NEARLY 2,500 people — 2,360 to be exact — died in 2012 in natural disasters in the Philippines, says the non-governmental Citizens Disaster Response Center (CDRC), putting it ahead of all other countries in the world including China, which was second with 771 deaths.
But because “only” 12 million Filipinos were affected last year by typhoons, landslides, flooding and those other rainy-season disasters Filipino flesh is heir to, while some 43 million were affected in China, the Philippines was only second to that country as far as how many people were displaced, lost their belongings, had their homes damaged, and/or suffered various economic losses because of crops destroyed or jobs lost, among others.
THE AFTERMATH of disasters in the Philippines is in many ways a media event beyond the disaster itself. But not only is the day after a disaster reported without context; it is also an occasion to celebrate Filipinos’ view of themselves as possessing, among other virtues, those of civic-mindedness and selflessness.
Neither the media, officialdom nor ordinary citizens have tired of declaring, in the aftermath of any disaster, that adversity brings out the best in the Filipino. It’s one of the most enduring clichés in these isles of typhoons, landslides, earthquakes and floods of near-Biblical proportions.
IF the Aquino III administration ignored warnings from the environmental and science communities long before “Sendong” that a disaster was coming in Mindanao, it wouldn’t be any more unique than past administrations.
From 1992 to 2001 some 6,000,000 Filipinos were killed or injured by various disasters, whether natural or man-made, making it, says the International Committee of the Red Cross, the fourth most disaster and accident-prone country in the world after China, India and Iran.
It’s a convenient excuse government big shots trot out during disasters to placate those who can’t understand why they’re getting no relief from hunger, thirst and cold, whose very lives are under threat during earthquakes, fires, mudslides and floods, or who have actually seen their children, parents and other kin drown in flood waters or burn in a house on fire. Mostly these bosses blame God, declaring that against natural disasters mere human beings contend in vain.
The September 27-28 floods and the misery they once more subjected Filipinos was one more occasion for the same excuse. This time, however, the by now predictable defense was accompanied by the argument, a tad more sophisticated, that global warming is to blame and not the government officials in this part of the planet.