Philippines Disaster Preparedness Pictures & Photos Major Katsumi Fujita wearing the fire resistant suit, of the United Nations White Helmet, is assisted by other member of his group during a disaster preparedness assembly Saturday, Aug. 28, 2010 at Camp Aguinaldo in suburban Quezon City north of Manila, Philippines. A group of Japanese rescuers are based in the country as part of the UN contingent for disaster response. (AP Photo/Pat Roque)]

MANILA, MARCH 13, 2011 (STAR) By Aurea Calica - President Aquino ordered government agencies yesterday to review and come up with a comprehensive assessment of the country’s disaster preparedness.

However, Presidential Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said the government was still studying the impact of the disaster in Japan on the Philippine economy.

The issuance of Samurai bonds might be reviewed, he added.

Carandang said the Philippines was considering a Samurai bond sale with maturity of 15 years as early as April and was in talks with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation for a guarantee.

“It’s also difficult for us to come up with our own assessment as to whether or not bond issue will push through, as to whether or not this will have an impact on our economy,” he said.

Aquino met officials of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Health, Department of Budget and Management, National Security Council, Presidential Management Staff and the Office of the Executive Secretary.

Carandang said Aquino ordered a review of the country’s disaster-preparedness particularly for earthquake and tsunami.

“He’s going to get a briefing from officers of the defense probably, most likely this week - just to review the status of all of these disaster-preparedness in light of what’s happening,” he said.

Carandang said the government was focused on the immediate safety concerns as well as the nuclear crisis in Japan.

“The President ordered a review of our disaster capabilities particularly with earthquakes and tsunamis - there are a number of initiatives that had begun to be undertaken,” he said.

“For example, the tsunami warning system which has begun, we’d like to find out exactly what the status is of that - all of that will be told to the President this week when he’s briefed by the OCD (Office of the Civil Defense).

Senate to probe gov’t’s disaster preparedness

The Senate will conduct an inquiry tomorrow into the preparedness of government agencies in dealing with a strong earthquake and a tsunami.

Acting on a resolution of Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, the committees on environment and climate change would look into the programs of various government agencies, as well as the preparation of local governments for a national crisis scenario.

In his resolution, Zubiri said the Senate needs to look into the status and preparedness of national government and local government disaster risk reduction and management plans following the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Japan last Friday.

Sen. Loren Legarda said national and local government leaders should clearly state what they are doing to reduce the possible damage and loss of life in the event of a strong earthquake.

The Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study conducted jointly by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has outlined the measures that should be undertaken to reduce the impact of a major earthquake in Metro Manila, she added.

The report indicated that a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Metro Manila would result in the destruction of 169,000 houses, the damaging of 340,000 other houses, representing 40 percent of all residential buildings in the metropolis.

Thirty five percent of all public buildings including schools and hospitals, city halls, fire and police stations, would also be damaged and seven bridges would likely collapse.

Legarda also called for a review of the early warning systems for earthquakes and tsunamis as well as the country’s system for requesting and receiving international humanitarian assistance.

She emphasized the need to establish disaster preparedness measures especially at the barangay level, such as ensuring the soundness of critical infrastructure through evaluation and retrofitting to allow them to withstand destructive earthquakes.

“Restoring our coastal mangrove forests and continuous tree-planting activities are simple yet effective defenses against several types of hazards,” she said.

“While trees serve as buffers from heavy rains, mangroves serve as shield from storm surges and rising sea levels.”

Legarda said mayors of Metro Manila, including the Alliance of Seven Mayors, and more than 50 local executives in Cebu and Central Visayas have already committed to the United Nation’s Making Cities Resilient campaign.

“I laud the leaders of the cities and municipalities in the various provinces who signed up for the UN campaign,” she said.

“I am happy with our local leaders’ and citizens’ growing awareness on the issue of climate change. This is what we need, to put together our political will and actions for a country that is prepared to ward off the ill effects of natural hazards.”

Quiapo Church in good condition

The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene or Quiapo Church in Manila is subjected to periodic inspections to ensure its structural soundness.

Monsignor Clemente Ignacio, Quiapo Church rector, said a full-time engineer, Vic Malilin regularly checks the centuries-old church.

Ignacio said they are seeking the assistance of a heritage architect and will coordinate with the National Historical Commission.

“I want everything to be sure that the building is in good condition,” he said.

“When you are checking a structure, there is what we call a physical check - what we look at here are the posts or the pillars.

“If there are signs of cracks and it breaks, then that is the first level of checking. There is also the historical, wherein you look at the number of earthquakes that a structure has.”

Ignacio said the Quiapo Church structure seems okay in the aspect of physical and historical check-ups.

“But if you want a more extensive way of checking, you would need an X-ray and sophisticated machines,” he said.

Quiapo Church has also a disaster management team as required by the Manila city government to respond to emergency situations.

“We also have lectures with our staff,” he said.

“Our ushers have been trained for bomb (detection), next time they would undergo training for fire and earthquake drills.

“These are necessary steps to ensure the parishioners’ safety.”

Ignacio said they started beefing up their safety measures after Archbishop of Manila Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales gave verbal instructions to have the structures double checked.

“We should make sure that the structures are strong,” he quoted Rosales as saying.

The instructions were given after the earthquakes in Haiti and Indonesia last year, he added.

However, Ignacio said he could not categorically say that the Quiapo Church is safe.

“It would still depend on the type and magnitude of the earthquake if all the buildings would remain standing,” he said.

The ‘Big One’

Officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) are set to meet this week to assess the impact of a big earthquake on Metro Manila.

Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said he would have a “technical discussion with Phivolcs to cushion the impact of the Big One.”

One of the topics that might be taken up is the study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that allegedly hinted on the possibility that buildings in Metro Manila would collapse in a 7.2 magnitude tremor, he added.

The JICA study said Metro Manila was not prepared to deal with a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in terms of resources and given the old structures surrounding it.

The quake would result in major fires in Manila, Pasig and Quezon City, the study added.

Phivolcs is reportedly monitoring three fault lines: the Marikina Trench, Manila Bay Fault Line and the West Valley Fault.

Singson said they would have to determine if the structures along these fault lines would be able to withstand an 8.9 magnitude quake.

“We will try to find out how some of the infrastructure projects could be strengthened, if we are going to elevate some portions of the roads, or if there is a need to upgrade the design of buildings within the trenches,” he said.

Palace to Palafox: Stop being an alarmist

Architect Felino Palafox Jr. should help the administration craft a disaster preparedness plan instead of being an alarmist, Malacañang said yesterday.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said everytime a disaster occurs, the expert on urban planning seems to be all over the news in radio stations, and contrary to his claims, he has not given President Aquino a copy of his proposals.

“We’d like to stress that while these are all projections, (it would be better if these are) preventive rather than alarmist,” she said.

“For every calamity that passes, it seems that we see a lot of Jun Palafox on the news and on TV,” she said.

“We’ve not heard from Mr. Palafox,” she added, referring to any recommendation that may have been forwarded to them. “So far we have not received anything. We have not received any plan from architect Palafox.”

Valte said Aquino’s instructions are continued monitoring for disaster officials and regular briefings for the communications group, so that everyone will be notified of what will happen, be it fear of nuclear radiation, tsunami or earthquake.

“Certainly, it’s a point of concern for the President,” she said.

“It’s a point of concern, which is why he did ask for regular updates on the matter. I believe there are six (nuclear) reactors in Fukushima, so he wanted regular updates on how this would affect us.” —With Marvin Sy, Evelyn Macairan, Delon Porcalla

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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