Metro Manila should learn from Leyte earthquake – Phivolcs

Rambo Talabong
Metro Manila should learn from Leyte earthquake – Phivolcs
Phivolcs geologist Charmaine Villamin says that the strength of 'the Big One' will not be far in magnitude from the earthquake that hit Leyte

MANILA, Philippines – The earthquake that hit Leyte on Thursday, July 6, is both a warning and a guide for residents of Metro Manila.

This was the analysis of Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) geologist Charmaine Villamin when asked to evaluate the Leyte earthquake during the first day of the Agos Summit on Disaster Preparedness on Friday, July 7.

Yung nangyari po sa (What happened in) Leyte, that’s 6.5. That’s almost the same magnitude that we are going to expect, the most probable earthquake that will happen here in Metro Manila,” Villamin said.

Napakababaw nito, just 2 kilometers from the surface. Kapag mababaw po ang lindol, malakas ang impact niya sa ibabaw or mas maraming masisira mas maraming damages sa ibabaw,” Villamin added.

([The earthquake] occurred on shallow ground, just two kilometers from the surface. If earthquakes occur on shallow ground, the impact is strong on the surface. There’s more destruction on the surface.)

Villamin is comparing the Leyte earthquake to the bitterly-anticipated quake dubbed the “Big One” that comes with the movement of the West Valley Fault traversing the National Capital Region (NCR).

With the close level of magnitude, Villamin said there is much to be learned from the recent shake. The post-disaster photos alone point to substandard architecture for disaster.

“[Of the] few photos that came in, [they were] photos of damaged buildings. Just by looking at the pictures what we see, they are substandard,” Villamin said.

Based on this, Villamin warned residents to make sure that the houses and buildings are adequately reinforced to withstand quakes.

“For the existing buildings, those that are more than 50 meters and above, they are required to have seismic instrumentation. So dapat may ilagay na instrumento (So there should be an instrument) that would monitor the situation of the building in case there is groundshaking,” Villamin said. This was in response to a question by someone in the audience who asked asked if high-rise buildings in the metro are safe.

Secretariat head of the Metro Manila Shake Drill Ramon Santiago added that they spotted another problem in the Leyte quake: panic.

Maraming injuries ay hindi dahil sa nabagsakan, pero dahil nagpanic, tulad ng nangyari sa Leyte, siguro 50% gawa ng takbuhan. No regard for their own safety,” he said.

(Many injuries [from the quake] were not because of falling debris, but because of panic, just like what happened in Leyte, around 50% of the injured were hurt because of stampedes. No regard for their own safety.)

“If they know how to move around, how to protect themselves, we can reduce the element of panic,” Santiago said, stressing the importance of the 4-day Metro Manila Shake Drill.

Aside from reinforcing buildings, Villamin urged the public to look at more photos – even of photos of other earthquakes – then do one task: Imagine.

Gamitin po natin yung scenario na yun para ma-imagine natin kung ano yung specific scenario natin sa ating mga pamilya, sa loob ng mga tahanan, sa loob ng mga paaralan kung tayo po ay mga guro, kung tayo po ay aktibo sa simbahan, as a mere citizen gamitin po natin yun upang magamit natin ang tamang imahinasyon,” Villamin said.

(Let us use that scenario to imagine our own specific scenario [should an earthquake happen where we are] such as when we are with our families, when we are inside our homes, inside the schools if we are teachers, if we are active in the church, as a mere citizen let us use our correct imagination.)

With the future earthquake probably pounding at around 6.5, why is the metro preparing for a 7.2-magnitude shake? To prepare for the worst.

“Because sometimes in our planning, we would like to use the worst case scenario. It’s going to be a magnitude 7.2 earthquake, that’s the maximum credible earthquake that the West Valley Fault will generate,” Villamin said.

The Agos Summit on Disaster Preparedness was organized by MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm and will continue until July 8, Saturday, where more experts are expected to share insights on how to best prepare for times of disaster, especially when the big ones strike. –

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.