Senate seeks amendments to 50-year-old Building Code

Senate seeks amendments to 50-year-old Building Code

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate is looking at amending the National Building Code to update the 50-year-old law to meet current standards and technologies and ensure that buildings and other structures in the country can withstand strong earthquakes.

The upper chamber’s committee on public works, chaired by Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow with the Department of Public Works and Highways, local government units (LGUs) and other stakeholders regarding compliance with the building code passed in 1972.

Sen. Francis Tolentino said amending existing provisions in the National Building Code is long overdue to ensure the structural integrity of establishments and their resiliency should a destructive earthquake – similar to the one that happened in central Turkey and Western Syria – hit Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

“(This review) is a lesson (in the Turkey-Syria earthquake), how we can strengthen the Building Code,” Tolentino yesterday told radio station dzBB in Filipino.

The senator, who used to chair the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), said one good lesson that the national government should learn from the Turkey-Syria earthquake is ensuring that structural integrity and residential and business establishments are periodically checked to help assess the safety of such structures.

Many structures in the National Capital Region (NCR) and nearby provinces will not be able to withstand the so-called Big One, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that experts believe can originate from the Marikina Valley Fault, particularly the West Valley line, according to a study conducted by the MMDA and the Japan International Cooperation Agency in 2004.

During his stint as MMDA chairman, Tolentino spearheaded the regular conduct of the metro-wide “Shake Drill” as well as the so-called Oplan Metro Yakal to prepare the public on what to do during strong earthquakes to minimize casualties and injuries.

He also stressed the importance of further raising the level of disaster preparedness not only in Metro Manila, but also in other parts of the country, especially that many provinces, like Abra and those in Davao region, were also jolted by strong earthquakes in previous months.

The hearing will take up resolutions filed by Revilla and Sen. Ronald dela Rosa seeking a review of the law.

Revilla said he filed the resolution “to ensure full compliance to the standards set by the National Building Code on structural safety and integrity to protect Filipinos from avoidable damage and loss of lives.”

Given the country’s location along the Pacific Ring of Fire, cataclysmic effects of acts of nature are not only inevitable, but imminent, according to the senator.

“Are we ready for calamities? And the answer should not be ‘somewhat’ as in these times, we cannot just rely only the strength and resilience of Filipinos but also on the structures that will be hit by disasters,” he said.

“I always pray that our people will be safe in times of natural disasters, but we should also be proactive in preparing and putting systems in place to reduce the risk,” he added.

Sen. Nancy Binay last week said government agencies, LGUs and the private sector as well as the general public must go beyond holding earthquake drills to better prepare for destructive tremors as such calamities cannot be predicted.

Binay stressed that conducting earthquake drills must continue with greater frequency, but concerned government agencies, LGUs and private establishments must also regularly conduct an honest assessment of the structural integrity of their buildings and installations.

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