So who is to blame for Manila flooding?

Residents wait for their family members being rescued at the end of a flooded street in the village of Tumana, Marikina town, in suburban Manila, on August 7, 2012, after torrential rains inundated most of the capital. (Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images)
Residents wait for their family members being rescued at the end of a flooded street in the village of Tumana, Marikina town, in suburban Manila, on August 7, 2012, after torrential rains inundated most of the capital. (Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images)

You’re going to start hearing the blame game machine. There are parts who are already doing the finger pointing business. The classic, government is to blame of course— we’re paying for decades of ignorance, and short-sightedness. Decades when zoning laws weren’t followed. I’m certain if we had an earthquake, and not a flood, we’d get tragedy after another, and perhaps more. We’ve already seen less death from Ondoy. Over a thousand people, and we have less than a hundred today. Thanks in part to new services that are in place, like Project NOAH, and the good people in government who actually did some work.

You’ll rarely hear of course these quarters blame themselves. Yeah, we the people have to be blamed for flooding. It doesn’t take a treehugger to know that plastic will clog our drain. That human waste will make rivers and lakes more shallow. I mean, this is the way of the universe. Everything changes from one state to another, and it is foolish to think that nature— our environment would stand still. Do you get what I mean?

I’ve always known the UST-Espania area sinks whenever there is huge rainfall. I still remember a time when my mom and I got trapped near Manila City Hall some ten years ago, or so because Lugusnilad and Taft Avenue sank in floodwaters. And yet here we a decade later, and the problem still persist.

Yes, we need better flood control, but more importantly, our flood ways will still be clogged if people don’t manage our waste well. So maybe we can stop using plastic and social engineer people into throwing waste properly, also not stealing the stuff, or break it when they do go online. At the same time support our government into building flood control projects. So it takes social engineering.

Much of the problem too remain on people. Some of those who were advised to leave, didn’t or came back. And that’s a problem. How can you save someone who doesn’t want to be saved?

Not that the system is imperfect. Not that government shouldn’t work on better flood control projects, and not that we won’t need more in terms of rescue, and capacity and relief and all that. The government certainly needs more rubber boats. Government needs more people who can do safety. It was suggested— sorry, I forgot who said it in the past week, that there should be an active disaster preparedness training for everyone. And I couldn’t agree more. We should teach kids in school to do this. Training in what to do in a disaster, as well as first aid would be awesome. Victory is in the preparation, after all.

There has been much news that social media has been instrumental. And it has been. Yet, while observing how the system worked over the past few days, I don’t know how effective it was to flood twitter personalities with asking for help. We need to know how effective it was in delivering the right kind of information to our authorities. Others have created a ticker system of sorts. Reports filed from twitter folks. It is, I think a good way for rescue people to check off what needs to get done, and what’s done. It is also a way for people to verify information. If something is new, flag, and if something is old and has been verified— not to retweet it anymore. But we need a more permanent ticker system for future disasters.

I’m pretty sure a lot of us who tweeted during the disaster meant well. I feel that there is a need to verify the sources of information so we don’t flood (pardon the pun), our rescue people with false reports. I’m sure they already had a lot of stuff to do already. Sorting through the noise is something we who are online can help them with.

So who is to blame for flooding? Decades of shortsightedness and corruption, for one, and in some cases, politician’s ego getting in each other’s way especially in real deal city planning. The Metro Manila Development Authority can do a lot, but there’s a lot more that it could do that it can’t because of political egos. It would probably do better if Metro Manila was unified. Like New York City, Montreal or London’s local government slash city government is. You have 17 or so different egos vying for who has the bigger pissing contest, not to mention they each have constituency. Of course this creates a political dilemma. How the hell do you fire 17 city halls? That’s several thousand people and infrastructure.

So who is to blame for flooding? People. Trash just gets thrown everywhere and anywhere. It doesn’t take a treehugger to know, we do kind of need to help clean up after ourselves.

The world is changing. Largely because of climate change. If you ask PAGASA, they’ll say, they will still study if this was caused by climate change. Regardless, if it was or wasn’t, we need to do the following: 1) Better flood control; 2) Social engineering— people throwing trash, or sending out information to rescuers, and 3) unify Metro Manila so we get proper city planning.

Image credit: Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.

  • UPnnGrd

    side-note: Being technologically-superior — like capabilities to build a nuclear bomb — does not exempt a nation from taking on earthquake-mitigation steps.

  • UPnnGrd

    Now, about earthquakes………

  • UPnnGrd

    That Marcos project for a causeway — a backdoor water exit out of Laguna Bay to the oceans. Not a single engineer had said it would not have helped. Bad governance by “Tabako” Ramos, Erap and GuLLOOOO not to have gotten that project implemented.

  • Nik

    It’s not just trash though that is the culprit. Of course it is currently the most visible contributing factor.

    However, no matter what we do in terms of trash management (that is not to say we shouldn’t manage our trash, there are a number of innovative technologies out there that will help utilize trash to everyone’s benefit), the fact remains Manila is located in a prime area for flooding. We’re along the bay, we have multiple rivers, we are near a lake, we are at the foothills of mountains where there is run-off into our area. Hence, our historical penchant for flooding even before the garbage problem reared its ugly head in the last few decades.

    Thus, we have to think a little larger to solve the problem. For example, San Antonio, Texas had a historical and current problem with flooding relating to its location. Their solution was to build a massive under-ground system of tunnels designed to funnel water out of the city. They build a dam running through the middle of the city designed to impede flooding. Additionally, in the redevelopment of their river they have incorporated a system of flood control measures.

    Because of our location, we have to think beyond trash and garbage and address the environmental issues at hand. There are no cheap or easy solutions to the problem; and our ability to address the flooding issues will not be measured in years, but decades.