Manila has made what a local official calls adequate preparations in the event a powerful earthquake hits the National Capital Region.
Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study of 2004 showed that Manila was among the cities in the NCR identified as vulnerable sites in case a nighttime 7.2 magnitude quake strikes with an estimated 6,200 fatalities and 21,000 injured.
Through the initiative of Mayor Joseph Estrada, Manila came up with a contingency plans and disaster-readiness measure to prevent or lessen the number of casualties.
“Mayor Estrada’s directive is for all of us to do our best to achieve a zero casualty situation or at least minimize the number of casualties in the event of earthquake and other calamities. We are thus exerting all efforts toward that goal,” said Johnny Yu, officer-in-charge of the Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.
The risks in Manila, Yu explained, are particularly bigger given that the city is low-lying as compared to sea level and is even sitting beside the Manila Bay, densely-populated, and is located at the center of the West Valley Fault and the Manila Trench.
“In the previous administrations, there was no disaster risk reduction management office. There is none in the local govenment unit, even in the barangay level. The local officials then were merely relying on volunteers,” he said.
Yu said disaster preparedness is among the 10-point agenda of the city government, adding that when Estrada assumed office in 2013, he instituted various measures, the most important of which was the setting-up and activation of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.
Estrada provided budgetary support to the office, established a broad network of preparation and response units down to the barangay level, upgraded the necessary equipage, gave specialty trainings for crisis personnel, and increased public awareness and citizen involvement during emergency, among others,” Yu said.
Reports showed that the strongest tremor that affected Manila in recent years was the magnitude 7.8 earthquake of July 1990, which impacted heavily on major areas of Luzon such as Dagupan City, Baguio City, Cabanatuan City and Metro Manila, killing at least 1,621 people and leaving at least P10 billion worth of damage in infrastructures and properties.
The Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 mandates the establishment and operation of Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Offices in every province, city and municipality, and a Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Committee in every barangay to set the direction, development, implementation and coordination of programs within their territorial jurisdiction.
“The DRRM law was enacted in 2010, but it took more than three years and only upon the assumption into office of Mayor Estrada that it was complied with by the Manila LGU. Had the Big One or for that matter any strong quake occurred within those years that we had no DRRM system in place, the impact would have been so much devastating,” Yu said.
The Metro Manila Development Authority had initiated the conduct of a metro-wide shake drill in Metro Manila after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology came up with a warning of a massive quake if the Valley Fault System moves.
The system is comprised of the 10-kilometer East Valley Fault in Rizal, and the 100-kilometer West Valley Fault, which passes through six Metro Manila cities and parts of the Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal provinces.