CHEERS TO Philstar.com, TV5, and MindaNews for reports that explained why the impact of the storm Paeng on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) was so severe. As many as 159 died in the Region because of landslides and flooding, although it was not even in the typhoon's direct path.
The three reports cited various factors that compound the vulnerability of Maguindanao to climactic disasters.
Philstar.com's "Anyare?" segment on November 15 started with the observation by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that deforestation was to blame for the flooding and landslides, and went on to point out that deforestation has been a longstanding problem and why, as explained by the Bangsamoro Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy.
TV5 on October 30 called attention to Maguindanao's geographical location - the name itself means "magig" (people) and "danao" (floodplains) — "people of the floodplain." TV5 aired the topographical map of Mindanao to show the flooding pattern: the heavy downpour hit some areas in Bukidnon and North Cotabato, with the water flowing downstream toward Maguindanao via the Pulangi River.
Philstar.com and TV5 both referred to Barangay Kusiong in Maguindanao del Norte which was among the areas that suffered the worst damage. The government's geohazard assessment had classified the location as a flood and landslide-prone area where 24 Tedurays died with many others injured.
Meanwhile, MindaNews November 8 report focused on the lack of coordination among local officials in Maguindanao - a province that was politically split into two by a 2021 law that its voters ratified through a plebiscite in September. MindaNews said that the numbers of affected areas in the region probably excluded those areas whose populace had been moved to evacuation centers. The report pointed to the lack of coordination that could have helped to protect more communities. Furthermore, the Department of Public Works and Highways does not have a district office to repair roads and bridges in the region. Clearly, the damage caused by Paeng should prompt appropriate policy decisions on the part of BARMM and the national government.
The tendency to limit the discussion of disaster impact to the usual news cycle results in marginalizing its importance to the people, to all Filipinos wherever they live in an archipelago situated on the Pacific rim.
BARMM cannot be left out of the national spotlight. The autonomy of the region should make it of greater interest to national media organizations, which could actually enable a continuing policy discussion about what the region needs if it is to flourish.
Focused media attention on BARMM should produce a sustained review involving counterpart officials on both sides. If there is none at this point, the news must project it as an urgent need. Journalists are in a position to remind the national government that not all regional government units have the same capacity to serve the people, especially in dealing with disasters. BARMM itself is a fledgling project and one that sadly has not received the attention it deserves. Given the rising challenge of climate change, a nationwide review of disaster readiness and resilience would benefit the entire national community.