Thursday, August 9, 2012

Philippine flooding are man-made and who profits from our malady?

Why is it that not too many people took part in the recent rescue and relief missions of the government inspite of the fact that this catastrophe was worse than Typhoon Ondoy?

Answer---because we all know that government should have learned a thing or two about disaster mitigation and preparedness when Ondoy hit us unexpectedly several years ago and we know deep inside that this latest tragedy was more of a direct consequence of government ineptitude than anything.

Those who still thought that it was God who put most of us in danger, are mistaken. Who put several thousands of families in harm's way? They are the politicians who do not want a permanent solution to the problem of flooding precisely because these politicians earn millions from calamity funds and these calamities are occasions for them to fortify the patron-client relationship which is the secret of politial dynasties.

Two urban planners, Nathaniel Einsendiel and Jun Palafox told us the unvarnished truth--that these floods are more than man-made disasters than products of global warming.

Government has been trying very hard to convince us that flooding are caused by freak weathers. Yet, we all know that not all parts of Metro Manila submerged when Habagat rained for five consecutive days.

Likewise, those who lived during the tumultuous seventies and eighties all remember that nothing really happened when several habagats of the past also inundated us with 600 mm rains.

Einsendiel blamed these floods as direct results of poor planning, lax enforcement and political self-interest. Palafox meanwhile told Tina Palma and Korina Sanchez that several anti-flood measures have been made and are languishing in some obscure clerk's office at the NEDA. The World Bank has made several studies already and has proposed measures to mitigate or even eliminate flooding in the Metropolis, but none has been implemented.

Reason: lack of political will. President Aquino boasted several weeks ago that the Philippines  is now in the position to lend US$ 1 billion to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) when all it needs to finally solve this humongous flooding problem is a mere 360 billion pesos. That US$1 billion could have been used to at least construct two or three projects out of the total World Bank plan which, according to the DPWH, would take around five years to finish.

The DPWH has just allotted 10.8 billion pesos for flood mitigation projects for 2012, a pitiful sum if you sum up the costs of disasters, especially flooding in the country. 

The World Bank has estimated that the direct costs of natural disasters in the Philippines, from the period 1990-2008 is about 0.7 percent of GDP per annum. Typhoons Ondoy and Peping in 2009 caused the Philippines 206 billion in damages or roughly 2.7% of GDP (see this link).

Most of the costs are borned by the public sector. Recently, the government allocated 5.95 billion pesos for calamity fund.

Why are local government units so desirous to declare their cities and towns under a state of calamity? Because calamity funds are deemed "special" and therefore, its release are immediate and not subject to immediate auditing by the COA.

In these times where 2013 elections is just around the corner, use of calamity funds are some of the best ways to campaign by a candidate.

This explains why President Aquino went first to Muntinlupa together with his preferred Liberal party senatorial candidates than, say, Marikina, Manila, or even in Bulacan, bearing gifts to those affected by the flooding.

Calamity funds are sources of corruption, and this is well known among political circles. Likewise, non-governmental agencies also profit from calamities, through donations given by private individuals.

There are two reasons why we suffer from severe flooding---one, willful lack of enthusiasm by government to effect a long-term solution to this thru anti-flood projects because a long-term solution would lessen billions allocated from calamity funds and two, politics. When there are victims of calamities, there will always be "saviors"--politicians who use public funds to further strengthen the patron-client relationship in a neo-feudalist system such as ours. 

Why do politicians allow illegal settlers to occupy flood prone areas? Two reasons: one, they have an army of supporters come election time and two, they have a direct source for calamity funds when natural disasters struck the area where there are illegal settlers.

So, who profits from our calamities?