Magnitude 7.2 Cebu earthquake: Is Metro Manila prepared for the next one?

Just when you think the Philippines can’t get any further “tests” from the “Almighty” on account of the appalling pork barrel thievery, chronic flooding, and yesterday’s hijacking of its capital city by a religious group, yet another Act of God hits. This time it is in the form of an earthquake devastating the Queen City of the mid-south, Cebu, and nearby Bohol Island. Reports are trickling in about several casualties and the destruction of historic structures around those areas (notably Baclayon Church in Cebu Bohol, a UNESCO-listed Heritage Site). Four people were killed at the Pasil Fish Port in Cebu City after a a wall collapsed according to the Office of Civil Defense Region VII. Another two people had reportedly been killed after a roof at a public market collapsed.

Fault lines such as this one are disasters waiting to happen.

Fault lines such as this one are disasters waiting to happen.

Nature hadn’t dealt us very nice cards as far as seismic stability goes. The Philippines’ islands are situated smack between two major fault lines running along its eastern and western coasts. Metro Manila is particularly at risk of catastrophe if an earthquake of a magnitude similar to this one strikes.

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The Valley Fault System known formerly as the Marikina Valley Fault System is a group of dextral strike-slip faults which extend from San Mateo, Rizal to Taguig City on the south; running through the cities of Makati, Marikina, Parañaque, Pasig and Taguig. The fault poses threat of a large-scale earthquake with a magnitude of 7 or higher within the Manila Metropolitan Area with death toll predicted to be as high as 35,000 and some 120,000 or higher injured and more than three million that may be in need of evacuation.

Reports coming from officials of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) back in 2011 have indicated that these parts of Metro Manila may be in imminent danger as said fault is “ripe for another major movement”…

Phivolcs deputy administrator Bartolome Bautista earlier said the Marikina Valley fault moves every 200 and 400 years. The last major movement occurred 200 years ago.

The Luzon earthquake which occurred on July 16, 1990 produced a 125 km-long ground rupture that stretched from Dingalan, Aurora to Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija as a result of strike-slip movements along the Philippine Fault and the Digdig Fault within the Philippine Fault System. Infrastructure on top of the rupture was completely destroyed.

Collapsed 400-year-old churches may be the least of our problems in the long run.

Collapsed 400-year-old churches may be the least of our problems in the long run.

Even more disturbing is a report originally published in the Manila Standard Today on April 2012 (copy can be found here) of a study that revealed that Angat Dam in Bulacan, which requires urgent rehabilitation, sits on the same Western Marikina Valley Fault.

The experts said an earthquake on the Western Marikina Valley Fault could trigger movement on the fault lines beneath the dam and its dikes. If those were damaged, they warned, the flood wave would affect not only areas near the Angat River but extend both upstream and downstream into the floodplain of the Pampanga River.

That would flood 30 cities and towns in Bulacan, Pampanga and Metro Manila, they said.

The flood waters in some areas of Norzagaray, Bustos and Baliuag could reach as high as 30 meters during the initial break of the dam, the experts’ report says. They could reach as high as 10 meters in Pulilan and Plaridel and all the way to Calumpit and Malolos City. Areas of Pampanga and Metro Manila could experience floods of three to five meters, they said.

Ultimately awareness and management of disaster preparedness begins with those who are most potentially at risk when disaster strikes — the Filipino public. It isn’t enough to rely on heroics that emerge in the aftermath of a disaster. The sight of politicians personally distributing relief goods to victims in devastated areas is getting old. The biggest bang for buck lies in preventive and risk mitigation measures, and a key success factor underpinning such initiatives lies in having the right legislation in place to help guarantee that such measures are put in place and the right execution faculties in place to deliver those measures where they count.

[NB: Parts of this article were lifted from the article “Marikina Valley Fault System” in a manner compliant to the terms stipulated in the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License that governs usage of content made available in this site. Photo of Bohol church courtesy]

31 Replies to “Magnitude 7.2 Cebu earthquake: Is Metro Manila prepared for the next one?”

  1. The tales of devastation brought about by the earthquake have been shown, but not a word from our President as of this time. Where is he now when we need reassurance from our leader?

    1. He’s probably hiding inside his closet wearing his yellow pajamas, clutching his yellow teddy bear and turning his underwear yellow….again.

    2. Deja vu for another Aquino presidency: an MNLF rebellion, a pork barrel controversy, now an earthquake at magnitude 7+.

      Expect a wide-scale volcanic eruption and an energy crisis in the next two years.

      1. If not power crisis, then most probably, the most expensive electric service in the whole world. Electricity is only one of the means to see how short sighted the Aquino’s are, when it comes to public service.

        MNLF rebellion was mishandled, a clear indication that these people in power do not deserve to be called such. Incompetence at its finest.

        The people who blindly follow these ijets only make this country more hopeless. God, I hate ijets! As I said to to friends/aquaintances way back 2010, “sarili nga niyang buhay, hindi niya maayos, mag presidente pa.”

      2. Not exactly a volcanic eruption, but the most powerful typhoon to hit land, with almost 10,000 dead (larger than the 2,000 toll in 1990). That’s even worse.

        Energy crisis coming up!

  2. Baclayon Church is not in Cebu, but in Bohol. And it is also not yet a UNESCO Heritage Site, but was still in the list for consideration. Well, I doubt it would be still considered now. 🙁

  3. Hmmm,,It happened in California and Japan the same old pattern of man made Earthquake disasters justified by fault lines. This is a politically motivated move to get in control of a dying popularity of the BS Aquino administration. Though to justify the necessity of the Pork Barrel System. Not to mentioned the latest Zambo rebel issue as failure.

  4. The answer to the question in the title of the essay is:…..wait for it….wait….here it comes…..just hold on….ooh, ooh…..UH….NO, NO, NO! its not!
    it just isn’t, NO!

  5. Unfortunately, we are located in the Pacific Ring of Fire. So, expect earthquake to hit us, from time to time. There is no way to accurately predict an earthquake. Earthquakes can also trigger the eruption of dormant volcanoes. If this is the “Act of God”. Maybe God is giving warning to those government and corporation thieves, to stop their thievery.

  6. I’m of the belief that the government shouldn’t be preparing for just a magnitude 7.2 for the West Valley Fault – we should be worrying about preparing for something like a magnitude 8.5 or higher due to the nature of the fault, which is a strike-slip one.

    Why magnitude 8.5? Because such faults have been known to produce tremors as strong as that in the past – and we all know the longer something is seismically or geologically inactive, the nastier it gets when it finally wakes up… If a fault which has only remained quiet for just about a generation can create the nasty one that just hit Bohol, imagine one that hasn’t moved in almost 400 years – like the West Valley Fault that sits precariously within Metro Manila’s boundaries? I wholeheartedly endorse Benign0’s sentiment on preparedness being the best response to the cards that nature has dealt our nation…

  7. Much of Manila’s civil infrastructure makes it almost totally unready for a geologic event (earthquake and/or tsunami).

    National Geographic ran an article shortly after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that analyzes how cities all around the Pacific Ring of Fire can cope with a potential earthquake. If Manila, one of the largest cities in the world based on population, does get hit by an earthquake stronger than 6.5, the casualty count can be (at a conservative estimate) as high as 120,000.

    Manila has not felt a strong quake since 1996, and even then it was not as strong as those experienced by Bohol and Baguio in 1990. With people living all over the Marikina flood plain and giant unstable settlements scattered all over Manila, I’m afraid that all Manila has to do is wait for the inevitable cracking of the West Valley Fault.

    1. Yes, they will be fucked then! Manila is a disaster waiting to happen. The entire city is underwater every time it rains for more than an hour.
      the skyscrapers in Makate are going to crumble one of these days and it will only take a magnitude 7.5 to get those buildings moving on a downward trajectory. the building codes in Tokyo will make a building in Tokyo stand tall against a 9-9.5 maybe even 10 EQ. but the Chinese do not want to spend the big bucks it takes to put the rollers underneath the buildings in Manila, they cost too much!
      Say bye-bye~~ when that 7.5 temblor appears!

  8. That is some new idea for the Aquino admin, prepare for such calamities. If at all, they are busy preparing their pockets to be lined with taxpayers’ money. For three years they haven;t been doing any preparations. All they do is react, and to make it worse, react with poorly conceived ideas. Now that makes me withdraw my previous contention that BS Aquino is only good at playing cities XL, he absolutely sucks at it.

    1. One way that BS Aquino could have made Manila a lit-tle bit safer is if he retained GMA’s flood control program. Unfortunately we all know what happened to that.

  9. For a fairly thorough if not complete list of subdivisions and communities, including the visual identification of houses and buildings directly on top of the MARIKINA VALLEY FAULTLINE SYSTEM, pls. visit my blog at:

    as you will not be disappointed, pls. pass on this information to others, too. thank you!

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