My biggest complaint about the breaking news coverage on the landslide in Leyte was that no one mentioned that the entire area had basically been declared a disaster area for weeks before the landslide. In other words, people (and in this case I mean “the government”) knew this was going to happen, but didn’t evacuate the area. It’s unthinkable.
Then a story in the New York Times comes out saying the government has known since last May that the village was in “grave danger.”
Policies were even in place to avert a pending disaster: Area villages were evacuated late last year, and a logging ban, to address the deforestation at the root of the problem, had been adopted more than a decade ago.
But reality was another matter. According to government officials and environmental groups, problems ranging from government corruption and ineffective laws to a lack of money and the political will to enforce the laws contributed to the collapse of the mountainside here in the first instance, and allowed it to become a large-scale human tragedy in the second.
I feel one of those lists coming on — you know, the ones that say “You know you’ve been in the Philippines too long when…” Well, this list would start with, “You know you’ve been in the Philippines too long when the above statements do not shock you at all.” It seems the key is to maintain a sense of outrage and injustice, and to not let the constant stream of tragedy, disaster and human suffering caused by corruption make you cynical.