MANILA — The Senate Committee on Public Works on Wednesday conducted a public hearing focusing on the preparedness and structural integrity of the country’s infrastructure in the event of catastrophic natural disasters.
It was the continuation of the hearing conducted last February in which the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) failed to provide the appropriate data and concrete answers.
Secretary Manuel Bonoan also failed to attend the initial deliberations on the matter. Senator Ramon Bong Revilla, Jr., the Committee Chair, 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. 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 second wasted. Kaya kumilos na tayo bago pa mahuli ang lahat,” the lawmaker said in opening the discussion.
Revilla probed 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 covered the years 2016-2018.
This prompted the lawmaker to ask the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) if it is only the country’s capital that will be suffering greatly from an earthquake. “Can we confirm kung talagang Metro Manila lamang ang very prone sa The Big One? Kailangan kasi natin ng equitable distribution ng ating disaster-resilient infrastructures,” Revilla asked. PHIVOLCS responded that the Philippine Fault Zone, which extends from the northern part of the country down to Mindanao, may cause ground-shaking not only in NCR but in the entire country.
The chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Works further asked DPWH to provide a master list of structures and establishments sitting above or near the fault line in order to provide necessary precautions 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. Related ito sa capacity-building ng ating local government units lalo yung mga nasa danger zones”, he added.
In closing, Revilla raised the importance of amending the National Building Code and the National Structural Code of the Philippines to ensure the integrity of the country’s infrastructure. The solon said that the committee will convene a technical working group to come up with comprehensive and fine-tuned measures. (Amado Inigo/MTVN)