While the rainy season is expected to start this June, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is encouraging local government units (LGUs) to also tighten their preparations not only for the wet season but also earthquakes which strike with no warning.
DILG Spokesperson and Undersecretary Jonathan E. Malaya says that all governors, mayors, and punong barangays are urged to join the second quarterly Nationwide Simultaneous Earthquake Drills (NSED) this year scheduled on June 20 at 2:00 pm.
“LGUs should always observe maximum or extreme preparedness rather than employ a calibrated response not just for typhoons but also for earthquakes and other types of disasters. This approach will save more lives and further reduce the number of casualties,” he says.
He explains that the conduct of the simultaneous earthquake drill will test the overall efficiency and usefulness of LGUs’ preparedness, response, and recovery plans.
“Through these scenario-based drills, we will not only test if LGU disaster preparedness plans are working, we will also be able to train our people to cope with hazards and reduce their vulnerability,” he says.
Malaya says that DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año has issued Memorandum Circular 2019-06 stating that LGUs should be able to test coordination and communication mechanism during response operations, and understand the command and control mechanism in emergency and disaster operation at the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils (LDRRMCs).
The memo says that LGUs may coordinate with the field offices of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) for the local earthquake scenario and then evaluate the effectiveness of their contingency plans.
“All LGUs may utilize part of their 70 percent preparedness fund out of the five percent Local DRRM budget for the expenses of conducting earthquake drill,” Año says in the Circular.
Learning from the magnitude 6.1 earthquake on April 22 that jolted parts of Luzon and damaged buildings causing casualties, the DILG is prodding LGUs to do infrastructure audit in their respective areas to ensure public safety.
Priority shall be given to audit facilities vital to local government operations, basic service delivery, and disaster response and relief operations such as public administration buildings (provincial, city, municipal, and barangay halls); structures used as evacuation centers; health facilities; roads and bridges; and water supply systems.
However, Malaya says that this should not preclude LGUs to appraise the structural integrity of other government-owned assets, taking into account that all these should be periodically inspected for compliance to the National Building Code of the Philippines and the Fire Code of the Philippines.
Infrastructure audit results are to be submitted by LGUs to the DILG Provincial Offices which will forward them to DILG Regional Office concerned.
In 2017, the DILG developed a tool for infrastructure audit that includes structure assessment, possible hazards and methods of risk prevention and mitigation.
According to the NBCP, among the qualifications for a building to be considered dangerous is “whenever any portion thereof has been damaged by fire, earthquake, wind, flood or by any other cause, to such an extent that the structural strength or the stability thereof is materially less than it was before the catastrophe and is less than the minimum requirements of the Code.”
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has also said that, “there is no reliable technology in the world that can confidently predict the date, time, and location of large earthquakes. What we do is prepare earthquake scenarios of hazards and impacts to be used as a guide for mitigation, preparedness, and response."