RelieF goods for victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” are repacked at a storage facility in Tacloban City.
RelieF goods for victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” are repacked at a storage facility in Tacloban City. RAFFY LERMA – Image Source: inquirer.net
[box type=”default” size=”large”] “Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” — Genesis 5:32-10:1 [/box]CHICAGO – Governments should treat every impending typhoon as if it is capable of wiping entire islands from the face of the earth.

Philippine presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma, Jr. admitted that the Aquino administration was not prepared to handle the massive devastation wreaked by super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in Eastern Visayas. If that is so, the Philippine government should now start working on measures to avert a similar Biblical kind of catastrophe in the future.

In formulating such measures, the government should welcome all suggestions, even the outrageous ones, from all corners. In other words, it should think outside the box.

For instance, because weather forecasts are now relatively accurate in predicting the strength of a typhoon three days or so before its landfall, it could come up with a plan for forcible evacuation of people by placing ground zero under martial law. This would ensure that everybody would be out of the path of the typhoon.

If the eye of the storm hits a landlocked province, there should be at least three ways for people to evacuate – by land (cars and other vehicles), by air or by sea.

People, who hesitate to leave because their neighbors might steal their valuables they are leaving behind, should not worry. Their priority should be want to save their own skin. Who cares if their hardheaded, unscrupulous neighbors steal their valuables? After all, these neighbors would not stand a chance to survive a Yolanda kind of disaster. These robbers would not be able to use their loot because they would all die, like those who doubted Noah’s warnings.

But what happens if the center of the storm hits an island, like Leyte? Residents would have a very limited choice to flee by air because of the costly airfare – nor by land because they would be stuck in Allen, Samar, the gateway to the Visayas to Luzon.

So, the only way out for Leyte and Tacloban residents is by sea. The government can commandeer all ships to make port calls in Tacloban three or four days before a typhoon strikes and force all the residents to board the ships.

If there is enough government savings, the President could ask Congress to appropriate funds or appeal for public donation to build huge passenger ships, like U.S. naval ships, which could carry thousands of passengers.

The government will not have any problem with employing seamen to man the huge ships. As No. 1 exporter of seamen in the world, the Philippines can hire as many local seamen at it can.

The big expenses involved in building and maintaining huge ships would be worth it because hundreds of thousands of lives wouldl be saved from the disaster.

As I told Stacey Baca, a part-Filipino American broadcast journalist for ABC-Channel 7 Chicago, who was reaching out to the Filipino community while Yolanda (Haiyan) was gathering strength, the best the Philippines and other countries located in the “Typhoon Belt” can do is to keep facilities like electric cables underground, instead of erecting electric posts. This would avert power blackouts.

I told Stacey the Philippine government should encourage the construction of low but sturdy stone houses like those built up north in Batanes in Luzon, which is often visited by typhoon.

Because the Philippines is composed of more than 7,000 islands, I suggest the government require elementary students to pass a swimming tests in their physical education classes before they complete their elementary education. (Here in the US, 16-year-old American high school students are required to pass a test for automobile driving.) The swimming test is intended to minimize deaths caused by drowning.

And lastly, the government should maintain a database of names and addresses of each resident so that in case victims are missing, it could consult the database.

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Joseph is a former reporter of the Manila Bulletin, former president of the Rizal-Metro Manila Reporters Association and former president of the Chicago chapter of the National Press Club of the Philippines. A native of Sorsogon, Philippines, he and his family now live in Chicago. A prolific reporter, Lariosa writes a column and news stories for the Filipino Star News and other Filipino community newspapers in the US as well as for GMA News and the Manila Bulletin.

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