The two recent destructive typhoons, Pedring and Quiel, provided us with some important lessons. These lessons have basis on scientific facts that were known before the occurrence of the two events, but were apparently either forgotten or considered not worthy of public attention, and therefore, mostly ignored. Let’s review these facts.
The Manila area and the adjacent lowlands have been described by geologists as “sinking” due to the withdrawal of ground water through pumps. I understand that a couple of papers have been published in technical journals, but which probably did not catch the attention of government officials.
There have also been scientific papers that predicted the rise of sea level in the whole Philippines. And I am aware of some data on the extent of the sea level rise around the Manila area.
Some predictions on the potential land area at risk of flooding in the Manila area have been made. If one puts together the predictions of sea level rise and sinking of land, he will conclude that flooding predicted by computer simulations is highly probable and believable.
The floods caused by the two typhoons that persisted after more than a week is evidence of the accuracy of the flood prediction. But who cares about predictions based on scientific research?
Incidentally, the simultaneous occurrence of high tides and flooding caused by rainfall had added to the severity of the floods in Pampanga and Bulacan, and so with sedimentation of rivers due to natural causes that were exacerbated by improper solid waste disposal by the people living in the affected areas. The combination of floods and high tides occurs occasionally, but I do not that this occurrence was predicted.
The destruction of the Manila Bay seawall in the area between the Navy headquarters and the American Embassy due to the heavy wave action brought about by the strong southwest monsoon winds are fairly easy to explain: nothing in Manila Bay stood in the way to moderate the combined force of the winds and the waves impacting on the seawall.
But the strong typhoon winds and waves did not do much damage to buildings and other physical structures in the Parañaque area. The reason is clear: the only mangrove forest in Manila Bay shielded this area from the monsoon winds and waves.
Typhoon Pedring just showed how mangroves can moderate storm surges. People of Metro Manila should be thankful that this forest still exists; in fact, this forest should be protected and more tree species should be planted to add to the existing ones to make it more effective as a windshield in the future.
We have for a long time argued that mangroves should be restored in denuded coastal areas to help break the force of strong waves and winds.
The attempts of certain business interests to erect structures that may cause destruction of the only existing and disturbed mangrove forest in Manila Bay should be resisted by all coastal residents of Metro Manila and by DENR.
The most pressing question after Pedring and Quiel is how government will respond to the lessons learned from these two typhoons. We are waiting to see some changes in the way we think about the role and function of our environment in these days of weather anomalies.