The University of the Philippines (UP) combined its expertise in earth and health sciences and quick public service with a unified response within a week after the Mindanao earthquakes of October 2019. Three strong earthquakes occurred on 16, 29, and 31 October with magnitudes of 6.3, 6.6 and 6.5, respectively. The province of North Cotabato was hardest hit with 21,110 houses destroyed, 15 roads and bridges damaged, and several other infrastructures similarly affected. The social welfare department website reported 24,000 displaced persons were in evacuation centers with another 7,465 outside evacuation centers, with a total of 188,533 affected persons.
In the aftermath of the earthquakes, UP executive vice president Teodoro Herbosa announced that UP Foundation, Inc. will receive donations from members of the UP community who expressed their willingness to help. Local donors can pay to Union Bank of the Philippines-Commonwealth branch, savings account no. 102270018964, and donors from abroad may pay to Philippine National Bank-UP Campus branch, savings account no. 108660029835, with PNB Swift Code: PNBmPHmm.
The UP Mindanao Pahinungod also announced its donation drive for relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. Donations will be accepted through the UP Strategic Research and Management Foundation with address at School of Management Building, UP Mindanao, Mintal, Davao City, with tel. no. (+63 82)295-2188. Donations may be deposited to Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC)-CM Recto, Davao City Branch, Account No. 1522601256 with Swift code RBCPHMM. Further inquiries may be directed to UP Mindanao Pahinungod through 09196398805 (Smart), 09451076756 or 09674194345 (Globe/TM), or by private message to https://www.facebook.com/upmindanao.pahinungod.
UP executive vice president Teodoro Herbosa immediately created the Mindanao Earthquake Response Team of UP, composed of UP NOAH and the UP Resilience Institute (UP RI), both focused on disaster risk reduction, the Ugnayan ng Pahinungod volunteer service unit, the UP Manila Pahinungod with its force of health workers, vice president for finance Joselito Florendo, with VP for public affairs Elena Pernia as chair. UP Mindanao chancellor Larry Digal created a counterpart UP Mindanao Task Force to coordinate the UP movements in the region. The Task Force initiated a donation drive and sent volunteers to help repack relief goods in a partner government agency.
On 8 November the first UP team of geologists led by NOAH executive director Alfredo Mahar Lagmay accompanied by RI director Genaro Cuaresma and the UP Mindanao Task Force arrived in remote Sitio Flortam, Barangay Batasan in hard-hit Makilala municipality. “There was something about the collapsed lane in the highway and the cracks in the landscape in Sitio Flortam that made Dr. Lagmay stop to take measurements and take aerial photos using a drone,” said UP Mindanao Task Force chair Michael Gatela. “We suspect that there may be a new and undiscovered fault line parallel to the known Makilala fault, but we still have to do further studies,” said Dr. Cuaresma.
While in the site, the UP Mindanao team established relations with the community by meeting the residents and delivering some donations in the presence of the sitio leader.
At the Office of the Provincial Governor in Kidapawan City, the team shared the initial satellite data showing the ground changes with Acting Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza and Acting Vice Governor Shirlyn Macasarte-Villanueva, who had previously written UP president Danilo Concepcion, to request structural and geological assessments, and psychosocial support for trauma victims.
Over the next two days the UP group inspected barangays Kisante, Batasan, Buenavida, Sto. Niño, Buhay and Malasila, and took a helicopter fly-by over Bgy. Bato, all in Makilala. Before departing, they shared assessments with the Incident Management Team and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PhiVolcs) team and acting vice-governor Villanueva.
“Four barangays in Makilala suffered 100% damage,” said Dr. Cuaresma. “Resettlement is the only prospect for those families whose homesites are now uninhabitable,” he said.
In the weekend of 9 November, a second geology team led by Dr. Mario Aurelio arrived to replace the first team, and a UP College of Engineering group arrived and conducted detailed assessments of buildings in the disaster area.
The following week, a shipment of special tents from the SOS Attitude international relief NGO arrived in Davao City consigned to UP, for which the UP Mindanao Task Force made a quick visit to Makilala and identified an evacuation site in Barangay Poblacion with 295 multi-cultural families of Muslims, Manobos, and migrants to be the beneficiaries. Volunteers from UP Mindanao and its alumni, UP Vanguard, the League of Provinces, Bureau of Fire Protection, Rotary Clubs and Rotaracts in Kidapawan were identified to help set up the tent camp in the coming weeks.
A third UP group composed of medical doctors from UP Manila and psychologists from UP Manila and UP Visayas arrived on-site on 20 November. Chancellor Digal mentioned the possible need for UP Mindanao volunteer interpreters, since psycho-social and medical interventions involve personal interaction.
Meanwhile, local musicians, including some alumni, composed and recorded a motivational song and initiated a donation drive that culminated in a charity concert “Usá ka bundákan para sa mga naíg-an,” (“A simultaneous drop/hit for the hard-hit”) on 16 November 2019 in Davao City.