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Is Davao Region earthquake-ready?

by Admin-Phmp

Text by Henrylito D. Tacio

Photo: dutourdumonde/Getty Images

If Davao Region – composed of Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental and Davao de Oro – will experience a 7.2-magnitude earthquake, is it ready?

Just like Metro Manila, Davao Region is apt for another “Big One.” The region is not spared from the destruction of a huge earthquake that may be triggered by the Surigao-Mati fault.

A news report which quoted an official of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) some years back said the fault line, which stretches from Surigao City to Mati City, has a distance of 320 kilometers.

“A big earthquake as strong as, if not even stronger than, the so-called ‘Big One’ that Metro Manilans are preparing for is a possibility in Davao City in the immediate future,” wrote Antonio M. Ajero, editor-in-chief of EDGE Davao, who attended a press briefing that was convened by the Philippine Information Agency.

Historical records showed a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit Compostela Valley in 1893. On April 15, 1924, another earthquake with 8.3-magnitude happened somewhere in Sigaboy, now known as Governor Generoso in Davao Oriental.

According to the Phivolcs official, an earthquake with an intensity of 7.2 that happened in Compostela Valley will immediately be felt in Davao City “within less than a minute,” and the magnitude will be about 7.

Phivolcs said that a 7.2-magnitude earthquake could shake the ground even a hundred kilometers away. Areas near the waters are more likely to experience stronger ground shaking due to the softer ground they sit on.

“The shaking will just be as violent and the destruction caused by it will be just as intense as the one in Compostela,” Ajero wrote in his news report.

If that is not scary, I don’t know what it is.

“The only way to avoid disasters caused by earthquakes is to prepare for them,” wrote Maria Elena Paterno in her book Earthquake! 

There’s good news. Phivolcs, a line agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), has inaugurated the Phivolcs Mindanao Cluster Monitoring Center for Earthquake and Tsunami (PMCMCET) facility in Davao City last September 24, 2022, via a virtual presser. 

According to Phivolcs, the main objective of putting a new facility is “to provide capable nationwide earthquake and tsunami monitoring that would ensure continuity of operations when the main office located in Quezon City failed to function immediately after an emergency or disruption.”

The 20-million facility features a near real-time display of the Philippine Seismic Network upgraded computer systems for earthquake and tsunami data acquisition and processing and newly-installed tools for decision support, mapping, and information dissemination.

Some of the equipment housed in the facility include the following: satellite dish, solar panel, broadband seismometer, strong motion sensor, data receiving center, earthquake monitoring system, Philippine seismic network, automated earthquake solution, real-time earthquake waveforms, tsunami monitoring system, and trans-Pacific sea level, tsunami monitoring websites.

The newest earthquake and tsunami monitoring center is located at the Southern Mindanao Campus of the Philippine Science High School in Mintal. It is envisioned to be beneficial not only for monitoring activities but also to serve as a facility for students’ education in the region.

“Putting up this facility would not only benefit the residents from Davao City but also the rest of Mindanao Island. The decisions and policies made by different LGUs could be guided by real-time data and scientific studies provided by this monitoring facility,” said Dr. Renato U. Solidum Jr., Phivolcs officer-in-charge and DOST Undersecretary for scientific and technical services.  

In her video message, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio commended DOST-Phivolcs for continuously fulfilling its mandate to mitigate the risks of natural hazards and avert disasters by providing accurate and timely information on disaster preparedness and risk reduction.

“By establishing the first Mindanao earthquake and tsunami monitoring center in Davao City, you further widen the scope of the affected public service delivery especially in terms of predicting volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis as well as formulating disaster preparedness action plan to mitigate possibly the greater risks here in Mindanao,” said Duterte-Carpio.

Chief Alfredo D. Baloran of the Davao City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office likewise welcomed this initiative. He said that PMCMCET would play a crucial role in helping them to have better planning, response, and policies, especially after experiencing succeeding earthquake-related events during the latter part of 2019 up to the first few months of 2020.

The Philippines lies between two major tectonic plates: the Philippine Sea Plate and the Eurasian Plate. “Philippine Sea Plate is moving towards the Philippine Archipelago at the rate of about 7 centimeters every year,” Phivolcs explains. “The Eurasian Plate is being subducted along western side of Luzon and Mindoro at the rate of 3 centimeters per year except on Mindoro and northwest of Zamboanga where collision is taking place.”

At the intersection of the two aforementioned plates is the Philippine Fault Zone, “which decouples the northwestward motion of the Pacific with the southwestward motion of the Eurasian Plate.” Movements along other active faults are reportedly responsible for the present-day high seismicity of the Philippine archipelago.

At least five earthquakes per day occur in the Philippines, Phivolcs says. For almost four decades now, the country has been affected by ten earthquakes with magnitudes greater than 7.0. As such, the possibility of these destructive earthquakes occurring again in the future “is very strong.”

Now, the question is: Is the Davao Region ready? 

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