Legarda Renews Call to Prepare for the ‘Big One’

May 23, 2015

Senator Loren Legarda today renewed her call to disaster management agencies and local government units (LGUs) to prepare for the Big One, or the projected 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Metro Manila.


Legarda, United Nations Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific, issued the statement following the launch of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology’s (Phivolcs) The Valley Fault System Atlas, a handbook containing detailed and updated map of areas traversed by two major faults in the Greater Metro Manila Area—the East Valley Fault and West Valley Fault.


“We have to use the information in this new handbook to update earthquake risk reduction programs both in the national and local levels. We have to ensure that buildings are not standing on active faults. Evaluation and retrofitting of public and private infrastructure is crucial in ensuring that buildings, bridges and other similar structures can withstand strong quakes,” she stressed.


The Senator explained that earthquakes turn into major disasters due to unsafe structures—poorly built structures, buildings in inappropriate places, inadequate design and materials specification, and shortcuts in construction.


“The additional expense required for making structures safe from earthquakes is worth it especially if it would save thousands of lives,” she said.


“The handbook should also be used by LGUs and barangay officials in determining open spaces for safe refuge when earthquakes occur and in crafting evacuation plans that would help citizens find out the fastest and safest way to reach open spaces and other safe areas,” she added.


Legarda also emphasized the importance of an effective early warning system and massive information and education campaign to equip citizens with knowledge on what to do before, during and after such disasters.


She cited the “5pm chime” or the “Municipal Disaster Management Radio Communication Network” of Minato City in Japan wherein every 5:00 in the afternoon the instrumental version of the Japanese folk song “Yuyaku Koyake” is heard in speakers all around the city.


The daily “5pm chime” is a way to ensure that the broadcast system and speakers are working correctly because the speaker network is used to warn people of emergency situations, especially disaster warnings.


“We also need to have this kind of early warning system in the country, so that wherever people are they are informed of important announcements especially in emergency situations such as before, during and after disasters, thereby reducing risks, casualties and damages,” Legarda said.


Legarda reminded that ensuring the structural integrity of buildings and preparedness measures for earthquakes can significantly reduce the impacts projected in the 2004 Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS), which revealed that without the necessary interventions, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Metro Manila could destroy 40% of residential buildings, damage 35% of all public buildings, kill 34,000 people, injure 114,000 individuals, and the ensuing fires will also result in 18,000 additional fatalities.