'Metro Manila structures only 20 pct ready for huge quake'

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 22 2016 05:21 PM

While there is massive information campaign on what to do in case a massive earthquake hits the Philippine capital, infrastructure preparedness vastly needs improvement, an expert said.

Architect and urban planner Felino "Jun" Palafox has warned of massive damage and plenty of casualties, as he rated Metro Manila's infrastructure preparedness at a dismal two out of ten.

"Remember, 2% of tall buildings will collapse, about 30% of low-rise buildings will collapse, government buildings and infrastructure that may have involved corruption, they will collapse," he said.

Palafox also urged architects, engineers, project managers, and contractors to come forward now "if specifications were not followed."

"I think everybody now should be a truth-teller and a whistle-blower to prevent thousands of lives being killed," he said.

"This government, its over-arching theme is corruption, criminality, and cronyism. I think there’s an opportunity now to come out to save lives," he added.

Palafox cited the 2004 Earthquake Impact Reduction Study for Metro Manila funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which found that 50,000 people will get killed when "The Big One" occurs—"30,000 from the earthquake, and 20,000 from the fire that will happen after the earthquake."

Palafox lamented that out of the seven bridges in Metro Manila predicted to collapse when the earthquake hits, only one bridge was retrofitted— the Ayala Bridge.

He also warned real estate buyers to apply "caveat emptor," as the buildings built on top or less than five meters away from the 70-kilometer West Valley Fault line are the most vulnerable to a 7.2-magnitude earthquake.

"The developer should now be responsible enough to tell, you are so and so kilometers away from the fault line," he said.

Palafox also suggested that above the structural and architectural audits, the government take a page off China's book, and mark the houses in the dangerous areas and relocate residents.

"Maybe all the buildings now, say their living room is above the fault line, they should red-mark it, and tell insurance companies these are not insured, and the building official should now issue non-compliance certificates. So there’s no more liability on the part of government," he said.

Existing structures must adapt to this call for disaster resilience, he added.

"If your house was built more than 70 years ago, maybe you may want to re-check your structure, your concrete. Electrical engineers tell us, you should do your electrical re-wiring every 25 years," he said.

Even electrical posts and wiring outside the homes must be watched because "if your roof is metal, it can go on fire," Palafox added.

Tokyo has so many tall buildings but is also one of the safest cities in the world because of their individual precautionary measures, he added.

"If they have a flashlight, a transistor radio, a hammer in a room, you are in the highest vulnerable area. When you only have a flashlight, you are in a very safe area," he said.

PROPER DEVELOPMENT OUTSIDE METRO MANILA

Palafox is also supportive of the incoming administration of Rodrigo Duterte's push for federalism to be able to decongest Metro Manila.

"We should have urban growth centers as counter-magnets of Metro Manila, because I think 40% of government, education, and business are all in Metro Manila," he said.

These new areas of developments can be a clean slate and Palafox has enumerated some things to consider for the new metro.

He emphasized that these new centers just have to follow the over-arching consideration stipulated in the Constitution: human dignity, public health, public safety, and public good.

The central business district in Makati City, he said, is the example of "how not to do it," because it requires travelers to circumvent the exclusive subdivisions.

"Nowhere else in the world do you have a Central Business District where you go around 2 kilometers to enter the Central Business District. In Manhattan, every 70 meters or 210 feet, you have an access road," he said.

He also underscored the currently unequal housing situation in the area.

"The central business district of Makati, the daytime population is 11 times the nighttime population because the workers of Makati are priced out of the housing stock," he said.

Safety issues in the urban poor areas, he added, must be addressed because they lack firebreaks.

"Maybe we just implement the 10 meters setback on the Pasig River, it can be a firebreak. Or the 300 meters along the esteros," he said.

Palafox also noted the need for open spaces to be utilized as evacuation areas.

"If you compare our cities to human bodies, the heart is the central business district, the open spaces are the lungs, the roads and waterways are the arteries," he said.

"Everything is so clogged. We need bypass roads, and where are these bypass? Open up the gated military camps, gated communities. Government should be the exemplar," he added.