Senate panel drafts proposed amendments to building code sans infra audit from DPWH

The Senate public works committee has convened a technical working group (TWG) to collate the opinions and position papers of stakeholders in drafting a proposed amended National Building Code and amended National Structural Code of the Philippines.

The committee chaired by Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., has conducted hearings in response to the recent deadly earthquake that hit Turkiye and Syria.

In yesterday’s public hearing, Revilla raised the importance of amending the two laws to ensure the integrity of the country’s infrastructure.

The hearing focused on the preparedness and structural integrity of the country’s infrastructure in the event of catastrophic natural disasters.

It’s a continuation of the hearing conducted last February where the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) failed to provide the appropriate data and concrete answers, Revilla pointed out.

Revilla noted that DPWH Secretary Manuel Bonoan also failed to attend the initial deliberations on the matter.

Revilla reiterated the importance of assuring the safety of the public in the event a massive earthquake hits the Philippines.

“Ang nakataya kasi dito ay buhay ng tao, kaya we have to be careful (The peoples’ lives are at stake here, that is why we have to be careful). There are many questions that have to be answered, and so many issues that need to be immediately addressed. Yet we are running out of time. Every second we spend on vague answers, is a second wasted. Kaya kumilos na tayo bago pa mahuli ang lahat (That is why we must act before it is too late),” the lawmaker said.

Revilla asked the DPWH on the status of the infrastructure audit he ordered the agency to conduct to assure that structures would not be a hazardous risk to the people during times of destructive calamities.

However, the public works department was not able to provide complete and timely data as they presented audits only for the National Capital Region and only covering years 2016-2018, he said.

Revilla then asked the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) if it is only the country’s capital that would be suffering greatly from an earthquake.

“Can we confirm kung talagang Metro Manila lamang ang very prone sa The Big One (Can we confirm that Metro Manila is the only prone to be hit by the ‘Big One’)? Kailangan kasi natin ng equitable distribution ng ating disaster-resilient infrastructures (We need to know for equitable distribution of disaster-resilient infrastructures),” Revilla asked.

PHIVOLCS responded that the Philippine Fault Zone, which extends from the northern part of the country down to Mindanao, might cause ground-shaking not only in the National Capital Region (NCR) but in the entire country.

Revilla then asked the DPWH to provide a master list of structures and establishments sitting above or near the fault line in order to provide necessary precaution to those at great risk.

“Matutulungan natin yung mga affected areas kung bibigyan natin sila ng kaalaman sa susceptibility nila – para mas marami tayong masagip na buhay (We can help save lives if they know of their susceptibility). Related ito sa capacity-building ng ating local government units lalo yung mga nasa danger zones (This is related to the capacity-building of our local government units, particularly those in the danger zone),’’ he added.