Earthquake as schoolwork: Pupils as disaster mitigators
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - October 23, 2019 - 12:00am

"Class, our lesson for today is earthquakes. As homework, you are to search online for fault lines near your neighborhood. Check inside and outside your house for cracks and traps. Identify where to duck, cover, and hold. Fill an emergency bag with canned food, water, first-aid items. Set evacuation plans and drills. Here’s a checklist of what to do. Submit your report within a week.”

Science Usec. Renato Solidum is polishing that school assignment with the Dept. of Education. The idea is to have grade schoolers initiate the family’s disaster preparedness. Tried out limitedly in 2015, feedback was positive. Obedient to teachers, schoolchildren will comply and parents cooperate – for everyone’s good. Lessons stick to mind. On TV news last week was featured a girl who, during the Magnitude-7 temblor in Cotabato, showed restaurant diners how to first slide under the table then calmly file out the door to safety.

Count on kids to remember details, Solidum says. Like, five to 20 quakes are detected each day by 160 sensors nationwide. The more, the faster to pinpoint the epicenter and breadth, to rush help, as telecoms and roads can be cut off. There were only 64 sensors when Solidum joined the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology in 2003. Last Wednesday’s 7:35 p.m. M-7 in Cotabato was followed the next 5 a.m. with an M-5.3 a hundred kilometers away in Davao Oriental. Those were from different underground faults, as was a third M-5 out at sea but which shook Davao del Sur.

Depending on the nature of the fault, the tremor can be vertical or horizontal. The 2013 Bohol shake was vertical due to the island’s reef bottom (the famed Chocolate Hills were corals pushed up by volcanic eruptions millions of years ago). More likelihood of landslides in vertical quake zones. Horizontal trembles of the 1990 Luzon quake were so strong that ricefield dikes split up to six meters apart near the epicenter in Nueva Ecija (buildings toppled or cracked as far north as Baguio and south as Cavite).

Generally people momentarily will feel a ball dribbling, followed by sideways push and lastly dizzying sways, Solidum says. It’s important to distinguish the movements. The Zambales quake last Apr. was mostly up and down (a mall collapsed in nearby Pampanga), but sideways in Manila. The nearer to the center, the longer the dribbling; the farther, mostly sideways. The closer to the center, the more likelihood of strong aftershocks. Meaning, structures can be so damaged; take time to check walls and doorframes, and for smoke and fire.

Children are adept with gadgets. Have them go to the web link hazardhunter.georisk.gov.ph, type in your home or work address, and find out if there’s a quake fault near you. It’s the only one of its kind in the world, developed and constantly improved by Solidum’s Phivolcs.

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A loan mafia has been victimizing state banks since 2011. Nearly P7 billion has been bilked from a sequestered financial institution and the present targeted specialized government depository. A third smaller lender is lined up next for penetration.

With one “JP” as capo, the modus operandi involves borrowing huge sums in the names of struggling entrepreneurs. The latter do not get the loan money, however. Twenty percent goes to bank loan approvers as “facilitation fee”. With consent of the borrowers on record, bulk goes to JP. It is in payment of their earlier huge personal debts to him and his Indian financier “RC”. They had gone into hock for slack sales of home appliances and gadgets that RC trades through six distributorships.

The struggling entrepreneurs sink deeper into debt. When the bank loan falls due and their funds fall short, JP offers to help them re-avail new loans. By arrangement with bank insiders, releases are delayed, say, by two weeks. Advancing the loan amount, JP bridges the financing gap, for one percent per day interest. The scam inevitably goes bust, and JP and RC’s mafia move on to the next bank in which they have developed contacts. The state banks are left holding empty bags. Their losses are charged to taxpayers like you and me.

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The nation mourns the passing of patriot and statesman Aquilino Pimentel Jr. When most politicos had capitulated to Marcos’ rapacious dictatorship, Nene and a handful of Visayan and Mindanaoan dissidents formed in 1982 the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino. In coalition in 1983 and merged in 1986 with Luzon-based Laban, he co-led the growing anti-Marcos opposition. After the EDSA Revolt he reorganized the Interior department then joined the Senate, all the while promoting power devolution to local governments. He advocated federalism in its sincere form, no hidden agenda of later copycats for prolonged term of any President, removal of any VP from the succession line, or lifting of constitutional term limits of lawmakers.

Despite the trappings of power, Nene and wife Bing led modest lives and raised honest offspring equally dedicated to serving God and country. To them our deepest condolences.

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After watching “Sweeney Todd”, will you want to go for a barber shave or bite into an empanada? Stephen Sondheim’s classic thriller musical performs to full-house audiences in Manila. Evil Judge Turpin covets the beautiful wife of a London barber and sends him to prison on a false charge. After 15 years the now-homicidal maniac returns under a fake name to exact revenge. Woe to customers to whom he applies his razor then dispels to Mrs. Lovett’s meat pie shop below – until at last comes his chance to slit Turpin’s throat. But then, who’s the real villain here, and whose portrayal reveals a dark side?

Lea Salonga (Mrs. Lovett), Jett Pangan (Sweeney Todd), and Andrew Fernando (Judge Turpin) lead a world-class cast. With Mikkie Bradshaw-Volante (Johanna), Ima Castro (Beggar Woman), Gerald Santos (Anthony Hope), Nyoy Volante (Adolfo Pirelli), Luigi Quesada (Tobias), Arman Ferrer (Beadle), and Dean Rosen (Jonas Fogg). Directed by theatrical genius Bobby Garcia, set design by David Gallo, musical direction by Gerald Salonga, for Atlantis Entertainment’s 20th year celebration.

Regular and matinee shows till Oct. 27 only, at The Theater at Solaire. Tickets available at Ticket World.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives: www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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