By Riza Lozada
State scientists fear that 31,000 people would perish and structural losses could reach P2.3 trillion in the event a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hits Metro Manila, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said, based on simulations it made.
Phivolcs said that while there is no system yet designed to predict an earthquake, the possibility exists that a major tremblor would emanate from the West Valley Fault that would affect Metro Manila and neighboring provinces.
Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum said during the Kapihan sa Diamond Hotel in Manila last week the agency was still drawing up detailed maps for the possible areas to be affected by an earthquake as part of preparedness measures.
He said a study done by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) and updated by Phivolcs was also used as basis of its estimates.
Jica, in 2004, with the Phivocs and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), conducted the study and found 13 percent of low-rise structures would suffer heavy damage, along with 10 percent of public buildings, while 2 percent of medium-rise and high-rise structures would be damaged.
Phivolcs and Australia International Geoscience also conducted a more updated study on the effects of a strong earthquake putting the estimate of death at 31,000 in Metro Manila alone.
He pointed out the P2.3-trillion cost from the earthquake would be the amount needed for rebuilding and does not include the estimated damage to the economy and businesses.
“What we are doing is not only to protect the economy but to protect the majority, the national agencies and and the political seat and the main offices of the big companies,” Solidum said during the forum.
Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said in the same forum the local and national government should share involvement in preparing for the disaster as he pointed out the national government would not be capable of doing the preparations on its own.
He cited the best practices of the big cities and the municipalities, which have the capacities and technical expertise that they should share with other regions.
The national government would have to facilitate this sharing of preparedness plan, Angara said. He added that the Senate has three pending bills to avert a humanitarian disaster in the aftermath of an earthquake.
The awareness campaign undertaken by Phivolcs, he said, had raised public consciousness on earthquake preparations.
“If you go around the cities, there are many houses not built by engineers and these are non-engineered buildings and that is where the problem is and many of damages, and life casualties may happen during earthquake,” Solidum said.
He suggested a check on the integrity of these houses and a regular inspection of the compliance to the building code.
The Phivolcs director also emphasized that it was the recommendation of Jica that the national agencies would also have to be prepared in terms to prevent any disruption in delivery of services and conduct of businesses.
The practice of protecting governance and adopting this system during the occurrence of huge disasters have been initiated with the Phivolcs having its so-called mirror system in Metro Manila and in Davao, which will be replicated in Cebu.
This mirror system aims to monitor disaster and provides back-up function for earthquake and volcano movements.