The advice to people in case of an earthquake is “Duck, cover, and hold.” Duck under something strong like a desk or table, cover your head, and hold on until the shaking stops.
This didn’t work, however, for those who died when the four-story Chuzon supermarket in Porac, Pampanga, collapsed at the height of the 6.1-magnitude earthquake that hit Luzon last April 22. The earthquake caused the building to crumble within seven seconds, giving the victims no time to escape.
Investigation is underway on the quality of the materials used in the construction of the four-story building. There are persistent reports from the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute, according to former Senator Joey D. Lina, that substandard steel bars are openly sold in many Luzon provinces and used on construction projects.
Rep. Alfredo Bantug Benitez of Negros Occidental, chairman of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development, and Rep. Winston Castelo of Quezon City, chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, called for a thorough evaluation of all high-rise buildings built in the country in the last ten years to ensure that they are structurally sound.
They asked the Department of Trade and Industry and other concerned government agencies to look into the alleged mislabeling of steel bars by some manufacturers and recommended the filing of charges against contractors and building owners, as well as manufacturers of substandard materials, should these violations be found in the inspection and evaluation. “The current testing process for steel bars by the DTI should be strengthened and ramped up to international standards,” they added.
Regular exercises will continue to be held in Metro Manila and nearby provinces to help prepare the general public in case the long-feared 7.2-magnitude “Big One” strikes. “Duck, cover, and hold” will help minimize casualties.
But more than preparing the people for a big earthquake, the government should systematically inspect the many buildings built in Metro Manila these last few years to ensure they are structurally sound. And it should ramp the testing process for steel bars by the DTI to international standards to ensure that our buildings will be safe in this land of increasingly violent earthquakes.