Today's earthquakes overwhelm the capacities of government and people. Remedial measures being today are more for mitigation than full preparation.
In the last few weeks, a couple of earthquakes have rocked various areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. On April 8, a magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck Batangas province, sending tremors and shockwaves in nearby areas, including Metro Manila. A couple of days later, on April 10, a magnitude 4.5 earthquake shook various parts of Bicol and Eastern Visayas. Most recently, as of this writing period (April 12), a magnitude 6.0 earthquake was experienced in Davao City, Cagayan De Oro City, Cotabato and Gingoog City.
The spate of earthquakes experienced in the country recently have prompted many to believe that the so-called "Big One," or the strong earthquake triggered by the movement of the West Value Fault, is upon us.
To its credit, the government has spent the last few years undertaking several measures in order to better prepare our people in the event that the Big One strikes. Several earthquake or 'shake drills' have been initiated by the MMDA in Metro Manila and LGUs in other parts of the country have been also conducted their own earthquake drills where relief operations were simulated, and rescue operations for people trapped were reenacted, among others. PHILVOLCS has also intensified its Information and Education campaigns through its informative website and other printed collateral.
However, while these measures are being undertaken, the solutions to minimize loss of lives and avoid severe damages to infrastructures brought by disasters such as earthquakes could have been done years or decades back through sound urban and regional planning. There is no remedial measure that could cure our faulty urban designs, particularly the minimal provision of open spaces allocated for evacuation, especially in Metro Manila. There is also no quick fix to significantly improve the structural integrity of both old and new structures. Furthermore, earthquake drills will not necessarily change Filipinos' behaviors and orientations especially during disasters.
Nothing can really truly prepare us for the Big One. While we can take all the appropriate and necessary measures to improve our chances of survival in the event of the Big One, it will still take a whole of lot of luck and prayers for us to be spared of its impact and aftermath.
So are we taking the right steps now in preparation for the Big One? My answer is yes. But are we ready for the Big One? No country, no matter how advanced their economy or technology is, would be fully prepared. However, our country’s preparations definitely pale badly in comparison to our neighbors and other more developed countries. Sadly and practically, there may only be little time to catch up before it hits us. Nevertheless, we, as individuals, have to be ready even if our institutions and structures may not be.