Lessons learned from the 1990 killer quake-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Sunday, July 15, 2012
WHAT has Baguio learned 22 years after the July 16, 1990 killer earthquake?
“A lot,” said Mayor Mauricio Domogan who became mayor of the Summer Capital a few years after the 7.8-magnitude tremor that almost flattened the city and killed hundreds of its residents.
And these lessons in the past 22 years are embedded in the city’s comprehensive land use and zoning plans, the blueprint of the city, Domogan said.
After the earthquake, he said, most of the new developments have been cognizant of the threat of earthquakes.
He said the City Council then even passed a resolution requiring buildings not higher than four stories in Baguio City but this has long been abandoned as experts believe height of buildings is not the problem.
Experts consulted by the city after the 1990 earthquake said the height of a building is not a guarantee of safety but how it was designed, built and the quality of land it stands, the mayor said.
Post evaluation reports after the 1990 earthquake also revealed the main cause of the collapse of structures is faulty design and defects in the construction of buildings.
The mayor explained this is why the City Government is strict in approving developments by requiring building owners to submit their construction site to soil testing to ensure the soil is capable of holding several stories of concrete during earthquakes and landslides.
He said city building and architecture officials conduct pre and post construction evaluation of buildings including the yearly building inspection to ensure the safety of the structure’s occupants.
“Building owners and developers should always comply with requirements set in the Building Code of the Philippines to ensure the safety of everyone,” he added.
City Planning and Development Officer Engineer Evelyn Cayat said they incorporated different hazards to residences like fault lines, sink holes and landslide-prone areas that are strictly not for developments or residences.
She added areas are also classified for residential purposes, commercial or high to low density developments depending on the maps obtained from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
She also assured no zoning clearance is given to any development standing directly on fault lines, sink holes and landslide-prone areas.
From tropical storms to the high landslide susceptibility of 57-square-kilometer-wide Baguio, Office of Civil Defense Regional director Olive Luces said nothing beats the unpredictability of earthquakes.
Regular earthquake drills and trainings to residents and responders are conducted to prepare for worst case scenarios and prevent the loss of lives.
The identified fault lines crisscrossing Baguio include the Burnham, Loakan, San Vicente, Mirador and the Bued River faults, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau said.
Several sinkholes were also discovered in Crystal Cave and along other parts of the city.
According to Mines and Geosciences Bureau chief geologist Fay Apil, more than 60 percent of Baguio remains susceptible to landslides especially during strong tremors.
That is why they encourage local government planners to incorporate their geohazard maps in comprehensive land use and zoning plans to identify safe areas where developments will be allowed.
With all these imminent threats identified, coupled with many pre-earthquake buildings still used up to now, all the city has to do is hope the next big earthquake will not devastate the city with a high death toll.
Preparedness is key
“There’s no substitute to preparedness, individually and collectively, as calamity strikes without prior notice. We should prepare for every calamity that would strike us,” the mayor added.
Local governments and barangays should prepare by conducting regular earthquake drills, as well as secure equipment to address disasters, the mayor added.
City Administrator Carlos Canilao reported several preparations of the city such as regular drills, an operational disaster plan, and equipment on standby to help people in need.
But the city disaster action officer said they still rely on volunteer groups and responders during calamities since the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) only has 12 employees who work on a 24-hour shift.
The problem with volunteer responders, however, despite their commitment to help, is that they can only do so much as government responders especially during disasters should still be at the forefront of efforts and make contact with national disaster officials.
As to the budget of the local CDRRMC, Canilao said the new NDRRMC Law has helped secure the five percent or more than P50 million of the city’s more than P1 billion annual budget and dedicated solely to disaster risk reduction, preparation and mitigation activities.
Some 75 percent of this fund, according to Canilao, should be spent mostly for activities focused on preparation for disasters, while the remaining 25 percent are spent for the actual rescue and mitigation activities.
With all these preparations from disasters, city officials hope lessons from the 1990 earthquake should be taken at heart so lives will be saved.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on July 16, 2012.