The recent seismic activities in the Philippines have caused anxiety to affected locals. Remembering the tragedy that happened in Japan last 2011, it is no wonder that Filipinos are now inquiring about the preparedness of the country for such catastrophic event.
USGS reported a 7.9 magnitude earthquake originating off the coast of Samar Philippines on August 31, 2012. The tremors have been powerful that people from different parts of the country have felt it. (Facebook posts will attest to this. Some were awed that it appears to have affected the whole archipelago. It did.)
The Philippines, just like Japan, sits on the Pacific ring of fire. An area of active volcanoes and tectonic plate movements. The country and its people are not unacquainted to seismic activities. In the past decade, the country have been ravaged by destructive storms that inundated many parts of the country and it can be said that earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have not been at the top of disaster concerns.
The recent earthquake episodes however have created much hassle that there are already earthquake response drills being done in the capital city, Manila, through the MMDA or Metro Manila Development authority. This effort to forward earthquake preparedness is commendable. But notably, it is more a response in case earthquakes occurs and less of an effort to mitigate earthquake damages.
In Japan, there is a dense network of over 1000 seismometer around their country that is part of their Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) system. This is now recognized to be the most advanced EEW in the world and many countries are on the move to set up the same system. Japan’s EEW have been instrumental during the 2011 catastrophe. When there could have been millions of lives lost, the number was reduced to a thousands thanks to the EEW that sent out earthquake and tsunami warnings that allowed its people to secure themselves in safe places before the tragedy occurred.
The occurrence of a high magnitude earthquake and tsunami is not at all impossible in the Philippines. We can draw parallels in the geography of the Philippines and Japan, but sadly we could not do the same for our disaster preparedness. While Japan’s government have been willing to spend $1 billion for their EEW system, Philippines have only recently acquired Doppler radars for weather forecasting, quite a few steps away from the efforts of guaranteeing a surviving chance for Filipinos in the event of destructive earthquakes such as that which struck Japan in 2011.