Father Edwin Gariguez, head of Caritas Philippines, addresses participants at an emergency simulation drill in Manila. (Photo by Mark Saludes)
The Caritas social action arm of the Catholic church in the Philippines is helping to prepare for the terrifying scenario of a future so-called mega earthquake striking the densely populated and mostly low-lying capital, Manila.
The Philippines lies along the 'Pacific Ring of Fire', which causes the country to have frequent seismic and volcanic activity.
In 2013, a magnitude of 7.2 earthquake struck Bohol province in the central Philippines, killing 222 people and causing widespread damage, including to historical churches.
Caritas Philippines has been conducting simulation drills to standardize coordination planning with various agencies in the event of a large earthquake dubbed 'The Big One' hitting Metro Manila.
The organization's Lanie Samonte said the drills demonstrate emergency operating procedures and a communications protocol that dioceses and humanitarian groups can follow if the need arises.
Ishmael Narag, from the government's Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said the nation still has a long way to go in terms of disaster preparedness.
He said that it was imperative for groups involved in disaster preparedness to have pre-determined roles to play before, during, and after any future large earthquake striking Manila.
The last damaging earthquake that affected the capital occurred in 1968, killing at least 268 people.
Father Edwin Gariguez, head of Caritas Philippines, said the agency always worked with the government and other aid agencies in responding to disasters.
"Our unity is the light that would guide us to become better in serving the people, in saving lives, and reducing the sufferings of the most vulnerable," Father Gariguezthe said.