Media quick in reporting Abra quake, follow-up needed

IN THE MORNING OF July 27, a magnitude 7 quake shook parts of Luzon, its epicenter in the northern province of Abra. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) initially pegged the earthquake’s magnitude at 7.3, and reported that it had occurred at 8:43 am, but later downgraded the quake to magnitude 7. It was felt mainly in Northern Luzon but reached the country’s capital, Manila, more than 400 kilometers away, as well as other parts of Southern Luzon.

Media duly reported the number of dead, missing, and injured, together with updates on the situation of evacuees. Community media also took the lead in reporting updates on the people missing or injured and public advisories to residents.

CMFR reviewed the reports of ABS-CBN, GMA, TV5, and CNN Philippines; as well as selected Baguio media outlets Baguio Midland Courier, Baguio Chronicle, and Bombo Radyo Baguio from July 27 to August 1.

National media’s quick response

Some TV networks were conducting live interviews when the earthquake happened. For ABS-CBN, Teleradyo’s Noli de Castro and ANC’s Karen Davila had to cut short their interviews, with De Castro’s guest in Ilocos Sur visibly shaking due to the quake. GMA’s Mike Enriquez was also live on Dobol B TV.

Minutes later, GMA’s reporters in Manila, Quezon City, Pasig, Makati, and Marikina were able to give immediate live updates. Meanwhile, De Castro phoned in and asked a congressman in Ilocos Sur to describe the quake’s power in the province.

At 9 am, CNN Philippines’ The Source interviewed PHIVOLCS Director Renato Solidum to provide more details on the quake. TV5’s Frontline sa Umaga interviewed the Abra Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) at 10AM.

By noontime, all networks had featured the quake as the top story in their newscasts, interviewing local government officials of the most-affected areas and residents through phone calls. Citizen and LGU footage showed damaged roads and historic sites, fallen buildings, and the shaking of cars when the quake happened. Networks also provided updates from disaster agencies, issuing reminders of safety protocols during quakes.

Some networks had the advantage of having correspondents in the area,  GMA’s stringer Argie Lorenzo reported from Bangued, Abra while ABS-CBN’s Mae Cornes reported from Baguio City. 

Some also gave airtime to local media. Elaine Ferras of DZPA Bangued reported for Teleradyo while Joel Cervantes, station manager of RPN Baguio, reported for CNN Philippines.

By the time they had their 6 pm newscasts, ABS-CBN and GMA’s reporters were already at the disaster-stricken areas. TV5 and CNN Philippines followed suit. Reporters recalled what happened earlier and described the continuous aftershocks and evacuation of residents, with most residents choosing to sleep outside in tents. 

GMA’s 24 Oras featured correspondents from GMA Regional TV Balitang Amianan who reported live: Ivy Hernando in Abra, Tere Sundayon in Vigan, and Jasmin Gabriel-Galban in Benguet. They also reported in the earlier regional newscast at 5:00 PM. ABS-CBN’s Jorge Cariño recorded the damaged roads and landslides they passed by in TV Patrol.

TV5’s late-night newscast Frontline Tonight had correspondents Laila Pangilinan, Mon Gualvez and JC Cosico stationed in Ilocos Sur, Abra, and Benguet respectively. The next day, July 28, CNN Philippines’ Gerg Cahiles interviewed residents in Abra, while David Santos reported from Vigan, Ilocos Sur.

The monitored networks continued their reports until August 1 when another magnitude 5 aftershock occurred. Reports later focused on the number of injured, missing, and deaths, the distribution of relief goods, the state of electrical and water supply, and the response of local and national governments.

Community press reporting 

The Baguio-based press added to the coverage by publishing immediate photos of the damages, noting the state of the roads, and advising the public of hotlines and nearby relief sources. They also provided specific updates on the missing, the injured, and the dead which national media counted as numbers.

Bombo Radyo Baguio reached a wider audience by using the Iloko language in its reports.

The Baguio Chronicle fact checked and countered a viral scare that said  there would be “a much stronger quake on Wednesday evening.”

Harley Palangchao, photojournalist of Baguio Midland Courier, also reported his experience while on his way to the Mountain Province. Despite an avalanche of boulders, he still took what he feared were the last pictures of his life.

Follow- up needed

While reporting the casualties, destruction, and the needs of those affected is important, looking into government lapses in its risk reduction and mitigation efforts would help prod it into reviewing and addressing disasters. There is also a need to explain the science and pattern of earthquakes in the country.

Disaster effects last longer than breaking news and updates. News must continuously provide information on the situation of the communities affected and remind the government of its role in addressing their needs.