Last week, the Philippines saw yet another typhoon slam into the Visayas and Mindanao. Super Typhoon Rai, locally known as Odette, caused severe damage in the Caraga region, particularly in Surigao del Norte and the Dinagat Islands, and in nearby provinces such as Cebu and Bohol.
Weather forecasts clearly tagged Odette as a super typhoon and precautionary measures were strongly advised. We saw mass evacuations and relief efforts happened as quickly as the typhoon made landfall. Still, not only did the typhoon cause severe damage to the homes of many of our fellow Filipinos, it also disrupted public utilities such as electricity and water, especially in the tourist island of Siargao that is now a virtual ghost town.
Both public and private sectors have started relief operations and the government has declared a state of calamity in affected areas. The international community has also stepped in to provide relief and aid. We see these massive operations happen, calamity after calamity and year in, year out, so one wonders if we can make our infrastructure typhoon- or calamity-proof enough to withstand all the natural disasters that come our way.
Another food for thought: Yes to substandard materials because super typhoons will cause severe damage anyway, so why bother? It sounds really bad but we have yet to see policies and legislation on how to ensure that infrastructure is calamity-proof.
Of course, the heroic efforts of everyone contributing to the relief drive are always recognized and acknowledged and we remain grateful. Such is the culture of the doleout and it comes in many forms: ayuda, grants, aid, tulong, etc. The culture of helping in this country is so ingrained in us in the same manner as the culture of receiving help is.
The impact of this doleout culture can be seen in the reliance and dependence of people on the government, or anyone and everyone really, who can help alleviate and improve their status in life. This requires a truly sustainable plan to ensure that there are enough resources to do conduct relief efforts whenever calamity strikes. On the average, the country is hit by about 25 typhoons per year.
How many individuals have we seen share their personal bank account information online to help those in need but not see the results? No one is policing this as it essentially is based on the honesty system. In addition, we see people working in silos or within their own bubbles for relief efforts, which may also be taken advantage of given that there are no proper auditing practices in place.
Health, particularly in terms of sustenance and nutrition, is another issue. Because of convenience, it has become a no-brainer to include canned goods, instant noodles, and other ready-to-eat items in relief packages. Sure, these feed the hungry who have taken refuge in evacuation centers but are another matter nutrition-wise. We could be looking at long-term side effects not too long from now.
The doleout culture also presents opportunities to chart the path to sustainability, address underlying issues present in health, and enable more effective collaboration between public and private sectors to ensure transparency is in place. Perhaps city-wide efforts can be led by local governments working side by side with barangays, for example. These opportunities require collaborative efforts and discussions should take place as we gear up for yet another typhoon.
Happy holidays to one and all!
Kay Calpo Lugtu is the chief operating officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. Her advocacies include food innovation, nation-building and sustainability. The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.