By Paolo G. Uy, SDO Malabon
Annabelle Reoyan, 52, has lived most of her life in Barangay Catmon, Malabon City. For years, she has been careful and prepared whenever a typhoon was expected to bring heavy rain in their area.
One of the biggest challenges that her family faced was Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013, which was also known as one of the strongest disasters to hit the Philippines. The drainages could not handle the amount of rainfall that it brought, threatening to damage any property that has not been properly secured.
Reoyan knew the amount of destruction that a typhoon can bring to an unprepared community. Her barangay has made efforts to make sure that they can face typhoons. Drainages were occasionally cleaned, and most people know what habits they must avoid. Still, some people are not as informed as she is.
Malabon, being in the Philippines’ busiest metropolis, has a booming economy bigger than most of the areas in the country. But along with the city’s growth, countless packages, plastics, and paper bags becoming wastes and polluting Metro Manila’s surrounding bodies of water. According to an Ocean Conservancy report, more than half of ocean pollution comes from five Asian countries, and the Philippines is one of them.
Typhoons wreak havoc on this city every year, leaving floods in their wake. While residents seem to have become used to these floods, they were also unaware that the problem was caused by pollution that they produce themselves.
Roots of the flooding problem
But what causes the pollution problem in Malabon? The answer may lie in the behavior of the residents themselves.
Social psychologist Wesley Schultz once found that the inconvenience of throwing litter in a trash can is one of the possible factors why people resort to pollution.
“We found that the distance to a trash receptacle was the strongest predictor of littering. So the farther away you are from a trash can or recycling container, the more likely you are to litter,” Schultz said.
But that simple inconvenience may lead to even bigger hassles such as floods. Garbage that ends up in drainages will clump together and block them. When the rain pours, there is so much clogged garbage enough to cause a flood on the streets above.
If a storm comes, the resulting flood may even reach the roof of a house, putting people in danger. Anything that the flood reaches will be damaged or destroyed.
Even worse, those who cannot swim will be in even more danger as they could fall in the water and be unable to surface.
The recent Typhoon Ulysses is an example of a disaster whose destruction could have mitigated and had the right steps to be taken.
Disaster risk reduction measures by LGUs
According to the Malabon City Development Plan of 2014–2016, all 21 barangays are susceptible to flood, while portions of Tañong, Baritan, Catmon, Concepcion, Dampalit, Ibaba, Longos, Maysilo, Muzon, Niugan, Panghulo, Potero, Sang Agustin, Santulan, and Tonsuya are highly susceptible.
Both the government and environmental groups have made steps to address the flooding problem in the city, among them the construction of the spillway at Barangay Panghulo.
Ordinances that sanction litterers and reward those who throw their garbage into a trash can have also been enacted in Malabon.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has also completed pumping stations that will be used to manage the flood in Malabon. The citizens of Concepcion, Muzon, Bayan-bayanan, Baritan, and some of those who live in Hulong Duhat and Dampalit will benefit from this structure.
Local Governments have also been putting effort into making sure that their constituents follow environmental laws. In Barangay Catmon, patrol groups conduct rounds of monitoring people and keeping the place sanitary. It is to ensure that canals and drainages were cleaned and maintained. These seemingly small steps help in making sure that people are disciplined and follow the rules.
Environmental groups, for their part, have launched cleanup drives, both to prevent flooding and making sure that the pollution in the streets does not become the vector of diseases that can harm humans. These groups also hold educational seminars to inform people of the severe consequences of pollution to the planet and mankind.
But as for chemist Mario Molina, scientists may point out the problems that will affect the environment based on available evidence, but their solutions are not the responsibility of scientists but society as a whole.
If every Malabonian resident had the same thinking as Reoyan, then part of the pollution problem in the city would have already been solved.
This article was written and prepared by Paolo Uy (Student-Journalist) and Martin Wilfredo Roque (School Paper Adviser) from Malabon National High School, Division of Malabon City as a final output of DepEd-DRRMS and AYEJ.org’s Green Beat Initiative: An Online Environmental Journalism Training.