The Anderson Cooper report

Just in case you missed it on CNN….

I am in utter disbelief myself seeing on the news dead bodies lying around and survivors still not having access to food FIVE days after super typhoon Haiyan hit.

Here’s one lucid observation about how the disaster response has been managed (or mismanaged). In the words of Assistant Secretary Lila Shahani of the National Anti-Poverty Commission:

“Given the scale of the devastation, it is natural that we ask some hard questions.

Was the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (chaired by Senator Legarda) adequately prepared? Among the national government agencies, how far in advance were the preparations made, and how smooth was the inter-agency coordination? More importantly, given the Local Government Code (which stipulates that matters like disaster-preparedness are now the primary responsibility of each Local Government Unit or LGU), how prepared, in fact, was each affected LGU?

Frankly, from where I sit (and I could be wrong), all I can say is that DSWD and the other national agencies went on red alert days ago, and have been on the ground ever since. Plus, between Project NOAH and Pagasa, etc, etc, there was more than enough lead time, period.

So how, then, do we explain places like Tacloban and Ormoc? And how is it that the majority of Cong Romualdez’ funds for disaster assistance have already been “depleted”? How is it that Mayor Alfred Romualdez himself — despite at least three days lead time — had to be rescued? To Cong Lucy Torres, if you knew well in advance that this was going to happen in Ormoc, why were not even in your own hometown? You knew the rain would be strong but not the wind? To the rest of the LGUs, where are the respective geo-hazard maps and evacuation plans for people living in danger zones you’re all supposed to have drawn up?

All I can say is: this would never have happened in Albay under someone as proactive as Gov Joey Salceda, period. In this electronic day and age, we can’t always be invoking ‘awa’ and destiny, people. Gov Joey demonstrates what can be done if there is political will, which is why he is recognized by both the national government and international bodies like the UN.

That’s the kind of governor/congressman/mayor you want to vote for, folks: someone with strategic intelligence and compassion for the poor, not a fashion plate or those who rely on family connections to get their positions. You want the kind of leader who would take zoning, logging and building codes seriously and make sure they’re implemented, no matter the loss of profit.

So, as a voter, if you choose legislators because of the bribes they offer you during elections, then you, too, are partially responsible for the problem, see.

Which is not to say that the national government could not be further tightened in a big way. While I understand Sec Jojo Ochoa’s logic for creating the Cabinet Cluster system, sometimes inter-agency work is difficult to achieve because most agencies are so used to working on their own. As Dean Tony la Vina has pointed out, a permanent stand-alone agency focusing solely on disaster management and risk reduction appears to be the only solution.

And the bigger picture, of course, is that these have to do with CO2 emissions from the developed world, period. So we need foreign policy leaders who are neither lackeys of the US or of China, and who believe in the power and strength of Philippine independence. The entire planet is outraged at US spying except for the Philippines, which has apparently laughed it off entirely. To me, this suggests a lack of pride, that typical genuflection before all-things-American that can often be so downright demeaning.

It is high time we all recognized a grim and pressing reality: the UN now ranks the Philippines as number one in terms of casualties suffered because of natural calamities.This means that environmental disasters in an era of climate change have now become our most urgent national security issue.

So this is not about a blame game. This is about taking stock and a collective sense of responsibility for what happens to us as a nation.

That we may finally break this endless cycle of constant tragedy. ”

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