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EDITORIAL: Tragedies

A PALL OF GLOOM hovered since Christmas as tragedies came like thieves in the night that made people weeping and bearing bundles of sorrows for losing loved ones and livelihood in the three major islands of the Philippine archipelago---Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao. Rampaging across the Visayas and part of Luzon with floods, tornado and landslide on Dec. 17, Typhoon Urduja left 47 dead and huge damage to infrastructure and agriculture, estimated by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) at more than P1 Billion in Bicol, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas and the Zamboanga Peninsula. Typhoon Urduja rammed Biliran Island, which is just above Tacloban, snapping bridges, bringing floodwaters and deadly landslides, killing families whose houses were nestled beside a mountain. Like a train, Typhoon Vinta came roaring towards the Philippines as Typhoon Urduja leaves the Philippine Area of Responsibility. Unaware of the power of the coming of another storm, the fastcraft MVMercraft3 with 250 crew and passengers was allowed to travel in the absence of storm warning. But the seas between Quezon and Polilio Island went rough when strong winds and ferocious waves battered and tipped it over. More than 200 passengers had been plucked out of sea safely but four died and 15 remain missing. Three days before Christmas, Typoon Vinta made a landfall in Cateel, Davao Oriental before it swept through the Caraga Region, Northern Mindanao, the Zamboanga Peninsula, and Southern Palawan. The NDRRMC has counted 240 dead, thousands of families displaced and many more are still missing due to severe flooding. As if the deadly typhoons were not enough for the Filipinos to bear, a big fire gutted a big mall in the home city of President Rodrigo Duterte torching alive 37 call center employees who were trapped on the top floor of the building. And when Christmas Day came, 20 people, including seven children, were killed when the jeepney they were riding collided head-on with a bus in Agoo, La Union. Ten more other people perished in road accidents on the same day. Then, on New Year, Typhoon Agaton swept Visayas and Mindanao with the same deadly results due to heavy rains and flooding. The NDRRMC has yet to account for the destruction wrought and lives lost as the first storm in 2018 was still sighted within the country’s area of responsibility as of Wednesday, January 3. While many are unaffected by disasters that came one after the other and were able to celebrate Christmas and New Year with joy and cheers, the people of Visayas and Mindanao sulked and wailed under the wrath of the three typhoons. Urduja, Vinta and Agaton may not be the strong typhoons that we know, the heavy rains it brought turned deadly that unleashed furious flooding and landslides. Some fanatics may attribute these calamities and accidents as God’s punishment for our shortcomings. But it must be remembered that the birth of Jesus Christ as redeemer had changed God’s way of dealing with the mortals in the New Testament. Perhaps, it would be easy to directly attribute the misfortunes we are experiencing at present as God’s wrath if we lived in the period of the Old Testament. Since not all of us are believers, we can only blame Climate Change for the natural disasters that we are experiencing now. We can only blame human activities for the rise in ocean temperature that spawn storms and super-typhoons. We are all to blame for not taking care of our environment and the ecosystem. But another kind of storm is brewing at the horizon as higher taxes are expected to be imposed on petroleum and sugar products this year for the sake of the so-called “build, build, build” mantra of the Duterte administration. Let us brace ourselves for greater challenges in the days ahead because another tragedy in the lives of Filipino may strike once more without warning.

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