EARTHQUAKES like the one that hit at 8:12 a.m. yesterday remind us of all the things beyond our control.
One woman gave birth in a taxi and another did the same outside a government hospital, their birth plans swiftly tossed out as aftershocks forced hospital managers to evacuate patients. Five persons showed up for their duties in the Pasil fish market, expecting another day of routine, not knowing it would be their last. And a four-year-old child tagged along with her parents to the distribution of government handouts in Toledo City, only to be crushed in a stampede the quake caused.
It was the third quake felt in Cebu in the last 20 months. We’re certain it won’t be the last—yet another eventuality we cannot control.
So the thing to do, other than moving to less vulnerable shores, is to learn resilience.
Local governments are supposed to heed a law to set aside a portion of each year’s budget for responding to calamities. More importantly, we need to go beyond preparing for relief operations. We need to do what we can to lessen the impact of disasters, including unpopular decisions like relocating informal settlers from danger zones or putting the brakes on property development plans in areas that fall within geo-hazard maps.
In the days ahead, we will need to ask our leaders and ourselves some tough questions.
How vulnerable are our bridges, flyovers, schools, hospitals and other public infrastructure to quakes and other calamities? Are we investing enough in these structures’ safety?
How well are the Building Code and other regulations enforced, in order for our structures to have a better chance of survival? How prepared are local communities to respond quickly, early response being critical in saving lives?
For now, allow us to express our belief in the strength and tenacity of communities hit by the quake. There was no way Bohol and Cebu’s leaders could have foreseen the disaster; but by learning its lessons, we can make ourselves better prepared for when the next one strikes.