Thu, Jun 14, 2012 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Preparing for the next disaster

The torrential rains this week revealed that many parts of the country remain very vulnerable to the forces of nature. In central and southern Taiwan, the storm destroyed bridges and seriously damaged roads, with casualties reported from landslides and flash floods. In the north, the public witnessed extensive flooding, which inundated homes and vehicles and damaged roads following an overnight deluge on Tuesday.

However, while one may quickly blame Mother Nature for spewing fury and showing no mercy over vast swathes of land, there are always actions people could take to prepare for such calamities, hence the role of the government, whose priority should be to protect the public’s well-being and keep people from harm by mitigating dangers and damage efficaciously and expeditiously.

In light of the floods and mudslides that continue to affect parts of the nation, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Tuesday directed government agencies to keep abreast of the latest developments and reiterated vigilance and the importance of disaster-prevention preparation.

It is comforting to see the president appearing to be aware of the emergency situation confronting people, especially those residing in flood-hit and disaster-prone areas. In view of Ma’s words of concern for the public, however, one cannot help but wonder why he was so reluctant to suggest to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers to agree to the opposition’s call for an early legislative recess so that lawmakers could return to their constituencies and lend a helping hand to victims whose homes have been battered by the rains.

The current legislative session ends tomorrow, with the opposition planning to force the Ma administration to withdraw such unpopular policies as the electricity rate increases and plans to ease import restrictions on beef containing residues of the animal feed additive ractopamine. The beef issue has obviously warranted urgent attention from Ma, prompting him to instruct KMT lawmakers — in his capacity as KMT chairman — to give their full support to a vote that would ease the ban.

If the president is truly sincere in his concern for the people affected by the deluge, he could have easily made a similar suggestion to the party’s lawmakers to first put aside the disputes on the legislative floor, thus bringing an end to the legislative session and enabling the lawmakers to attend to disaster relief work in their constituencies. The absence of such actions has disturbed many, leaving some to wonder whether pushing through a draft relaxing the ban on beef containing ractopamine constitutes an issue more worthy of the president’s attention than the well-being and safety of his people.

Prevention is better than cure. Well-considered preventative measures are always far preferable to post-disaster relief work. The last thing the public wants to hear from Ma is that “things are unpredictable (世事難料)” — a hot phrase of late for the president — when disaster strikes and the government fails to avert potential damage to lives and property as a result of its perfunctory attitude to potential dangers.

As the saying goes: “Better late than never.” With typhoon season around the corner, it is to be hoped that Ma and all his officials will treat this week’s torrential rains as a wakeup call, correct their mindset and implement every conceivable preventative measure possible before the next natural disaster strikes.

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