Editorial & Opinion

Typhoon-prone PH islands need Noah’s arks

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CHICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) -- Even if God streaked a rainbow as a sign that never again will He bring a deluge upon his creation, man should treat every impending storm as if it is capable of wiping a piece of land from the face of the earth.


When presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma, Jr. admitted that the Philippine government was not prepared to handle the disaster that super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) brought upon Central Visayas, it should be ready with solutions to avert a similar Biblical catastrophe.

The government should welcome all suggestions, even outrageous ones, from all corners to solve this problem. It should think outside the box.

For instance, since weather forecasts are now relatively accurate in predicting the strength of a typhoon three days or so before landfall, it should come up with a plan of forcibly evacuating people by placing the ground zero of the storm under martial law, if need be. Everybody should be out of the path of the typhoon! No exception!

If the epicenter of the eye of the storm will be landing on a landlocked province, there are at least three ways for people to evacuate – by land (thru cars and other vehicles), by air or by sea.

People, who hesitate to leave because their neighbors might ransack their property they are leaving behind, should not worry of losing their property if they want to save their skin. Who cares if the hardheaded neighbors will steal their property? After all these neighbors would not stand a chance to survive Yolanda. These thieves or robbers would find no use of their loot either because they would all die anyway, like those who doubted Noah’s warnings.

The Filipinos’ fatalistic expression: “Aanhin pa ang sakati kung patay na ang kabayo,” (What good is the grass if the horse is dead?), would certainly find application to their greed!



But what happens if the center of the storm will hit an island, like Tacloban City? Residents would have a very limited choice to flee by air because of the financial consideration involved – the costly airfare – nor by land because they will be stuck in Allen, Samar, the gateway of Visayas to Luzon thru my maternal mother’s native town of Matnog, which has a very limited ferry transportation capability.

So, Tacloban’s residents only way out is the sea. This is where the government can commander all nearby ships to make port calls in Tacloban three or four days before a typhoon signal is detected and oblige all residents to board the ships so the ships can sail as far away from the storm as possible.

If the typhoon is over and the treat of a typhoon is gone, then, the ships can return all the residents back to Tacloban.

If the government will have enough savings, it can ask Congress to appropriate money or appeal for public donation to build very huge passenger ships, like U.S. naval ships, which can carry thousands of passengers. Their main reason for being is to load residents of islands in the path of typhoons three or four days prior to typhoon’s landfall.

They can take the residents to distant safety harbors and return them after the typhoon treats are over.

The government will not have any problem with employing seamen to man these huge ships. As No. 1 exporter of the seamen in the world, the Philippines can just hire local Filipino seamen with a salary commensurate with what other seamen earn worldwide as incentive to discourage them from leaving the Philippine soil or sea.

The expenses involved in building and maintaining these huge ships will be canceled out by hundreds, if not thousands, of lives that will be saved from disasters.



As I told Stacey Baca, a part-Filipino American broadcast journalist for ABC-Channel 7 Chicago, who was reaching out to the Filipino community while Yolanda (Haiyan) was massing into a super typhoon, perhaps, the most that the Philippines and other countries located in the Typhoon Belt can do, are to keep structures, like electric cables underground, instead of putting electric posts up, so power failure can be avoided.

I told Stacey the Philippine government should encourage the construction of low-lying but sturdy stone houses like those built up north in Batanes in Luzon, which is visited by typhoon more often, except during Summer (April-June), than any part of the Philippines.

From accounts of survivors of Yolanda, one thing stood out: one can survive such storm if you cling on any piece of wood or log that could keep one afloat if one is out at sea.

But I’m sure if one lives in a place near big rivers or beside a sea, he should learn how to swim to avoid drowning.

Because the Philippines is composed of 7,000 islands, I suggest, the government should require elementary students to pass a swimming tests in their physical education classes before they complete their primary or elementary education just as 16-year-old American high school students are required to pass a test to drive an automobile.

This swimming test will minimize deaths caused by drowning not only during the time when there is a typhoon but also when they are on board capsizing ferry boats or passenger ships, which is a recurring phenomenon among ships overloading passengers plying Visayan islands.

On the other hand, learning to drive an automobile is one of the tools of American students to land a job and a bare necessity to survive in the asphalt jungle.

And if the government wants to help typhoon survivors recover some coverage in case of drowning or death during a typhoon, it can help by partly subsidizing payment of premium for payment of hazard term insurance coverage provided the resident is taxpayer and lives in areas often visited by typhoons. It is akin to the U.S. government paying premium for life insurance coverage of any member of the U.S. Armed Forces. This subsidy is very critical when a U.S. G.I. takes a tour of duty in some war zones in any part of the world.

And last but not the least, the government should maintain a database of names and addresses of each resident, so that in case victims are missing, it can easily consult their database and extrapolate that based on its record, certain hundreds or thousands of residents are missing. The government can start collating names and addresses from the voters’ or taxpayers’ lists or come up with a national database, listing the names and addresses of the Filipino people.



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