We have been told: The Philippines is the most disaster-prone country in the world. So what has the government done to meet the challenge of protecting the people from typhoons, floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, fire and other calamities that occur every year, apart from designating school buildings to serve as “evacuation centers” for those displaced by typhoons, floods, fire, etc.?
In the 1970s, we filed a bill seeking the allocation of funds to build disaster shelters in coastal towns. More than 40 years later, Filipinos displaced from their homes still evacuate to rickety school buildings or are sheltered in second-hand tents to await relief goods—and disease, due precisely to the absence of necessary provisions that otherwise would be present in a shelter built for the purpose.
The head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Renato Solidum, has not been remiss in warning us about the “Big One,” a powerful temblor that may come at any time. He admonishes us to be prepared, not to sow fear and panic, but to be warned in order to be forearmed. He knows what he is talking about, and shouldn’t we be glad to have him around?
And at the risk of being called an alarmist, we repeat here (for the nth time) our suggestion to the government to set up an Earthquake Rescue Division to start in the metro area in coordination with local government units, which have ready personnel on call at any time. The rescue team should be composed of trained paramedics, members of the police and military, and volunteer doctors and nurses, with the government requiring representatives of medical companies that carry medicines and antiseptics (for corpses in body bags) that may be needed, and of construction firms that would donate heavy equipment for use in rescuing people trapped under collapsed buildings.
The government should also make
arrangements with various schools for the use of their grounds for tents and portable toilets to be set up for displaced families. An amply stocked food and bank must be ready for such an emergency. Hundreds of tents will be needed, as well as body bags!
Like it or not (and Solidum also says so), high-rise buildings and residential houses can collapse in the course of the Big One. An estimated 34,000 people may die and hundreds of thousands may be injured. Such are the portents we face.
Before it happens, the preparedness of the government and the private sector is urgently needed—now. Is anybody listening? Hello, Undersecretary Ric Jalad, chief of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council!