Shake drill boosts Metro Manila readiness
Mike Frialde (The Philippine Star) - July 30, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) declared yesterday’s metro-wide earthquake drill a success.

The drills simulated conditions before, during and after Metro Manila is hit by a 7.2 magnitude and intensity 8 quake due to the movement of the West Valley Fault.

The drills were participated in by 6.5 million people, according to MMDA and Metro Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MMDRRMC) chief Francis Tolentino.

He said the drills raised the metro’s readiness rating for a strong quake from 5.5 to 7.  

The drills, conducted in four quadrants, highlighted the importance of coordination and communication between the ground or quadrant commanders and the city mayors who will serve as local disaster risk reduction and management council chiefs when calamities occur.

Absent in the drills that were also conducted at the Palace was President Aquino, who received reports and monitored the activities from his official residence Bahay Pangarap.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said “more important is that the government was able to provide the infrastructure and support and is able to ensure the safety of its people.”

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said “there are many gaps that need to be addressed” as he recommended more simulations during a press conference in Camp Aguinaldo.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Alexander Pama said it was premature to give an overall assessment of the drill “because we have yet to receive the reports from the ground.”

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II also cited the need to fill the gaps on food preparations and availability of equipment, while the Department of Health urged hospitals to continue conducting drills to strengthen their preparedness for disasters.

West quadrant incident commander Maxima Quiambao also recommended the conduct of more drills, especially in coordination with the Philippine Coast Guard, which provided a supposed floating hospital yesterday.

Former Navy officer and Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez criticized the much-publicized quake drills, fearing these might have frightened some foreign investors.

“I don’t have anything against disaster preparedness and drills. In fact, that’s part of my training and mindset since my academy days. But does it have to be such high-profile, announcing to the world in screaming headlines that the Big One could hit us anytime?” Golez declared in a text message.

“I wonder if the National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Trade and Industry, Board of Investments, Philippine Export Processing Zone Authority and local government units have an estimate of how much foreign and domestic investments have been deferred or cancelled and transferred to other places like Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia for fear of the Big One,” he said.

Emergency scenarios

The exercises centered on the “duck, cover and hold” technique people have to take when the quake is going on and the responses of government and private groups to several life-threatening aftermath scenarios, which include fire, collapsed buildings, fallen electric and communication posts, destroyed roads and broken bridges.

The metropolis is divided into four quadrants: North (Caloocan, Valenzuela, Quezon City, San Juan and Mandaluyong), West (Malabon, Navotas and Manila), East (Marikina and Pasig) and South (Makati, Pasay, Parañaque, Las Piñas, Pateros, Taguig and Muntinlipa).

The military deployed 10 helicopters to simulate damage assessment procedures and to transport rescuers to damaged sites. An S-76 air ambulance was also provided to replicate a medical evacuation from an open area to a hospital.

At the House of Representatives, it was assumed that the quake occurred while the lawmakers were in session. Immediately, eight congressmen and 12 employees “died,” while 50 were “injured.”

Some 1,600 House employees posed as lawmakers, pregnant women, persons with disabilities, senior citizens.

A 40-year-old employee actually fainted during the drill, which had the participants duck, cover and hold while the quake was on.

It was only after the shaking that participants proceeded to the open space in front of the House rear entrance, which was declared as the safest ground.

Quezon City Rep. Christopher Belmonte was the only lawmaker who participated in the drill as a rescuer.

House Secretary General Marilyn Barua-Yap told reporters that they needed to be prepared for the “Big One” as the Batasang Pambansa complex is just 1,200 meters away from the West Valley Fault. – With Evelyn Macairan, Non Alquitran, Robertzon Ramirez, Rey Galupo, Eva Visperas, Janvic Mateo, Delon Porcalla, Jess Diaz, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Jaime Laude, Alexis Romero, Paolo Romero, Sheila Crisostomo

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