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Solon pushes for localized updating of building code for more disaster-resilient structures 

THE LIPATA Port in Surigao City was among the public structures heavily damaged by typhoon Odette. — PHILIPPINE NAVY

LOCAL government units should be given authority to issue updated versions of the National Building Code to pave the way for planning and constructing structures that are more resilient to natural events such as typhoons.  

“(U)pdating that (National Building Code) has been quite difficult in both chambers of Congress. Even with a supermajority, quite difficult because the families of legislators are into the construction business,” Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette R. Herrera-Dy said in a statement following questions from BusinessWorld.  

The Philippine’s National Building Code, contained in a presidential decree passed in the 1970s, provides guidelines on how buildings and structures should be constructed, including location, design and the quality of materials to be used. 

“Perhaps other legislative ways can be resorted to. LGUs (local government units) could enact their own building, structural and safety codes,” she said.

Most LGUs have local ordinances relating to building rules, though these are mainly in line with the national code.

Herrera-Dy said in an earlier statement that rebuilding weak structures that cannot withstand calamities would not be enough as those structures could just be easily damaged again by the next disaster. 

Typhoon Odette, internationally named Rai, struck wide parts of central and southern Philippines in mid-December, leaving at least P16.9 billion in damage to infrastructure, based on the Jan. 2 assessment update from the national disaster management agency.

This cost estimate covers government facilities; roads and bridges; schools, including those that are designated as evacuation centers during calamities; health facilities, and utility service facilities.

There were also more than 407,000 houses that were partially damaged and almost 175,300 that were totally destroyed. The estimated cost for residential damage stood at P28.16 million.

The solon said the government should also set up more home repair loans, and calamity loans should be modified for inflation. 

She also proposed that families living in areas vulnerable to calamities should be provided with membership to the Home Development Mutual Fund, more commonly known as Pag-IBIG Fund, a government-owned and controlled corporation that manages a savings program and low-cost loans for shelter. It also has a calamity loan program for contributing members.

On the pending legislation for the creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR), Ms. Herrera-Dy said its passage was affected by restrictions relating to the coronavirus pandemic, but the recent typhoon has underscored the urgency of having an agency focusing on calamity preparedness and response. 

“The pandemic may have delayed the DDR bill but as we can plainly see, typhoons, earthquakes and volcanoes do not care about pandemics. They just happen to strike,” she said. 

The House of Representatives passed its version of the proposed law under House Bill No. 59589 in Sept. 2021. It has been transmitted to the Senate and is currently pending at the committee on national defense. 

For the immediate response to typhoon Odette’s aftermath, Ms. Herrera-Dy said the different departments under the executive branch can review available funds that could be realigned for relief and recovery measures. 

She cited that based on the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) disbursement data as of Sept. 2021, there was a combined P690 billion in unobligated funds among 10 departments.

She said just 1% of those funds or P6.9 billion would be enough for reconstruction projects. 

Before end-2021, DBM said it had released P7.68 billion to local governments and national agencies for disaster relief operations in typhoon-hit areas. — Jaspearl Emerald G. Tan

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