Do Filipinos love their country? If one were to try and answer that question simply by looking around his surroundings, one can be forgiven for thinking that no, most Filipinos do not love their country. For all the arrogance and chest thumping we see amidst shouting with pride of statements like, “Filipinos are the best!” or “It’s more fun in the Philippines!”, the truth is inescapable: Filipinos in general do not care about their environment and the very place they live in.
The recent typhoon to hit the Philippines (code named “Gener”) left Manila littered with mountains of garbage swept in by big waves onto the Baywalk area along Roxas Boulevard in Manila. No less than 48 garbage trucks had to haul the mess gathered off from along the length of the iconic highway. The sight provided a grim reminder of the Filipino people’s worst traits: laziness and negligence. Most obviously do not think of the consequences of their habit of throwing away their garbage everywhere indiscriminately.
The bodies of water surrounding the archipelago may not be able to speak up and complain about the amount of trash and filth many Filipinos toss in everyday, but it sent a strong message this week — that nature can easily cough it back out in one go to wherever it came from. The recent typhoon also proved that Manila Bay’s seawall is no match for the waves, which can go as high as 20 to 35 feet or as high as the coconut trees along Roxas Boulevard. The sea spewed out garbage as if in anger. The filth included plastic bags and food wrappers and all kinds of polystyrene materials that are not biodegradable.
And as if responding with a strong objection to President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino’s triumphalist State of the Nation Address (SONA) a week before, typhoon Gener left at least 24 people dead and almost 180,000 displaced according to disaster management officials. Unfortunately, for all the supposed “gains” BS Aquino highlighted in his “achievement” report, his government’s response to the calamity brought about by the typhoon is disappointing to say the least. Like the previous administration before him, BS Aquino’s disaster prevention team was just as unprepared as the typhoon battered the region. So much for over-emphasizing how things have improved under his regime.
[Photo courtesy ABS-CBN News.]
Even President Aquino’s spokespersons seem rattled by how helpless they found themselves as the disaster unfolded. If there was one person who we could guess is the likeliest person in MalacaÃ±ang who might hate his job the most, it would be Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda. He looked miserable as he tried to dodge questions from the media during the height of the typhoon. Like in every other press conference, the poor guy looked like he would rather be somewhere else. He doesn’t look like his work is cut out for him anyway. It’s too bad he didn’t choose his job well. As the saying goes, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. But I digress…
At one point Lacierda probably got frustrated enough to blurt out what seemed like a dumb response. He insinuated that people who get stranded in flooded areas have only themselves to blame because they did not monitor government advise on their Twitter account. He said that as if assuming that every Filipino is tethered to the Net and as if the Philippines enjoys the most advanced net access infrastructure in the world. Add to all that; Lacierda seems to think that government agencies give sound advice to Filipinos during typhoons. He should come down from his ivory tower and join the real world. It is too bad Filipinos cannot rely on government agencies to give reassuring statements.
What’s even worse is that most employers in the Philippines expect employees to go to work even if there is a strong typhoon. Employers can be very inconsiderate of the fact that not everyone has their own private vehicles and that city public transport systems in the Philippines are generally unreliable. It doesn’t really matter to them if their employees have to wade through flooded roads just to get to work; they still expect them to be on time. Filipino employees then have no choice but to risk their lives going to work even in high typhoon alert just so they won’t lose their jobs. This leads to a wretched existence for the helpless employee.
An Asian Development Bank (ADB) study has revealed that “Metro Manila is now probably the only Mega City in Asia that uses uncontrolled open dumping and a series of uncontrolled dumpsites to dispose solid waste”. No wonder much of the 1,500 tons of garbage produced by Manila everyday just goes directly into rivers and creeks. Even dumpsites managed by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) are located near the sea.
Some would say that it is the estimated 100,000 “informal settlers” who are the Number One culprits when it comes to indiscriminate dumping of garbage onto the rivers and creeks that flow into the sea. However, government agencies that allow this situation to get out of hand are also to blame. And so are the members of the Philippine elite. They would rather spend most of their time sipping their lattes at Starbucks or partying at whatever “hip” establishment they go to instead of using their clout to pressure their public servants into fixing the ever growing degradation to the environment improperly disposed garbage is causing. These people would like to think that the garbage problem is non-existent or will sort itself out. Indeed, Philippine society sustains itself by transforming nature into garbage.