$300-million World Bank loan prepares NCR for ‘big one,’ other climate risks

File photo: Men refuel a backhoe being used to sift through the rubble after a strong earthquake struck Cataingan, Masbate province on Tuesday, August 18, 2020.

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved a new loan to prepare Metro Manila for the “big one” by upgrading public structures in the megacity.

In a news statement, the World Bank (WB) said the $300-million loan will strengthen the capacity of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to reduce risks for approximately 300,000 teachers, students, doctors, patients, and staff who are the users of these facilities.

The Philippines Seismic Risk Reduction and Resilience Project aims to upgrade 425 structures, including school buildings and health centers to reduce damage from natural hazards, such as earthquakes and other climate-related events.

“Metro Manila or the National Capital Region [NCR] is the seat of government and the country’s population, economic, and cultural center,” said Ndiamé Diop,  WB country director, Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.

“Enhancing the safety of its buildings and structures while boosting institutional response to disasters will help protect the lives and safety of more than 12 million residents, including the poor and most vulnerable. In addition, it will provide much-needed economic resilience for the country,” Diop said.

Through the project, the WB said, the government can retrofit vulnerable buildings and help generate close to 4 million labor-days throughout Metro Manila.

This will also contribute to the recovery of the construction sector, which has been hit hard by wage losses during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The project aims to improve the capability of the DPWH to systematically prepare for and respond to potential overlapping hazards, including typhoons, floods, volcanic eruptions, and pandemics, particularly in line with its mandate under the different national emergency response plans for multiple hazards.

The project will finance DPWH’s essential equipment to upgrade its capability for communications and restoration of mobility and transport in Metro Manila after a major earthquake.

It will also improve core capacities and capabilities to organize operations and coordinate resources to respond to other emergencies.

The WB said Metro Manila is particularly vulnerable as it is transected by numerous earthquake generators, of which, the West Valley Fault poses the most significant earthquake threat.

The Greater Metro Manila Area (GMMA) risk assessment study estimated that a 7.2-magnitude earthquake on the West Valley Fault (a probable maximum scenario, so-called “The Big One”) would result in an estimated 48,000 fatalities and $48 billion in economic losses, with catastrophic impact on government continuity and service provision.

To address the threat of a potentially catastrophic earthquake in the Greater Metro Manila (NCR and surrounding provinces), President Duterte issued Executive Order 52 (EO 52) on May 8, 2018 creating the Program Management Office for the Earthquake Resilience of the Greater Metro Manila Area.

The EO 52 defines institutional roles and responsibilities of government agencies to strengthen the country’s resilience to earthquakes, and to ensure public safety and government continuity. The executive order also mandates government agencies to take proactive steps to guarantee the resilience of public infrastructure like roads, bridges, buildings, hospitals, in the GMMA.

Image credits: AP


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