Philippine church leaders have blamed human folly and irresponsibility for the massive floods following a tropical storm which claimed more than 240 lives and adversely affected almost two million people.
Maurice Melanes writes - The floods submerged most of metropolitan Manila and neighbouring provinces following the nine-hour storm "Ketsana" on 26 September 2009, locally known as "Ondoy".
The damage was "primarily caused by [humanity]'s sins of social irresponsibility, neglect, opportunism, laziness and lack of vision," Bishop Benjamin Justo of the United Methodist Church told Ecumenical News International.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chief, Bayani Fernando, listed poor city planning, illegal structures and geography as the major causes for the floods. "Our problem is we live where we should never have lived," Fernando told reporters.
Bishop Justo laughed off the suggestion that Manila and other flood-prone provinces each needed some kind of a "Noah's Ark" to rescue residents during storms.
"What we need is a spiritual ark mindset," he said. "There's no substitute to lasting measures such as massive drainage systems, mass education for preserving forests, proper waste-disposal and the like."
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines, a grouping of mainly Protestant churches, has documented cases of drainage systems being clogged with tons of garbage, mostly plastics. It said the floods could hardly recede because of the blocked waterways.
Still, the biblical story of Noah's Ark "could give us a lesson or two in disaster-preparedness", [said] the Rev Tong Kong Ng, a minister from the Mississauga Southern Chinese Baptist Church in Toronto, Canada, who was visiting the Philippines.
"That Noah built his ark for 40 years gives us a clue on long-term urban planning," Ng told ENI.
As they brace for approaching tropical storms, the government, the churches, aid and civic organizations have been overwhelmed by the emergency need for food, drinking water, medicines, clothing and housing for the victims.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]