EDITORIAL | Proactive strategies

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Monday, April 10, 2017

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A SERIES of earthquakes shook Luzon the other day. Thousand slept outdoors. We’re glad the quakes weren’t destructive enough. For sure, we have seen enough earthquake tragedies. Nobody can say we have not been warned.

We reiterate the need to shift from reactive efforts to proactive strategies in strengthening the country’s defenses against disasters such as earthquakes and even climate change. There must be greater focus on disaster prevention. Calamities will happen whether we like it or not, but we can certainly reduce its impacts if we are better prepared. Preparation, not reaction, is the name of the game. While the distribution of goods and rehabilitation efforts are vital elements of calamity relief efforts, one cannot diminish the fact that preventing the loss of lives and properties is far more important and strategic.

Both the national government and local government units must think long-term and do more for improved urban planning and disaster reduction. For one, let us look at the enforcement of building standards.  Disaster resilience requires good building standards and effective enforcement.  A land use policy needs to be adopted to improve resiliency of infrastructure and communities. While there is no technology yet to predict earthquakes, the quality of scientific data available to government agencies and local governments for forecasting other disasters (flood, torrential rains, drought) requires urgent improvement.

Can’t we conduct a nationwide structural evaluation of all schools and hospitals and the retrofitting of these structures to allow them to withstand strong temblors? Funding for these retrofitting efforts will need to be provided, however. A Japan International Cooperation Agency 2004 study suggested that a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Metro Manila will claim more than 50,000 lives. What have our agencies that had access to that information over 10 years ago done to pro-actively address the grim scenario pictured by that study?

Disasters cause multiple losses — economic, social, political and even cultural. We cannot just build houses for the poor.  We need to make sure they are built in areas that will keep our people away from harm. We cannot just build bridges and roads. We need to build strong and resilient infrastructure in the right place and for the right reasons.





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