Classes are suspended today in several cities in Metro Manila and neighboring areas due to massive flooding. Portions of several major thoroughfares and side streets turned into virtual rivers yesterday as the southwest monsoon, intensified by tropical storm Henry, dumped heavy rains all over Metro Manila and neighboring areas.
Images of stranded commuters and vehicles stalled in several feet of flood were interspersed with garbage floating in the murky water. Government personnel waded in the water wearing rubber boots, but ignored warnings about leptospirosis as they collected the garbage with bare hands in an effort to make the flood recede faster. Children were also seen swimming half-naked in areas with heavy flooding.
Flood control systems have improved, with flooding receding faster in many areas. Agencies in charge of disaster relief and mitigation have also boosted warning systems, using mobile phones and social media to issue regular rain and flood bulletins. Evacuation protocols have improved in flood-prone areas along the Marikina River.
Still, yesterday’s massive flooding shows that more can be done in terms of disaster preparedness. A critical element is efficient garbage management. Barangay offices and local governments must do more to promote proper garbage disposal especially in densely populated communities and informal settlements. People regardless of income level don’t want to live in filthy neighborhoods and can be enticed to cooperate.
Environment officials must also inspect structures in Laguna de Bay. The area around the lake is a natural floodplain for Metro Manila and the provinces of Laguna and Rizal. But fish pens have proliferated with little regulation in the lake, causing heavy siltation. Reclamation projects around the lake, also largely unregulated, have aggravated the situation. The result is the disabling of the floodplain. In the affected areas, it can take days for ordinary flooding to subside.
The year’s powerful typhoons have not yet hit the country. This week’s monsoons highlight the need for enhanced efforts to ease flooding.
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