Photo from Taal Mayor Pong Mercado Debris fell off from Taal Church after a magnitude 5.5 quake had jolted Batangas on the night of April 4, 2017.
The STAR/File
Preparing for the 'Big One': Government eyes localized plans
Audrey Morallo (philstar.com) - April 7, 2017 - 5:29pm

MANILA, Philippines — The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) is pushing for the localization of the preparation for emergency situations especially for the “Big One.”

Ricardo Halad, chairman of the NDRRMC, said in an interview with ANC that although last year’s nationwide earthquake drill highlighted the need for the Philippines to prepare local government units (LGUs), communities and villages should come up with their respective contingency plan in responding to disasters.

Halad, however, refused to answer a question on whether the country was prepared in the event a serious emergency situation strikes. He simply said that preparations are being improved.

He said that LGUs should regularly practice their plans so people would know what to do when disaster strikes.

“Yes, somehow we were able to highlight the need for preparation, but we need to improve on the way we do [it] like localizing it as much as possible for the LGUs, for the communities and barangays to come up with their contingency plan and practice that so that in the event that something happens people are already aware of what to do, where to go and what will trigger their action,” Halad said.

Preparations for the “Big One,” a possible 7.2 earthquake that a Japanese government-funded study said could devastate Metro Manila and its surrounding provinces, became more urgent following the 5.5 earthquake that struck off the coast of Batangas province and shook the capital on Tuesday night. The tremor shook Metro Manila and some southern Luzon provinces.

Batangas province was placed under a state of calamity after the tremor. Batangas and Laguna have also canceled classes after a slew of aftershocks continued to hit the region.

Halad said that the localization of disaster preparation plans is more of a simultaneous demonstration of capability, and the respective LGUs could choose areas they would like to highlight.

He said that the government disaster agency was constantly monitoring LGUs in terms of their localized preparations through their regional offices.

“We have regional offices. That’s one of their mandates [monitor LGU compliance]. We are pushing them to look at the contingency plan of the different LGUs. Check on them, assess them. Make sure that they come up with their contingency plan,” he said.

Halad said that regional offices were required to include a report on the LGU preparation in their major outputs.

He, however, said that their agency and its regional offices were having difficulties doing their job because their offices were understaffed.

The NDRRMC chairman said they are pushing government agencies to craft continuity plans and check the integrity of buildings, especially for those located in Metro Manila.

They are also identifying regions outside the capital that would assist specific areas in Metro Manila in the event of a serious emergency.

“One thing we need to do is improve the capability of member-department and agencies to respond as a member of NDRRMC as well as making sure that they have the continuity plan especially for those in Metro Manila because we can expect that they will also be affected,” he said.

He added: “We have issued three memos lately. One is for each government office to look at the structural integrity of their buildings, formulate their continuity plan. One aspect of preparation is designation of regions outside Metro Manila to assist specific areas in Metro Manila.”

He revealed that some LGUs are giving residents living near fault lines incentives to relocate.

NDRRMC THE BIG ONE
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