October 25, 2009 in columns
By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO
I thought the real stakeholders in a community are the members or its members as a whole; and, that in a democracy the majority population, and not just the registered voters, of a community prevails.
In Baguio City, I see that the safety of the majority population is what is at stake in the decision of what the priorities are in government programs or services. In the recent calamity, again and for the nth time, we have come face to face with the horror of total destruction at the level of the individual, or whole families, to the level of a whole community the size of Sitio Kibungan, in Puguis, La Trinidad, Cresencia Village or City Camp.
In this life time, in the 1990 earthquake, it is said that all the Baguio families had lost a member or two to this “natural disaster”. It took almost a month for transportation and communications to Baguio to normalize.
After ‘the earthquake’, calamity lessons, faults and suggestions were raised by every sector in Philippine society. The “this should be and that should be” along with, each one’s analysis of the situation as the talk of the town, in every restaurant table, watering hole and park bench.
The DENR was badgered and demanded to work 24/7. Policies and laws came out all the government departments and bureaus were put to task on disaster preparedness and programs.
Towards the end of that year, the scientific version of the cause of the earthquake had sunk into the comprehension of most. The fault lines, the vulnerability of the young mountains’ foundations, the mining industry, the geology and geography of the city area, the waterways and drainage, the city’s carrying capacity, its population, its devolopment directions, disaster preparedness, etc. They were publicly scrutinized. But it looked like it was just until there for through the years the plans, the support and deep concern for Baguio had dissipated. The path to over-development and commercialization was given high priority and almost a free reign.
Now, after typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, the emergency problems, situations and issues raised today have a striking similarity to that aftermath of the 1990 earthquake. And, some quarters still say we are lucky as if it was an excuse not to give full attenttion to the basic problems raised before, several times, time and again, every year, and now? after another devastation?
It is not only the plastic content of the high-pile of garbage on the side of every street corner, or only the inability of city services to collect and dispose of it, that caused the flood in the City lagoon, or in Buyagan. Nor is it just the rugged mountain terrain our city is situated on. Nor just the rampant cutting of trees. City managers should know by now or they are not worth the support they demand or plead for from the people – ‘the people’ who are basic and the real stakeholders in and of the community.
How much of the returns from a high-profile tourism industry can really reach the coffers that directly support public service? Support and service to the real stakeholders in the city with a disatrously weakened environment? Very low support for public health, education, food security and human rights? Is it really worth risking lives again (without even trying to) to another disaster that could have been avoided? Tourism development and other support for so-called lucrative industries has to consider the physical vulnerability of this City too.
And, by the way, carrying capacity of the city does not mean the physical weight in kilos of the buildings and the people! # nordis.net