Duterte creates earthquake resiliency office for greater Metro Manila area

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 10 2018 06:15 PM

Emergency workers hold an earthquake drill at Ortigas Center in Metro Manila, July 14, 2017. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has created an office that would ensure resiliency and preparedness of the greater Metro Manila area (GMMA) in case of a massive earthquake.

Duterte issued Executive Order No. 52 creating the Program Management Office for Earthquake Resiliency of the GMMA and tasked it to ensure that all government efforts in preparing for a huge quake are well coordinated.

The EO states that the office shall be the body primarily responsible for earthquake preparedness, mitigation, and resiliency measures, while the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council's Office of Civil Defense shall take care of post-earthquake operations.

The President created the office as state experts have been warning that the West Valley Fault, which cuts across various cities in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, may be ripe for another movement that could trigger a massive quake.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said the fault moves every 400 to 600 years. It last moved in 1658, or 360 years ago.

Government has been regularly holding earthquake drills in Metro Manila to prepare for the so-called "big one."

The new office is tasked to undertake efforts to fast-track the implementation of interventions that would reduce the impact of a high-magnitude quake, formulate and operationalize a quake resiliency plan for the greater Metro Manila area, ensure availability and adequacy of key lifelines that can be mobilized after a quake, and ensure the resiliency of critical infrastructure.

It shall also review, audit, monitor and provide feedback on the implementation of quake resiliency plans, and facilitate the development and conduct of advocacy and communication programs, drills, and exercises to promote earthquake awareness and resiliency.

The EO also mandates government agencies to ensure the resiliency of all public infrastructure in the region.

Local government units, meanwhile, are tasked to ensure the resiliency of private infrastructure and their compliance with the building code.

“Agencies as well as private entities are highly encouraged to go beyond the minimum standards set in the building code to ensure that all future infrastructures are fully earthquake resilient and compliant with international earthquake-resistant designs and standards,” the EO read.

The office shall be headed by an executive director with the rank, pay and benefits of an undersecretary.

An Earthquake Impact Reduction Study for Metro Manila, funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and Phivolcs, earlier revealed that a 7.2-magnitude quake in the metropolis could kill up to 34,000 people and injure some 100,000. 

Such a strong temblor could also destroy 13 percent of houses in the region and cause fire that would render 10 percent of public buildings unusable.