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Legarda Seeks Institutionalization of Disaster Preparedness Measures in Schools and Hospitals

February 23, 2011

FOLLOWING THE STRONG EARTHQUAKE IN NEW ZEALAND AND A MILDER TREMOR HERE IN THE PHILIPPINES, SENATOR LOREN LEGARDA TODAY REITERATED HER CALL FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF DISASTER PREPAREDNESS MEASURES IN EDUCATIONAL AND HEALTH CARE ESTABLISHMENTS.
Legarda, the Asia-Pacific Regional Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation, stressed the importance of evaluating the structural integrity of various establishments in the country and the regular conduct of fire and earthquake drills particularly in schools and hospitals, as disasters may occur just about any time.
“The ideal would be to make all critical infrastructure disaster-resilient, and the priority should be schools and health care facilities because, aside from being shelter for the vulnerable—children, sick and elderly—these are critical public infrastructures, especially in times of disaster when victims need emergency refuge and medical care,” she said.
The Senator noted that the 6.3-magnitude tremor in New Zealand caused the collapse of several buildings in the city of Christchurch. Meanwhile, no significant damages were recorded after the 4.7-magnitude earthquake that jolted Metro Manila and nearby provinces of Cavite, Zambales, Bataan, and Bulacan on Tuesday.
The Philippines, like New Zealand, is regularly hit by tremors since both countries lie on the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS) in 2002-2004 warned that should a 7-magnitude earthquake hit Metro Manila, 16,000 buildings would be destroyed, 150,000 persons would suffer injuries, and millions of residents would be affected.
Legarda has already called on concerned agencies to ensure the safety of schooldchildren from earthquakes.
In particular, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology must identify earthquake hazard areaswithin the country; the Department of Public Works and Highways should conduct a nationwide structural evaluation of all schools and enhance or help improve the structural integrity of schools. The Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education must ensure that schools are structurally and organizationally resilient to earthquakes.
Furthermore, Legarda has filed Senate Bill 1345, which seeks to mandate the monthly conduct of fire, earthquake and other hazardous phenomena drills in educational buildings and establishments, school buses, and health care institutions.
During a recent ceremony at East Rembo Elementary School in Makati City, organized by the Senator, DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro and Department of Health Undersecretary Teodoro Herbosa reconfirmed their commitment to make educational and health care establishments in the country’s cities disaster-resilient through the inspection of all schools and hospitals for disaster vulnerability and assistance in identifying interventions to make them safer.
The commitment follows the pledge by the previous administration in 2009 to make more than 60,000 schools and health facilities in the Philippines safer from disasters.
“We must enhance our resiliency to disasters by preparing the citizenry, particularly school children and the occupants of health-care institutions, their administrators, operators, and personnel on the proper response and actions to take in cases of fires, earthquakes, and other hazardous phenomena,” she explained.
“We have to do this so that our people know what to do in times of disasters so as to reduce the risks on their lives, limbs, and properties,” Legarda concluded.