Lopez patriarch calls for ‘National Preparedness Day’
Oscar M. Lopez, chair emeritus of the Lopez Group of Companies, is pushing for the declaration of a “National Preparedness Day” to enhance awareness and readiness to respond to natural disasters.
In a speech during the Earthquake Resilience Conference last week, Lopez said the OML Center for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management Foundation was spearheading the move to generate support of all sectors given the vulnerability of the Philippines to natural disasters.
“We envision a country that is well-prepared for disasters,” he said.
The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, he said, pointing out lives and resources lost every year to typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Earthquakes are of particular concern because of their unpredictability and potential widespread destruction. They can also cause secondary disasters, such as fire, release of hazardous materials, dam failures, landslides and tsunamis.
“I am also concerned that the vulnerability to seismic hazards is not the same all around the world. Urban areas, for instance, are the most vulnerable with their concentration of buildings, infrastructure and population. If the earthquake that happened in Bohol had occurred in Manila, the losses would surely be much higher and the effects could have been more devastating,” Lopez said.
Metro Manila and its surrounding areas are vulnerable to earthquakes due to the presence of the active 100-kilometer West Valley Fault, which traverses Metro Manila and the adjoining provinces of Bulacan, Laguna, Rizal and Cavite.
The active fault line system, Lopez said, has the potential of generating up to a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that can devastate the capital and nearby provinces for a total of 18 cities and municipalities.
Citing data from Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Lopez said over the past 1,400 years, an earthquake along the fault system occurred every 400 to 600 years and the last earthquake in the area occurred in 1658, or 357 years ago, which is not too far from the regular 400-year cycle.
“Thus we should be aware that a big earthquake will hit Manila and vicinities in the not too distant future,” Lopez said.
The Lopez foundation, which was established in 2012, is developing solutions to mitigate risks and impacts of climate change and geohazards such as earthquakes through science-based efforts.
One of the projects it has funded is the Earthquake Megacities Initiative. Among others, it seeks to better visualize the impact of earthquakes and floods on cities for better planning and risk mitigation.
The project is being implemented in Quezon City, but Lopez said there was a possibility of scaling it up to the national level once the training and mentoring process has been defined and tools developed and made available to local governments.
Manuel V. Pangilinan, chair of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. and cochair of the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF), said the government, international agencies, civil society, church, military and the private sector should work together closely to better prepare for earthquakes.
“More than typhoons, earthquakes can be damaging and dangerous because they cannot be predicted, nor seen. The questions for all of us must be—what will happen if someday tragedy strikes, and how do we respond? We have seen the calamities in Nepal and Haiti. We need to do better,” said Pangilinan.
Pangilinan said that the PDRF was the flagship private sector response to disaster and that it was building a disaster operations center near Clark Airport to serve as the base for both immediate response to a disaster and long-term recovery efforts.
“We can only be effective if we work collectively, setting aside our differences, our slights, our disagreements. We simply cannot wake up to see the injury and death of many thousands of our people—and the realization that when we had the chance to take action, we did not. Our shared humanity puts us all in this together—for the tragedy of one should touch us all,” he said.
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