Ensure  that our big buildings  are  safe

Published May 10, 2019, 12:24 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

E CARTOON MAY 10, 2019The 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.