Senator Risa Hontiveros has formally filed a resolution asking the Senate to look into the alleged man-made causes of the severe flooding in Cagayan, Rizal, and Marikina City in the aftermath of Typhoon Ulysses.
Hontiveros, in filing Senate Resolution No. 571, said it is necessary for the Upper Chamber to conduct an investigation into the massive flooding that occurred in major parts of the country following the onslaught of typhoons so lawmakers can craft a better policy that will prepare the Philippines for future calamities.
“About 1.7 million Filipinos, many of whom are young children and senior citizens, are displaced and affected. Even worse is that this happened in the middle of a pandemic in which lapses in physical distancing can mean life or death,” she said.
Hontiveros said the images of the flooding and the audio recordings from Isabela and Cagayan Valley that are circulating on social media were “shocking and chilling” especially those that show residents calling for rescue after Magat Dam was opened.
“The audio recordings were chilling. The cries of our countrymen and women sounded like they were abandoned in the pits of hell. The devastation of those floods is on us,” she said.
“The floods swept away the lives and livelihood of millions without warning, which could have been avoided if the alarm was rung loudly before they opened the dam,” she lamented.
She said lawmakers need to study the gaps in the country’s disaster planning and mitigation and fill them immediately.
“This can’t keep on happening. Especially now, the climate disasters in the middle of a pandemic have created unique problems never before seen in the country. It is our responsibility to take seriously the protection of nature, investigate human-made causes of flooding, and drastically upgrade the country’s preparedness and response,” she said.
She added that the exploitation of natural resources increased the vulnerability of the country to intense typhoons.
The senator also said conservation experts from Masungi Georeserve point to illegal logging and land-grabbing in the Upper Marikina Watershed and Sierra Madre despite legal protections under RA No. 7586, the National Integrated Protected System (NIPAS), as among the possible causes of the flooding.
The illegal logging massively diminished the capacity of the mountain range to buffer the National Capital Region (NCR) and Rizal Province from the ravage of the strong typhoons, she pointed out.
“Alin dito ang talagang kasalanan natin? (What is our responsibility here?) We need to know the answers immediately before the next typhoon hits. Natural calamities are beyond our control and can be unpredictable, but there are causes to the historic devastation of Typhoon Ulysses that could have been addressed,” she said.
““We are not new to natural disasters. Paulit-ulit ang kwento. Napapagod at nagagalit ang taumbayan (The stories are the same. The people are getting tired and angry), and rightly so. Let’s find out what is really causing this vicious cycle, and change the story once and for all),” Hontiveros said.