Wednesday, October 14, 2009

LEPTOSPIROSIS: There’s Something Lurking in The Flood

It’s not about any monster, nor even any species of flesh-eating reptiles. It’s smaller than the tip of your hair, only about 5 to 15 micrometers, but it is very dangerous and can kill.
Every year, during times of rain and flood, acute respiratory infections such as bronchitis, pneumonia and colds become widespread, as well as dengue fever, influenza, cholera, typhoid fever, malaria, hepatitis-A and red-tide poisoning. For the past few years, the Department of Health (DOH) had also released another warning, against leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that also breaks out during the rainy season, especially when there are floods and stagnant waters.
Leptospirosis, sometimes called Weil’s Disease (named after the German physician, AdolfWeil, who first described it in1886), Infectious Jaundice or Swineherd’s Disease, is a contagious disease of animals, which is also transmissible to humans, caused by a pathogenic spirochete (spiral-shaped bacteria) of the genus Leptospira.
According to the DOH’s Communicable Disease Control Service, anyone who is exposed to water, moist soil or vegetation that is contaminated with the urine of infected animals, most particularly rats and other rodents, is subject to infection.
The number of attended cases of leptospirosis in Metro Manila alone has more than doubled in the last five years. Records dating back to 1995 showed that most victims were children seven to 12 years old, constituting nearly 55 percent of the reported cases. This is most likely because children love to play, wade and swim in floodwaters unknowingly exposing themselves to the microorganisms.
“The bacteria usually enters the body through a wound. But the skin, even if it is not broken, also has pores where the leptospira bacteria can enter,” said DOH medical specialist Nerissa Domingo.
The reservoir of leptospires includes rodents and certain domestic animals like cats, dogs, pigs and cattle. These animals excrete live, fully virulent organisms in their urine and contaminate the environment. Outside the animal’s body, leptospires can live for several weeks in fresh water. Thus infection takes place by direct contact with the urine of infected animals or by indirect contact with contaminated food or water.
Leptospires can readily penetrate mucous membranes and may gain entrance to the body through the pores on prolong exposure. A scratch, abrasion or wound, as well as the nasal mucosa and eye, are excellent portals of entry; thus the origin of many infections can be traced to contact with water containing virulent leptospires, most particularly to stagnant flood water.
While it has been known to cause many losses among stock animals, the incidence in humans depends upon the opportunity for exposure in wading and swimming in contaminated waters, the harvesting of rice in paddies where the organisms are present, and contact with infected animals.
Clinical evidence of the disease in humans varies depending upon the severity of infection. The first sign of the disease, usually after an incubation period of five to 12 days, is manifested by fever, followed by pain in the legs and thighs, then influenza-like symptoms such as headache, back and muscular pains. Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea are usually experienced midway. One characteristic symptom is congestion of the conjunctival blood vessels around the corneas of the eyes, as such, reddish eyes are evident. Jaundice, the condition in which the eyeballs, the skin, and the urine become abnormally yellowish, may occur after the first week of illness. And if the disease is not diagnosed and treated immediately, liver and kidney infections developed, and bleeding also occurs in the urinary tract.
Death usually occurs after severe hemorrhage and systemic infection or the breakdown of the body functions such as renal failure because the infection has spread to almost all the vital organs. The death rate is approximately 30 percent of the severely ill and jaundiced patients.
To prevent contracting leptospirosis, experts advised the public to avoid wading or swimming in potentially contaminated areas such as stagnant mudholes and floodwaters. If this cannot be avoided, proper skin protection like boots and gloves should be used.
Since the bacteria comes from the excretion of animals such as rodents and even cats and dogs, the DOH said households must control rats by using rat traps or poison, and maintain healthy pet management, cleanliness in the house and surrounding environment. Areas where waters become stagnant after heavy rainfalls must be drained regularly and thoroughly.
The DOH said it is important for residents of both urban and rural areas who experience frequent flooding to know about the disease. Patients exhibiting the aforementioned symptoms should be taken to the hospital immediately. The department’s health advisory also reminded the public about properly cooking food, boiling water from doubtful sources for at least twenty minutes, and properly handling and disposing garbage.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


The moment you read the title of this film, you would think that it has something to do with some kinky scruples in certain amorous relationship or it’s some kind of deeply secretive political hogwash. It is most certainly not!
The film An Inconvenient Truth is a powerful and informative documentary on the most pressing environmental problem besetting the world today – Global Warming. The film was presented by former United State Vice President Al Gore and directed by Davis Guggenheim.
After the highly controversial 2000 U.S. presidential election, George W. Bush, who narrowly won over Gore, has afterward massively destroyed much of Afghanistan and Iraq. Gore, on the other hand, has busied himself trying to save the world by being an outspoken figure against global warming and the potential environmental disastrous consequences of climate change, and re-set the course of his life to focus on an all-out effort to help save planet Earth from irrevocable damage.
The Film’s Impact
“Humanity is sitting on a time bomb.” Quite an interesting first sentence for a film synopsis, but it certainly hit the bull’s-eye. If the vast majority of the world’s scientists are right, as presented in An Inconvenient Truth, we have just about ten years to avert a catastrophe of planetary proportion bordering on epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced. A catastrophe that humanity had helped to create. If that sounds like a recipe for serious gloom and doom – think again!
Al Gore’s documentary film is an eye-opening and poignant portrait of the former US vice president’s “traveling global warming show.” Gore is funny, engaging, open and downright on fire about getting the surprisingly stirring truth about what he calls “planetary emergency” out to ordinary citizens. He pulls no punches in explaining the dire situation. Interspersed with the bracing facts and future predictions is the story of Al Gore’s personal journey: from an idealistic college student who first saw the looming environmental crisis; to a young senator who faced a harrowing family tragedy that altered his perspective; to the man who almost became U.S. President but instead returned to the most impassioned cause of his entire life – believing there is still time to make a difference.
The film opened in New York City and Los Angeles on May 24, 2006. On Memorial Day weekend, it grossed an average of 91,447 dollars per theater, the highest of any movie that weekend and a record for a documentary, though it was only playing on four screens at the time.
The film focuses on Al Gore and his travels in support of his efforts to educate the public about the severity of the climate crisis. “I’ve been trying to tell this story for a long time and I feel as if I’ve failed to get the message across.” The film closely follows a keynote presentation dubbed “the slide show” that Gore presented throughout the world. In the slide show Gore reviews the scientific opinion on climate change, discusses the politics and economics of global warming, and describes the consequences he believes global climate change will produce if the amount of human-generated greenhouse gases is not significantly reduced in the very near future.
With wit, smarts and hope, An Inconvenient Truth ultimately brings home Gore’s persuasive argument that global warming is simply one of the biggest moral challenges facing every person of this era, each and everyone standing on the Earth that is slowly deteriorating due to humanity’s internecine exploits.
The film sticks to the science of the issue at hand. There are charts and graphs – even cartoons – and perhaps most disturbingly, the “before and after” pictures of glaciers as they were 30 years ago and as they are today. (It gives the word “shrinkage” a whole new meaning.) If the movie comes across as alarmist, that is because the situation is indeed gravely alarming. As is pointed out, global warming is viewed within the scientific community as a fact, no longer a debatable theory. Although it deals with scientific realities, it couches its message in words and images that the layman can understand.
According to Gore the phrase “an inconvenient truth” was born from the fact that “Some truths are hard to hear, because if you really hear them – and understand that they are in fact true – then you have to change. And change can be quite inconvenient.” Based on Gore’s comprehensive research on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, the fourth highest-grossing documentary ever produced, tackles the issue from A to Z and does so in a myriad ways that makes it a thought-provoking and compelling film to watch. The documentary, however, ends in a message of hope with Gore arguing that if appropriate actions are taken soon, the effects of global warming can be successfully reversed by releasing less carbon dioxide and planting more vegetation to consume existing carbon dioxide. Gore calls upon his viewers to learn how they can help him in these efforts.
At the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, An Inconvenient Truth received three standing ovations. It was also screened at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival and was the opening night film at the 27th Durban International Film Festival. The film was the most popular documentary at the 2006 Brisbane International Film Festival.
After winning the 2007 Academy Award for Documentary Feature, the Oscar was awarded to director Davis Guggenheim, who asked Gore to join him and other members of the crew on stage. Gore then gave a brief speech, saying, “My fellow Americans, people all over the world, we need to solve the climate crisis. It’s not a political issue; it’s a moral issue. We have everything we need to get started, with the possible exception of the will to act. That’s a renewable resource. Let’s renew it.”
For the environmental initiative brought by An Inconvenient Truth, Gore was also awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, together with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, headed by Rajendra K. Pachauri. The award was given “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”
In his acceptance speech, Gore said: “I am deeply honored to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. This award is even more meaningful because I have the honor of sharing it with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the world’s pre-eminent scientific body devoted to improving our understanding of the climate crisis – a group whose members have worked tirelessly and selflessly for many years. We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue; it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level.”
Gore’s film and book brought fresh reawakening of environmental consciousness not only in the United States but all over the world. It can be recalled that in 1992, the United Nation Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, dubbed Earth Summit, became a major forum for conflicts between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The developing countries of the South asked the urbanized North to acknowledge the need for development strategies that would both protect the earth’s resources as well as the sovereignty of less industrialized nations.
Principle 4 of the Rio Declaration states that “environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process.” At that time, countries in Western Europe and the United States were largely unwilling to accept that manufacturing processes deemed responsible for global warming needed regulation. The European and Japanese government, influenced by Green movements, however, changed their stance and did recognize the responsibility of the industrialized countries to reduce production of damaging chemical emissions, especially those linked to global warming.
Today, 15 years after the Rio Declaration and literally thousands of political debates after, the situation is worsening. Now the threat has become imminent. The annual floods that have been inundating Europe, Asia and South America for the past decades and the super hurricanes that devastated the United States in recent years alarmed many meteorologists all over the world. These, they say, are the creeping after-effects of global warming. European meteorologists are now calling for a new global summit on climate change and a review on the stand of countries that still refuse to cooperate, especially in the banning of greenhouse gases and chlorofluorocarbon emission.
Remaining scientific uncertainties include the amount of warming expected in the future, and how warming and related changes will vary from region to region around the globe. Most national governments have signed and ratified the 2007 Kyoto Protocol aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but there is ongoing political and public debate worldwide regarding what, if any, action should be taken to reduce or reverse future warming or to adapt to its expected consequences.
Gore was the main outspoken non-official representative for the United States in the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia, which is a series of discussions that plans to continue where the Kyoto Protocol left off when it expires in 2012.
Gore also published a book of the same title concurrent with the theatrical release of the documentary. The book contains additional information, scientific analysis, and Gore’s commentary on the issues presented in the documentary. A 2007 documentary entitled An Update with Former Vice President Al Gore features Gore discussing additional information that came to light after the film was completed, such as Hurricane Katrina, coral reef depletion around the world, glacial earthquake activity on the Greenland ice sheet, wildfires, and trapped methane gas release associated with permafrost melting.
The Associated Press contacted more than 100 climate researchers and questioned them about the film’s veracity. All 19 climate scientists who had seen the movie said that Gore conveyed the science correctly. In contrast, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, at the time chaired by rival party Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, issued a press release criticizing this article. Inhofe’s statement that “global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” appears in the film.
Despite some minor flaws and the familiarity of the material in the film, the clarity and simplicity of the presentation is remarkable. Film critics Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper gave the film “two thumbs up.” Ebert wrote: “In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to.” If only the viewers learn some things about global warming, and from it grows awareness of his environment – becoming a vigilant citizen – then the movie has done a worthy job.
As in the word of Al Gore “We no longer have much time left to change – but we do have time!”

Monday, October 12, 2009

HERE AGAIN IS THE FLOOD: Still No Solution in Sight?

The El Niño - La Niña phenomenon, possibly the most significant climate event of the century, brought about severe drought in one extreme and massive flooding in the other throughout its area of significance. Today’s weather has become so erratic and unpredictable.
In the Philippines the rainy season brings weather disturbances like monsoons, coldfronts, depressions, storms and typhoons. And when we speak of these terms, we cannot help but add another one – flood.
Yes, flood, the Philippines’ foremost problem in terms of annual calamities that affects not only our daily lives but the country’s socio-economic flowchart as well: From the disruption of the common tao’s work, to the destruction of properties, to diseases and epidemics, to chaos and disorder, and to subsequent economic backlash.
Why do we have to suffer this misfortune every year? What is the cause of this incessant calamity? What is the government doing to solve the problem? Can we really eradicate or somehow minimize this calamity?

The heavy rains that occurred on July 25-27, 1991 brought about by the southwest monsoon induced by typhoon Ising resulted in heavy and continuous downpour engulfed 90 percent of Metro Manila and its surrounding suburbs.
Nine years later, on July 2-8, 2000, typhoons Ditang and Edeng simultaneously brought heavy rains throughout Luzon causing extensive flooding. More than a week of rains in conjunction with two-meter high tide level again inundated 90 percent of Metro Manila. Several rivers and dams also overflowed causing floods in many parts of Northern and Central Luzon affecting more than a million people.
In September 26, 2009, Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) poured so much rains in Metro Manila and the surrounding provinces (an all time record of 455 millimeters in 24 hours) causing floods from one to six meters high that covered residential and subdivision houses, schools, and even hospitals in the area. Ondoy was followed by Typhoon Pepeng (Parma), this time devastating Northern and Central Luzon with deep floods and landslides. Everyone was caught unprepared including the government’s National Disaster Coordinating Council. The devastation of the floods and landslides brought about by the two typhoons rendered most of the government agencies inutile against Mother Nature’s outburst.
Every year the Philippines is expected to face flood problems as monsoons and typhoons hit the country. Yet we have not progressed in the solution to this pesky problem.
The intensity of rainfall in the Philippines is among the highest in the world. Over 60 percent of rainfalls in the country are associated with typhoons and tropical storms that generally form in the Carolinas-Marianas Islands Group in the Pacific Ocean. The eastern section of the Philippines, from Leyte to the Batanes group of islands, feel the full strength of the incoming typhoons.
Being in the forefront of the Asiatic typhoon area, the country faces an average of 19 to 20 typhoons every year, and the frequency of flood occurrence is the highest in Asia. Thus, flood control has since become one of the pressing problems of the national government.
In Metro Manila, about 55 percent of the metropolis’s 650 square kilometers of land area are flood-prone. Some areas are about a meter lower than the sea level. And so, areas like Navotas, Malabon and some parts of Tondo areas are flooded 365 days a year.
Unlike before, however, the problem of flood is no longer exclusive to Metro Manilans. Flood occurrence in other parts of the country like Northern, Central and Southern Luzon, Eastern and Central Visayas and Mindanao is now quite prevalent. The calamity is solely because of man’s unhampered destruction of our valuable forests that serve as natural barriers and sentinels against river overflow and flush floods.

The main cause of flooding in Metro Manila is the encroachment on esteros, rivers and other waterways by squatters, business establishments, factories and storehouses. More than 40 of Metro Manila’s waterways – rivers and esteros – have either disappeared or are dead and stagnant.
The accumulation of storm rainfalls in Metro Manila proved disastrous due to the inadequacy of existing natural and man-made drainage system. In earlier years, the esteros or “tidal streams” used to drain about 80 percent of the city’s excess rainwater. At present, however, more than half of the original lengths of these esteros have been obliterated, while the remaining tidal streams are so clogged that their combined draining capacity has been reduced by more than 75 percent of their original capacity.
According to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), rivers that once had widths of 20 to 30 meters are now only five to eight meters wide. Many of these rivers are either heavily silted, clogged or altogether gone. Where once we saw rivers, we have now concrete village roads, houses and factories.
In an extensive research study made by the then Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) in cooperation with the United Nation Desaster Relief Organization (UNDRO) in 1984-1986, Metro Manila alone has lost more than 50 million square meters of rivers, lakes and other waterways and reservoirs. The culprits are not solely the indigent squatters residing along the riverbanks. The greater parts of these missing bodies of water are reclaimed (landgrabbed) by influencial people – oligarchs, developers, land speculators, politicians, factory owners and even multinationals.
It is also of grave concern to know that much of Metro Manila is prone to ground subsidence – geologic displacement – cause by unstable subterranean soil formation and the existence of several faults within the area, most especially along and parallel to the Marikina River, the Manila deltaic plain, the areas surrounding Laguna de Bay, and the adjoining western Rizal province. These areas have been observed to have sunk from 12 to 20 inches in the last four decades. Areas that are below the “rising” sea level are prone to flooding especially during high tides.
Another factor that causes flooding is the indiscriminate dumping of garbage and other waste materials into esteros, creeks, rivers and other drainage systems. The volume of these materials is estimated to be about 5,000 cubic meters or about a thousand truckloads every week. Siltation and shallowing of the waterways resulted.
Other causes of Metro Manila’s flood are rapid urbanization; denudation of the peripheral mountains and forests of neighboring provinces; and the lack of public consciousness on the problem and the ineptness of the governing authorities to solve it.
The flood situation in cities like Manila is aggravated by the rapid growth and development of the area and its adjoining suburbs, especially when there is no correct and adequate planning involved. Rapid urbanization has increased ground surface impermeability, which more than doubled the run-off rates from storm rainfall.
Many subdivision developers in Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces are focusing mainly on the value and commercialization of prime lands. Rapid urbanization brought about the need for communal and cheaper housing to meet the demands of the growing metropolitan population.
To achieve low-cost factor in subdivision house-and-lot marketing, most developers bypass the engineering and geotechnical aspect of land and settlement development. They concentrate on the development of the land and the “low cost” housing construction without providing the necessary road networks; the elevation, slope and contour upgrading; and the storm drain canals, culverts, sewers and drainage facilities as a whole. And if ever the facilities are provided, because of budget constraint, they are inadequate with governing standards. Their design does not include safety factors such as overflow, excess rainfall, flood rush, and traffic and inflow from adjoining subdivisions and settlement areas. They are not designed in harmony with existing master networks, and as such rendered the master networks themselves inadequate even in normal condition.
The grades and elevation of corridors, roads and buildings, also most of the time, do not conform as part and parcel of the entire design for the city master plan. As such, a particular district or subdivision area becomes very much lower in elevation than the others creating drainage stagnant points that become basins for floodwater.

Much of our rivers and waterways are heavily silted, clogged or have altogether disappeared, contributing to the already grave problem of urban flooding. Worse is that the flood control system in the metropolis is outdated and virtually inadequate to handle even normal rainfall condition. Considering the outdated and disproportionate system existing in the metropolis, no wonder flood is a perennial problem.
The master plan of the flood control system for Greater Manila Area (GMA) was designed in 1951 and was submitted in February 1952 to the then Congress. It took about eleven years before it was reviewed and favorably endorsed by a group of World Bank consultants. Moreover, because of the half-hearted approach and congressional red tape on the implementation of this flood control program, it was never translated into reality.
The biggest flood in Philippine history was the Big Flood of July-August 1972, where nearly 80 percent of the entire Luzon were submerged. A series of tropical typhoons brought in several days of increasing heavy rains. Rivers overflowed their banks and dikes and other embankments gave way to rushing floodwaters. In a matter of hours, several provinces in Luzon were heavily flooded. Most of Greater Manila area went underwater too. Large areas of Luzon were underwater for about a month. Laguna de Bay rose several feet and flooded all the towns on the lakeside. The damage to lives and properties was staggering. Only the timely efforts of the authorities saved the calamity-stricken areas from total chaos. So intense was the damage of the flood that it was cited as one of the indirect reasons for the declaration of Martial Law.
In 1974, under Martial Law and without Congress sitting endlessly on it, the flood control program got top priority from among the various public works projects of the then Bureau of Public Works, headed by Director Desiderio Anolin. For Metro Manila the projects updated the Master Plan which then included the Pasig River Development program. The project involved two phases: the control of the flow of the Marikina and Pasig Rivers through the construction of diversion channels; and the construction of an adequate metropolitan drainage system. It also involved upstream control works supplemented by downstream works consisting of river walls and floodgates.
Hydrologic observations showed that the overflow of the Pasig River was caused by discharge coming from the Marikina River. The flood discharge divided into two parts. At the peak of the flood stage, about 70 percent of the flow went into the Laguna Lake, and the remainder flowed down the Pasig River to the Manila Bay, which although greatly reduced in magnitude, was still capable of causing overbank flow resulting in serious flooding in the metropolitan areas.
By the early 1980s, eleven pumping stations and four floodgates were installed to expel the waters from the esteros and main drains, into the Pasig River and San Juan River, and the nine-kilometer Mangahan Floodway was constructed diverting the excess flood water to Laguna de Bay. The Napindan Hydraulic Control Structure (NHCS) was also constructed in 1983 to regulate salt water intrusion and prevent polluted water from the Pasig River to enter Laguna de bay, and to control the lake water level for the storage of water needed to ensure adequate supply for irrigation. The NHCS was later redesigned to drain flood water from Napindan, Pasig and lower Marikina Rivers to Laguna de Bay when water levels of these three rivers are high and allows flushing out of water from the lake to Pasig River and another proposed cut-off diversion channel going to Manila Bay. For unknown reason, however, after a change of administration in 1986, the proposed diversion channels from the Pasig and Marikina Rivers cutting through the Parañaque area to Manila Bay was scrapped.
During the Marcos administration, Public works projects were supplemented by the government’s nature conservation and reforestation program. From the mid-1970s to the early-1980s, hundreds of thousands of trees were planted along and surrounding water reservoirs like Angat, Ipo and La Mesa dams, and at hilltops, embankments and mountain slopes such as in Marikina, Antipolo and much of Bulacan and Rizal provinces. Unfortunately these areas are now logged over and denuded by influencial people, many areas were turned into subdivisions, golf courses, factory zones and garbage dumpsites.
Furthermore, the flood control structures in the metropolis built three to four decades ago have already deteriorated and no major and adequate upgrade to compliment existing drainage and flood control system has been undertaken for the last 25 years or so.

It seems every time (every year) the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and local officials make a claim of supposed flood preparedness program, it always go down the sewer the moment the rains come. So, what would you expect when La Niña’s supertyphoons come?
DPWH and local officials are always pointing fingers at one another on who are to blame whenever there is a flood calamity. When the floodwaters subsides and displaced families returned to their drenched and seething homes, thoughts lingers in everybody’s mind: What’s the logic of all these? They say it’s flooding because our forests have been denuded. Well then, why don’t they ban logging totally and implement massive reforestation. They say our rivers and waterways have shrunk due to urban development. What are they doing about it? They say it's the garbage. Find, so how do you solve the problem? It's useless to argue and point fingers if real and decisive actions are not taken
The master plan of the flood control system in Metro Manila is more than five decades old. Except for two major improvements in 1974 and 1984, much of it is already inadequate. It's about time to design a new one that will sustain infrastructural growth for the next 50 to 100 years or so. In this regard, the people should be vigilant against graft and corruption in the public office. Big-budgeted projects are prime sources of corruption in government. For the past four administrations, the public works department has been reported to be in the top list of government agencies with the most graft and corruption.
Public consciousness regarding flood causes, effects and associated problems should also be addressed nationwide. Government agencies, schools, cause-oriented groups and NGOs should undertake public information drives and community action programs to prevent garbage dumping on waterways, to plant trees and help institute genuine reforestation, and to call for the removal and demolition of establishments encroaching rivers and other waterways. The government should have the political will to impose laws governing setbacks on the natural waterways regardless of the socio-political circumstances that may affect the outcome.
Urban planning should be more strict. When the Ministry of Human Settlement was still existing, zoning ordinances were implemented. Every district in Metro Manila and the surrounding suburbs were classified into different zones, which prevented developers from building subdivisions in flood prone areas. Whatever happened to those ordinances? The flood prone areas should be re-classified and the zoning ordinances re-established!
The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) have been asking for state-of-art equipments like the Doppler Radars that can measure the quantity of rainfall that a typhoon will bring, but their requests have been falling on deaf ears. A Doppler Radar costs from 300,000 to about three million dollars each. These are peanuts compare to what the President and her entourage are spending on their foreign trips, or the cost of the presidential jet that the presidential family dream of buying. For the people’s sake, buy the equipments that PAGASA need!
Garbage dumping, especially non-biodegardable materials like plastics, should be stopped. Plastics and its byproducts clog the drainage and flood control networks. Heck, if the people can’t stop using plastic, then teach them to recycle it! City and municipal recycling and waste management plants should also be established. Factories and business establishments that have been found to be polluting our esteros and rivers should be closed immediately. It must be made mandatory for all these establishments to have adequate pollution control, waste management and recycling facilities before they can be given license to operate.
Planting trees is the best means of controlling not only flood but pollution as well. It has been proposed by some of our more nature-conscious lawmakers that we should plant at least ten million trees every year to replenish our dwindling forests. Students, cadets, law enforcers, soldiers, government employees, metro-aides, and even convicts and prisoners could be tasked to plant trees. It has been done before – during the Marcos administration – there is no reason why it can’t be done today.
A good idea is to task prisoners (especially violators of environmental laws) to plant and nourish 50 thousand trees for every year of their sentence. If they can accomplish the task before the end of their sentence, they should be pardoned. However, if they fail to produce the required number of trees at the end of their sentence, they shall remain doing the task until they have accomplished it.
Commercial logging whether legal or illegal must be totally banned. Banning logging for at least 30 to 50 years would allow our forests to recuperate. Again, only the strict implementation of the ban by the authorities, and the vigilance of the conscious public can make the program succeed.
On illegal encroachment, considered to be the primary cause of metro flooding, there seems to be some legal impediments. People “owning” the said illegally-encroached establishments have obtained titles to the said premises, prompting legal complications. But considering the Civil Code, the Public Land Act and existing land laws, such titles of land along riverbanks are, per se, “null and void ab initio.” It is up to the government authorities to take necessary action to cancel these land titles and to clear the riverbanks of these illegal encroachments notwithstanding the permanence of the structure or the influence of the people involved because this is for the greater good.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Global warming is the phenomenon resulting from the release and accumulation of carbon gases and other man-made contaminants in the Earth’s atmosphere. These heat-trapping gases act like a thick blanket, trapping the sun’s heat and causing the planet to warm up. As the gases increases, the Earth’s atmospheric temperature increases, too.
Climate change, on the other hand, refers to the variation in the Earth’s global climate or in regional climates over time. It describes changes in the variability or average state of the atmosphere over time scales ranging from decades to millions of years. In recent usage, especially in the context of environmental policy, the term “climate change” often refers only to changes in modern climate, including the rise in average surface temperature known as global warming.
It is clearly an environmental domino effect. Global warming increases water vapor in the air, which in turn absorbs more of the earth’s heat. Rising surface temperature melts polar snow and ice. Exposed ground absorbs more sunlight, which cause the melting of more snow. The oceans, on the other hand, store more heat extending the warming trend. Melting glacial ice then causes oceans to swell.
Five gases are responsible for the bulk of the greenhouse phenomenon: Carbon dioxide (emitted by burning fuels, vehicles, factories and biosphere destruction is responsible for more than 50 percent of global warming), CFC (used in refrigeration and air conditioning, aerosol, cosmetics and packaging accounts for around 20 percent of the warming), nitrous oxide (emitted by the rapid decomposition of humus after forest clearing, and the breakdown of chemical fertilizers), Low-level ozone (produced in car exhausts), and methane (from decomposing garbage and livestock waste).
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the 1850s, the naturally rising carbon dioxide levels are implicated as the primary cause of global warming a century after (1950) and continuing up to the present. According to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the atmospheric concentration of CO2 in 2005 was 379 parts per million (ppm) compared to the pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm. The present level (385 ppm) translates to 0.02 to 0.03 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere, which has been much higher in the long history of Earth. These increases are projected to reach more than 560 ppm before the end of the 21st century. Along with rising methane levels, these changes have been calculated to cause an increase of 1.4-5.6 °C between 1990 and 2100.
The IPCC concluded that most of the observed increase in average global temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic (man-made) greenhouse gas concentrations. Natural phenomena such as solar variation combined with volcanoes probably had a small warming effect from pre-industrial times to 1950 and a small cooling effect from 1950 onward. These basic conclusions have been endorsed by at least thirty scientific societies and academies, including all of the national academies of science of the major industrialized countries. While individual scientists have voiced disagreement with some findings of the IPCC, the overwhelming majority of scientists working on climate change agree with the IPCC’s main conclusions.
Deforestation is also one of the major causes of global warming. Each hectare of forest cover can absorb around eight tons of carbon dioxide every year. The earth’s forest ecosystem stores over 1.2 trillion tons of carbon dioxide that would otherwise pollute our atmosphere. In the last ten years alone, more than 25 billion tons of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere due to deforestation and land conversion.
Global warming is destructive to human civilization because it will cause increasingly severe weather events, significant changes to the amount and pattern of precipitation causing wider range of floods and droughts, and the melting of the glaciers which in turn will cause sea level to rise. Other expected effects of global warming include changes in agricultural yields, modifications of trade routes, species extinctions and increases in the ranges of disease vectors. Recent data culled from Antarctic ice cores indicates that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are now higher than at any time during the past 650,000 years, which is as far back as measurements can now reach.


In 2009, after more than a week of continuous rainfall and the onslaught of Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana), most of Luzon including Metro Manila were inundated by rushing flood waters. Thousands of homes were flooded up to the rooftops. The more alarming news is about the cracks on some parts of the Angat Dam in Bulacan. We also heard in the news that a large portion of the neighboring province of Pampanga is sinking. Then there is the perennial observation in some subdivisions in Metro Manila, particularly in parts of Mandaluyong, Pasig, eastern Quezon City, western Marikina, northwestern Antipolo and parts of the Rizal Province (which were also heavily flooded during Ondoy’s wrath) of cracks and displacements on concrete structures and pavements. What is happening to our geologic terrain? Do these events have a connection or a common cause?
In the middle of 1991, just after Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption, a very good friend of mine, broadcast journalist Lito Villarosa, began a series of exposé regarding the controversial Marikina Fault System. According to Villarosa, he saw a bunch of documents in the defunct Ministry of Human Settlement on its way to the junk bin. When he tried to read the contents, it turn out to be a 1976 report of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator (UNDRO) to the former Human Settlement Commission, detailing a systematic vulnerability analysis of Metro Manila area with regards to disasters like earthquake and flood. There was also a comprehensive study regarding the Marikina Fault System. To cut the story short, he gave me a copy of this report and, together, we conducted extensive research on the subject and simultaneously revealed to the public what we have uncovered, Villarosa through the broadcast media and me through the pages of MOD Magazine as an exclusive three-part special report, "The Philippines Land of Earthquakes and Volcanoes." Exactly a year after, that article won for me the grand prize in the Second Annual Science and Technology Journalism Award sponsored by the Philippine Press Institute and the Philippine Geothermal Inc. That same article is now the banner story of this blog that would also answer the two aforementioned questions.

Part I
A Study of Our Restless Terrain

When the earth shook, the Algonquian Indians used to say the Great Tortoise, which supported the world, was shifting its weight. Japanese legends, on the other hand, blamed the movements to a giant spider. Native folklore attributed earthquakes to the anger of the earth goddess. The great Aristotle had an equally mistaken notion that prevailed for 2,500 years. He thought earthquakes were caused by powerful subterranean winds.
What really does happen when the ground trembles violently as it did in Baguio and Cabanatuan on July 16, 1990, one of the most unforgettable geologic disasters in Philippine history? An earthquake, in the most basic definition, is a naturally induced shaking of the ground, caused by the fracture and sliding of rocks within the earth’s crust. Because the Philippines is within the Circumpacific Belt, an area characterized by the concentration of earthquake epicenters and active volcanoes, it is an absolute necessity for the Filipinos to recognize, learn and understand the predicament they have.
Events like the 1990 killer quake, the Mt. Pinatubo eruptions, the series of tectonic tremors in Luzon, and the focus of attention to the highly controversial but otherwise proverbial Marikina Valley Fault System, prompted me to re-publish an updated version of this article.

The Philippine’s Geologic PastAs an archipelago, the Philippines had no definitive existence since about 30 million years ago. The country was never a part of the Asian Mainland or the Australian Continent even during the days of Pangaea. What is called “Landbridges” that connected the archipelago with Formosa, Mainland Asia, Indonesia and Malaysia, were more recent products of the recession of the sea in the Pleistocene times. It is believed that like the Philippine Archipelago, the landbridges, were submerged under the ocean during the early times.
About 16 million years ago, during the Miocene Epoch of the Tertiary Period, the Indo-Australian Plate moved and crashed with both the Pacific Plate in the northeast and the China Plate in the northwest generating massive shocks and diastrophisms along a line from the Indonesian Archipelago to the Archipelago of Japan, lifting upward the lands in which more or less where we stand today. Thus began the birth of the Philippine Archipelago from the bosom of the ocean.
In the next five to 15 million years, the Philippine Plate suffered intense compression from two sides, one from the southeast, generating the great Philippine Fault and uplifting islands in the eastern coasts; and in the south creating mountain foldings, raising islands in Mindanao, and thrusting up previously submerged lands like the island of Jolo.
During the Second Glacial Age, approximately 700,000 years ago, the greater part of what is known today as the Cavite Province and the submarine slope of the Taal Volcano were tilted up and raised by about 400 meters in the vicinity of Tagaytay, assisted by the southern projection of the Marikina Fault lines. The lifted ridge from Parañaque to Las Piñas provided a natural dam separating the Laguna Lake from the Manila Bay.
The face of the Philippine Archipelago underwent radical changes, during the glacial period, causing the rise and submersion of lands. When the glaciers began to thaw about 80,000 years ago, the landbridges connecting the archipelago with the rest of Asia and Australia went underwater by 35 to 120 meters.
By the year 10,000 B.C., our archipelago became what it is today – a conglomeration of roughly 7,100 islands enveloped by eight shoreline and offshore troughs and trenches.

A Glimpse of Philippine Seismic History
The Philippine territory is within the Circumpacific Belt, a seismically active region better known as the “Ring of Fire.” The region covers the length of the Philippine and Japan Archipelagos, extending through the Aleutians, Alaska, and the western coasts of the Americas, westward north of the Antarctic, east of Australia and back to the Philippines through the Indonesian Archipelago. It is here where 77 percent of major earthquake epicenters and 82 percent of the active volcanoes in the world are located.
According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), the Philippine Archipelago is one of the world’s most tectonically and, therefore, seismically active areas. Statistically speaking, the Philippines host at least five imperceptible to perceptible earthquakes per day.
The strongest earthquakes observed in Manila had been of Intensity X, with an average return period of about 130 years. According to an investigation conducted by the National Society for Seismology and Earthquake Engineering of the Philippines (NASSEP) in 1980, a very strong earthquake of about Intensity IX or X hit Manila on November 30, 1645, destroying all existing buildings especially along the Pasig River.
In June 3, 1803, another earthquake probably of the same intensity, hit Manila destroying the Manila Cathedral and 527 other buildings, killing about 400 and injuring more than 2,000 persons.
The earthquake of August 2, 1968, is always remembered in our history because of the collapse of the Ruby Tower that killed hundreds of people in downtown Manila. The 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit at exactly 4:19 a.m., while most of the people were still sleeping, followed by a 5.9-magnitude aftershock just after 20 minutes. Ruby Tower collapsed, allegedly because of the poor design and the substandard construction materials used. Since then, our interest on the subject of earthquakes had been enhanced.
By far, the most destructive earthquake to hit the Philippines other than that of July 16, 1990, was the Intensity VIII temblor that hit Mindanao on August 17, 1976. The earthquake epicentered in the Moro Gulf, triggered a tidal wave that left more than 3,000 persons dead, another 3,000 missing and rendered about 20,000 families homeless.
Then the July 16, 1990 killer quake – an agonizing event that is now recorded in the annals of history as one of the most destructive inland-epicentered earthquakes that the world has ever experienced and comparable only or perhaps greater than the 1906 California earthquake or the 1964 Alaskan earthquake.
On November 15, 1994, an earthquake occurred near Verde Island, off the coast of Mindoro. The 7.1-magnitude earthquake generated a tsunami that hit approximately 40 kilometers of the northern and eastern shoreline of Mindoro Island from Puerto Galera up to Pinamalayan. Areas hardest hit by the tsunami are in Barangays Malaylay, Old Baco, Wawa, and Baco Islands where six to ten meters of vertical run-up was believed to have smashed the shoreline up to more than a quarter of a kilometer inland, destroying completely the houses nearshore and leaving at least 41 persons dead, mostly children and old people.
Mindoro was again hit by a magnitude 6 earthquake last September 18, 2009.

Interrelated CalamitiesDuring the 1990s and early 2000s, Central Luzon has been devastated by lahar flood. Lahar is being induced by monsoon rains, which according to meteorology experts were induced by the Mt. Pinatubo volcanic ash that remained afloat high above our atmosphere.
On the other hand, the Mt. Pinatubo eruptions were believed to have been induced by the July 16, 1990 earthquake. Many scientists believe that a strong earthquake gives rise to identifiable volcanic eruptions.
An example is the destruction of the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Mt. Vesuvius, 210 kilometers southeast of Rome, had been a peaceful mountain for several thousand years. Then on February 5, 63 A.D., a severe earthquake jolted its vicinity. This event started a series of intermittent earthquakes that lasted for 10 years. Consequently on August 24, 79 A.D., the dormant Mt. Vesuvius volcano erupted, burying the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
On the western edge of the Apennines, severe faulting over the last two million years gave birth to a line of volcanoes that runs from Mt. Amiata in Tuscany to as far as Mt. Etna in Sicily, passing through the volcanic lakes of Bolsena, Vico, Bracciano, Albano and Nemi and continuing through the volcanoes of Roccamonfina, Vesuvius and the Isole Eolie.
Powerful Chilean earthquakes from May 21-29, 1960, also triggered the eruption of nearby dormant Puyuehue Volcano. The Mexican earthquake of September 19, 1985, was believed to reawaken the Nevada del Ruiz Volcano which has been dormant for 140 years. And in recent times, Mt Unzen in Southwestern Japan and Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines.
Mt. Unzen had been dormant for 199 years and Mt. Pinatubo’s last eruption was placed by carbon dating method between 1342-1380. But why did these long dormant volcanoes suddenly heat-up and blow their tops? Why, for that matter, several volcanoes in this part of the world suddenly acted up one after the other? And earthquakes seem to be scheduled in a daily basis in this part of the world?
Last September 28, 2009, the Samoas, a group of islands in the Pacific, was hit by a magnitude 8 earthquake and a tsunami and, the following day, Sumatra, Indonesia, was struck by a 7.6-magnitude earthquake followed by another 6.8-magnitude temblors near the Padang town. And most recently, the Vanuatu archipelago in the South Pacific was hit my several earthquakes. Leading geologists in Japan, a center for volcanic research, agree that tectonic plate movements under the Pacific Ocean caused the violent eruptions of Unzen and Pinatubo some 2,000 kilometers apart.
For neighboring country, Indonesia, on the other hand, Sumatra, or northwestern Indonesia, is right on the India-Burma (on the Indo-Australian) tectonic plate boundary. Part of the Indo-Australian plate that has the Indian Ocean on it is moving roughly northeastward at a rate of six centimeters per year relative to the Burma plate and colliding with Sumatra. This results in oblique convergence that is accommodated on the right-lateral transform faults and rifts along the Sunda trench.
The devastating megathrust earthquake of December 26, 2004 that killed more than 230,000 people occurred on the interface of the India and Burma plates, off the west coast of Northern Sumatra some 225 kilometers south-southeast of Banda Aceh) at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) and was cause by the release of stresses that develop as the India plate subducts beneath the overriding Burma plate at the Sunda trench, which lies to the west of the earthquake's epicenter. It is the fourth strongest earthquake in recorded history. According to geologist, the magnitude 9.0 earthquake was so powerful, that the energy it released made the Earth wobble on its axis and permanently altered the regional map.

For our part of the puzzle, at least four major tectonic plates are directly affecting the Philippine archipelago. Aside from these, marine geologists at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) say the Philippines is at the center of five undersea trenches that are earthquake-prone and could trigger tsunamis.
The Philippine Archipelago is situated between the Philippine Plate and the China Plate. The Philippine Plate is moving westward at the rate of approximately seven centimeters per year, colliding with the China Plate. The upper surface of the Philippine Plate bends at the East Luzon Trench and the Philippine Trench, and slides beneath the lower surface of the China Plate in the subduction zone. This created several fissures that cut through Lingayen Gulf down to Central, Eastern and Southern Luzon, and then Leyte, going to Mindanao. This is known as the Philippine Fault System.
As the Philippine Plate continues to slide downward, stresses accumulate in the Philippine Fault System and are released from time to time resulting in earthquakes like that of July 16, 1990.
Friction at the subduction zone exerted tremendous pressure on the subterranean rock formations like a grinding machine. Rocks are forced deeper, gigantic erosions occur and the rocks begin to melt creating magma.
Long dormant volcanoes like Mt. Pinatubo are characterized by seeming disappearance of visible craters. This is because the magma in the vent leading down its crater has solidified forming a dome or volcanic plug just like a cork stopper plugging a bottle’s mouth. But the powerful “twin” earthquakes of July 16, 1990, cracked the interior of the dome creating vent fissures that eventually became the exit point of massive and tremendous pressure built-up for more than 600 years. Thus Mt. Pinatubo began erupting on June 12, 1991.
Mt. Pinatubo has spewed over 12 cubic kilometers of volcanic debris throughout the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales. This is worsened by the fact that the areas are catchbasins during continuous downpour of monsoon rains. Tectonic tremors have been continuously recorded around the aforementioned areas. Could it be possible that the large volume of subterranean mass spewed by the volcano had created some hollow formation deep underground that is now causing geologic displacements in these areas? Could it be that these tectonic movements are due to the fact that the Philippine Plate inside the subduction zone is greatly eroding?
Notice that the southern part of central Luzon is checkered by several faultlines. Considering that because of the previous earthquakes and the subsequent eruptions of Mt. Pinatubo depositing more than 40 billion tons of volcanic matter, have weaken the geologic slab in the vicinity, there is the possibility of a worst scenario of massive geologic caving-in in that part of Central Luzon. If this is so, then the devastation we have so far experienced is not even a minute comparison to the immensity of what is to come. Much of Pampanga could, in the near future, become a huge lake!
It is also highly probable that earthquakes emanating from active faultlines could reactivate long inactive faults such as that of the Marikina Fault System. Considering the awesome effect that these cataclysms could inflict to human lives and properties, we have to know and study all the possibilities. We need to be prepared

Part II
The Marikina Valley Fault System: The Truth

In the 1990s. the media revealed a startling discovery that alarmed the people of Metro Manila particularly those living in Marikina. This was the announcement made by PHIVOLCS regarding the existence and possible reactivity of the Marikina Valley Fault System (so named because it traverses an area parallel to the Marikina River). Thus, we must be inclined to know the truth and possible consequences, and the program and countermeasures fundamental to our safety.

The Marikina Valley Faults SystemThe adobe formation, running from the north in the foot of the Sierra Madre mountains to the south in the slopes of Taal Volcano cutting through the provinces of Pampanga and Bulacan, Metro Manila Area (MMA), a thick sequence of well-bedded volcanic tuff and tuffaceous clastics, which dated back from the early Pleistocene Ice Age, roughly about 1 to 3 million years ago, is generally associated with the possible development of faulting activity the experts initially termed as the Marikina Fault System (MFS).
The existence of the Marikina Fault System, however, was recognized by various workers only as early as 1923. But according to PHIVOLCS, “the MFS’s activity has yet to be fully evaluated. Field mapping augmented by topographic map and air photo interpretations conducted in April and May (1991) of the Marikina Valley and surrounding areas revealed previously unrecognized geologic and geomorphic evidences for the recent activity of the Marikina Fault System.”

The UNDRO Report In October 1976, the Human Settlements Commission (HSC) requested the assistance of the office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator (UNDRO) to conduct a systematic vulnerability analysis in the Metro Manila Area and, on this basis, to prepare a composite risk map for inclusion in the urban development master plan of the metropolis.
The mission was carried out by UNDRO consultants, Michel Couillaud and Jacques Didon, from October 13, 1976 to March 5, 1977, under the umbrella of the HSC.
During the course of its comprehensive research and geologic and aerial investigations, the UNDRO discovered the following subsoil conditions:
(a) The Guadalupe Formation (adobe): ……. Westward towards Manila the formation extends underneath the delta sediments where the beds inter-tongue with compacted marine sand, gravel and silt along the coastal area. They thin out towards the west and are wedged in with marine sediments… East and North of Manila and in Parañaque these tuffs are overlain by brown clay loam passing to light gray or brownish compact clay. The thickness ranges from 0.5 meter near Quezon City to two meters near Novaliches to the North.
(b) Marikina Alluvial Plain: This graben valley, well-delimited by the tuff escarpment and the fault-truncated ridges, was almost completely filled with alluvial sediments transported by the Marikina River… The alluvium is made up of an unconsolidated mixture of sand, some gravel and considerable silt and clay derived chiefly from weathering of pyroclastic and volcanic rocks. Sand layers with considerable amounts of marine shell fragments were found at depths between 6.5 and 18 meters from the surface of the ground in Sucat and Napindan… The thickness of alluvium varies from zero at contact with the bedrock to at least 75 meters at the valley in Pinagbuhatan and Napindan. From Bambang, Pasig, thins out gradually eastward across the Marikina Valley through Pinagbuhatan and Anzano…
(c) Manila Deltaic Plain: After the raising of Guadalupe ridge, the Pasig River received the impounded lake water and, at the same time, provided a large volume of fluvial materials that, mixed with marine sediments, rapidly expanded into a large deltaic plain… This plain…, encompasses the Manila area and extends southward near Pasay City… Based on actual drilling data and core analyses, it can be stated that generally the commercial district of Sta. Cruz, Sampaloc, Quiapo, Escolta. Intramuros, Port Area, Ermita, Paco and Malate, all in Manila, are underlain by plastic clays, silts, sands and gravels with an intricate admixture of marine shells, corals and decayed plants… Lateral persistency among individual beds is so poorly developed that even a thick bed may terminate abruptly in as short a distance as three meters. A maximum thickness of 61 meters to 90 meters is indicated, the thickest being along the banks of Pasig River in Quiapo, Avenida, Escolta and Port Area.
It can also be noted that in the intensity map prepared by the former Weather Bureau for August, 1968 Luzon earthquakes, an isolated higher intensity was observed in downtown Manila. This was caused by the soft soil layers underlying the area.
Furthermore, the UNDRO Mission Report noted the following:
● Certain parts of Intramuros (Binondo and Sta. Cruz) have sustained ground subsidence and tilting, which in principle may have been (at least partly) caused by the liquefaction of loose sand layers under the deltaic plain of Manila. A certain degree of liquefaction may have occurred toward the end of the 16th century when Manila was rocked by particularly violent earthquakes.
● As far as the MMA is concerned, there is no historical evidence of fault displacement, even in the case of violent tremors. The evidence of last displacement (and associated deformation) dates back to the second Glacial Age, i.e., well beyond an arbitrary, though usual limit of, say, 15,000 years, up to which time one may assume a fault to be active. Nevertheless, taking into account the importance of past displacements (more than 80 meters in Pasig) and the fact that MMA forms a “fragile zone” liable to be affected by strong shaking, this factor should be considered in the total seismic risk estimation.
● It is conceivable that fault traces in the MMA may experience movements in the future. Earthquakes occurring in a fault may be the source of severe local shaking. Surface fault displacement and an associated deformation should be localized along the faults… The judgment of whether or not a fault is likely to move in the near future is based on its behavior in the recent geologic past. It is prudent to consider that a fault, which has moved within the past 15,000 years, is still active and is a factor to be weighed carefully in physical planning.
It can also be noted that in the UNDRO mapping, several branches of the MFS are plotted including two presumed fault lines traversing parallel the Pasig River. Because this area in question is highly urbanized, there is much difficulty in making geological and geomorphical investigations. However, the UNDRO map indicated faults emanating near the North Harbor (crossing the northernmost pier) and South Harbor (crossing the U.S. Embassy area), as well as their presumed counterparts emanating from the junction of the Pasig and Marikina Rivers. The UNDRO map also indicated three main fault lines. The UNDRO-plotted faults extend farther cutting through Sucat, Parañaque, and Alabang, Muntinlupa.
In 1980, the National Society for Seismology and Earthquake Engineering of the Philippines (NASSEP) suggested the possible existence of a Manila Fault line cutting along the Pasig River. Investigation of building ruins dating back to the middle of the 17th century indicated that the buildings were destroyed not by liquefaction alone but by the surge of very powerful vertical and lateral forces, theoretically suggesting that the epicenter of the earthquake is very near the vicinity. The Manila Faults are said to be branches of the more extensive Marikina Fault System.

Here is the summary of the preliminary results on the MFS mapping activity as so far compiled by PHIVOLCS:
● The Marikina Fault System (MFS) consists of two main northeast-trending faults – the East Marikina Fault (EMF) and the West Marikina Fault (WMF) – that bound the Marikina Valley and adjoining towns of Montalban, San Mateo, Antipolo and parts of Eastern Metro Manila… Repeated movements along the MFS greatly influenced the present morphology of the area wherein the Marikina Valley was downthrown relative to the Diliman-Pasig and Montalban-San Mateo-Antipolo areas on the west and east, respectively.
● The EMF was mapped as far north as San Rafael, Rodriguez and down south just north of Marvi Hills subdivision and Modesta Village for a distance of at least eight kilometers. The northern terminus of the EMF has not been fully mapped while its southern extent is poorly-defined as a large part of the area has been greatly modified by present-day subdivision development. Among the areas transected by the EMF are the following: San Rafael north of Wawa River, eastern San Rafael, Gloria Vista Subdivision, eastern San Mateo and northwestern Antipolo.
● The WMF has been mapped for a distance of around 30 kilometers from Lower Macabod, Rodriguez in the north down to the vicinity of the Ultra Sports Complex in Pasig, Metro Manila. Mapping of the northernmost and southernmost extensions of the WMF has been constrained by similar conditions as in the EMF. The areas directly lying along the fault trace are the following: Macabod, Rodriguez and the vicinity north of Amityville, eastern part of Amityville, western part of Christineville, eastern Quezon City/western Marikina area, downslope area east of Violago and BF Homes; eastern Payatas, Bagong Silangan, Fil-Invest Homes III; eastern Capitol Park Homes; Loyola Grand Villa Subdivision; western Loyola Subdivision’ Brangka, Cinco Hermanos, eastern parts of Don Juan, Industrial Valley and White Plains Subdivisions, and St. Ignatius Village; western parts of Green Meadows and Valle Verde Subdivisions and the Golf and Country Club.
It was during the time of PHIVOLCS director Raymundo Punongbayan when the July 16, 1990 Baguio killer quake happened, followed less than a year after by the Mount Pinatubo eruption. This prompted PHILVOCS to publicly disseminate information on the activity of the MFS, to make the public know of its existence and the potential danger it posts so that the proper authorities can make long-range preparations to meet the probable consequences of such an impending event. However, subdivision developers earnestly tried to stop the dissemination of information by lobbying in Congress and Malacañang to stop Director Punongbayan, until such time that a full and comprehensive study have been produced. These somehow slowdown the facilitation of vital information regarding the MPS.

Part III
The Marikina Fault System: The Consequences

Most of Luzon, particularly Metro Manila, because of its peculiar geologic condition, is said to be prone to natural hazards like earthquakes. On an average, the city of Manila has been shaken by destructive earthquakes once in every 14 and a half years. The former Weather Bureau published a paper on Significant Philippine Earthquakes, which gives the date, time, location of epicenter and the reported intensities of all the earthquakes that hit the country since 1949. Since that year it was estimated that Manila is “liable to be affected by an earthquake of Intensity IV (based on the Rossi-Forel Scale) every year.” This average magnitude is relatively high because of the given predominant geological conditions underlying the city.

The Vulnerability of Metro ManilaDuring the July 16, 1990 earthquake, Manila was rocked by an Intensity VII tremor although the epicenter of the earthquake was about 200 kilometers away. The isolated higher earthquake intensity experienced in Manila was caused by the soft, unconsolidated soil layers underlying the city. Manila’s buildings suffered slight structural damage. But what if the epicenter is near, say within a 10-kilometer radius? What potential effect can be expected in the area?
According to PHIVOLCS, any moderate to strong earthquakes from the Marikina Valley Fault System is “expected to have considerable impact on the present population and building density within Metro Manila and adjoining areas.”
The metropolis is especially prone to the fault-related hazard called liquefaction. The process occurs when water-soaked sediments, such as the case in the many places within the Marikina Valley and in the western part of Metro Manila especially those lying along the coastal and reclaimed areas, river deltas and similar settings, are subjected to strong ground shaking. During the process, the sediments acquire a more compacted state resulting in an increase in hydrostatic or pore water pressure thus causing the solid particles to behave like liquid and seek areas of least stress, more likely along the ground surface. The transfer of underlying materials to the surface is compensated in adjoining areas by subsidence. That means while one area is lifted upward, others sink down. This process was responsible for the extent and magnitude of damage sustained by the commercial district of Dagupan City, in Pangasinan, during the July 16, 1990 earthquake.
Another potential threat to the aforementioned areas is large-scale geologic displacement, which although may occur slowly, say a few centimeters per decade, but these areas will be proned to heavy floodings during high tides, storm surges, and typhoon or monsoon-induced rains. These is now quite apparent, especially with global warming added to the scenario.
Based on existing land laws, the Civil Code, administrative orders of the Bureau of Lands and Bureau of Forest Development, several executive orders, presidential decrees and zoning ordinances, the following summary can be noted on building easement along riverbanks:
No building shall be erected within three (3) meters in urban areas, twenty (20) meters in agricultural areas and forty (40) meters in forest areas of the original width of esteros, streams and rivers, whereby the margins are allotted for open spaces, parks, recreation areas, navigation and permanent forest cover.It can also be noted that Quezon City (although already highly urbanized), and the Marikina valley area are still classified as forest areas, and Caloocan City, Malabon City and Navotas are still classified as agricultural lands. But zoning and easement requirements were never followed, even in the urban areas. In fact, encroachments of waterways are prevalent in Metro Manila, which is also the number one cause of flooding in the city. Titles issued to these pieces of land according to all existing laws are, per se, illegal and null and void from the beginning and must be cancelled.
Buildings atop river deposit areas such as these are in high risk during earthquakes because of the danger of ground collapse and liquefaction.
A research team reported in 1984 that a portion of Metro Manila, west of the Marikina River and atop the Pasig River delta, and the Tondo foreshore area, have sunk about 18 inches in two and a half decades. It was also observed that the towns along the Laguna lakeside have also subsided an average depth of about a foot.
According to PHIVOLCS, another hazard that is expected along active faults is ground rupturing or the generation of cracks on the ground surface accompanied by either horizontal or vertical movements or a combination of both. This hazard usually affects the areas directly along and immediately astride the fault traces. Areas along the boundaries of Quezon City and Marikina going parallel the Marikina River on both sides, passing through Pasig, Mandaluyong and Taguig, continuing along the lakeside of Laguna de Bay along the Sucat and Alabang area (UNDRO mapping), are quite prone to this disaster. This is evident in many subdivisions in the area where buildings and civil work facilities experienced structural, semi-structural and masonry cracking in the last two decades or so. A combination of liquefaction and ground rupturing are also expected along these areas and also parallel the banks of the Pasig River on both sides.
The UNDRO recommended a vulnerability index map to redefine land-use and building constraints which, if applied, will result in mitigating the impact of natural phenomena, and avert disaster. These constraints are applicable both to zones which are already built up and to areas planned for new development. Thus, in the former case, the constraints indicated might lead to the removal of extremely vulnerable buildings or activities, to programs of urban renewal in which the risk factor has been taken into account, or to temporary adjusted land-uses. In the latter case, they will simply indicate restrictions on land-use and building (Restrictions in land usage were implemented when the Ministry of Human Settlement was still existing, but it was completely forgotten after the agency was closed).
As studies and investigations of the MFS continue, the threat of a major earthquake emanating from it exists.

Possible Scenarios
So far, comparing all records from various institutions, government and academic entities, the earthquake of November, 1645, probably, is the only earthquake in recorded history believed to may have originated near or within the Metro Manila area. The intensity of that earthquake was hypothetically placed between XI and X.
If the MFS would indeed move and cause an earthquake of staggering magnitude, Metro Manila would be subjected to a catastrophe also of staggering magnitude.
Most of the structures in Metro Manila are designed to resist a magnitude 6 earthquake at a minimum and a magnitude 8 at the maximum.
There are many scenarios that can be simulated if an earthquake epicentered in the MFS within the Metro Manila area. To have a better-simulated view of forthcoming events, let us study earthquakes of similar nature and circumstances.
With this in mind, two earthquakes can be recalled: The April 18, 1906 California quake that totally destroyed the San Francisco Bay area, and the infamous 8.1-magnitude (Richter Scale) Good Friday quake in Anchorage, Alaska in 1964.
In these two cases the terrains were similar in that the land areas in question were bordered by the sea and sliced by the fault lines.
Furthermore, with the case of the Anchorage quake, the epicenter occurred at the junction of four known fault lines: Lake Clark, Cook Inlet, Seldovia and Fairweather Faults. A similar nature is observed at the confluence of the Marikina and Pasig Rivers, where, according to the UNDRO mapping, several continuous and discontinuous fault traces are in junction.
In both the California and Alaska temblors, all buildings including residential houses near the faults were totally destroyed.
In California, many experts feared that if a very strong earthquake emanates from the San Andreas Fault, the entire California coastline could disappear and sink into the sea. Similarly, an earthquake of magnitude 8 or greater could trigger the same catastrophe in Metro Manila along the Pasig River delta fronting the Manila Bay. Buildings on reclaimed areas and soft silt and clay foundation in the vicinity would be almost if not totally destroyed.
Having discussed all these scenarios, the designated authorities in government should do their parts. Stricter building and construction laws would have to be followed. Zoning and easement ordinances must be implemented to the letter.
On the economic point of view, the existence of the MFS may bring down real estate investments in Metro Manila. Prices of lands in the metropolis would also go down. However, there are also some good effects. Real estate investors will look for alternative sites in the country, thereby widening the potentials of other places in the Philippines like Palawan, an area the least visited by earthquakes. Commerce and industry would be decentralized benefiting underdeveloped districts and municipalities. Population density would be lessened, and consequently, other relative factors like traffic congestion, unemployment problems, dispersal of commercial establishments, etc. Initially, the same were observed in California, Alaska and in Japan. Areas within at least a kilometer from potential faults were abandoned and declared open spaces or parks. Establishments and settlements were relocated.
Most if not all the scenarios regarding earthquake aftermath may seem grim, but let us not get into panic. Rather, let us compose ourselves and take all the necessary precautions. It is, however, inevitable and no man can challenge the might of Mother Nature nor can anyone predict exactly, at present, the time of her outburst. Prudence and prayers would certainly help a lot. Let us take these as signs that God is reminding us of His presence.
For additional information on the Marikina Valley Fault System:

Thursday, October 1, 2009


A major earthquake can inflict heavy devastation to lives and properties. But we can try to minimize damage by being prepared and following basic safety guidelines before, during and after an earthquake:

1. Evaluate the structural soundness of your home, office edifice and the buildings you frequently visit. For your home, make necessary repairs upon the recommendation of a structural engineer. Avoid buildings whose structural stability is questionable.
2. Familiarize yourself with your residence and place of work. Identify strong part of the building like doorjambs, sturdy desk or table, where you can take refuge during an earthquake. Be particular with the accessibility of alarms and emergency exits.
3. Learn to use safety equipments like fire extinguisher and first aid kits. They will surely come in handy during emergencies.
4. Strap heavy furniture to the wall and make sure appliance units are secured in their place to prevent sliding or toppling. Breakable items, harmful chemicals and flammable materials should be stored in the lowermost shelves and secured firmly.
5. Make it a habit to turn off gas tanks when not in use.
6. If you have a water tank, make sure its supports and foundation are adequate to resist floor slab or ground shaking.
7. Prepare and maintain an earthquake survival kit consisting of battery-powered radio, spare batteries, LED flashlight, first aid kit, potable water, ready to eat food like biscuits and canned goods, multivitamins, spare clothes, blanket, whistle, Swiss Army knife, all-purpose tools, high-tensile ropes and dust mask.

1. If you are indoors, get between sturdy desks or furnitures, or in a hardwood doorjambs, or beside a well-secured solid steel structure, protect yourself from falling debris by putting both hands on top of your head in a sitting fetal position. Do not go under a bed or table; most earthquake vistims were found trapped or crushed under beds, tables and inside cars.
2. If you are inside a multi-storey building, don't rush to the elevators or stairs; they are one of the most dangerous place in a building during earthquakes. Seek shelter between two sturdy objects just like in your house. Beside or in between filing cabinets, vaults or stacks of papers would generally be safer. If you are on the roof deck, don't try to get down. Past earthquakes have proven than it is safer on the roof than any other floor. If you are in a basement, you are safer nearer the perimeter wall of the subterranean structure. Most basements of buildings are made of retaining walls. The center of the basement is very unsafe. If you are in a basement car park, it is much safer to sit in a fetal position between big vehicles than inside them.
3. If you are outdoors, move to an open field where no falling debris or collapsing structure can reach you. Get away from cliffs, river embankments, bridges, power lines, posts, walls, ripraps, sewer conduits, manholes and the likes.
4. If driving, pull over to the safe side of the road and stop. Do not attempt to cross bridges or overpasses.
5. If you are caught in traffic atop a bridge or under it, leave your car immediately and move swiftly away from the bridge.
6. If you are on or near a mountain slope, move away from steep escarpments, which may be affected by landslides.
7. If you are along the shores and you feel a very strong earthquake, run as fast as you can as far away from the water towards higher ground. Earthquakes near or off the shore usually trigger tsunamis.

1. Remember that there will be aftershocks. Most of the times, the aftershocks do the most damage. If you are inside a weakened structure, take the fastest and safest way out. Do it calmly. Check elevators and stairs for structure integrity before using them. Follow the same procedure if you are in a crowded place like mall, cinema, supermarket, LRT station, etc.
2. Check yourself and your companions for injuries. In cases there are injuries, seek immediate medical attention.
3. Check for damages, cracks and dislocations in your house. Check your water and electrical lines for damages. If you notice any damage, especially in the structural frame of your building (i.e. beams, column), get an expert’s help, preferable a structural engineer. Do not try to repair them yourself.
4. Do not enter partially damaged buildings. Strong aftershocks may cause them to collapse. Do not go near down power lines or gas stations.
5. Stay tuned to news on television. If there is no electricity, try to gather information and disaster updates from your battery-powered radio. Obey public safety precautions.
6. Do not use the telephone or cellphone for unnecessary calls. Use it only for emergencies or to call your relatives and give advises and updates. This will prevent clogging of the lines, which the authorities may need for faster emergency reaction time.
7. Do not stroll or drive around devastated areas. No sightseeing.
8. If you must evacuate your residence, leave a message stating where you are going. Lock and secure your home well to prevent robbery and looting. Wear casual (rubber) shoes and bring your earthquake survival kit.
There is no such thing as an earthquake-proof structure. What can be designed is an earthquake-resistant structure. The strength, stability and resistance against earthquakes of a structure depend on several factors: the design and specification of the structure, the type of foundation (ground formation) in which the structure was built upon, the magnitude of the earthquake, and the shallowness and nearness of the epicenter.