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Philippines: The root cause of the flooding

The series of floods that hit many parts of the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific region have been dubbed as the first great natural calamity of the new year. While floods are a common occurrence in this tropical parts of the world, the present floodings were said to be the worst in recent memory.

In the Philippines, media reports have cited weeks of heavy rain brought by a cold front as the immediate cause of the massive flooding and landslides. Some Filipino bloggers have started asking more questions. What was the root cause of the flooding? What is really happening? Here are some efforts of Filipino bloggers to make sense of the disaster:

Ed Montalvan of The Mindanao Current gives a historical perspective on the flooding:

I cannot tell you about how it was before I was born but in 1955 there was a big flood… At that time my father used to tell us that every 25 years the river swells but the one before that was in 1941 and he said that was only a 14 year gap. He didn’t like that because he thought it was dangerous.

Then in the 60s (maybe that was 1965 or 1966 because I left Cagayan de Oro after that) the river swelled again but it was only up to the edge of Burgos. The street was never covered by water at the place where we lived…

As my father told us, this used to happen every 25 years and at that time there were no logging operations and the forest cover was thick. If this happens at shorter intervals then it means this world of ours is getting to be in a very bad shape.

The prevalence of religious narratives to account for the floods caught the attention of Kevin Paquet of pinoyteens.net.

BenCyrus G. Ellorin, an environmentalist and community worker based in Cagayan de Oro, blames logging for the flooding:

There were small efforts to reforest our watershed. Our group started a small indigenous forest species (dipterocarp) reforestation project in the Dansolihon, Bayanga areas, in the Monigue Creek, but when external funds went dry, it wasn’t anymore replicated. Many other small initiatives were done, but none big and sustainable enough was pursued. These big and sustainable project, naturally should have been done by the government, both the local and national government. But instead, our officials looked the other way, enjoyed the bright city lights and ignored the elephant in our backyard so to speak. Then came January 3, 2009…

The cause of the disaster that visited us is not a result of short-term causes but a result of 20 – 30 years of abuse and neglect to our forest ecosystem, the watershed of Cagayan de Oro. It was a result of unabated legal and illegal logging and mindless land use conversion.

Coffee Writings comments on the news of the banning of mining in one of the affected cities:

What happened last week has never happened in the city for decades. A historian said that the last big flood in the city happened during the 1960’s, but the recent one is probably way bigger. I think this is caused by mining, quarrying and an almost depleted forest.

Mayor Constantino Jaraula suspended all quarrying and mining operations, an act which should have been done years ago. Different sectors have been calling for it to stop for a long time. But as we all know, government needs to be poked in the head in order for it to act. Farmers have to hunger strike and walk the miles and miles in order to be heard. In this case, mother nature has to have landslide and floods in order for her to be heard.

The Green Theory adds:

What is sad is that the people who are affected are ordinary people who can barely keep up with day to day living. The high officials who issued permits to logging companies and the owners of these logging companies are in the comfort of their homes this weekend or having golf at an exclusive club while the people in the villages are starving.

The flash floods in Cagayan de Oro tells us forcefully that we cannot have a flash flood free country if we continue on denuding our forests. It may be very hard to tell this to those people who are benefiting financially by the denuding of our forests.

Gracey points at climate change as the cause of the floodings:

As the weather patterns change abruptly, temperatures are increasing and sea levels are rising. this causes low lying islands to suffer from frequent floods. The only thing we can do now is to try and reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible.

Caustic Thoughts see the floods as the price of development:

Of course, the old ones still believe in conspiracy theories and they suspect that the powers that be have been affixing their signatures in invisible ink on logging clearances. The younger theorists though tend to believe more in the effects of global warming. The Cagayan de Oro flood may very well have been our first taste of the nastiness of this new-fangled environmental mess…

The sad fact is, whether global warming really causes floods or not, these floods are likely related to the price of what industrialists call development, the kind that they enjoy. The ones whose homes were underwater for a day or disappeared with the water forever probably can’t appreciate anything.

Living Life Simply adds:

Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J., D.D. has called on the Catholic community to show their faith by extending a helping hand to the victims of massive flooding and stressed the need to go back to the root cause of the flooding. He cited flash mining that have silted the river of Iponan and also the logging upstream not only in the interior of Cagayan de Oro but also in Bukidnon and Lanao del Sur areas have led to the environmental disaster.

Disasters are in the waiting.

Devastations triggered by ‘natural’ disasters stems from ecologically destructive practices. More often, indications of environmental abuse are overlooked because ‘development’ projects appear to be economically viable for the community.

The excessive land use due to economic activities is eroding the natural buffers that protect communities from hazard risk. It also destroys the watershed areas that provide the nature cover to ensure that water flow is not so destructive. These changes often erode people's capacity to recover from disaster.

In the meantime, the Philippine government has ordered an investigation on the cause of the floods. Rescue and relief operations continue. Efforts to help flood victims through blogs and social networking sites are also in progress.

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