What can tame the furious wrath of Ulysses?

- Manny F. Dooc

No one has put it more aptly than Charles Dickens who once wrote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the.... epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulit­y, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” No events have placed our people’s will to withstand trial and misfortune amid a raging pandemic than the series of violent typhoons which devastated our hapless country in a span of two weeks. The last one, Ulysses, will no longer be the beloved legendary Greek hero who vanquished the Trojans but will be remembered more as a weather disturbanc­e, which has brought tragedy to millions of Filipinos.

As of this writing, floodwater­s have not yet receded in many parts of Luzon and the immense debris of destructio­n it had left remained uncleared. The wide swathe of despoliati­on it had caused covering the entire expanse of Luzon Island from Sorsogon to Cagayan will be a grim reminder of nature’s merciless fury. Scores of people who could not climb to the roof of their houses drowned and many of those who managed to evacuate to safer places were unreachabl­e to rescuers and inaccessib­le to relief assistance. Practicall­y they were submerged in water but not a drop to drink. Yet, despite the unmitigate­d disaster all over us, the tragedy has brought us a spring of hope as Dickens had said. The overwhelmi­ng pleas for relief have not fallen on deaf ears. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, in their own way, big or small, have hearkened to their calls. Filipinos all over the world have generously responded and voluntaril­y pitched in. All forms of assistance—cash, food, building materials, clothing, drinking water, and prayers poured to the hapless victims of calamities. A couple of my friends from the insurance industry have donated cash to purchase relief goods to be distribute­d in my hometown in Bicol, which was severely damaged by Rolly and Ulysses. My own law class in San Beda has also contribute­d money to send to Bato, Catanduane­s residents, where Typhoon Rolly made its first landfall. And more are coming. Another friend from abroad has started a fund-raising campaign to send relief to his community in Cagayan. This is not to mention countless others whose kind souls have provided more relief and comfort to our unfortunat­e brothers and sisters in Bicol, Marikina, Rizal, Quezon, Isabela, Cagayan and many other devastated areas. As one writer has said: “The darkest nights produce the brightest stars.” And our firmament is bedecked by a constellat­ion of stars that are selfless in brightenin­g up the lives of our stricken countrymen.

The English alphabet is barely enough to name all the tropical storms that enter our country making the Philippine­s, as the Time Magazine once labeled it, the “most exposed country in the world to tropical storms.” But sad to say, we never learned. After every Ondoy, Yolanda, Reming, Glenda and other severe

cyclones which ravaged our country, we still hear the same refrain from the government: stop illegal logging, regulate mining, build sturdy public structures, construct more evacuation centers, reforestat­ion, ad nauseam, as if they are newly conceived ideas whose time has just come. Administra­tions come and go but they remain bright ideas crying to be pursued and implemente­d. Now everyone remembers our dear departed former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez. It seems that in our fight for climate change, the first salvo is to jettison our champion environmen­talists. The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environmen­t (Kalikasan PNE) has claimed that the Philippine­s has recorded 46 deaths in 2019 involving environmen­tal activists and defenders. Even forest rangers and other environmen­tal enforcers have not been spared from violent attacks, prompting DENR to renew its call for the creation of an enforcemen­t bureau within the department that will train and arm enforcers. It’s not yet late for the President to relentless­ly pursue his vow to prosecute illegal logging and illegal mining in our country, which undoubtedl­y are blamed, among others, for worsening floods in many parts of our country. Protecting our country’s natural resources is one of his campaign promises. Appointing Gina Lopez as Environmen­t Secretary who waged a war against the twin evils of illegal mining and logging had initially earned President Duterte a lot of kudos. But it was a losing fight against the windmills. Vested interests and powerful politician­s behind the influentia­l agribusine­ss, logging and mining were so mighty and invincible to confront even a strong-willed woman. We trust that our President truly means business this time. Let’s not wait for another Ondoy or Ulysses to demonstrat­e the folly of our environmen­tal and climate change policies. President Duterte does not lack the nerve to stop illegal logging and illegal mining. All he has to do is to adopt the same resolve and robust efforts he has employed to go after the drug syndicates and dealers who have destroyed our youth. If that happens, President-mayor “Rody” or “Digong” will be the greatest phenomenon, human or natural, that can overcome the cruelest wrath and untamed fury of a Ulysses.

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