Editorial: Weather, infra and pressure

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

IS OUR public infrastructure really weak or are weather phenomena, like floods and storm surges, getting more frequent and more powerful?

This question surfaced repeatedly in reaction to news reports about how heavy rain from a low-pressure area left at least 21 dead and affected more than 55,000 families in 11 provinces in Mindanao. Communities that have had to deal with the floods or landslides include those that suffered from typhoon Pablo in December 2012 and some towns in Leyte and Samar that Yolanda all but flattened less than 10 weeks ago.

We have entered an age where weather has ceased to be a conversation-starter. It has become the conversation, given such unprecedented events as freak floods in Riyadh to the polar vortex that recently chilled various North American municipalities.


Yet the weather unfolds outside our control. Changes in our lifestyles and consumption patterns, we are told, can make weather events less threatening for our children. But the results of these changes will take years to manifest. In the meantime, we must prepare homes and communities for weather-related threats we can rarely predict.

Which makes the first question hit home. Is our public infrastructure that weak? Sadly, it is, in some places.

The special audit that led to the pork barrel controversy of 2013 has revealed, among others, that in 41 infrastructure projects funded by congressional allocations in three years, an estimated P46.2 million (out of P1.3 billion) may have been misspent.

Reason? The projects, pursued in 2007-2009, were “not constructed in accordance with plans.”

The same Commission on Audit report also pointed out that some infrastructure contracts in those years were “excessive” by P100.9 million, because rates had been incorrectly applied or the contracts split.

Imagine if these wasted amounts had gone instead to sturdier public classrooms, which double as evacuation centers, or more effective flood control systems. Calamities spawned by the weather can end lives, despite our best preparations. But we can lessen the toll by making sure public infrastructure projects are built to correct specifications, with amounts going where these are intended.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 15, 2014.


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