Workers use a crane to lift up concrete block that fell on a car after buildings collapsed during an earthquake in Cebu city, central Philippines in October 2013. Image Credit: REUTERS

Manila: Relief operations to enable Bohol and Cebu to quickly get back on its feet will continue, the presidential palace said, while efforts shift from rescue to recovery of the bodies of the victims of the magnitude 7.2 earthquake.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte in an interview aired over government radio station dzRB, said the military, in conjunction with civilian counterparts, are sustaining the stream of relief goods to affected areas such as to Antequera, Calape, Carmen, Catigbian, Loon, Maribojoc, Panglao, San Isidro, Tagbilaran and Tubigon in Bohol.

The Philippine Air Force’s medium lift cargo aircraft, a C-130, had landed in Tagbilaran airport from Cebu bringing in relief goods and other non-food items such as tents that are needed for disaster relief, she said.

“These airlift efforts are in addition to ships sailing back and forth to Bohol from Cebu to bring more relief goods,” she added.

A magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit the Central Visayas region on Tuesday morning, toppling houses and buildings including some of the province’s famed centuries-old churches.

According to the Philippine National Police (PNP) regional office, the number of fatalities from the quake stood at 179 on Saturday morning, while authorities said efforts shift from rescue to recovery five days into the tragedy.

Eduardo Del Rosario, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), said that search-and-rescue operations for the still missing victims were called off on Saturday as there is almost no hope of finding more survivors buried under the rubble.

“The rescue operations have ended and, instead, we are now conducting recovery operations,” Del Rosario said adding that efforts are now focused on search-and-recovery of the listed 13 people still missing.

Most of the missing are located in Bohol, an island famous for its Chocolate Hills and home to what is considered the smallest primate, the Philippines Tarsier.

For her part, Valte said the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has also sent its fourth rescue team to assist in the ongoing efforts in different municipalities in Bohol.

The MMDA teams are equipped with specialised rescue and retrieval equipment.

“We expect to identify more areas that require continuous relief from the provincial and national government...as we also expect some progress in the clearing of the roads that have been rendered impassable because of landslides,” she said.

The Philippines Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said 1,846 aftershocks had been recorded between October 15 and 6am on Saturday.

Some 695,466 families in 53 towns and eight cities in six provinces were affected.

As for Metro Manila, the Phivolcs has been studying the West Valley fault in Marikina that indicated critical movements every 200 or 400 years, Valte said.

She said that disaster preparedness should start at home as she encouraged Filipinos to review every family’s disaster preparedness measures.

“Our best defence against disasters is preparedness,” she said.