ROUGH CUTS| The Phivolcs’ warning of a ‘big one’

OUR GOOD friend Desiderio Cabanlit, senior science research specialist of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) in the southern Mindanao region, boldly came out with a seismologic prediction that a powerful earthquake possibly with a magnitude of 7 could happen in Davao City affecting other areas in the Davao region.

     Cabanlit’s prediction was made after a team from Phivolcs discovered “several new cracks” in the ground in Mati City in Davao Oriental and in the Province of Compostela.

     The Phivolcs official said that the cracks were created by the movement of the 320-kilometer Surigao-Mati fault line. This, Cabanlit said, was the findings of his agency’s team that conducted a trenching project in the two areas.

     If the fault line moves, Cabanlit said, this could trigger an earthquake that could reach a magnitude of 7.0 which would be devastating to Davao City and would trigger the collapse of buildings. And if the earthquake would occur at sea and would have a magnitude of 8.3, a tsunami could also strike, Cabanlit added.

     Coming from a man who has devoted almost the whole of his life in the study of volcanology and seismology, and with his education further enhanced with trainings here in the country and abroad, the prediction of the Phivolcs official should not be considered as one among those doomsday scenarios intentionally done to create a climate of fear and chaos among the population.

     In fact this should prod local government officials in all of Davao region to look into the level of their preparedness for such kind of phenomenon that will surely result to a major cataclysm.

     And we agree with Phivolcs’ Cabanlit that among the provinces and cities in Southern Mindanao it is Davao City that is most vulnerable to devastation brought about by an earthquake.

     We all know that being the most developed and built-up area, Davao City has the most number of residents. It has the most congested residential commercial and industrial enclaves. The city now hosts several high rise buildings built of concrete and steel. In fact even the city’s peripheral hills are now converted into residential subdivisions, and high end at that making these areas vulnerable to landslides.

     Therefore, it is imperative that local officials are aware of the present level of their government’s preparedness to respond should that predicted “big one” occur.

     That is the reason why we do not mind being likened to a broken record repeating our suggestion that the city government of Davao come out clean as to whether or not it has already come up with an updated disaster preparedness and response plan.

     We are also continuously advocating that if the plan is not yet “unilaterally” done, it be submitted to consultations with various stakeholders so that the final plan will be fleshed with ideas from the best of minds and experience.

     And again, we recommended the plan to be extensively disseminated so the public who are its major beneficiary be properly educated on their role and responsibility when disaster strikes. We have also been postulating that the plan, when approved by the city mayor, be pretested by conducting simulation drills with the people as participants.

     How the government officials will manage the simulation exercises, how the various responder groups will carry out their respective tasks, and how the general population will react will be the test of the functionality of the disaster plan.

     But, as the public may have noticed, no such consultative meetings were ever conducted by the group tasked by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to craft a comprehensive disaster preparedness and response plan. So, it’s likely that even until now there really is no such plan at all. Of course it is a different story if the people tasked by the mayor to come up with the plan just did it by themselves thinking that they are the best in the business, and they do not need other people’s inputs.

     We just hope that Cabanlit is wrong with his warning that a “big one” could happen in the Davao region. But again, there is no substitute for being ready and prepared for any eventuality at all times.

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