Natural disasters and those we caused

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By Joel B. Belinan

“On the other hand, guys between 20 up to 40 years old are at the peak of their strength and stamina and hence are treated as such. Sometimes guys who are active fighters come to me requesting a couple of rounds of pad works. “

I was with the last of my boxing students on pad works last July 27 (Wednesday) at the park when slowly, the ground started to tremble. We still had the gall to joke that the Zumba music from a distance seemed too influential that the trees near our playing area started to dance. Then the tremor got stronger and stronger and people started getting excited while others panicked. The tremor lasted more than 15 seconds, and that’s a long period for an earthquake. The quake was quite strong and looking around where we “docked and hold” people gathered and “docked” at the open ground. That was the strongest earthquake I ever experienced. For sure it was not as strong as the one in 1990 but at that time I was in Manila and hence did not feel how strong that killer quake 32 years ago was.
As expected the Phivolcs immediately issued an advisory of the tremor. The first one was immediately magnified by the City’s Public Information Office through its official FB page, thus was seen by many. That first advisory however was almost unbelievable as it stated the tremor was just magnitude 2.4 on the Richter Scale. I blurted out, that’s impossible. Indeed after 10 minutes or so another announcement from Phivolcs came stating that it was a magnitude 7.2 on the Richter Scale and with its epicenter in Lagangilang Abra. That first announcement was never explained nor clarified.
(Note: I am not going to narrate the impact of the tremor here as there are many active media practitioners already doing that.)
Our country is one of the most disaster-prone countries. Except for the Palawan islands, the country lies in the so-called pacific ring of fire. Most earthquakes and volcanic eruptions do not strike randomly but occur in specific areas, such as along plate boundaries. One such area is the circum-Pacific Ring of Fire, where the Pacific Plate meets many surrounding tectonic plates. The Ring of Fire is the most seismically and volcanically active zone in the world. (Learn more: USGS Volcano Hazards Program). Aside from this, not less than 20 typhoons visit us every year. Perhaps we should be given an award for this.
And what about those disasters that were created by us humans? Yes, our country is famous for this. Even having been in this situation since the beginning of time our government has yet to set up a system that could address the suffering caused by such occurrences year in and year-out. Disasters caused by humans need not be immediate but develop for quite some time. Hence, government neglect or even fail to prepare for these calamities. For example, the lousy implementation of the country’s building code is a disaster waiting to happen. What about the environmental degradation that time and again has proven to be the cause of past disasters such as massive landslides, and mudslides, among others?
Going back to the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan should be a country we should look at. If we look at its geological hazard map it is almost blocked by red dots that represent volcanoes and fault lines. And, yes, they are also in the path of numerous typhoons. Accordingly, as recorded by their authorities, tremors are common occurrences in every Japanese’s life. Of course, most tremors are not noticed by ordinary people but quite a number would have been destructive enough if they happened in our country.
Based on my research, the two most important legislation they have to address the problem is the Revised Building Standard Act and the New Anti-seismic Design Code, both of which came into effect in 1981. Another important law is the “Building Standard Act: Earthquake Resistance Standards“ for protecting human life in 2000. If you observe, these laws are disaster preventive in nature. I am not saying these could prevent earthquakes or typhoons from occurring. Instead, they prevent those natural phenomena from creating damages at calamity levels. The most important thing though is that they implement those laws strictly. As one expert who knows the culture of the Japanese says, their (government’s) strictness and the peoples’ compliance are likened to how the Samurais of old adhere to the Bushido Code (warriors’ code). In comparison, we do have very good laws but are, as everyone already knows, implemented lousily. **


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