2 Pinoys among dead in Turkey earthquake

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star
2 Pinoys among dead in Turkey earthquake
Syrian women and children sit wrapped in blankets outside collapsed buildings in the town of Jandairis, in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province on Feb. 7 as search and rescue operations continue following a deadly earthquake.

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine embassy in Ankara confirmed yesterday the death of two Filipinos following the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria.

For the time being, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is withholding the names of the Filipino victims as their families are being properly informed of their demise.

“The embassy is talking to the family on the arrangements for the repatriation of remains. We need to respect their privacy,” DFA spokesperson Maria Teresita Daza said.

The Philippine embassy in Ankara, in a statement released yesterday, said one Filipino who was previously reported missing in Antakya was found alive.

“However, it is with deepest regret that the embassy must inform the public of the passing of two Filipinos, both earlier reported to be missing in Antakya,” it said.

“The embassy and consulate general express their deepest condolences and are in coordination with the victims’ families in both the Philippines and Turkey,” the statement added.

President Marcos yesterday expressed “deep regret” over the news that two Filipinos died in the quake.

“The Philippine embassy continues to work tirelessly to verify any and all information on Filipinos affected by the quake,” Marcos said in a tweet.

The embassy gave assurance that Ambassador Maria Elena Algabre continues to lead the Philippine team into the next stage of the relief, rescue and evacuation operations in Southeast Turkey.

The embassy said the team has successfully evacuated more than 10 Filipino families from the city of Antakya in Hatay province, one of the hardest-hit cities in a region suffering from much devastation.

“The families are currently being shuttled back to Ankara, Turkey’s capital, where they will be sheltered,” the statement said, as the embassy thanked the urgent arrival of Philippine Inter-Agency Humanitarian Contingent Team in Turkey.

Philippine rescuers arrive

Members of the 82-man Philippine Inter-Agency Humanitarian Contingent arrived in Istanbul yesterday morning and traveled by land to Adiyaman where they immediately went to work to help victims of the quake.

The Office of Civil Defense said the team is composed of 12 members from the 505th Search and Rescue Group of the Philippine Air Force, 21 from the 525th Engineering Combat Battalion of the Philippine Army, nine from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, eight from Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, 30 from the Department of Health (DOH) and two from OCD.

At least five others who were supposed to join the contingent were left behind on Wednesday night due to lack of required travel documents.

At a press briefing, OCD spokesperson Assistant Secretary Bernardo Rafaelito Alejandro IV said the Philippine contingent has been given their assignments and are now operational; conducting search and rescue operations after they were given assignments or buildings to work on.

“They have safely arrived in Turkey. Their work has begun, together with the medical team from the DOH. We are working immediately. This was not a vacation, it’s work, immediate search and rescue,” he said.

For its part, the 31-man team from DOH is composed of doctors, nurses, medical technologists and medical professionals.

“Among the services the group can provide are public and medical care, water sanitation, nutrition in emergencies and mental and psychosocial support,” the DOH said.

“The devastating earthquake in Turkey and its neighboring countries calls for international cooperation and as ministers of health, it is incumbent upon us that we help other countries in times of disasters and calamities,” said DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire.

“Many Filipinos are also working there, and we should take part in helping them survive these trying times. With our continued cooperation, we hope to aid the government of Turkey recover from this ordeal. We will just continue to protect health and help save lives,” Vergeire added.


The Department of Migrant Workers has ordered all private recruitment agencies (PRAS) and licensed manning agencies (LMAs) to extend assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by the earthquake in Turkey.

In an advisory, the DMW said, “In light of the recent earthquake in Turkey, PRAs and LMAs are hereby instructed to continuously monitor the situation of OFWs and provide the necessary assistance to affected OFWs.”

The advisory signed by Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones, officer-in-charge, DMW Office of the Secretary, also noted that “all concerned PRAs and LMAs are further directed to coordinate with the Migrant Workers Office in Lebanon and submit the necessary report to the department pertaining to the affected workers at the soonest possible time.”

Undersecretary Hans Cacdac said the DMW is closely monitoring the condition of 77 OFWs staying in the quake-affected areas.

Cacdac said the DMW has set up a 24/7 command center to monitor them and that medical and welfare assistance is being provided.

Prepare better

At the Senate, Sen. Nancy Binay called on government agencies, local government units (LGUs), private sector as well as the general public to go beyond holding earthquake drills to better prepare for destructive tremors, as such calamities cannot be predicted.

Binay stressed that conducting earthquake drills must be continued with greater frequency, but concerned government agencies, LGUs and private establishments must also regularly conduct an honest assessment of the structural integrity of their buildings and installations.

She said structures and bridges that may be vulnerable to damage or collapse in strong tremors must be immediately retrofitted by those responsible for their maintenance.

LGUs, the senator said, should also exercise political will in enforcing the use of geo-hazard maps in their jurisdictions.

The Senate will start hearings next week on the need to conduct a thorough structural audit of buildings and structures across the country to check if they are compliant with the National Building Code and strong enough to withstand strong earthquakes.

Sen. Bong Revilla, chairman of the Senate committee on public works, said the panel will conduct an inquiry on compliance with the National Building Code by the Department of Public Works and Highways, LGUs and other stakeholders.

Revilla said he filed Senate Resolution 67 that seeks an inquiry into the matter “to ensure full compliance to the standards set by the National Building Code,” adding that the inquiry would lead to proposed amendments to the code.

“As the aftermath of this tragedy worsens and the death toll continues to rise, we cannot help but be alarmed how our country could suffer the same fate in the event that an earth-shattering catastrophe hits our land,” he said.

Given the country’s location along the Pacific Ring of Fire, cataclysmic effects of acts of nature are not only inevitable but imminent, he added.


The Philippine government’s peace implementing panel for the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace accord expressed yesterday its sympathies to the quake victims.

“On behalf of the Government Peace Implementing Panel for the GPH-MILF Peace Accord, I convey our sincerest sympathy and prayers for the people of Turkey and Syria who have been severely affected by the catastrophic damage brought by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake,” said retired Brig. Gen. Cesar Yano, chairman of the GPH implementing panel for GPH-MILF peace accord.

“We stand with the people of Turkey and Syria – who as members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation have supported the earlier stages of the Bangsamoro Peace Process, and through Turkey’s steadfast participation have contributed towards the finalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” Yano added. – Alexis Romero, Bebot Sison, Jose Rodel Clapano, Rhodina Villanueva, Paolo Romero

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