By Ferdie Pasion 

JUST three days after the 6.6-magnitude 29 October Tulunan, Cotabato earthquake the Chinese Embassy in Manila announced its donation of 3 million RMB (or about PHP22 million) donation to the Philippine government to help victims of the earthquakes that have hit Mindanao this past week. This very prompt action of the Chinese government to extend its assistance is the first among foreign governments and a sign that China has over the years been improving its response time in mobilizing resources to help the Philippine when the need arises.

This is an important development in the continuing advancement of Philippine-China ties demonstrating the heightened alertness and sensitivity of the Chinese government, through its embassy, to the needs of its “strategic partner” as President Xi Jinping and President Rodrigo R. Duterte announced in the 2018 November talks of the two leaders during the Chinese president’s state visit.

This latest and swiftest action of the Chinese government comes after similarly fast response time of the Chinese government in extending assistance in previous earthquakes hitting the Philippines, such as the July 2019 Batanes earthquake when China donated P 10 million.

It should be heartwarming for all Filipinos, but especially Mindanaoans the expression of the Chinese government to the latest disaster in our major Southern island:

“The Chinese government expresses its deepest sympathy to those affected families and decided to donate 3 million RMB (approximately 22 million pesos) through the Embassy in the Philippines to aid the victims and support the disaster relief efforts by the Philippine government in Mindanao and help local residents return to normal life,”

Other embassies, U.S. and Japan, also sent  heir sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims of the quake but material assistance have yet to be announced. In many previous Philippine disaster experiences China’s assistance is often unfairly criticized or even maligned by Western and local mainstream media habitually critical of China.

In the 2013 Yolanda typhoon aftermath, China eventually sent up to P 80-million donation and its naval medical ship to attend to the thousands of victims but Western news media such as The Guardian headlined, Typhoon Haiyan: China gives less aid to Philippines than Ikea’s (the furniture maker) $2.7 million. It was disgusting uncalled for propaganda from the West that presaged the “New Cold War”.

This maligning of Chinese assistance doesn’t happen anymore as China has proven to be the biggest heart when it comes to assisting the Philippines in its many needs in times of crisis and other needs.

Outside of the crisis assistance other donations of China have amounted to P 9.729-billions of grant aid for needs such as bridges, drug rehab centers, solar lighting for far flung barangays, among many others that Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua announced during President Xi’s 2019 state visit.

The Philippine-BRICS Strategic Studies think tank seeing the great urgency of the risk from the major earthquakes, the much feared Big One, that threaten other parts of the Philippines and particularly the expected 7 to 8 magnitude from the West Valley Fault in Luzon cutting through parts of Metro-Manila, has taken upon itself to scan the Chinese assistance landscape for further support in earthquake preparedness.  Herman Tiu-Laurel and Ferdie Pasion of the Philippine-BRICS Strategic Studies thus made the call on the Philippine government yesterday to immediately tap China’s assistance to operationalize the Chinese-developed advanced earthquake warning and prediction system in the Philippines together with its rapid response system.

We note from a May 2019 Global Times report China’s advanced earthquake warning and prediction technology that has been dubbed the “fastest in the world” that uses AI or artificial intelligence.

The Chengdu-based Institute of Care-life which specializes in earthquake early warning asserts that “The average response time of the earthquake early warning system in China is 6.2 seconds now, 30 percent qucker than Japan, which is nine seconds” it head Eng. Wang Tun said. The occasion for this report was the May 2008 magnitude 8 Wenchuan earthquake that claimed 69,000 livers.

If China’s new earthquake early warning system has been available in 2008 there would have been 30 percent fewer deaths. The West Valley Fault earthquake expected in Metro-Manila in the immediate years ahead is projected to cause up to 34,000 casualties. Such an earthquake early warning system that could save up to 10,000 lives or more should be a “must have” for the Philiippines.

Our government and our volcanology experts in Philvolcs may be advised to reach out to the Chinese embassy to arrange for a study of this earthquake life-saving technology from China. The Chinese-developed advanced earthquake warning and prediction system together with its rapid response system must now include the Philippines among its areas of concern. This can be done by entering into a detailed bilateral agreement with China on this matter which can be fast-tracked with the professional support of our envoy to China, Ambassador Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana, and Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Lopez Locsin, Jr. 

(Ferdie Pasion is a member of the Board of Directors of the economic alliance Phil-BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa] Strategic Studies.)