Uriel C. Quilinguing .
TENS of thousands of Filipinos demonstrated how the “duck, cover and hold” should be done Thursday last week in compliance with the government’s institutionalized national simultaneous earthquake drill.
Now even a five-year-old kindergarten pupil can perform this self-preservation technique, should a tremor of high magnitude occur. It appears, however, there has been too much attention on earthquake drills, when there are other natural hazards that are already in the offing, sidelining disaster risk mitigation and preparedness for flooding, strong winds, mudslides and rough seas.
There is no need to assert that the earth crust and the tectonic plates thereat have been moving constantly, that fault lines on land masses must be monitored, and that the Philippine archipelago is dotted with active volcanoes.
Everybody knows these. In fact, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology can attest to that, that in its earthquake bulletin on June 20, the day nationwide simultaneous earthquake drills were held, the agency recorded 20 seismic events, ranging from a low of 1.6 to as high as 4.8 magnitude from all over, nationwide. Daily entries of seismic events are almost these; the tremors were not destructive.
Those who are engaged in the conduct of disaster preparedness, particularly members of disaster risk reduction and management councils should be conscientious enough in prioritizing their resources. There’s nothing wrong with the conduct of the earthquake drills.
But why hold regional launch of the simultaneous earthquake drill in Camiguin? Tremors of high magnitudes are likely to destroy multi-storey buildings, well-paved multiple-lane highways and long stretch of bridges, and structures like these are uncommon in the capital town of Mambajao in this famed pear-shaped island province.
Disaster mitigation and preparedness for Camiguin should focus on a volcanic eruption scenario since Hibok-Hibok volcano remains active after the 1948 to 1952 volcanic activities. If it erupts again, where would the demarcation line for a six-kilometer danger zone radius be? Where will the evacuees go? These, and other concerns, would overshadow the hazards tremors would pose on the vulnerable population of the island.
Meantime, street flooding in Cagayan de Oro, is real. A heavy downpour for an hour could render low-lying areas impassable. Floodwaters on canals would swell and inundate school campuses.
Now, why should school-age children be trained to do the duck, cover, and hold when it is already certain it rains every afternoon? What they badly need are lessons in swimming, aside from health tips on how they can avail of propylaxis for lyptospirosis, and what items should be included in their bags, during rainy days.
While learners in more than 600 new school buildings—constructed under Mayor Oscar Moreno administration— may feel safe since these were constructed to withstand earthquakes’ intensity 8, yet many of these are in flood-prone areas. Two of these are the elementary and secondary schools of barangay Lapasan. Clearly, the school development plan should have included the canals, aside from impressive multi-level concrete vertical structures.
If schools are not free from flooding, the instruction to learners would become: duck, cover and swim.
(Uriel C. Quilinguing is a past president of the Cafayan de Oro Press Club and a former editor-in-chief of this paper.)