It has been referred to as “the big one” but in this day and age of super bombs, the next earthquake to hit Metro Manila could well be called the “mother of all temblors.”
We don’t mean to sow panic among the populace by painting a scary scenario of the destruction and havoc that would ensue if and when a plus 7 or 8 magnitude earthquake erupts along the West Valley fault. The “Fault” as seismologists and geologists call it runs along Bulacan, Marikina, Quezon City, San Juan, Mandaluyong, Pasig, Makati, Pasay and all the way to nearby Laguna towns of Biñan and Sta. Rosa.
Casualties could run into thousands and the destruction widespread. Bridges spanning the Pasig River connecting Quezon City, Mandaluyong and San Juan to Makati would probably collapse. Condominium towers and office buildings in the Makati central business district where I live would probably sway and shake. Let’s all pray this does not happen.
This shock-and-awe message was not the intent of the two-day forum at the Manila Polo Club by the organizers—Carlos P. Romulo Foundation, Zuellig Family Foundation, The Manila Observatory, Philippine Disaster Resiliency Foundation and SM Prime, the Sy Family corporate responsibility arm.
San Miguel Corp., the Villaraza and Angangco Law Firm and AIG also contributed to the forum on “Building a Disaster Resilient Philippines.” The forum’s theme is to “prepare, adapt and transform.”
Senators Loren Legarda, Cynthia Villar, Sonny Angara, Panfilo Lacson and Rep. Ronaldo Zamora were invited by forum organizers to talk about their propose legislation to mitigate earthquake destruction and government response. But they did not come either due to lack of interest or earlier commitments and appointments that could be canceled anymore.
Only Senator Paulo “Bam” Aquino showed up and together with former Defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro more than made up for the other senators’ absence... Teodoro as chairman of the then National Disaster Coordinating Council advocated for reforms and more funds for disaster mitigation reduction and recovery in the aftermath of natural disasters like typhoons and earthquakes.
The United States embassy in Manila sent Maj. Eric Panjetti, its key officer in the Joint United States Military Group that coordinates with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He talked about Jusmag’s role and coordination with the AFP in implementing a quick response team in the event of a major earthquake. This has been done during the devastating Super Typhoon “Yolanda” in Leyte and Eastern Visayas provinces of Samar and Leyte.
Taiwan’s Dr. Wen Sen Li, Japan’s Shingo Kochi and Dr. Satoru Nishikawa shared their respective countries experiences in dealing with the aftermath of a major earthquake.
Taiwan, it will be recalled, suffered several devastating earthquakes. But it was Japan’s 1995 quake that took 5,520 lives in Kobe and left a massive swath of destruction that will be long remembered.
Our then Consul General Victor Garcia, his wife Connie and their children recalled the temblor happened in the morning which sent them scurrying out of their home. They had to stay in their car for two days because of the series of aftershocks.
The damage to the Philippine consulate building forced Garcia to relocate it to Osaka where it has remained up to now. Kobe and Osaka are two Japanese cities where there is a large concentration of overseas Filipino workers.
Dr. Nishikawa and Mr. Kochi discussed Japan’s quick response in the wake of the Kobe quake. Rescue, relief and recovery for the city’s economic life were swift as Japan is a country that has gotten used to earthquakes.
But even before the earthquake struck early in the morning—commuter trains, including Japan’s world- famous Bullet Train, were immediately shut down following the 15-second alert signal on TV, radio and personal cellphones.
We do not expect the Metro Rail Transit nor the Light Rail Transit to be shut down. They are not running most of the time anyway with their daily breakdown.
Before and after Kobe and the more recent Fukushima quake that spawned a monster tsunami. A building code to reinforce structures was legislated.
An earthquake is a fearsome, faceless force of nature. While typhoons and hurricanes can be predicted and tracked, one cannot do the same with an earthquake. Geologists may be able to detect faults in the earth’s underground and surface, but they cannot tell exactly when an earthquake of epic proportion will occur.
But if the series of earthquakes that struck Bohol, Lanao, Surigao and more recently Batangas is any indication, the “big one” might just be around the corner.
Chile has been hit with several earthquakes including a recent one this week. Like the South American country facing the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines sits in the so-called Ring of Fire.