Palafox: PH needs to update building code
MANILA - The Philippines is one of the countries located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean known for volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. The country also gets an average of 20 typhoons annually.
With all the disasters and natural calamities the country goes through, experts have reiterated the importance of disaster preparedness, especially in infrastructure projects.
In an interview with ANC's "Future Perfect," architect Felino "Jun" Palafox, president of the Philippine Institute of Environment Planners, explained the importance of a disaster plan to be incorporated in urban planning.
According to Palafox, the Philippines has obsolete building and planning codes, making the country's infrastructure susceptible to damage caused by natural disasters.
"Some developers now, they want to reach the sky, but they don't know how to meet the ground," he explained.
Most high-rise buildings in the country follow other countries' building and structural codes, as these are more up to date.
Building and structural codes in other places like California, Chile, Taiwan and China, which are also frequented by disasters, are updated after every disaster.
"In our country, we are very slow (in updating our building codes)," Palafox said.
With the damage caused by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Bohol and Cebu, Palafox suggested that places with historical buildings, like Ilocos, Negros and Taal, should immediately undergo retrofitting.
Government funds should also be divided for infrastructure and public buildings, which can be used for evacuation in case of disasters.
"We should all be whistle-blowers. Contractors and architects should tell the DPWH which school building or bridge did not follow the specifications (due to corruption)," Palafox said.
Buildings and structures should adapt to natural disasters, as these cannot be completely prevented.
In a recent forum spearheaded by the Department of Public Works and High Ways (DPWH) and World Bank (WB), an expert from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) said the Philippine government must take urgent steps to protect public infrastructure from natural disasters.
"We recommend a review of of the building codes in the Philippines as well as enhancing the capacity of engineers and the private sector to improve the resiliency of public infrastructure," said Dr. Tatsuo Narafu, JICA senior advisor on architectural mitigation for disaster.
Narafu was one of the panel members for the "Keeping Infrastructure Safe and Resilient" forum.
Narafu has extensive experience in building resiliency initiatives in Japan. JICA supports DPWH and the World Bank in their aim to set cross-sectoral policy strategies on improving resiliency of public infrastructure and facilities such as schools, hospitals, government buildings, and roads in the Philippines.
Dr. Narafu recommended actions on making buildings disaster-proof through better design and construction. Other areas that need to be assessed are policies on billboards, water tanks, and materials like beams and columns, which are considered as hazards, especially during strong typhoons and earthquakes.
JICA's participation in the building resiliency dialogue is part of the Japanese government's efforts to share knowledge, following their experiences in natural disasters such as the 1996 Hanshin Awaji earthquake and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
JICA has been active in sharing its resources and experts to boost resiliency and maximize disaster preparedness in the Philippines, as well as in other countries within the Pacific Ring of Fire, such as Indonesia, El Salvador, Turkey and Armenia.