Reliving a nightmare

The massive rains last week that continued this week brought back memories of Typhoon Ondoy, one of the deadliest storms to hit the Philippines in recent memory.

Much of Metro Manila was flooded causing the cancellation of classes in all levels, as well as work in both the government and the private sectors. According to the weather bureau (called PAGASA), the recent rains amounted to roughly half of what Ondoy brought down on the metropolis, but in some areas they appeared worse.

Specifically, such places as Marikina and parts of Quezon City were anywhere from waist deep to roof deep.

A cousin of mine was one of the victims of Ondoy back in 2009, and he got so depressed when his house was totally inundated that he left for the US shortly thereafter and has never come back. Some of his siblings still live in Marikina, and they informed me that the flood waters were almost waist deep inside their house.

One reason why the present floods seem worse than Ondoy is because Metro Manila has a much bigger population. Worst of all, garbage disposal is still in a sad state with so much plastic clogging the obsolete drainage system of the National Capital Region.

Some cities have totally banned plastic, but this is clearly not enough. Snack foods and soft drinks are still sold in non-biodegradable plastic packaging. The canals and tributaries of Metro Manila are clogged with such used plastic such that even rain showers result in flash floods.

Since the Philippines is now in the middle of the monsoon or rainy season, more floods can be expected in the next few weeks and months.

I can’t even blame the Duterte administration, the public works department, the local government units, or the Metro Manila Development Authority for the dismal state of the canal system that is supposed to drain rain water to the sea.

The fault has to be on all the administrations since the 1960s all the way to the present. Not a single one – not one, to be clear – has ever planned, much less implemented a metrowide flood control plan. At best, there have been stopgap measures taken to ease the problem, but no permanent solution has ever been implemented.

This “build-build-build” program of the Duterte administration should have been a possible solution, but it looks like not enough funds have been allotted to improving or even simply fixing the existing drainage system.

We residents of Metro Manila are expected to just accept flooding as a way of life. We are told that the flood waters will eventually recede anyway, so why worry?

We should worry.

Not only are lives lost by floods – two have been confirmed dead as a result of the floods of the last few days – but disease becomes prevalent, along with damage to property worth millions.

Imagine living in a middle class neighborhood. You live a decent, relatively comfortable life, when suddenly a huge flood which to you seems to be of biblical proportions destroys most, if not all, of your material wealth.

This happened to me and it happened to many people I know, my Marikina-based cousins included. This has been happening for the past five decades, and there is no end in sight.

To be clear, I actually like the rainy season. After a heavy rain, all of Metro Manila feels like it’s been cleared of the smog that constantly envelops the place. The city feels clean.

It’s the floods that have always been a problem for as long as I can remember, and I’m a senior citizen already.

One major difference is when I was a kid, I could play in the flood with no worries over things like leptospirosis or whatever else there is in the dirty waters. Heck, I even caught some mudfish during a flood back in the 60s.

My wish which may never be granted is for us to elect a president who will admit that there is a very serious problem with flooding in Metro Manila, and work on a permanent solution once and for all.

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