Assess govt preparedness for ‘Big One,’ Senate urged

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WHILE there is no technology that can predict earthquakes and save lives and property, the government has enough time to prepare for and mitigate the impact of the “Big One” that might hit Metro Manila (National Capital Region or NCR).

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“There is a need for a holistic assessment and strengthening of the respective capacities of national government agencies, local government units and other stakeholders to mitigate, respond to and recover from a potential massive earthquake,” detained Sen. Leila de Lima said on Friday.

In line with this, de Lima filed Senate Resolution 322 directing the appropriate Senate committees to assess the country’s earthquake preparedness in light of earthquakes that recently hit some parts of the country.

Renato Solidum Jr., Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) director, also on Friday disclosed that he is set to brief members of the Senate on May 8 on earthquakes and tsunami on the request of Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th.

“It would also be good if members of the media can attend the briefing to get ideas first-hand,” he said.
Solidum clarified that the term “Big One” was a “media term” for a scenario earthquake only for Metro Manila but different places in the country “would have their own scenario” of a tremor.

Phivolcs has been warning about the “Big One,” a magnitude 7.2 earthquake expected to be generated by the West Valley Fault, a 100-kilometer fault that runs through six Metro Manila cities namely Quezon, Marikina, Makati, Pasig, Taguig and Muntinlupa and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite.

Based on the Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study conducted by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake from the West Valley Fault could result in an estimated 33,500 casualties and 113,600 injured.

The “Big One” could also flatten 170,000 residential houses and partly damage 340,000 dwellings.

The 2016 World Risk Index considers the Philippines, which is situated along the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, the most active earthquake belt in the world and the “third most vulnerable country with the highest disaster risk.”

De Lima noted that a Swiss study considers Manila as the “riskiest city in the world” next to Tokyo, Japan, because the country’s capital is located near two major faultlines–the West Valley Fault and the Manila Trench.
On the night of April 4, a 5.5 magnitude struck the province of Batangas and was followed by series of aftershocks, as recorded by Phivolcs.

A few days later, a trio of earthquakes then shook the same province and caused the destruction of some establishments such as churches and resorts.

The earthquakes, which Solidum called “an earthquake swarm,” were also felt in nearby areas including cities in Metro Manila, Mindoro, Laguna and Cavite.

De Lima said an immediate review and possible revision of Republic Act (RA) 6541, orthe National Building Code of the Philippines, is in order.

She added that the National Building Code should be revisited and amended to ensure that homeowners and building administrators upgrade and retrofit their houses or buildings to comply with the minimum requirements provided by the code.

The Senate inquiry, de Lima said, should look into how the Duterte administration is implementing RA 10121, or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.

Solidum said he welcomes the senator’s proposal to conduct a Senate inquiry into the country’s preparedness in case the “Big One” strikes.

“They [senators]should first understand what the ‘Big One’ is and what particular area in the country will be affected in case this happens.”

Under Section 2 of RA 10121, the State is mandated “to uphold people’s constitutional rights to life and property by addressing the root causes of vulnerabilities to disasters, strengthening the country’s institutional capacity for disaster risk reduction and management and building the resilience of local communities to disasters,” de Lima said.

WITH DEMPSEY REYES

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