Commentary: Is the Philippines ready for an earthquake?

As deadly and fierce as Typhoon Yolanda was, historic records indicate a possible 7.2 magnitude earthquake could hit Manila within our lifetime.

Are we ready?

Unlike storms and typhoons, earthquakes can be predicted but not forecast.

In a nation where on average 20 storms strike the South Pacific islands annually, Typhoon Yolanda (also called Typhoon Haiyan) was one for the record books when it stuck on Nov. 8, 2013.

“It's been a year since Typhoon Yolanda landed and shook our lives and faith in God, but still through it all—God is so good!” said the Rev. Iris Picardal Terana of Light and Life United Methodist Church in Tacloban City. The church was destroyed in the storm and for a while it was thought the pastor and her family were missing.

“In praising and thanking God for all he has done … for us to survive and move on in our faith journey filled with hope, more faith, joy and love—all glory be unto Him,” she said.

Surviving and moving on

One year later, volunteers, the government and other nonprofit organizations are working to be better prepared for the Philippines’ next calamity.

One of those groups is Oplan Hatid (Operation Drop Off). Thousands of volunteers rushed to the aid of the 14 million people affected by the storm including many “angels” like Junep Ocampo. Ocampo mobilized a group of 2,000 volunteers to lend their vehicles to bring 17,000 typhoon survivors to safety last year.

On Nov. 5, the group reunited to celebrate stories of hope and survival and talk about ways to capture the spirit of volunteerism to create disaster-resilient communities.

The group adopted the slogan, “It’s more than transport; it’s support.”

“Its purpose is to get the citizenry together where the government can’t provide,” said James Deakin, spokesperson for Oplan Hatid.

Government and non-government agencies are looking at ways to be better prepared. The Metro Manila Development Authority, the Philippine National Red Cross and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are three of many agencies gearing up for the next calamity.

“Disaster preparedness is everybody’s responsibility. All stakeholders should work together and consciously contribute in building a resilient Metro Manila,” says Francis Toleninto, development authority chairperson.

“It is better to plan when it is not needed, than not have planned when it was necessary,” added Tolentino.

Master plan in place

Last Oct. 30, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III signed and approved the $3.8 billion (170.9 billion Philippine pesos) master plan to rebuild Yolanda-hit areas in Central Visayas. Resettlement of the displaced families will require the biggest funding; nearly half the money, about $1.7 billion (75.6 billion pesos) will go to this effort. The remainder will be used for infrastructure, economic development, and social services. A total of 18,400 projects are involved in rebuilding Central Visayas.

For a country plagued by corruption, the biggest challenge to the rehabilitation efforts is to keep public funds from ending up in officials’ pockets. Many Filipino and international organizations, as well as citizens, remain vigilant in fighting for accountability and transparency during the rehabilitation.

As we commemorate the first-year anniversary of Yolanda, may we never forget the countless people who lost their homes and loved ones, and may we never forget those who are still struggling to make ends meet. May we also never forget all the people who, in big or small ways, continue to help the displaced get back on their feet.

For those who survived, life will never be the same. And as they attempt to deal with the aftermath of Yolanda, let us continue to help them in rebuilding what they lost and continue to bring them hope for their future.

*Mercado is the United Methodist Communications field representative in the Philippines. For more information about this article, contact Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or[email protected].

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