DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy (File photo)

MANILA – The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and local telecommunications companies (telco) have deployed response teams in areas hit by a magnitude 7 earthquake on Wednesday.

In a press conference at the Manila Hotel, DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy ordered the DICT’s disaster deployment readiness team to standby in Northern Luzon and identify areas with damaged infrastructure.

“Especially on telecoms, para mai-deploy po namin sa tamang lugar ang assets natin (so we can deploy our assets in the right place) to ensure that we will still have communication in those disaster areas,” Uy said.

In areas where communication lines have been damaged and locals have trouble reaching out to their families, he said the DICT will deploy trucks equipped with a satellite-powered internet hub and a generator set.

These communications trucks, he said, can run for a week straight and can be deployed in far-flung areas.

“As we speak now, they are all set. So, we just need to know, to identify kung saan natin ide-deploy dahil hindi naman siguro buong Norte may infrastructure damage (where we will deploy because I don’t think the whole North has damaged infrastructure),” he said.

He noted that the DICT has disaster response units “pre-deployed” in areas of the country frequently hit by disasters, particularly typhoons.

Ngunit katulad ng mga ganitong lindol, hindi natin alam kung saan manggagaling yan kaya mahirap mag-pre-deploy diyan (But with disasters such as this earthquake, we wouldn’t know where it will hit and that’s why pre-deployment is hard),” he said.

In addition to government efforts, Globe Telecom Inc. (Globe), Smart Communications Inc., and its parent company PLDT (PLDT-Smart) have also deployed response teams to address the damages caused by the earthquake to their broadband infrastructure and to assist locals through free services.

In a statement, Globe announced the deployment of free calls, free charging, and a free Wi-Fi station at the Bangued Plaza in Abra, adjacent to the municipality of Lagangilang town, the epicenter of the earthquake.

“Affected residents may place free calls to loved ones and charge their mobile phones at Globe’s free call, charging, and connectivity station, which was established in collaboration with the local government of Bangued. This service will remain available for at least three days,” it said.

To date, the company’s technical teams have found no damage in its infrastructure, noting that its network is “stable.”

“Customers, emergency workers, and local authorities in quake-hit areas may expect reliable connectivity, which is crucial in addressing urgent concerns in the aftermath of this powerful temblor,” it said.

On the other hand, PLDT-Smart has set up free call stations at the Vigan Northern Alliance Trading in Tamag, Vigan City; Candon City PD Office in San Isidro, Candon -- both in Ilocos Sur -- and at the Abra PD Office in Bangued, Abra.

While most fixed and wireless services of PLDT-Smart remain operational, it said response teams continue to assess, repair impacted sites, and restore affected services.

“Some customers in earthquake-hit areas may experience temporary service interruptions due to commercial power outage. PLDT and Smart have activated emergency power generators to fire up cell site towers while working with power companies and local government units to help restore services as soon as possible,” it said.

At 8:43 a.m., a tectonic quake struck three kilometers northeast of the municipality of Tayum in Abra, with a depth of 17 kilometers, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

While Intensity VII was felt in Bucloc and Manabo in Abra, many parts of Metro Manila experienced Intensity IV including Marikina City, Quezon City, Pasig City and Valenzuela City. (PNA)