damage, we should start making our public structures resistant to damage. It’s better to prevent damage from happening than to repair it. I don’t think our government is not capable of doing this.

4. We need people who are more self-reliant. This is quite ambitious (actually borders on being unrealistic, as we definitely need each other in order to survive), but if this is realized, we would certainly have a better society. When we visited Cotabato City last Sunday, we found throngs of people at the Delta bridge. I was wondering what those people were doing there. I realized later that they were waiting for Manny Pacquiao, our congressman. If our people are less dependent on dole outs, certainly, we wouldn’t have to point our fingers on any government agency that fails (whether intended or unintended) to perform its duties.

 

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” George Santayana

 

Photo Credits (for the first picture in this post):

Ric Dumalay a.k.a Kyawster

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