‘Stabilized’ Cebu pours relief efforts onto Bohol

Bea Cupin
Cebu DRRM officials say it's time to formalize a region-wide DRRM cluster

AUGMENTED RESPONSE. Sanchez says it's important for neighboring LGUs and provincial governments to be ready to help each other in time of calamity. Photo by Bea Cupin/Rappler

CEBU CITY, Philippines — When calamity strikes, you’re on your own. But in the succeeding hours and days, you will surely turn to your neighbor for much-needed help. 

It’s something provincial officials in Cebu have in mind, a week after a destructive magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit Central Visayas. With the province in a “stabilized” state, Cebu’s relief efforts are now concentrated on nearby Bohol. 

“Bohol is badly hit. People are hungry, homeless, scared so we also have to help our neighboring province,” said Neil Sanchez, an officer of the Cebu Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergency Management (DRRMC) office. 

The people of Cebu are heeding the call for help. A benefit concert, for example, was held in Cebu City Sunday, October 20, to raise funds for the victims of the quake.

As of its latest update, 6 people in the province of Cebu died as a result of the quake while 84 were injured in 33 barangays. Six more died in Cebu City. 

Cebu now serves as one of the staging points for relief goods to enter the province of Bohol, which is now under a state of calamity. Cebu was also declared under a state of calamity immediately following the quake.

Many towns in Bohol are at a standstill following the destructive quake, with some barangays in hardest hit municipalities reduced to ghost towns. The death toll in the province Bohol hit 177, with 11 people missing. Nearly 3 million people were affected by the quake.

Provinces helping each other 

Sanchez, who started heading the 10-month-old Cebu DRRMC back in February, says local and provincial governments should learn a thing or two from the Bohol disaster.

“Each and every DRRMC can work beyond their jurisdiction. We have to work beyond our jurisdictions and help other provinces,” said Sanchez, adding that he will push for the creation of a central Visayas-wide DRRM cluster. 

The ideal, Sanchez said, would be a system where provincial and even local government DRRMCs have a system in place to assist neighboring communities in event of a disaster. 

“How can each municipality help each other, regardless of political affiliation? Not only when it comes to disaster response but also preparedness,” he added. 

Cebu, in the days following the quake, sent a rescue team to Bohol. By the time they got there, however, Bohol already had its fair share of rescue teams from national government, and other LGUs. The rescue team instead facilitated relief efforts for the disaster-striken province. 

Resources are being poured into the towns of Loon, Maribojoc, and Antiquera — the hardest hit among Bohol’s municipalities. 

A region-wide DRRM cluster, said Sanchez, would also be the response team in event of a major earthquake in Metro Manila. The plan is for Cebu to be the staging area for the Philippine capital’s relief and rescue needs. 

Ready for the next quake?

It was only 2 weeks ago, Sanchez recalled, that they presented their proposed budget for the next year. During the presentation, he told provincial DRRMC officials that he wasn’t worried about storms but earthquakes. 

“We already know what to do when it comes to storms,” he explained. But when it comes to preparedness and response for earthquakes, there are no templates to follow. 

Asked how prepared the province of Cebu would be for a big quake, Sanchez said preparedness is at 65% to 70%. 

But the destruction on Bohol, he added, should serve as a wake-up call not only for Cebu but other DRRMCs in the country. 

Sanchez hopes too that what happened in Bohol will make communities open to learning about how vulnerable they are to quakes. Sometimes, he said, a devastating calamity is the only way citizens will learn. –Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.