text and photos by the author
IT is raining continuously in Manila. Even with rush hour traffic over, thousands of vehicles plying the metropolis are at a standstill. The sound of honking vehicles blares in the air. Commuters are stranded, huddled like ants in public vehicle terminals, 24-hour fast food chains and under the darkest footbridges, trying to keep themselves dry.
When it rains in Manila, even just a few minutes, water rises faster than one could put on a raingear and run for cover. Commuters have to go through murky waters up to one’s knees. When it gets so bad, even the most sophisticated sports utility vehicle (SUV) will be swimming in flooded Manila.
The rains are not to be blamed, however. For decades now, residents of Manila suffer from the problem. And the reasons behind the problem are stark and telling.
Illegal logging is still rampant in the Philippines and large-scale foreign mining companies usually sabotage the environment with their giant operations.
At the government level, there is a chronic disregard for urban planning and environmental regulations. Real estate developers can obtain permits event without proper compliance with environmental laws so long as they know the right contacts and put in the right amount of money.
In the area of drainage and flood control, most facilities are already old and rotting and there are unregulated construction of buildings over natural waterways.
The citizens are as much to blame as the government. People throw their trash just about everywhere. They also don’t recycle their waste.
Almost a year ago, a stormy morning reminded the whole Philippines just how bad the problem is.
Tropical storm Ondoy (international name Ketsana) struck one fateful morning in September last year. It left more than 300 people dead, thousands of homes buried in murky waters and thousands of others missing. Schools became evacuation centers in an instant.
The scenes of devastation and disrupted lives after Ondoy are still very fresh in my mind.
I am keeping my fingers crossed that it does not happen again. The government needs to work doubly hard to prevent a similar devastation from happening again.
Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 7, after all, is all about ensuring environmental sustainability.
To many who suffered Ondoy, the sound of rain splattering on the roof is a telltale sign of danger. And today, like that fateful September morning, it is raining nonstop. I hear the sound of rain on the roof above my head. Loud and clear.