Breaktime: Like piece out of water

What must the business sector do, according to Phivolcs, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, if and when the “Big One” comes?

Phivolcs was referring to a 7.2-magnitude earthquake on the Richter scale that could possibly hit Metro Manila, compared for instance to the 6.8 magnitude in San Francisco in 1989 and 7.8 in Nepal last April, which both created widespread destruction of buildings and infrastructure, not to mention thousands of deaths and injuries.


News media here even tagged such a possibility as the “Big One,” based on studies conducted way back in 2006 that became known as the MMEIRS, or the Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study.

According to Phivolcs, in the widespread chaos after the Big One, key business sectors would have to own up the burden of having to keep their services available to the public.


The most critical business of them all surely would be utilities, i.e. the power and water suppliers, and the mobile telephone companies, plus of course news outfits and all kinds of security units.

In other words, the biggest responsibility of the business sector would be to stay open for business—no matter what!

Question: What would be the most important factor in the survival of human beings in any emergency? Hint: not cellphone load!

From what I gathered, Manila Water from day one, or when it took over the water supply system in the 1990s, knew that its service would be critical in any calamity.

And so it already devised what it called “earthquake contingency plan” some years ago even before the MMEIRS came into fashion, thanks to the preoccupation of the leadership in the MMDA.

Manila Water was the same company in the Ayala group that, in 2013, was embroiled in a tussle with the MWSS, or the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, over the rates it charged customers in its area.

After two years, the arbitration panel under the ICC, or the International Chamber of Commerce, decided against Manila Water and ordered it to slash its rates, which the water company already started to implement.


Anyway, Manila Water actually conducted various technical studies on the possible effect of the Big One on the critical water supply in the metropolis, considering that this area of roughly 12 million people had limited sources of potable water.

The company then used its findings to write down some basic guidelines, which in turn it broke down into actual projects, which finally it translated into daily operations.

That actually meant that the company already purchased the equipment and the materials for a good number of those projects.

From what I heard, Manila Water’s technical studies paid special attention to the reservoirs, the water treatment plants, the pumping stations and ultimately the pipelines.

Well, if the Big One would damage just one section of all those four components of the water supply system—again, just any one section—the public would greatly suffer.

And so what did Manila Water find out in its studies?

For one, it figured that the metropolis would have to retrofit the dams (i.e. Angat and La Mesa) and the dikes in the reservoir (Balara, for instance) and the main pipelines and the pumping stations.

In short, we had to make everything in the supply chain much stronger!

As part of its plan, the company also wanted to buy what it called “portable” treatment plants, which it then would position at strategic points in its franchise areas.

And then it wanted to construct underground “emergency” reservoirs.

Most importantly, the master plan called for the positioning of repair materials—i.e. heavy-duty pipes and elbows and such—in various parts of the metropolis for what it called quick response at the customer level.

And all those things would only be for contingencies against earthquake.

Unfortunately, or rather fortunately, when the huge floods from “Ondoy” came in 2009, Manila Water realized that it had to come up with an emergency plan even for weather disturbances like strong typhoons.

Whether we like it or not, the water supply system in any crowded urban area in any part of this world would pretty much be up to the weather. Think El Niño, for instance.

Really, no single tiny piece of the metropolis could last for long without water.

Anyway, Manila Water therefore changed its strategy to what it called “National Calamity Mitigation” (NCM) plan starting in 2009, when everything was still lovey-dovey between the company and the MWSS.

The NCM of the company demanded that, for instance, it would have to relocate certain pumping stations away from flood prone areas, or it would even have to design a new modern hi-tech system for submerged pumps.

Well, at least we know that companies like Manila Water had the sense to devise their business plans according to the vagaries of the weather or the brutality of the tectonic plates, even investing in modern infrastructure to address some public concerns.

Question: What infrastructure did the Aquino (Part II) administration even put up to prepare for the Big One, or anything against those sure-to-come strong typhoons, or even the threat of liquefaction in the metropolis?

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TAGS: Big One, Earthquake, infractructure, Metro Manila, Phivolcs
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