Tropical storm Paeng did a lot of damage to vast areas of the country.
Even here in Negros Oriental, Paeng wreaked havoc in the northern and southern portions of the Province, while people were celebrating the Buglasan Festival.
Damage to agriculture almost reached P30 million while almost 5000 were displaced by the floods. Most of the flood victims were residents of riverbank communities and of low-lying areas.
Typically, these areas are no-build zones, as they are hazard-prone areas. Local government units should have hazard maps of their territories. Hazard maps provide important information to help people understand the risks of natural hazards and to help mitigate disasters. Hazard maps indicate the extent of expected risk areas, and can be combined with disaster management information such as evacuation sites, evacuation routes, and so forth.
However, this map is often ignored, both by local government units and people who choose to live in these hazard-prone areas.
For local government units, we hear of familiar phrases such as on-site development. This means that people living along the river would no longer be required to vacate their communities but the government will instead spend millions to put up giant flood-control dikes and evacuation centers.
Of course, we know that sooner or later, these dikes will be breached, like the several flood control dikes built in many towns in Negros Oriental after tropical storm Sendong. When the floods took away the dikes, that was when it was learned that there was nothing underneath the cement but sand – no boulders or steel cables.
It would definitely cost much less to move these people away from hazard-prone areas than to build all these expensive infrastructure that put up no challenge against the forces of nature.
But sadly, people just look the other way because these people, too, are voters.