Located on the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire," like the badly-hit Japan, it is not far that the Philippines may be the next country to suffer the wrath of Nature.
The recent events in Japan have sparked the Filipinos' enthusiasm with disaster preparedness. One can see over the media the renewed interest in fire and earthquake drills.
Some politicians assured the public that their areas of governance can withstand quakes. Fine. How audacious I must say they are. What poor memory they have.
I say Filipinos are ill-prepared for any kind of disasters.
In all honesty, do Filipinos know what hotline numbers to call should a flash flood, temblor, or fire occur? That life saving number like America's 911 or Japan's 119 are known by every citizen just like their first names. It's a reflex reaction. They know who to call in an instant.
And if a call were successfully made in the Philippines, will there be somebody on the other line to attend to the call 24/7?
True, there had been disaster preparedness drills here and there, but they are not sustained. They are far and few in between. They are patchy.
We need not look far, Filipinos are "used" to hearing fire accidents and floods. And we pray when they happen. But response and rescue missions are almost always a little too late.
A recent study by the JICA said that Metro Manila will be pulverized if a 7.2-magnitude earthquake strikes.
Disaster preparedness goes all the way down to each person. When I was in Japan, I was told by a Japanese colleague not to place a heavy object on top of a cabinet because it will easily fall off if a quake strikes. That is how the Japanese people think. They were bathed since childhood that prevention is better than cure.
Being prepared goes beyond the presence of media. It is a systematic way of doing things. From the individual to the community to the whole country.
What's the use of providing text numbers if there will be no rescue teams to attend to the emergency? And this reminds me of December's fire accident in Cagayan province in northern Philippines where a score of students died when a B&B hotel caught fire. It was speculated that the firemen came too late and they smelled alcohol.
How about the ongoing disaster in central Philippines that had so far killed 15 people. Reports have it that the roads were impassable by vehicles. But where are the rubber boats?
I was told that the recent magnitude 9 quake in Japan is not yet the Big One. They are expecting a Big One to hit Tokyo. Heaven forbid. If we notice the aftershocks, they are occurring from north to south. It’s a matter of time, Philippines.
The Japanese impressed the world how they deal with disasters. Despite the fact with what they are experiencing, there had been no reports of looting. They wait in long lines to buy water and at best, can only buy a liter or two. Each citizen share the burden of rotational power outages. They hardly complain. That is so impressive. The team work mentality which is crucial for nation-building is a stellar trait of the Japanese. They think more about the common good ahead of the individual interests.
What about the Philippines? In all honesty, can we do the same now?
Japan, Indonesia, China and New Zealand. They have been struck with major shakes recently. I don't want to be a prophet of doom but when will the Philippines be prepared?
Filipinos cannot avoid natural calamities but we can do many things to reduce its impacts.