By Mario Casayuran
President Duterte has ordered concerned government agencies to ensure the safety and well-being of residents hit by another strong earthquake in southern parts of Mindanao.
This was revealed by neophyte Senator Christopher Lawerence ‘’Bong’’ T. Go, former aide of then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte, after both felt the strong earthquake in their Davao city residences Thursday morning.
Duterte was in his home in Davao City when a 6.5-magnitude earthquake, with Tulunan, North Cotabato as the epicenter, occurring at 9:11 AM, two days after a 6.6-magnitude earthquake and two weeks after a 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit the same area. Hundreds of aftershocks were also recorded in between the mainshocks.
Go assured the nation that the President is safe.
“Kahit noong mga nakaraang lindol, nag-utos ang Pangulo sa lahat ng government agencies na ikutin ang lahat ng structures, ang government at school buildings, siguraduhing safe. Ang mga anak ay dapat ilagay sa safe na lugar,” Go said. (Even in the recent quake, the President had ordered all government agencies to inspect the quake-hit areas of structures, government buildings, assuring the populace that these structures are safe. Our children should be placed in safe areas.)
“Handa naman po ang gobyerno natin at ang ating DPWH, iniinspeksyon kaagad lahat ng mga gusali na talagang tinamaan,” Go explained. (Our government is ready and our Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) should immediately inspect the earthquake-hit buildings.)
He added that local government units (LGUs) are also ready to provide assistance to affected communities.
As to reports that the continuous earthquakes have damaged many structures, Go said that government agencies should be strict in implementing the relevant laws, particularly the National Building Code.
Go said he plans to revisit the Code and propose necessary amendments to ensure safety amid recurring natural disasters, such as earthquakes.
“It is high time na amyendahan ang National Building Code (NBC). Matagal na ito, saka andaming nakakalusot. Huwag nang hintayin na may gumuhong gusali. Dapat maging istrikto,” he said. (It is high time that the National Building Code should be amended. This Code is old and many buildings have been built that violated the Code. Let us not wait for the time that buildings collapse. We should be strict.)
The NBC was promulgated in 1977 when then president Ferdinand E. Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1096.
Go said he recognizes that there may be a need to amend the law and make it updated with the demands of the 21st century and with the increase in strength and frequency of natural calamities, such as earthquakes and typhoons.
“Huwag hintayin na may mademandang mga building officials na pumipirma dito. Ipatupad sana nang maayos ang batas. At stake po ang buhay ng mga kababayan natin,” he added. (Let us not wait for building officials to be charged for having signed the building permits. The Code should be strictly implemented. At stake are the lives of our countrymen.)
Given the frequency of calamities and natural disasters that often occur in the country, Go also said that he is pushing for the establishment of a separate executive department focused on disaster resilience to serve as the lead agency for disaster response of the government.
“Kaya isinusulong ko na magkaroon tayo ng Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) para iisang ahensiya na lang ang tutugon sa mga pangangailangan ng mga biktima. Mas magiging mabilis at epektibo po ang pagresponde natin kapag streamlined ang proseso at holistic ang approach ng gobyerno,” Go said. (That is why I am pushing for the creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) so that only one agency will take care of the needs of calamity victims. Under a DDR, there is a quicker and effective response if there is a holistic approach by the government.)
Go has filed Senate Bill 205, known as “Disaster Resilience Act of 2019,’’ which seeks to establish “an empowered, highly-specialized, and responsive Department of Disaster Resilience with clear unity of command.”
The department aims to provide faster government response to natural disasters and calamities, such as typhoons and earthquakes, by putting together all related agencies under a single department. The proposed measure also mandates local government units to build permanent and dedicated evacuation centers that are comfortable and complete with all necessary supplies needed by evacuees
Go also advised the public to avoid sowing fear by spreading fake news about the earthquakes.
He said that the earthquake has not affected the duties of the President.