Manila – How prepared are we in case the fault lines that traverse Metro Manila and nearby provinces move and cause an earthquake – already being called `the BIG One’?

Earthquake preparedness has come to the fore following the launch of the Valley Fault System (VFS) Atlas by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) and the Greater Metro Manila Area-READY Project, an initiative supported by the United Nations Development Programme and the Australian Government. The Atlas is a handbook of varying scale maps showing in detail areas that the Valley Fault System runs through.

On July 23, 2015, a Nationwide Simultaneous Earthquake Drill (NSED) took place at the Bonifacio Global City, the second this year with the first one held last March. A table top exercise shall follow on July 28-29, 2015 to test the National Disaster Response Plan for Earthquake and Tsunami together with the Metro Manila Earthquake Contingency Plan (MM EQ CP) or the “Oplan Metro Yakal v. 2”.

The Philippine Government has stepped up its disaster preparedness activities as public clamor for more information has also grown. Earthquake preparedness is part of the activities to mark National Disaster Consciousness Month and will culminate with the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA)’s “Metrowide Shake Drill” on July 30, 2015.

UNDP Philippines Country Director Titon Mitra says, “The Atlas has tipped us in a direction we should very much welcome. It has provided us the basis on which we can make informed decisions. We may well be due for a major event. We have the means now to adopt ‘no regrets’ measures. Earthquakes in themselves do not kill people. Poor planning, inadequate preparedness and the lack of application of building standards do.”

The earthquake drill aims to: increase and ensure the safety of participants during and after a damaging earthquake; help community/ school, disaster group design a specific response for earthquake; train participants on the proper action and response during an earthquake; and assess various elements of the response plan designed by the Philippine Government’s Disaster Management Committee.

The GMMA-READY Project helped facilitate the standardization and completion of the Contingency Plan of the Local Government Units (LGUs) which is being finalized together with the MM EQCP. The MM EQCP aims to institutionalize an effective and efficient system of earthquake disaster preparedness and response of different national agencies, private sector and volunteer groups by defining the roles and providing sets of guidelines on actions that will be carried out prior to and immediately after the movement of the West Valley Fault with 7.2 Magnitude.

Other earthquake preparedness tools like Ground Rupture, Ground shaking, Liquefaction and Tsunami maps have also been produced with the support of the GMMA-READY Project. The preliminary hazard maps have been distributed in all the 16 cities and one municipality in Metro Manila as well as the four contiguous provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal.

The NSED, led by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Metro Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, also involves the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Office of Civil Defense, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Transportation and Communication, Department of Health, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Philippine Air Force, Bureau of Fire Protection, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Department of Education, Emergency Response Integration Center (ERIC), and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS).

In the MM EQ CP, four (4) Sub-Emergency Operations Centers (Sub-EOC) were identified based on the regional separation that will occur across the National Capital Region (NCR) in case of strong movement of the West Valley Fault. Evacuation camps and emergency field hospitals will also be established for each quadrant.

North quadrant includes Quezon City, Caloocan, Valenzuela, San Juan and Mandaluyong. The Veterans Memorial Golf Course has been designated as its Sub-EOC, staging area, evacuation camp as well as emergency field hospital.

East quadrant includes Pasig City and Marikina which will have LRT-2 Santolan Station Depot as its Sub-EOC, staging area, and emergency field hospital.

West quadrant includes Manila, Malabon and Navotas which will have the Intramuros Golf Course as its Sub-EOC, staging area, evacuation camp as well as emergency field hospital.

South quadrant includes Las Piñas, Makati, Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Pateros, Taguig and Pasay. The MM EQ CP identified the Villamor Golf Course as its Sub-EOC, staging area, evacuation camp as well as emergency field hospital.

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