Senator seeks shorter time of renewal system for building occupancy permit

Senator Francis "Tol” N. Tolentino on Tuesday, February 14, proposed a renewal system of every five or seven years of occupancy permit for buildings instead of 15 years and to subject the building for thorough inspection by building officials of local government units (LGUs).

During today’s hearing of the Senate Committee on Public Works chaired by Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Tolentino made the proposal to avoid the effects of a huge magnitude earthquake that rocked Turkey and Syria recently.

“The occupancy permit should not just be a one-time permit. It should be a permit that requires a revalidation every five or seven years to ensure that the building is structurally sound and suitable for safe living condition,” Tolentino said.

Under the National Building Code of the Philippines, an occupancy permit, also known as certificate of occupancy, shall be issued and approved first by the respective office of the building official before a building can be occupied.

Tolentino also suggested to identify more evacuation centers or safe areas in Metro Manila should a huge magnitude earthquake strikes.

Senator Ronald “Bato” M. Dela Rosa, on the other hand, urged national and local agencies to assess the structural integrity of all buildings that are about 50 years old or more and ensure that they are safe for their occupants.

Dela Rosa also urged officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and local governments to condemn old buildings found to be unsafe and obsolete and recommend the preservation of those with historical importance. Both the DPWH and the Philippine Association of Building Officials National Inc. (PABO) promised to submit their assessment reports as soon as possible.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III stressed the need to revisit the National Building Code of the Philippines and other existing laws to ensure that the country's buildings and structures can withstand strong earthquakes.

Pimentel cited recent incidence of bridge collapses in the Philippines caused not by earthquakes, but shear stress and poor construction.

He added that the current structural designs for structures should be able to withstand earthquakes at magnitude 8.

Pimentel said the review of the National Building Code must include specific measures to guarantee that establishments are compliant with structural standards, as well as ensuring liability..

Senator Rafael ‘’Raffy’’ T. Tulfo underscored the urgency to pass the National Land Use Act to provide long-term safeguards to communities against natural and man-made calamities in the wake of the powerful earthquake that recently hit Turkey and Syria.

Tulfo pointed out that the passage of the measure would ensure the right identification of high-risk and danger-prone locations in communities.

“We are along the Ring of Fire and the length of the West Valley Fault System slices through the length of Metro Manila which is a ticking timebomb and standing above it are our homes, offices, schools and hospitals. The experts have already warned us and we can only blame ourselves if we don’t start preparing now,” Tulfo said.

Revilla who presided over the committee on the structural integrity of buildings and infrastructures, asked whether the government and the general public ready in case an earthquake of high magnitude – or the so- called “Big One” – would hit the country.

He said that while the country could not prevent an earthquake from occurring, “we can prevent its damage.”

The senator also presented video slides showing the damages in Turkey and Syria caused by the recent earthquake. He said Senate Resolution No. 67, which he filed, and Resolution No. 50, filed by Dela Rosa, seek an immediate audit and review of all buildings and structures and their compliance with the National Building Code.

This code, Revilla said, also needs review because it was filed 50 years ago.

“The warning signs are there, the Big One is forthcoming. It's scary. But there is no harm in preparing for the worst,” Revilla pointed out.