Quake vulnerability a shaky issue for APEC
PAMPANGA, Philippines – It was a question that sought an unearthed answer: How will the Philippines' capital city bring its feet back if it gets hit by an earthquake?
Laura Del Rosario, chair of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM), raised Manila’s vulnerability to earthquakes on Saturday, February 7.
“How will you address the issue of sustainability and resilience? If an earthquake happens in Metro Manila, how many people will be affected, how will business continuity in Metro Manila happen?” she told reporters at the end of a series of closed-door discussions at the Fontana International Convention Center.
There never was a powerful earthquake that hit Manila for more than 3 decades, and the city might be due for another.
In 2004, a Japan International Cooperation Agency study said an earthquake hitting Metro Manila could destroy 40% of the buildings in the metropolis and kill about 34,000.
Various issues that concern the 21-member economies are tackled separately in APEC’s array of technical working groups, that began since January 26.
During their discussion, Del Rosario said senior officials of the 21-member economic bloc highlighted infrastructure as one of their concerns. This is apart from the many pressing concerns they tackled this year, including its plan to shrink the financial muscle of terrorists’ networks across the Pacific Rim.
Del Rosario is also undersecretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, aside from representing the Philippines in APEC as SOM chair this year.
Earthquakes a given to APEC members
Including the Philippines, many of the APEC economies sit on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where continental plates collide.
In 2005, a year after a massive 9.3 earthquake struck off Indonesia that unleashing a tsunami that left more than 220,000 dead, APEC’s senior officials formed a group handling emergency preparedness.
The Indian Ocean tsunami was followed by a 2008 earthquake in China’s Sichuan province. It killed more than 80,000 people.
“These major catastrophes are critical reminders of the importance of APEC’s emergency preparedness work,” Li Wei-Sen, APEC Emergency Preparedness Working Group said in 2012.
Movement of the West Valley Fault and the Manila Trench are two of Manila’s worst case scenarios. In June 2014, the City of Manila conducted an earthquake drill to test whether it is prepared for it.
Move people out of Manila?
Manila’s rapid urban development has failed to catch up with the number of people that moved to the capital from 2000 to 2010, according to a World Bank (WB) report released in January.
Its urban area was home to 16.5 million people in 2010, the highest spike in concentration of urban population at 13,000 people per square kilometer, making disaster response difficult.
In the same report, the Philippines’ key cities ranked 2nd most densely populated in East Asia.
“We need to decongest our cities,” Del Rosario said.
However, decongesting Manila is also a problem: no other cities could match its urbanization as Manila remains to be a preference among foreign locators due to its well-developed infrastructure.
This is because bureaucracy still makes urban development hard to grow roots in cities and municipalities in the provinces.
“They have to know what makes a good city. They really have to be good executives. Without [local government officials'] help, it’s impossible,” said Del Rosario. – Rappler.com