Super typhoon “Ompong” has entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility and the lives and assets of millions of Filipinos in Luzon are under threat.
The storm, internationally known as Mangkhut, is seen to reach an intensity of 220 to 270 kilometers. Moving westward at 20 kph, it is expected to make landfall on Cagayan province on Saturday.
Torrential rain, powerful wind and storm surges are forecast.
These are not new to Filipinos. Disasters happen several times a year, in different places, forms and intensity. Sometimes the damage is greater than at other times. Sometimes the calamities and their aftermath are handled better.
This time around, authorities assure us that they are sufficiently prepared for Ompong’s onslaught. They have also given public advisories, advising people what to do and what not to when the typhoon is felt. Rescue and communication equipment are in place, they say.
In this case, the threat of damage heightens the looming crisis in food staples, specifically rice. Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol has warned that in a worst-case scenario, Ompong could cause destruction up to P7 billion in palay and another P4 billion in corn.
Experience has taught us that local governments, just because of their immediacy, play a crucial role in determining how an area is able to deal with disaster, and recover from it. Notwithstanding the much-vaunted preparations of the national agencies, this will continue to be the case. It is the faces and voices of local officials from who residents will take the cue.
There is nothing we can do about the fact that our country is on the warpath of powerful weather disturbances. We can only brace ourselves for Ompong’s onslaught this week, and for that of many others to come. What government can influence, however, is the way disaster risk can be mitigated, prepared for, responded to and recovered from.
We’ve seen enough tragic stories occasioned by natural disasters. We hope that the man-made inadequacies and excesses do not compound the damage—at least, not too much.