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The Chilean Earthquake, Can the Philippines Handle a Similar Disaster?

ith the 24th anniversary of the EDSA People's Power revolution just behind us and the Manny Pacquiao, Joshua Clottey boxing match justComputer simulation of the tsunami expected to hit the entire Pacific basin ahead, the Philippines is now bracing for a tsunami. As this article is being written, Hawaii and countries in Asia from Japan down to Australia are bracing for a tsunami headed their way.

The very powerful Chilean earthquake (8.8 on the Richter scale) seems to have devastated most of the country just as a less powerful quake destroyed much of Haiti on the 12th of January. The Chilean government however, appears confident that it has the ability to respond to the crisis in a way that the Haitian government was unable to.

This brings us to the Philippines and its ability to respond to a disaster of similar magnitude. The population density in major cities of the Philippines—especially in the National Capital Region—is so great that millions can easily be displaced and thousands killed should a quake of similar magnitude occur in the country. A casual perusal of structures along most roadways in Metro Manila would highlight many dilapidated or abandoned buildings, obstructed streets, and makeshift shelters teaming with squatters (illegal settlers). Rescue efforts, no matter how well prepared and coordinated can easily be overwhelmed by the sheer mass of humanity living in Philippine cities.

Despite the specter of overpopulation staring Filipino leaders in the face, the government of Gloria Arroyo has refused to even talk about population control fearing the wrath of the powerful Catholic Church. Towing the Vatican line, Philippine church officials have all but banned all forms of birth control other than the ineffective rhythm method. 

While the Tsunami headed towards the Philippines is expected to dissipate before reaching its shores, Government leaders continue to stick their heads in the sand or cower before the dictates of a church that can offer nothing but platitudes about some heavenly reward. When the 'big one' finally arrives, be it a tsunami, an earthquake, or a flood, we can only pray that damages and casualties will be kept to a minimum. Maybe at that point, Filipinos will start being more proactive about protecting their environment, depopulating their cities and bringing their runaway population growth under control.

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