Zamboanga Sibugay Governor Wilter Palma has advised the municipal leaders, especially of the island and coastal towns, to conduct disaster drills as they are vulnerable to natural calamities.

Palma said there is a need to train the residents on disaster preparedness so that they would know what to do when natural calamity, like earthquake, occurs.

Palma noted that three of this province’s 16 municipalities are located in an island while the 13 are coastal towns.

The three towns located in one island are the municipalities of Mabuhay, Olutanga, and Talusan. The three towns have a population of 100,510 based on the 2010 census.

The entire place is previously known as Olutanga Island, which has an area of 25,431 hectares and a barangay of Alicia town.

The island is located near the Sulu trench, which the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) considers as one of the earthquake generators in the region.

The last time Sulu trench moved was on August 17, 1976 that generated an earthquake with 7.9 magnitude. The quake triggered a tsunami that devastated more that 700 kilometers of coastline bordering Moro Gulf in the North Celebes Sea.

“The earthquake can cause tsunami…this movement will be repeated in the future, and we should always be prepared anytime,” Palma said.

Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum said the Sulu trench could generate an earthquake with a magnitude as high as 8.0, putting the provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (BaSulTa) and Zamboanga Peninsula at high risk.

Phivolcs reported that at least 5,000 people died during the 7.9 magnitude earthquake on August 17, 1976 while thousands others were missing as tidal waves struck Pagadian City and several coastal towns in Zamboanga del Sur.

The Phivolcs considers the incident as one of the most devastating disasters in the history of the country.

“We do not know when, only God’s know when and where it (the destructive earthquake) will happen,” Palma said.

He ordered the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) to request the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) to hold a disaster drills in this province.

He said the destruction of the lives and properties could be minimized if the communities are well-prepared and equipped.

He added that the local government units should always be prepared to face any eventuality to include natural calamity.