A magnitude 5.3 earthquake jolted Tinaga Island in Vinzons, Camarines Norte Wednesday afternoon with shockwaves felt across Metro Manila, forcing people out of homes, schools, and buildings, stalling sessions at the Senate, and forcing the Philippine National Railways to temporarily suspend all trips.
The earthquake occurred as the national government was continuing to carry out initiatives to protect public buildings against earthquakes in Metro Manila, where 13 million of the 114 million population live, Climate Change Commission executive director Robert Borje said.
Meanwhile, a small phreatomagmatic burst was recorded in Taal Volcano, which lasted for a minute, according to state monitoring of the volcano from 5 a.m. on Tuesday to 5 a.m. on Wednesday.
Taal Volcano remained at Alert Level 1, which means there is a low-level unrest.
A weak emission of plumes reaching up to 600 meters tall was observed over the volcano that drifted southwest, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said.
The PNR said in an advisory all PNR trips were suspended temporarily and advised commuters to and from the Bicol Region to check its official Facebook page for additional updates regarding train trips and schedule.
Meanwhile, Phivolcs said the quake, of tectonic origin meaning it was caused by the movement of the earth’s crust, occurred at 1:05 p.m. at a depth of one kilometer.
Secretary Renato Solidum Jr. of the Department of Science and Technology was at the Senate for his confirmation hearing with the Commission on Appointments at the time when the tremor happened.
Intensity 5, characterized by strong shaking, was felt in Mercedes and Jose Panganiban in Camarines Norte, while intensity 4 or moderately strong shaking was experienced in Daet, Camarines Norte, and Guinayangan and Polillo in Quezon.
Intensity 3 or weak shaking was also recorded in Ragay, Pili and Iriga City in Camarines Sur, and Mauban, Lopez, Mulanay, Alabat and Gumaca in Quezon.
Several parts in Metro Manila felt intensity 2 or slightly felt shaking, such as in Quezon City, Marikina City and Pasig City, and in Tabaco, Albay; Dingalan, Aurora; Batangas City, Batangas; Calumpit; Plaridel, Pulilan, Marilao and San Ildefonso, Bulacan; Sagnay, Camarines Sur; Carmona, Cavite; Gapan City, Nueva Ecija; Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro; Guagua, Pampanga; Infanta, Pangasinan; Dolores, Infanta and Calauag, Quezon, and Taytay and Tanay, Rizal.
Intensity 1 or “scarcely perceptible shaking was recorded in Metro Manila’s Malabon City, Pasay City, Quezon City, Muntinlupa City and San Juan City; Albay’s Legazpi City; Bulacan’s Bulakan, Santa Maria, Guiguinto, Obando, Malolos City, Pandi and Dona Remedios Trinidad; Cavite’s Tagaytay City, and Ternate; Ilocos Sur’s Candon; Laguna’s Calamba and Los Banos; Northern Samar’s Mapanas; Nueva Ecija’s San Antonio, Gabaldon and Cabanatuan City; Oriental Mindoro’s Calapan City; Quezon’s Tayabas, and Lucena City, and Rizal’s Angono, Morong, Antipolo and Cainta.
Slight inflation was also observed on the Taal Volcano Island and Western Taal Caldera, while deflation on Eastern Taal Caldera.
On December 5, Phivolcs said 2,115 tonnes of sulfur dioxide were released from the volcano.
On October 12, the Main Crater Lake was at 65.1 degrees Celsius with an acidity level of 0.76, PHIVOLCS added.
Phivolcs prohibited the entry into Taal Volcano Island or the Permanent Danger Zone especially the Main Crater and Daang Kastila fissures, as well as the occupancy and boating on Taal Lake.
Flying any aircraft close to the volcano is also not allowed, according to Phivolcs.
It also warned of possible hazards such as steam-driven or phreatic or gas-driven explosions, volcanic earthquakes, minor ashfall, and lethal accumulations or expulsions of volcanic gas.
In related developments, the national government continues to carry out initiatives to protect public buildings against earthquakes in Metro Manila while strengthening emergency preparedness and response, an official said Wednesday.
Borje, Climate Change Commission vice chairperson and executive director, made this remark after a 5.3 magnitude earthquake rocked Camarines Norte and other parts of Luzon on Wednesday afternoon.
The quake struck 19 kilometers northeast of Tinaga Island, Vinzons, Camarines Norte at 1:05 pm according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
“The government is doing all that it can to be prepared for this type of earthquake and other disasters and I think the NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) is working very hard together with OCD (Office of Civil Defense) and the members of the NDRRMC to ensure that we are all prepared,” Borje said in a chance interview with reporters.
He said several studies have found the need to “be more prepared,” especially in the path of the West Valley Fault, a 100-kilometer fault that runs through six cities in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
This fault line runs through Metro Manila to the cities of Marikina, Quezon City, Pasig, Makati, Taguig, and Muntinlupa and traverses Doña Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan to Calamba, Laguna.
Borje said safety drills done to prepare for earthquakes may also be conducted for other “climate change”-induced disasters like flooding.
In 2018, then President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order 52, creating the Program Management Office for Earthquake Resiliency of the greater Metro Manila area and tasked it to ensure that all government efforts in preparing for a huge quake are well coordinated.
The EO 52 defines the institutional roles and responsibilities of government agencies to strengthen the country’s resilience to earthquakes, and to ensure public safety and government continuity.
It also mandates government agencies to take proactive steps to “guarantee the resilience of public infrastructure (e.g. roads, bridges, buildings, hospitals) in the Greater Metro Manila Area.”
The government has been regularly holding earthquake drills in Metro Manila to prepare for the so-called “big one” or a worst-case scenario of an earthquake from the West Valley Fault.