Aquino sees quake as chance to improve disaster response

The President Benigno suggests refining geohazard maps, getting info from citizens, having closer coordination among agencies, retrofitting of old buildings

ASSESSMENT. President Benigno Aquino III speaks to government officials about the earthquake that hit Central Visayas. Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – While government agencies have deployed necessary equipment and personnel to Central Visayas after the region was hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, President Benigno Aquino III admitted the government’s disaster response could be further improved.

Hours after the earthquake on Tuesday, October 15, Aquino acknowledged the challenge and difficulty of having to “really physically assess” each town.

However, he said, this latest disaster could be a chance to improve how assessments are made, even to possibly include citizens in the process.

“Like anything else, we want to improve the ability to assess…. Maybe you would want to explore: Is there a possibility of doing certain stages in the system? Maybe the people themselves can be [better] facilitated in giving the necessary information to the concerned local government units, so that we can get faster information,” he said.

Aquino said the earthquake also caused him to ask about the compliance of cities with the Building Code of 2010, which ensures buildings are able to withstand strong earthquakes.

“A lot of those structures were actually old. Last week, the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) with Phivolcs and other [agencies] had a seminar last week, telling me how to retrofit old buildings to withstand earthquakes of this magnitude,” he said.

Aside from retrofitting buildings, there are various improvements he thinks the government can still work on, including refining geohazard maps, closer coordination, and moving informal settlers to communities that are “safer and more resilient with disasters.”

Aquino is set to visit Cebu and Bohol, the worst hit provinces, on Wednesday, October 16, a day before he is scheduled to fly to South Korea for a state visit.

The President said he will likely still go on the Korea trip, but said he will “reconsider the visit” depending on his assessment of the provinces.

Both provinces have been placed under a state of calamity following the earthquake.

As of posting, at least 28 people have been reported dead in the region and 159 are injured in Cebu, Bohol, and Siquijor.

The earthquake damaged many buildings including government offices and historic churches, as well as roads.

Government efforts

Aquino held a meeting with Cabinet secretaries at Camp Aguinaldo regarding the earthquake, and said he instructed government agencies to ensure no communities in need are isolated. He said they also assessed the danger of liquefaction – or the softening of soil after an earthquake – as well as tsunamis.

“There’s a long list of things to do but a lot of them is structural assessment. We need to make sure people are not put in danger by the effects of this earthquake,” the President said.

The head of the government’s seismology institute gave assurances, however, that there is no tsunami threat.

Agencies continue to monitor the aftermath of the earthquake and conduct damage assessment.

Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has allotted P10 million for relief goods for the victims in Region 7.

About 2,000 family food packs and 100 laminated sacks are expected to be airlifted to Cebu City by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

DSWD projects some 342,549 families coming from 316 barangays in Bohol and Cebu have been affected by the earthquake. –

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