THE BLOG
11/25/2013 12:39 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

Philippines Typhoon Haiyan: Act Now or Regret Later

Haiyan Exposes the Philippines' Vulnerability to Yearly Typhoons

As soon as the killer storm exited the Philippine islands, people around the world familiarized themselves with the word Haiyan or Yolanda as code-named by the Philippines. We learned more details on what a typhoon us. Its devastating effects to communities living along its path and its aftermath as it opened the debate on what probable measures must be taken to protect ourselves and minimize the damage from future storms.

Geographically, the 7,100 islands comprising the Philippines archipelago are located on the path of typhoons, with the majority of the population living along coastal areas in houses constructed with light materials which expose them to high risks when typhoons strike. Any of the dozens of typhoons passing the Philippines yearly, hardly go without leaving casualties behind yet until now nothing has been done to provide even minimum protection against the next typhoon.

Thanks to the extensive reporting from the devastated regions by international and local media organizations, we were able to see the poor infrastructure and lack of safe evacuation centers with basic medical facilities for cases of such emergencies.

The concerned global community must understand that (the pattern of) visiting the devastated areas after the calamity must not be limited only to distributing temporary aid to the affected communities but to implement meaningful solution which will protect the people again future calamities. Temporary aid is equivalent to trying to stop leakages from a dilapidated roof by using band-aid.

Though the Philippines is located in the warm tropical zone and many believe that strong houses are not needed for protection of cold weather, the killer typhoon exposed the urgent need to relocated from shorelines the residential settlements to selected safer elevated grounds and build stronger structures to help minimize the damage of future typhoons. This initiative requires decisiveness and hard work but it is the only way to show proof of seriousness and "genuine" concern.

Certainly it's hard to prepare for storms of unpredictable strengths because there is no shield against nature, this calamity must become the turning point for establishing strict building standards and ban completely the construction of residential houses with light and substandard materials.

It is unthinkable in the era of internet, social media, blogs, news-online etc to abandon fellow human beings at the mercy of natural calamities trying to fend off killer typhoons inside unsafe houses build with few pieces of wood, tree leaves or thatches of dry grass, World NGO's must team up immediately with Philippines communities to conduct a nationwide survey to identify and declare unsafe residential houses and design new building standards for new homes to be constructed in the selected safe locations.

Even the nation's capital, Metro Manila experiences frequent calamities including many fires of entire neighborhoods due to lack of safety standards. Many of residential houses of Metro Manila probably do not meet safety standards for human use.

Many might argue that the people are poor and cannot afford to build strong safe houses but such arguments will only lead us to in effect say "abandon these poor people and who ever survives the next typhoon fine, those who will perish we just say sorry for your bad luck". Certainly this is not an option. The world community must contribute ideas and resources to the solution of this case a success story which can be duplicated in other problematic areas of the world.

Poor people do not demand mansions but at least basic strong concrete structures which they can fence with red-brick walls and have better protection from future natural calamities.
With a small budget, the communities can acquire emergency generators for basic electricity requirements to avoid total darkness for several weeks or months before the damaged power plants and transmission lines are repaired. Same applies to the road network in rural areas.

Building very expensive cemented or asphalted roads to connect rural communities is equivalent to giving a Rolls Royce car to a farmer to bring his harvested vegetables to the market while he only needs a simple low cost truck to do this job. Even developed countries don't build such luxury rural roads. Instead, they are constructing low cost roads by using various soil stabilizers and less expensive road-sealing materials which enables them to connect fast more rural communities with farm-to-market-roads. Such roads in cases of natural disasters can be repaired very fast and at very low cost.

Needless to mention the abundance of the Filipino skilled labor force which is building important infrastructure projects in every part of the world and which can be utilized to build strong houses for their own families. Typhoon Haiyan revealed that old types of infrastructure must be revised with more efficient and economical ones to help more communities.

Construction of residential units must not be allowed to be built with light materials. In every part of the Philippines there is an abundance of clay type of soils which with the use of simple technology such as a brick-making machine red bricks can be produced as a replacement to the expensive and not easily accessible sources of hollow cement blocks.

As the problem in the Philippines is of emergency status, instant decisions are needed by all those who are expressing sincere concerns for today's as well as for tomorrow's victims. While prayers and words of consolation can act as temporary emotional pain relievers, action is needed NOW! The religious groups too must come out with real contribution to help the victims and not feel comfortable by merely asking the public to contribute. This is equivalent to telling the people contribute to help yourselves. This is equivalent to telling the people to contribute to help themselves.

Failure to grab the momentum and act now to help the survivors, we must be prepared to accept responsibility for letting the future victims waiting like sitting ducks for the next killer typhoon to hit them.