Friday, January 6, 2012

Clash Between Life and Living: The Tragedies in Mindanao

.It’s a wonder how a small change in word spelling could serve as a thin thread dividing life and death. People make a living to sustain life. But living, when done in excess, conquers the very thing it seeks to sustain – life.

That’s exactly how I see the recent tragedies in Mindanao. We have seen piles of dead in Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro when Typhoon Sendong raged through these southern Philippine cities. In the aftermath, what flowed with the volume of flood were tree trunks, presumably cut down from the forests in the areas to be sold or marketed. It seemed like it was the Ormoc tragedy again.

And then yesterday the night news was replete with details of the recent landslide in the province of Compostela Valley in Mindanao. Twenty five people, perhaps more as I write this, were killed as mud made its way from the mountain down into the village called Napnapan. Most of the residents there get their living from mining.

What was too disappointing in this tragedy was that it could have been avoided. DILG, Department of Defense, and the DENR (if we are to take the statement of the presidential spokesperson) have advised already the local government officials of the potential dangers in the place. The spotlight now switches to these local officials who will have a lot of explaining to do. Geohazard maps (care of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau) have been issued already stating that the place was already landslide-prone. The place was reportedly cleared of people. But if it has been really cleared, then there should have been no casualties. Again, spotlight is trained to the local government.

I have seen the worth of geohazard maps. Having seated as part of a team for a disaster-related project spearheaded by a government agency, I am well aware of the need to heed the results of geohazard mapping. To see this blatantly ignored in the case of Compostela Valley shows our disregard for the efforts of the government bureaus to serve and (potentially) protect the citizens from harm. What has been missed was proper coordination among government institutions and the people and proper dissemination of information to the locals. Thus, another set of casualties for a tragedy.

Beyond these sad facts is the sickening anticipation of blame games among government officials on who or which to blame for this tragedy.

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