The immediate need in Luzon is for continued rescue and relief work for the people who lost their homes in the wake of typhoon Ulysses, the latest of a series of storms and typhoons that swept in from the Pacific in a span of three weeks.
It was initially reported that Ulysses had caused massive flooding in Marikina City, the catch basin of Metro Manila, but it turned out the next day that the flooding had actually hit the whole of Luzon, particularly Cagayan and Isabela in the north. Helicopters brought food packs to many barangays isolated by the floods that covered the region.
Damage to rice and other farms in the Cordilleras, Ilocos region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and Bicol was estimated at P2.53 billion. With the declaration of a state of calamity in all of Luzon, the national government augmented the funding of the National Risk Reduction and Management Fund by P10 billion.
The unexpected heavy flooding in Cagayan and Isabela has moved the House of Representatives to conduct an inquiry. Aside from the unusually heavy rains that fell on the mountains in the area, it seems that dam administrators in both Cagayan Valley and Marikina released water threatening the dam structures, but in the process, they worsened the floods in the populated areas downstream.
The spilling operations in Magat Dam raised the flood waters in Isabela, Aurora, all the way to Aparri, Cagayan, the exit point of the Cagayan River, Undersecretary Renato Solidum of the Department of Science and Technology said.
There is now a suggestion, he said, for the dredging of the Cagayan River along with the construction of a temporary embankment. But vital to any effort to prevent another disastrous flooding in the future, he said, is reforestation in the mountains.
Forests serve to keep the water in the mountains. Without trees to hold the water around their roots, the water flows down unimpeded to the lowlands and cause floods like the one that just hit the whole of Luzon.
Then there is the issue of illegal mining in surrounding mountains. While this is not directly related to the floods, it is a problem of law enforcement, which becomes one of special importance in times of disaster.
So many issues are now coming up because of th unusually widespread flood in Luzon. With its additional funds, the government should be able to attend to the most immediate problems of rescue, relief and rehabilitation, and dam control, along with river dredging and raising of embankments.
But the long-range solution must not be forgotten—reforestation of the mountains that will keep the water from rushing down to the lowlands, destroying homes and lives, everytime a typhoon like UIysses comes roaring from the Pacific.
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