Lower Taal alert level must not mean more neglect

The week began with the lowering of the alert level of Taal volcano from four to three. Residents from Agoncillo and Laurel, Batangas have returned to their homes. Volcanic earthquakes and steam emissions has began to subside. These are all of course positive developments. As the situation appears to head on stability however, the attention and watchfulness of responsible government officials should remain high.

We have seen how short-lived government efforts can be in addressing life-wrecking disasters such as the Taal volcano eruption. Up to this day, many victims of the Yolanda supertyphoon are in dire need of support as up to P5 billion worth of disaster funds and donations remained unused. Similarly, residents of war-torn Marawi remain struggling to rebuild their normal lives as P4 billion worth of rehabilitation funds near its expiration.

The Philippine government has a bad habit of leaving behind disaster-victims during the longer and arguably more grueling process of rehabilitation. Administrations often only act immediately after the disaster itself, in reaction to popular appeals for assistance and accountability. In this sense, we the people should also remain steadfast in demanding the proper delivery of services.

In the case of the Taal eruption, we can say that the P3.06 billion damage in agriculture it has caused will have a protracted effect to thousands of farmers and other rural poor all over Southern Tagalog. It will take years before they can recover from losing crops, animals, and properties. Particularly insecure are the former residents of five barangays permanently locked-down around the volcano.

Ultimately, the cycles of calamities could be only significantly mitigated by genuine agrarian reform and rural development. Farmers having their own land to till and receiving substantial production subsidies are sure ways to lessen their disaster vulnerability and increase their resiliency in the long-term. The lesson of the Taal eruption, the latest in a long list of disasters faced by our people, should be the necessity to tackle head on the real source of vulnerability, rural poverty. #

(Featured image from Bulatlat)

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