MANILA, Philippines - Government disaster response agencies have formed a task force that will provide immediate assistance to quake-hit areas in Batangas and nearby provinces.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said the task force was created after President Duterte ordered speedy and continuous relief operations for residents affected by the magnitudes 6 and 5.6 earthquakes that occurred on Saturday afternoon.
As this developed, a magnitude 3.3 quake shook some parts of the Ilocos and the Cordilleras yesterday afternoon.
The quake occurred at 1:27 p.m. with its epicenter located 11 kilometers northeast of Bagulin, La Union, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).
It was felt at Intensity 1 in Baguio City.
On the same day, a series of mild quakes hit the coastal town of Governor Generoso in Davao Oriental.
Two of the tremors – magnitudes 4.4 and 4.5 – occurred at 10:44 a.m. and 11:03 a.m., respectively.
The third quake of undetermined magnitude occurred at 3:39 p.m.
No casualty or damage to property was reported.
Aside from the DSWD, the task force is composed of the Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and the social welfare and health offices of Batangas.
The agencies will provide psychosocial interventions for displaced families in the municipalities of Mabini and Tingloy, which were hit by the quake.
“I have instructed our concerned units and offices to augment the needed resources and provide appropriate interventions to affected individuals, especially to children, pregnant women, persons with disabilities and senior citizens,” Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said in a statement yesterday.
Another team – composed of the Office of Civil Defense in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), Phivolcs, PRC and DSWD as well as the provincial social welfare office – will validate data on affected families and damaged houses and infrastructure.
Aftershocks continue to be felt in Batangas a week after a magnitude 5.5 quake jolted the province on April 4, state seismologists said.
Phivolcs recorded at least 26 tremors with magnitudes ranging from 1.8 to 3.5 as of yesterday afternoon.
Most of the aftershocks were slightly felt in the town of Mabini.
The quake was followed by more than 1,000 aftershocks and two tremors of magnitudes 6 and 5.6 on Saturday.
Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said the aftershocks might last for days or weeks.
Solidum ruled out the possibility of the occurrence of stronger quakes, noting the fault that caused the April 4 quake is only capable of generating moderate tremors.
The series of earthquakes in Batangas will not trigger movement of other faults, including the 100-kilometer West Valley Fault, he said.
Residents of Metro Manila have been advised to remain vigilant, as the West Valley Fault – which runs from Marikina to Laguna – is capable of generating a magnitude 7.2 quake.
The fault is “ripe” for movement, Phivolcs said.
Last Saturday’s quakes displaced 2,139 families, who were provided with food packs and other relief goods amounting to more than P1.5 million.
Taguiwalo ordered the DSWD central and field offices in Southern Tagalog to conduct continuous rapid damage assessment and needs analysis in quake-affected areas and ensure that the basic needs of affected residents are met.
“We appeal to the Filipinos to ensure earthquake preparedness at home and in communities,” she said.
“Preparedness is our best defense against calamities. When we are prepared, rehabilitation after disasters becomes faster and easier.”
Meanwhile, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno yesterday visited Tingloy along with some national and local officials to assess the situation and determine the needs of residents and the municipality.
Diokno had to see personally the magnitude of damage so he could immediately release budget for the relief operation, according to Gov. Hermilando Mandanas.
The municipality has 20,000 residents, 8,000 of them currently in evacuation centers.
Tingloy Mayor Mark Alvarez said they needed to repair their water supply system, which was damaged by the quake.
Alvarez said they need tents, bottled water and food for the evacuees, as well as cement.
Among those badly damaged in Tingloy were houses, schools, churches, roads and the wharf.
The island-municipality was temporarily off-limits to tourists to pave the way for repair and rehabilitation.
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan on Monday declared a state of calamity in Tingloy, Mabini and Batangas City.
To ensure public safety, the Department of Energy has been urged to check the safety of all oil and gas installations in Southern Tagalog.
“Oil and gas installations in Batangas may be more sensitive to tremors compared to power plants,” Makati Rep. Luis Jose Angel Campos Jr. said. – With Edith Regalado, Helen Flores, Artemio Dumlao, Vic Alhambra, Arnell Ozaeta, Delon Porcalla