Metro Manila can learn a lot from the recent magnitude-6.7 earthquake that hit Surigao City, especially in constructing houses and buildings and the effect earthquakes can have on logistics and economics.
PHIVOLCS Director Renato Solidum said at a forum on Saturday that the first lesson Metro Manila can learn from the quake is how non-engineered buildings pose a greater threat to human life than the quake itself.
"Ang lindol, yung pauga, hindi talaga siya yung cause ng pagkamatay ng tao. [Ang madalas] yung pagbagsak niyan, bahay o building, o piraso nito, so 'yun naman ang nangyari," he said.
"Yung ating building code (Republic Act No. 6541) ay maganda. Kayang-kaya na nating mga bahay dapat ang Intensity 8, Intensity 9 earthquake kung nasundan ang building code. Pero kung sa disenyo at standard o construction ay hindi maganda o yung mga materyales natin ay 'di maayos, diyan nakikita during the earthquake kung [sinunod]. Parang judgement day."
During earthquakes, skyscrapers are often thought of as the biggest hazards but damaged or totally-collapsed, small to medium-sized buildings, outnumber large buildings in most disasters, including in Surigao.
"Meron po tayong perception na the higher the building, the more dangerous in an earthquake. Tama naman po yun, kung babagsak. Pero pagdating po ng tunay na lindol, ano pong nakita natin sa Surigao? Maliliit ang bumagsak. Anong nakita natin sa Bohol? Maliliit ang bumagsak. Anong nakita natin sa Baguio? Mid-rise to low-rise," Solidum said.
"The higher the building now, mga bago 'yan, at dapat gamitan ng bagong technology. At mahigpit talaga ang ating batas, construction law in the Philippines," he added.
Solidum estimates that 31,000 people living along the West Valley Fault in Metro Manila, should a magnitude-7.2 earthquake hit.
"In Metro Manila alone, ilan ang pwedeng casualty sa collapse ng bahay at building? It's around 31,000 sa recent study namin, sa study namin with JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency), 34,000."
Should a magnitude-6.5 earthquake strikes, 21,000 people could die instead, without counting possible fatalities from the nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, and Laguna, that also lie on the West Valley Fault.
"I-compare natin sa Surigao, 10 versus 21,000. Bakit kaya ganun? Kasi, una, madaming non-engineered buildings dito sa Metro Manila, yung gawa-gawa lang talaga," Solidum said.
Homeowners, he said, must be informed of building codes and taught that cost-cutting methods could endanger lives, especially in Metro Manila where non-engineered buildings are numerous.
Solidum added that building on liquefaction-prone areas is not dangerous if building codes are adhered to and proper precautions are made, such as avoiding the use of sub-standard materials and cost-cutting methods.
PHIVOLCS has a Fault Finder that will allow anyone with an internet connection to check if their homes or businesses are on a faultline.
Impact on economy
Another lesson Metro Manila should learn, Solidum said, is how the quake affected travel in and out of affected areas and how it became detrimental to logistics and Surigao City's economy.
"Pero kung mapapansin n'yo, ano po yung isang malaking epekto sa transport system sa Surigao? Nasira yung runway... nasira yung tulay papunta dun."
"Mababawasan natin yung malaking economic impact sa Pilipinas kasi Metro Manila, seat of government natin. Beyond saving lives, we have to look at this economic resiliency of the country," he said.
Take drills seriously
Lastly, local governments and schools should conduct serious earthquake drills and take advantage of free resources such as the Youtube to press the importance of these exercises.
"Ang issue sa earthquake drill, hindi lang dapat drill lang kasi. Dapat may social preparation na ginagawa na tinuturo sa mga bata ano talaga ang sitwasyon, at ang video ay ang isang malakas na pamamaraan upang ipakita nila kung ano talaga ang mangyayari sa malakas na lindol," Solidum said.
"[Dapat] may lecture, ipinapaliwanag natin kung ano po 'yan. At kahit hindi po PowerPoint, may mga materyales na pwedeng i-share. Kaya sila hindi seryoso dahil hindi nila alam kung anong pwedeng mangyari kapag lumindol," he said.