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Earthquake recovery led by President Benigno Aquino III

By Jean Magdaraog Cordero
Bohol damage: A Philippine soldier patrols near the ruins of the historic Holy Cross Parish Church in the central Philippine island of Bohol on Oct. 18. [AFP]

Bohol damage: A Philippine soldier patrols near the ruins of the historic Holy Cross Parish Church in the central Philippine island of Bohol on Oct. 18. [AFP]

A 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit Central Philippines Oct. 15, killing at least 173 people and injuring 498.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council [NDRRMC], in an Oct. 18 update, said about 3.4 million people were affected by the Visayas region tremor that occurred 8:12 a.m. [local time]. Local seismologists placed the epicenter at Carmen, a central town in Bohol, but later changed it to Sagbayan, [northwest of Carmen] in the same island province.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology [Phivolcs] said the change is because of a possible discovery of a new fault system. The Philippines has many active fault lines and many of these move every 200 to 400 years. For instance, the last time West Valley Fault shifted was in 1658 and seismologists have said it is ripe for movement any time.

The latest earthquake in Bohol, which was felt in some provinces in Luzon and Mindanao, took place on Eid’l Adha, a national Muslim holiday. Students did not have school and there was no work in private or public offices.

Phivolcs said more than 1,600 aftershocks have been recorded. Worst hit were the whole Bohol province and Cebu City with more than 35,000 houses, 36 bridges and 18 roads damaged.

Church damaged: An Oct. 17 photo shows the historic Dauis Church in the central Philippine island of Bohol following a 7.2-magnitude quake that hit the area on Oct. 15. [AFP]

Church damaged: An Oct. 17 photo shows the historic Dauis Church in the central Philippine island of Bohol following a 7.2-magnitude quake that hit the area on Oct. 15. [AFP]

The tremor also destroyed the heritage churches in Bohol province and Cebu, some of which date back to the 16th century.

Because of the destruction, many of the people are staying outdoors and in makeshift evacuation centers. Many towns have also been isolated because of damaged roads and bridges.

Rescue and retrieval operations of trapped individuals in many remote towns are almost nonexistent.

International humanitarian assistance, as is custom, will assist with relief and rescue efforts.

Many structures do not adhere to new building code

A day after the earthquake, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III visited Bohol and Cebu City, calling on residents to report defects in structures and buildings so the government could focus on the most critical structures.

Aquino also asked the Department of Public Works and Highways [DPWH] to work with local public engineers to make sure that all structures are checked.

The country’s newest building code passed in 2010 requires new structures to withstand high magnitude earthquakes. The older structures, however, are not as strong.

Aquino, who also led the distribution of relief goods to affected families, appealed for calm, saying there is enough food in the province. Panicking may induce shortages and may push people to buy four or five times their normal consumption.

Price control on all commodities

The president also warned those who will seize the opportunity to overprice basic commodities, saying that once a state of calamity is declared, there will be price controls.

“You mark it up, you are in violation, and there will be sanctions. And I assure you we will be monitoring everybody’s compliance with the said law,” Aquino said.

The president also said he wants government agencies to assure people there are sufficient funds available, enough items, goods, and materials for all of those who have evacuated.

On the centuries-old churches that were damaged, Aquino said the government is committed to restoring the churches damaged by the earthquake. During a briefing with his Cabinet secretaries and local government officials, the president said he ordered a study on how the national government could help restore the churches.

In Cebu, Aquino inspected several health facilities and ordered the assessment and rescue efforts while government medical teams attended to those who were injured.

Many areas were hit by power outages. Some hospitals evacuated patients to open spaces as aftershocks continue to rock the province.

Aquino also expressed concern over the structural integrity of the school buildings, saying he was worried for the safety of the students.

Natural disasters pose serious threat to Philippines

Aside from tropical cyclones, the Philippines is prone to earthquakes as it lies within the Ring of Fire, a region where many of earth’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.

Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario has said that natural disasters pose serious threat to the security of the country.

In his speech last April marking the start of the joint military exercises between the Philippines and the United States, Del Rosario noted that the Philippines has been identified as the most prone to natural disasters in the region.

After Vanuatu and Tonga, the Philippines is officially the third most disaster-prone country in the world based on its vulnerable population and frequency of natural disasters the people experience, according to the United Nations [UN].

While other countries such as earthquake-prone Japan and Chile also were cited, the UN said a country’s good disaster preparedness significantly reduces the disaster risk.

Thus, the significance of a strong humanitarian assistance and disaster response component to this year’s combined Philippine-U.S. Exercise Balikatan cannot be overstated, del Rosario said.

“Over the years we have shown that working together in facing natural disasters we are able to save more lives and rebuild more quickly the futures of those affected,” del Rosario said.

What is the greatest security risk in the wake of a natural disaster? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.


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