Philippines: Mindanao Earthquakes Emergency Operation update n° 3 Emergency appeal n° MDRPH036

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Effects of COVID-19 to Mindanao Earthquake operation

On 12 March 2020, the Philippines raised the COVID-19 alert system to “Code Red Sub-Level 2” imposing community quarantine in the National Capital Region (NCR) and other mitigation measures, including suspension of classes, mass gatherings and non-essential work, flexible work arrangements, as well as restrictions on land, domestic air and sea travel. On 15 March 2020, President Duterte announced that the entirety of the Luzon island, the country’s largest and most populated island, would be placed under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) until 12 April 2020, and later announced on 7 April 2020, that it was extended to 30 April 2020. On 17 March 2020, President Duterte issued Proclamation No. 929, declaring the Philippines under a state of calamity for a tentative period of six months. On 24 March, the President signed the “Bayanihan To Heal as One” Act into law, providing him with emergency powers to further strengthen the government response to COVID-19.

Other areas of the Philippines outside of Luzon have also implemented ECQ, as well as introduced their own localized restrictions, including Davao del Sur and North Cotabato, the two operational provinces for Mindanao Earthquake emergency operations. Many operational activities were put on hold in compliance to the government’s imposition of movement restrictions. Thus, there is no significant progress of activities for this update compared to the last issued Operations Update.

In the case of Davao del Sur, the chapter followed the protocol of its local government unit (LGU) to put on hold any activities. While in North Cotabato, the local government has agreed to continue the activities, with some limitation in terms of access, while strictly observing guideline on social distancing and not to hold mass gathering activity.

The IFRC Country Office (CO) has been working in collaboration with their counterparts in Philippine Red Cross to assess the implications of the ECQ and restrictions being enforced on the Mindanao Earthquakes operation; identify measures to mitigate any negative impact on the implementation of activities, and communities being served. This has led to recommendations related to the mainstreaming of COVID-19 sensitive approaches into ongoing activities to protect recipients of assistance, staff and volunteers, through revised registration protocols and provision of personal protective equipment (PPE). Implementation of remaining activities was expected to be completed by September 2020; however due to the disruptions caused by COVID-19, based on the revised activity plan which been prepared, this is not expected to be done by November 2020 – still within the operating timeframe (end of December 2020). The IFRC CO and PRC are monitoring the situation closely in the event there are further unforeseen disruptions that need to be accommodated.

Description of the disaster

On 29 October 2019, two strong earthquakes struck the province of North Cotabato, Mindanao, the first one of magnitude 6.6 in Tulunan at 09:04; the second of magnitude 6.1 and 9km deep at 10:42 with almost the same epicentre.

Just two days after, on 31 October 2019 at 09:15, another tectonic 1magnitude 6.5 earthquake shook central and eastern Mindanao at a shallow depth of two kilometres. Once again, the epicentre was identified in Tulunan, North Cotabato.2 A state of calamity3 was declared for Davao del Sur on 30 October and Cotabato on 5 November, the two hardest hit provinces. These earthquakes, as well as the magnitude 6.3 earthquake recorded on 16 October 2019, with the same epicentre location, are considered part of a sequence of events resulting from interdependent faults in the region. No tsunami warnings were issued but many aftershocks, ranging from magnitude 1.5 to 5.5 were recorded. The NDRRMC most recent update on 22 January 2020, indicates the main impacts of the earthquakes as follows:

While the government authorities and humanitarian partners were providing humanitarian assistance to people in need, on 15 December, another 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck at 9km northwest of Matanao municipality in the province of Davao del Sur, Mindanao. This was the fourth quake above magnitude 6 in the last two months to hit this part of Mindanao, all within a radius of 12km. According to PHILVOCS, although felt in the same areas, this latest earthquake did not emanate from the same fault as the October’s series of temblors in Mindanao. However, the December earthquake compounded previous displacement as well as damage to homes, schools and infrastructure from the October earthquakes, as reported in the DSWD DROMIC report. A cumulative of 13 confirmed deaths, 210 injured and 1 missing was reported.

The plan of action for this emergency appeal was revised in December 2019 to provide a comprehensive response taking into account all geographical areas affected and escalating needs generated.