PH needs resilient process amid strong construction activities

Published May 12, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Despite the pandemic, the Philippines is not slowing down its burgeoning construction activities, involving over 31,000 projects, but the industry needs to adopt more resilient building processes and systems to save on cost and minimize damage to investments. 

Vice Admiral Alexander Pama, AFP (ret), co-chair of the Board of Directors ARISE Philippines, said at the webinar on IFC’s Building Resilience Index: Mainstreaming Resilience in the Built Environment in the Philippines, that despite the pandemic the Philippines continued to pursue construction projects.

Vice Admiral Alexander Pama, AFP (ret), co-chair of the Board of Directors ARISE Philippines.

“We do have a burgeoning construction industry in spite of the setbacks of pandemic. We cannot and should not slow down this time around,” said Pama. 

According to Pama, there are a total of 31,026 construction projects valued around P63 billion or around $1.5 billion. Of these projects, Pama said 4,670, approximately 18 percent are  new non-residential constructions that include building projects for commercial, industrial and institutional purposes. 

The National Capital Region region alone accounts for 21.6 percent or P13.6 billion, followed by CALABARZON region with P11.6 billion. He noted that these areas are along the West Valley faultline. 

Although these numbers are lower versus previous years, Pama said they still represent a substantial amount of investment that are at risk given the hostile natural disasters that impact the Philippines. 

Thus, he urged for building a truly resilient country to ensure that investments in property and infrastructure are properly protected. 

Thus, he said, the building resilience index (BRI) initiative is a welcomed development. Pama cited the need to institute more resilient processes and systems.

The BRI will be piloted in three areas that disaster prone including the Philippines, the Caribbean and Pacific Islands. 

Spearheaded by the IFC and donors Australia and the Netherlands governments, the BRI will provide the mechanism of evaluating building project investments. It will provide investors information to help them decide in their investments. A more sophisticated BRI is expected to be completed by October this year.

In the same event, Ommid Saberi, senior industry specialist at IFC, in his presentation on “Promoting Resilience” noted that everyone, including the financial institutions, would win by investing in resilience.

Saberi quoted a study by the National Institute of Buildings in the United States which shows that investing $1 in building resilience can save $10 in damages. 

“So every $1 invested in resilience can benefit the owner or country or project, $10,” he pointed out. 

Saberi stressed that, indeed, governance has costs to construction developers but adopting building resiliency processes and systems will have more benefits as this will differentiate these developers from the rest with their enhanced technologies and skills. 

For instance, the Philippines lost P14 billion in terms of damages from the two events in 2013 and 2014 alone because not everything during a disaster can be covered by insurance. Thus, the need to reduce the cost of disasters, such as typhoons and earthquakes. 

Saberi said the BRI has three elements: disasters in the project location; what are those risks; and managing risks. BRI is also important because the number of events happening have been increasing from around 30 to more than 100 events annually recently. “The number of events are increasing, obviously, the cost of damage is extremely high,” he said.