February 9, 2023

With two powerful earthquakes jolting northern Luzon in the second semester of the year with Abra as the epicenter of the magnitude 6.4 quake on Oct. 25 and magnitude 7.0 quake on July 27, the Cordillera region should double its effort in earthquake preparedness and mitigation efforts.

Two days after the recent earthquake, a total of 368 aftershocks were recorded and these would continue for several weeks, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

With the country sitting along the Pacific Ring of Fire, local government units must take seriously and with urgency the need to invest in earthquake-resistant structures, as the recent tremors showed the flaw in the structural integrity of buildings, including newly-constructed ones.

Some of the buildings that have sustained hairline cracks in the 7.0 magnitude earthquake last July were aggravated with the recent earthquake such as the newly-built three-story Pulot National High School in Lagayan, Abra.

The new three-story building sustained huge cracks, and parents are just thankful the earthquake occurred at nighttime, saving learners and teachers from possible harm.

With the structural integrity of the school building in question, learners will have to make use of make-shift rooms as alternative learning areas.

It would be a challenge for the Department of Education on how to manage the establishment of alternative learning sites for the students displaced due to the recent earthquakes.

DepEd must also see to it the designs of the school buildings should be earthquake-resistant, and that the agency should monitor the implementation of these projects to ensure the designs are strictly followed.

Not only are government buildings damaged but also dozens of residential structures, as Abra recorded 16 totally damaged houses and 5,187 partially damaged houses.

The residents would need to rehabilitate their own homes, but in doing so, were they given proper information on the right materials to be used to build quake-resistant house?

Many earthquake-related studies and symposiums were put in motion by the Department of Science and Technology recently. Though lauded, these fora should be communicated to the grassroots level. The challenge is for the agency to popularize this information on earthquake preparedness to get to the level of the public.

Likewise, these DOST-funded studies should be properly turned over to the LGUs and be monitored to make sure these are properly implemented. There were previous studies that had potential for earthquake preparedness and response, but were not put into motion once turned over to the LGUs.

The 77 municipalities and two cities of the region should start reviewing their respective disaster risk reduction and management plans and start by appointing full-time disaster managers and creation of an office.

Even with the serious threat posed by earthquakes across Southeast Asia and the Pacific region, the Philippines is still slow in advancing in terms of proactive approach in disaster preparedness.

Until science has not devised a technology to detect the occurrence of earthquakes, there must be a unified effort in dealing with earthquakes and disasters in general, so that the loss of lives, limbs and livelihood will be mitigated.