Issue of May 5, 2019
     
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LGU officials advise residents to be ready for the "big one"
by Rimaliza A. Opiña

The earthquake that hit Pampanga, Zambales and some parts of Metro Manila is an occurrence that should remind the public especially residents of Baguio to always be prepared for an earthquake of bigger magnitude.

City Buildings and Architecture Officer Engr. Nazita Bañez said those who are planning to construct high-rise buildings should consider building structures that are able to withstand intensity 8 earthquake.

She also advised building owners, including residential without building permits to secure one at the CBAO. “A building permit is not only for owners to secure a business permit, electrical, or water connection, but also a document that attests to the fact that prior to construction, all requirements have been complied with and therefore (a) proof that the building is safe, Bañez said.

Bañez said there is no local or national law yet that mandates constructing buildings that are able to withstand major temblors but being proactive will help in averting the loss of life, limb, and property in the future.

We have experienced an intensity 7.7 earthquake in 1990. There were several buildings that collapsed and killed people. It is above the national requirement of 6.5 that is why we are urging builders to make their standard an intensity 8 earthquake, Bañez said in a press conference, Tuesday.

The National Building Code requires that buildings must be able to withstand earthquakes with an intensity of 6.5.

Local Disaster Risk Reduction Operations Officer Louie Glen Lardizabal also said a building that is declared structurally safe by a team of engineers is the best place to take shelter during earthquakes.

“Have your houses evaluated (by CBAO). Your house is the safest place you can go as long as you know that it is structurally sound. The best evacuation area is your home,” Lardizabal said.

As part of proactive measures, the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office is also planning to conduct more earthquake drills apart from the quarterly drills required by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

For the first time this year, Lardizabal said the CDRRMO is planning to conduct a night time earthquake drill. “We can never really gauge if the public is prepared but the drills have to be done regularly and at frequent intervals.”

The pilot area for the drill will be in one district in the city, Lardizabal said. He said the CDRRMC is still planning mechanics for the drill as this will entail additional coordination especially with utility companies. “There will be a shutdown of power and communication lines so we will be able to simulate an actual scenario of an earthquake happening at night.”

The CDRRMO is also planning to make participation in drills mandatory especially in the barangays. Lardizabal said only schools and some institutions require participation in earthquake and fire drills.

Meanwhile, Bañez and the City Planning Officer Evelyn Cayat defended the increasing number of high-rise buildings in the locality.

Critics have recently criticized both departments for issuing building permits and zonal clearances for buildings that are more than six stories high and for allowing them to be constructed at geohazard and at protected areas.

The general sentiment was the CBAO and CPDO should not allow construction of high-rise buildings in the city to avoid a repeat of collapsed buildings in the aftermath of the July 16, 1990 earthquake. 

Some of these buildings are the Lafayette Hotel at Military Cut-Off, which is allegedly built on a fault line, and a hotel along South Drive, which is owned and operated by Newtown Hotel.

Bañez said height is not a factor in determining the safety of a building. In the case of Lafayette, the geohazard map of the city shows that the structure is not built on a fault line. However, there is no prohibition in constructing buildings within a faultline as long as a building follows a seismic design. She said this is the reason why building plans are important so that experts in construction and architecture are able to design a building based on the topography of the area where a building will be constructed.

In the case of Newtown, the Environment Management Bureau earlier issued a cease and desist order on the construction citing the area as a protected area.

Bañez said government agencies should be consistent with their policies, as it was the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the mother agency of EMB, that issued a title to Newtown.

City Planning and Development Officer Evelyn Cayat said development plans should conform to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

“The CLUP contains all the details that builders and planners need including hazard maps, zoning classifications, the city’s topography, no build zones. They just have to refer to it,” Cayat said.


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