MANILA, Philippines — Here comes the sun – also the title of our second national anthem following the onslaught of “Mr. Habagat” last week – and happy days are here again, time and reason to forget what happened during the floods and what will happen again if we don’t act now to prevent more wet and wild tragedies.
That was the expectation in 2009, post-Ondoy, only for us to be rudely greeted, three years later, by another, more vicious deluge. Listen to international urban planner Jun Palafox and his fathomless frustrations: Since the 1970s, he has been sending set after set of anti-flooding programs to every President sitting in Malacañang. His first recommendations were turned over to the then Metropolitan Manila Authority, back when Martial Law was the big bad wolf, while the most recent Palafox folder, forwarded to Malacañang, consists of a list of 18 do-it-now’s.
Mr. Palafox is more than intimately familiar with the problems of Metro Manila. It would be hard to find someone with as sweeping and deep a knowledge of the megapolis’ environmental issues from A to Z, as it would be impossible to recognize the urgency in his voice when he addresses public fora and TV and radio audiences. Everyone listens, but not everyone has the power and authority to make his dreams come true, or at least to mitigate the nightmares that he foresees if we do not act now, as in yesterday, last year, five years ago. If his blueprint were implemented tomorrow, as if with a magic wand, it would still take 10 years before Metro Manila is flood-free.
What are we waiting for? To drown? Sink or swim? Turn back the hands of time? Don’t look now, Jun, I think we’re waiting for the next two elections – so is that a joke to induce tears?