Is government responsible for the safety of citizens residing in earthquake-prone zones?

Is there really such a thing as government absolving itself of any responsibility for the well-being of its citizens in the event of a disaster? Apparently there is such a notion if we are to believe Quezon City public order and safety head Elmo San Diego. According to San Diego, residents of the posh subdivisions of Blue Ridge, White Plains, and Green Meadows which all lie along an earthquake-prone area known as the West Valley Fault Line in Quezon City may be considered a government “liability” unless they “move to safer ground”…

San Diego added that while it may be relatively easy to find relocation sites for the informal settlers, it will be hard to convince residents in subdivisions to move.

The report quoted San Diego as saying they are considering having residents of subdivisions sign waivers to absolve government from liability if they do not move to safer ground and a quake hits.

What exactly would signing such a waiver mean? If, for argument’s sake, a signatory to that waiver is in need of rescue following an earthquake, can government agencies invoke the signed waiver and say, “Tough luck, dude.”?

The idea of such a waiver is made even more ludicrous by the presence of so-called “informal settlers” (a.k.a. squatters) residing in parts of Metro Manila that present far more clear, present, and imminent risks to human safety. More importantly, the residency taken up by these “settlers” in those places are violations of the law. Compare that to the residents of Blue Ridge, White Plains, and Green Meadows who are all legitimate residents. Between the earlier and the latter, which group, by virtue of the circumstances surrounding their residency, had effectively waived any entitlement to government support in the event of a disaster?

The whole point in being subject to a government who collects our taxes is to be able to look to the government to be at the forefront of finding ways to secure public safety without discriminating on geography. The United States, for example applies comprehensive legislation around risk mitigation. The US’s Federal Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 (DMA 2000) mandates the establishment of a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with funds under its management to disburse to state governments in the event of a calamitous disaster. However, these funds are made available subject to state governments’ compliance to certain guidelines documented in an approved Disaster Management Plan.

The San Francisco Bay Area region in California, for example, manages compliance to US federal disaster management guidelines as stipulated in DMA 2000 through a multi-sectoral agency, the Association of Bay Area Governments. This agency overseas the community’s Local Hazard Mitigation Plan for the Bay Area…

To assist local governments in meeting this requirement, ABAG is the lead agency on the multi-jurisdictional Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (MJ-LHMP) for the San Francisco Bay Area. Cities and counties can adopt and use all or part of this multi-jurisdictional plan in lieu of preparing all or part of a Local Hazard Mitigation Plan themselves. However, they need to have participated in the development of the multi-jurisdictional plan to adopt it. The plan was originally adopted in 2005. The 2010 plan has been adopted by ABAG and local jurisdictions are in the process of updating their annexes.

The Hazard Mitigation Web Portal of the Government of California lists the following goals of the state’s disaster response framework:

  • Significantly reduce life loss and injuries.
  • Minimize damage to structures and property, as well as disruption of essential services and human activities.
  • Protect the environment.
  • Promote hazard mitigation as an integrated public policy.

Obviously, any sort of media- or social-media-led “initiative” to implement and maintain a degree of preparedness against natural calamities will only go so far. A convincing undertaking goes further than creating mere “awareness”. The key is an organised state of preparedness on a scale that befits the disaster anticipated.

Considering the way an official of the Philippine government would actually suggest that government limit its exposure to any obligation to support Filipino taxpayers in the event of a disaster demonstrates just how utterly backward Filipino thinking remains.

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33 Comments on “Is government responsible for the safety of citizens residing in earthquake-prone zones?”

  1. It’s interesting that you pointed out the limitations of social-media led “initiatives.” Baguio is undoubtedly one of the most earthquake-prone cities in the Philippines, yet land-grabbing (by both settlers and giant corporations) is prevalent to the point of being bacterial. Yet, so-called “environmental groups” in social media focus only on ONE corporation and totally downplay the larger and more risky impact of residential development in the city.

    In the end, these social media “eco-groups” are defeated by their own willingness to ignore the larger problem of residential sprawl. They are ultimately no better than the corporation they claim they have the “moral/ethical” high ground against.

    Both these sides are losers, in my opinion.

  2. We give way too much focus on emotions and freedom.

    However, I really don’t care if people choose to endanger their lives and sign some waiver to absolve the gov’t of responsibility. I just treat these people as Darwin Nominees.

  3. Right now, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Coordinating Council that we have can be seen as basically toothless for being an ad-hoc committee. We should have a strong agency like the USA’s FEMA to have better disaster management facilities.

  4. dont worry. hanggang si aquino ang presidente ligtas tayong lahat. handa ang gobyerno sa mga trahedya na posibleng mangyari.

        1. Wrong, he was voted only because his mom died. If you say that he is competent then why hasn’t he passed ANY bills when he was a senator? Why hasn’t he done ANYTHING when he was a senator? Why hasn’t he apologized and taken any responsibility for the hostage tragedy that clearly happened UNDER his watch?

        2. you think the “majority” in this country can gauge competence. Good one FIshball. They are like you. Emo. Cory’s death was an EPAL moment in this country’s history and unleashed upon us your moronic idol. Good morning to the Minister of Truth. Your boss.

        3. Fishball, you birdbrain,

          It’s sad to note that there are still quite a few Pinoys who wouldn’t know competent even if it bit them in the ass. You’re one of them.

        4. Easy answer: Most of the people who voted for Noynoy are nothing but gullible fools who were fed up by the Aquino Hype Machine.

          The majority are a bunch of idiots… 😛

    1. If the FIRST Aquino couldn’t get disaster preparation right, what makes you think her progeny could do it better?

      – She had to rely on US help to get Luzon out of the 1990 earthquake (NOT her);

      – Same with the Pinatubo eruption;

      – She blamed Marcos for the power grid collapse of 1991-1992, when she had a full SIX YEARS and the option of US aid to actually fix that whole crap herself.

      What has the target of your sycophancy done during last month’s flood? Oh right: he held a motorcade with you and his other sycophants.

        1. Aminin mo nalang na nag early campaign mode sila. Halata naman talaga. Kung sasabihin mo na hindi eh bakit may pangalan ng mga EPAL sa mga inabot na relief goods?

    2. @fishball
      You don’t seem to realize that with your boss at the helm, every single disaster seems to happen under his watch. I wouldn’t be surprised if he somehow manages to create a disaster like what happened in the resident evil game series. Face it dipshit, your president is really too incompetent to lead us. He might as well resign if another BIG disaster happens.

        1. That’s what you think dipshit. A scandal will soon rock this administration and even propaganda trolls like you won’t be able to dispel any growing hatred for this president.

        2. He was in Congress and Senate for several terms. He did not fight corruption , he stood idly by playing PSP in his desk while the same corruption he claims to be against went on. Congrats Fishball. Good morning to the Minister of Truth.

        3. Anti-corruption lang? E paano ang ekonomiya at trabaho? Well, hindi ka makikinig dahil Yellow Zombie ka.

          Corruption isn’t the cause, per se. It’s the effect of how the people and the politicians interact with the government that doesn’t work!

    3. @fishball

      You don’t even seem to realize that INCOMPETENCE will never get this country out of the pits that your pathetic president has seemingly driven it into. Poor pathetic fishball, still living in his own delusions.

    4. dont worry. hanggang si aquino ang presidente ligtas tayong lahat. handa ang gobyerno sa mga trahedya na posibleng mangyari. – Fishball

      Nice sting Fishball. Mahilig ka talagang mang-asar. But seriously, dapat mag-worry ang mga tao even though ready ang gobyerno dahil hindi biro ang mga calamity na dumarating sa bansa.

      About the ‘ligtas sa trahedya’ e medyo tagilid ‘yan dahil sumemplang nga ang gobyerno nuong panahon ng hostage-taking sa Rizal park, remember? What I mean is, dahan-dahan sa assurance o garantiya para hindi mapagkamalang propaganda.

      1. kasalanan ni gloria kung bakit sumemplang sa rizal park. minana lang ng presidente ang mga sablay na pulis ng nakaraang administrasyon

        1. Sus, sisihin mo nanaman si gloria. Wala ka nang ibang masabi kaya puro sisi nalang kay gloria. Kawawa ka talaga.

        2. kasalanan ni gloria kung bakit sumemplang sa rizal park. – Fishball

          Dapat we have to be faithful with the facts. Si Noynoy na ang in-charge nuong panahon na ‘yon. He calls the shot. Wala na sa poder si Gloria. Hindi mo pwedeng isisi kay Gloria ‘yung problema ng isang pulis na nagwala at nang-hostage. Sa aking palagay, medyo saliwa ‘yon.

          Pwede mong isisi kung nagkulang si Gloria sa buong kapulisan o PNP at merong proseso d’yan para harapin at solusyonan. Pero ‘yung nangyari sa Rizal Park ay isang bagay na hindi na kasama sa formal na proseso para ibintang sa isang tao na wala na sa pwesto, sa isang tao na wala ng kapangyarihan para harapin ‘yung krimen na nagaganap sa mga oras na ‘yon sa Rizal Park.

          The ball was in Noynoy’s hand and no one else. It’s his call. Unfortunately, it ended in a very sad note.

        3. Ah sus hanggang ngayon ba pinagbibintangan niyo pa rin si Gloria sa kapalpakan ninyong mga Noytards? Kala ko ba di lang kayo puro salita? Mukhang wala naman kayong ginagawa kundi pangatwiranan lahat ng palpak ni Noynoy eh.

    5. Paano tayo ililigtas ng president mo?

      I’m getting the feeling na high school student ka lang–a very yellow kind.

      Kung ethical para sa mga taga-GRP, gusto mo, hack kita para malaman ng lahat kung sino ka?

  5. Earthquakes cannot be predicted. No equipment yet is invented to predict an Earthquake. We sit also in the Pacific Ring of Fire….volcanoes, tsunamis, etc are frequent…

  6. The report quoted San Diego as saying they are considering having residents of subdivisions sign waivers to absolve government from liability if they do not move to safer ground and a quake hits.

    San Diego’s concerned is understandable, the gov’t., is placed between the devil and the deep blue sea. It’s a no-win situation but dodging the bullet is not the answer.

    Insinuating that a waiver might free the gov’t. from any possible responsibility in the event a disaster strike only reflects how San Diego think: poor.

    There is no need for it. All the gov’t. has to do is perform it’s responsibility. That would include providing information, and giving constant reminders to those concerned about the possibility of danger and the risks they are facing if they opt to stay in their houses or place of residence. It also has to be ready to provide the necessary medical, financial, personal and other assistance the would-be calamity victims will need after the disaster strikes.

    And one more thing about that so-called ‘waiver’, what if nobody signs it? Naloko na!

  7. WE have been practicing “democracy” for over six decades, and most of us still entertain feudal mentality of subservience to a dominant power, in this case the so called “government”. Until this hegemony is erased from our psyche, we will continue to treat “government” as a separate entity, whereas the very definition of democracy spells no distinction between the people and the government, it is one and the same. Sadly, some opportunist in our midst exploited this hegemony and started lording over others in guise of “governing” which in truth is plain exploitation of our fears and weaknesses. A democracy works by a simple division of labor among the people, no more no less.

  8. Yes, because citizens don’t have the equipment to determine whether particular zones are safe. Only a government or private corporations regulated by government can do so.

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