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Legarda: Ensure safer schools and hospitals vs earthquakes

April 17, 2010

AMIDST THE INCREASING NUMBER OF EARTHQUAKES IN HIGHLY-POPULATED AREAS, MOST RECENTLY A 6.9 MAGNITUDE EARTHQUAKE IN CHINA THREE DAYS AGO, NP-NPC-LDP VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE LOREN LEGARDA REITERATED HER CALL FOR SAFER SCHOOLS AND HOSPITALS TO PREPARE FOR FUTURE EARTHQUAKES.
“Since the beginning of 2010, four earthquakes struck major cities around the world with great magnitude. The earthquake in Haiti last January reached a 7.0 magnitude, 8.8 in Chile last February, 7.2 early this month in Mexico and just two days ago, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit China that killed almost 800 people,” said Legarda.
“These earthquakes are getting closer and closer to home. And because we are situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire, it’s a very real possibility that a major earthquake could hit us any time soon,” Legarda pointed out.
“The Philippines is the fourth most vulnerable country in the world, and for two reasons: first, because we are an archipelago located in one of the world’s earthquake hotspots, and second, because our institutions are not properly equipped to prevent and respond to disasters,” Legarda said.
A staunch advocate of the environment, Legarda pushed for an “earthquake-proof” Philippines by intensifying the education campaign on earthquakes and by making schools and hospitals safer from disasters.
“Our schools and hospitals are the first places people go to during disasters. Aside from being the shelter for the vulnerable- children, sick and elderly, are critical public infrastructures, especially in times of disaster when victims need emergency refuge, services and medical care. They are our fortresses during catastrophes. We have to make sure that these buildings are disaster resilient, otherwise there will be an even greater disaster,” declared Loren who is Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography; and Committee on Climate Change.
Loren added, “Hospitals should be structurally and organizationally resilient to any disaster. Health facilities and all health workers should be able to function fully, efficiently, and effectively during emergencies. Schools should have minimal disruption even after a disaster, thus continue to provide a healthy learning environment for the youth.”
Loren said that based on international studies, the cost of disaster-proofing a school or hospital would add only 4 percent to the cost of construction. This cost is nothing compared to the risk of destruction and death of patients and staff during a disaster, and the equally high health, economic and development impacts in the aftermath.
“Building the resilience of the education and health sector to disasters is a worthy investment. It brings the double benefit of saving lives and achieving our development goals. This fact should be appreciated by the national and local governments and the private sector who have invested much in the country’s education and health care system and share common responsibilities in running it,” she said.
Loren, who is the United Nations Regional Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia and the Pacific, supports the One Million Safe Schools and Hospitals Campaign. The Campaign encourages an individual, a family, a community, an organization, a government, a business or any other entity to make a pledge for a school or hospital and make them safer now to survive disasters.