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Phivolcs chief pitches building code compliance to cut disaster risks

AN official of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) on Tuesday reiterated his call for building code-compliant construction to avoid the risk of disasters in the event of a strong earthquake, or other geological hazards.

Science Undersecretary Renato Solidum Jr., also director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), said tragic deaths and injuries caused by strong earthquakes could be minimized, if not totally avoided, had buildings been constructed using the correct or appropriate construction materials, as prescribed by experts.

“As a matter of fact, construction experts say that commercial and residential buildings can withstand intensity 8 earthquakes, if they were constructed in compliance with the Building Code,” Solidum told the BusinessMirror.

Interviewed at the sidelines of the World Tsunami Awareness Day 2019 celebration at Phivolcs, Solidum also said it is highly recommended to review the Building Code to make buildings more durable, earthquake-resistant, hence, safer, and more responsive to the situation in the Philippines, which he said, is prone to numerous geological hazards, including earthquakes and the more deadly tsunamis.

He said a third-party expert should be tapped to monitor building construction to ensure compliance to the Building Code.

“During construction, the third- party expert should monitor to make sure that standard materials are used and the construction is done in compliance with the Building Code,” he said.

He also added that this should be integrated in an amendatory law that will make the Building Code up to date and more responsive to the challenges posed by various geological hazards and climate-change impacts in the Philippines.

The official also suggested to include basic construction in the curriculum of secondary schools for purpose of educating younger generations about construction.

In his brief message, Solidum highlighted the danger posed by tsunamis generated by mostly under-the-sea earthquakes, and sometimes, by submarine landslides or volcanic eruptions.

“Locally generated tsunami can arrive in minutes, so it is important to recognize the natural signs—shake, drop and roar,” he said.

Solidum said in the event of strong ground shaking, drop or sudden change in the sea level, and roaring sound of incoming waves, the public should immediately move to high ground and stay away from beaches and waterways.

The United Nations declared November 5 as World Tsunami Awareness Day in honor of a story from Japan: Inamura-no-Hi which means the “burning of the rice sheaves.”

During an 1854 earthquake, a farmer saw the tide receding, a sign of a looming tsunami, and he set fire to his harvested rice to warn villagers, who fled to high ground.

“Tsunamis cannot be prevented, but the impacts can be mitigated through community preparedness, timely warnings, and proper action,” he said.

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