Aquino orders probe on possible violations of building code in Cebu
SEOUL, South Korea—President Aquino has ordered an investigation into possible violations of the building code in the construction of some public buildings in Cebu in the wake of Tuesday’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake that shook the Visayas and Mindanao.
Mr. Aquino, who flew here on Thursday for a two-day state visit upon the invitation of President Park Geun-hye, said he had also directed the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Science and Technology to continue mapping out a comprehensive plan to make high-rise buildings and other structures more resilient to earthquakes.
The President said he himself noticed that the steel bars used in the construction of the Mandaue Public Market and the Cebu capitol building seemed short of the specifications contained in the New Building Code.
“I’m not an engineer or an architect, but it didn’t look to me a very good construction. But I don’t want to [make any conclusion] as I’m having it investigated,” the President told members the Philippine media in a news briefing at the Grand Hyatt Hotel here on Thursday night.
“I noticed that the reinforcing bars were thin. I may not be a muscle-builder, but I thought I can break them by bending the steel bars just three times,” he said, noting that the steel bars should be strong enough to support the hollow blocks of the buildings’ concrete walls.
He said he also observed that the concrete walls of the public market were not smooth, an indication that they were “not finished” in the manner provided for by the law.
After going around Cebu and Bohol on Wednesday to check on the affected residents and the extent of the destruction caused by the earthquake, he said he told Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III and Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes to call the attention of the municipal engineers regarding his observations.
“So we will make them understand that ‘good enough’ won’t do,” he said.
The President also announced that South Korea has donated $300,000 for the victims of the quake in Cebu and Bohol.
“I really felt their sincerity to help our country. I was told tonight that they donated first ($200,000) to Zamboanga,” he said.
Mr. Aquino also welcomed the proposal of some senators to increase the government’s calamity fund to help in the rehabilitation of badly affected municipalities in the Visayas region.
Saying the government still had P1.37 billion remaining in its calamity fund, the President said state agencies still could not determine how much local government units need to start the rehabilitation of their areas.
He said the DPWH and other agencies have been going around the affected areas to check the actual damage wrought by the earthquake and help the government ascertain how much was really needed to rehabilitate those areas.
“We would like to thank the Senate that they’re gonna give us that elbow room. But my instruction is to calculate first the total funds we will need. There should be a determination if a repair or replacement is needed” for damaged structures, he said.
“Why did I say that? Determining the need for a repair or replacement is critical. If the structure is near the sea, it might be subject to liquefaction and the action of the water. Then it might be wiser to put the funds elsewhere… If there are limitations… you might not meet the objective.”
The President said that two weeks before Tuesday’s quake, the DPWH, DOST and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology had actually been going around the country conducting seminars on how to prevent catastrophic collapses of structures during earthquakes.
“What the government will be doing is to coordinate with the private sector to help with the audit of buildings and make sure that the recommendations are brought to [their attention]. If there’s a private group involved, there’s persuasion,” Mr. Aquino said.
He said the government would also seek the help of Japanese construction experts in retrofitting old government buildings and structures to make them stronger and resilient to major earthquakes.
Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson, he added, had recommended retrofitting as the best method to buttress decades-old government buildings and offices.
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