Camarines Sur LGUs helpless, if widespread disasters occur

Flooded areas in Camarines Sur due to typhoon Juaning. Photo by CRDC
Flooded areas in Camarines Sur due to typhoon Juaning. File Photo by CRDC

By Joey Natividad
Special Correspondent

PILI, Camarines Sur ( – Local Government Units in Camarines Sur are helpless in case widespread disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes strike at the province in “worst-case scenarios”. According to experts in disaster management, about 49,880 households along the coastal areas in the province, representing a total population of more than 270,130 men, women, and children, may likely be affected if disastrous tsunamis strike the coastal areas of the province.

The earthquake that rocked the island-province of Masbate on Monday, March 5 at magnitude 5.2 and Camarines Sur at magnitude 2.0, that resulted to 10 persons injured in Masbate and 1 dead in Cam Sur, may serve as wake-up call for government disaster management policy makers to formulate comprehensive disaster response programs in pre-, current-, and post-disaster situations.

In case such deadly tsunamis occur, 22 municipalities in Camarines Sur, are to be affected having a total number of 186 coastal barangays that shall be seriously affected, or wiped out. This is the grim data that was presented Monday (Feb 27) by disaster experts before members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP), in session, presided by Vice-Governor Fortunato Peña. The data did not cite on possible deaths and injuries in case of massive earthquakes on magnitude 7 and up, which usually trigger deadly tsunamis. The province has 35 towns and 2 cities.

Present during Monday’s SP session were staff of Bernardo Alejandro IV of the Office of Civil Defense, Region V, Legaspi City: Eduardo Laguerta of PHILVOCS, resident volcanologist in Sorsogon; Ms. Luzena Bermeo, head, Cam Sur EDMERO; and a staff of Luis Loyola, OIC regional director of Mines and Geo-Science Bureau, Legaspi City.

PHILVOCS also reminded the legislative body that Mount Asog of Iriga is classified as active, and Mount Isarog as “potentially active.” Both volcanoes are in the heartland of the province, and on their bases are areas with extensive development and human activities.

The Partido Fourth District, where Caramoan and Sangay towns are located which are favorite tourist destinations, is projected to have the most number of affected population of 123,978 people, while the Second District, where Pasacao Port is situated, with 43, 241 affected population, and the First District, where Ragay town is sited, with 37,498 population; Third District, where Naga City is included, 20,231people ; and Fifth District, where Iriga City is located, with 7,280 people. All the affected population cited residing along the coastal areas may be presumed as, either dead, injured, displaced, or missing.

The data are cited in the geo-hazard lists prepared by concerned government agencies and the disaster coordinating councils involved in disaster response and management tasks. According to observers, the data are moderately and civilly worded on the reason that, in tsunami-related data casualties, “affected” population refers to widespread deaths, casualties and body counts, and the missing victims.

The disaster experts did not present before the Provincial Board, in session, data affecting the neighboring Provinces of Albay, Sorsogon, and Camarines Norte.

PHILVOCS presented data, by power point, before SP members on the extent of damage, destruction, and deaths in recent “worst-disaster” cases. On the Great Sumatra Earthquake of December 26, 2004, which measured magnitude 9.0, the earthquake-generated tsunamis caused 280,000 dead. The Pakistan Earthquake of 2006 at magnitude 7.6 resulted to 80,361 dead. And, the Java Earthquake of 2006 of magnitude 6.3, had 50,000 dead.

Laguerta of Philvocs also cited that the Philippine archipelago experiences an average of 20 recorded tremors a day, and has undergone 90 destructive earthquakes within the past 400 years.

The briefing over possible- and high- risk areas, and “worst-case disaster scenarios” may serve as eye-opener and wake-up call among provincial and municipal government planners and policy makers.

Present traditional mode of disaster intervention by government disaster relief operations is to give out relief goods to survivors consisting of 2 kilos of rice, 2 cans of sardines, and 2 packs of instant noodles. So far, the government has not prepared comprehensive and integrated disaster relief programs on the assumption that LGUs themselves are non-functional in case widespread disaster occurs.

SP Members led by Vice-Governor Peña vow to review LGU policies on government intervention and disaster-management programs to meet and response to disasters.

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