Cebu’s capability to respond to massive disasters a notch above ‘passing rate’

By: Marian Z. Codilla, Peter L. Romanillos October 15,2014 - 07:04 AM
HIGH RISK. The regional office of the Department of Public Works and Highways is working  on Boljoon's landmark Eli rock to prevent debris from falling in case of an  earthquake. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

HIGH RISK. The regional office of the Department of Public Works and Highways is working on Boljoon’s landmark Eli rock to prevent debris from falling in case of an earthquake. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

Cebu is not quite ready in case another major natural disaster strikes.

Baltazar Tribunalo, the provincial disaster management czar, made this blunt assessment yesterday on the eve of the first anniversary of the Great Bohol Quake which killed a total of 222 people – including 12 in Cebu – and left a trail of destruction that included the leveling of centuries-old churches, among others.

The Oct. 15, 2013 temblor, which is said to be the most powerful to hit the country in 23 years, occurred at 8:12 a.m. with a magnitude recorded at 7.2. Its epicenter was located 6 kilometres southwest of Sagbayan town in Bohol. The quake was felt in the entire Visayas and as far as Masbate in the north and Cotabato in southern Mindanao.

Intensity 7 to 8 was felt in Metro and southern Cebu, while the rest of the province experienced Intensity 6 to 7, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

Tribunalo, who was appointed head of the Cebu Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office in the aftermath of the onslaught of supertyphoon Yolanda in November last year, said if he were to rate Cebu’s preparedness level from year-ago, it would just be one point higher than the passing grade.

“If gradohan nato ang readiness of our local government units in the province it would be 6 over 10. It is a fact,” Tribunalo told Cebu Daily News.

He said the earthquake and the supertyphoon may have awakened many people on the need to be prepared for disasters, this was not the case among local government units.

Tribunalo said only a few barangays and towns in Cebu have upgraded its capability and skills to effectively respond to emergencies.

He said that among the earthquake-hit areas in southern Cebu, only the cities of Talisay, Carcar, and Naga are making efforts to prepare for disaster response.

Among villages, Tribunalo cited barangay Poblacion in Boljoon town which has started acquiring disaster response equipment and kits.

Towns like Samboan, Barili and Alegria have also sought the provincial government’s help in conducting disaster risk assessments.

“Every municipalities and cities have to have an emergency response team (ERT) but not all of them have it. We are trying to form ERTs in all the towns and since it is not an easy task, we have to start first with the council of the willing,” he said.

Some towns however asked his office to conduct risk assessment such as in Samboan, Barili and Alegria in the south.

Cebu has asked the provincial board to allocate P36.4 million to fund calamity relief assistance for 2015. The amount will be drawn from the local disaster risk reduction and management fund which the Provincial Development Council approved last Monday.

From P108 million in 2014, the provincial government wants to shore up its calamity fund to P121.4 million.

Under Republic Act 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, local government units are mandated to set aside 30 percent of their calamity fund as a standby fund for relief and recovery.

In Cebu’s case, the remaining 70 percent or P84.9 million is allocated for disaster prevention and mitigation.

Tribunalo said the bulk of the budget for disaster preparedness would be spent for the development of an early warning system in towns and cities while P15 million would be spent to come up with a new hazard, vulnerability and capacity map.

A total of P13.5 million was earmarked for training and capacity building sessions for disaster managers.

Cebu is also planning to build a P7.5 million emergency operations center and acquire P13 million worth of rescue and heavy equipment.

Tribunalo has been assessing the disaster preparedness of each town and city based on the following criteria: (1) a local office for disaster risk reduction office; (2) a designated DRRM officer; (3) contingency plan; (4) disaster risk reduction plan based on the hazard maps; (5) vehicles and (6) communications.

“Right now we are doing awareness training. It has to start from there. There are a lot of challenges along the way. DRRM is a lifetime of work and must be a way of life. It should not be taken by piecemeal but must be attacked holistically,” he said.

Carcar: Trying to be ready

Except for the bell that fell from the church’s bell tower, there was not much damage reported in Carcar City in last year’s earthquake.

Nonetheless, Carcar City is slowly trying to prepare itself for the next disaster.

Diomedes Campugan, head of City Hall’s utility and services, was recently appointed as the city’s DRRM officer.

“We admit we are not really equipped but we are trying to be,” Campugan said as he showed CDN their newly acquired ropes, helmets, hand-held radios among others.

The city government has also acquired an ambulance, a man-lift truck and will soon install a mini weather station.

Campugan said Carcar City has allotted P17 million for the disaster office alone.

They have also launched a volunteer recruitment campaign.

“Since the earthquake, we asked MGB (Mines and Geosciences Bureau) to conduct a survey and have a reevaluation of the areas where an active fault line may be found. We will also evaluate what to do when it is done,” Campugan said.

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