Makati won't buy lots beside West Valley Fault

The city government of Makati stood pat on its decision not to buy lots situated in identified “danger zones” within five meters on each side of the West Valley Fault.

Mayor Abigail Binay made the statement during her presentation of the city's initiatives on disaster resilience at a two-day forum focused on “Building a Multi-Stakeholder and Integrated Approach to Disaster Resilience” organized by the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation at the Manila Polo Club.

“Safety is a must for every Makatizen. On this I make no exceptions, and certainly leave no room for compromise,” she said.

Binay was invited by Ambassador Roberto Romulo, chairman of the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation for Peace and Development, to share the Makati experience with other local chief executives, key officials of local and national government agencies involved in disaster management, and stakeholders from the private sector who attended the conference.

In his letter to the mayor, Ambassador Romulo cited the efforts of the city government to mitigate the impact of a strong earthquake, particularly its move to relocate residents living along the WVF.

"There are five other cities in Metro Manila directly affected by the WVF and they can benefit greatly from your experience. You are the first mayor to launch this initiative since the Valley Fault System Atlas was released in 2015,” said Ambassador Romulo in his letter.

Last month, Binay spearheaded a series of dialogs with residents of each of four Makati barangays identified to be transected by the WVF—Pembo, Rizal, Comembo and East Rembo.

The new Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Zoning Ordinance of Makati have set a five-meter buffer zone on each side of the fault line and declared these as “open spaces” where no renovation or expansion on existing structures shall be allowed. Instead, they will be converted into linear parks.

“I made it clear that the city will not purchase lots on the danger zones. I reminded residents that their lives were far more valuable than material possessions,” Binay said.

Instead, the city government has offered affected property owners and residents the option of financial assistance for each family, or assistance for their relocation. “The city is also looking at a possible partnership with the National Housing Authority,” she added.

The mayor said affected residents also have the option to apply for one of 600 additional housing units lined up for construction at Makati’s relocation site in Calauan, Laguna.

“Those who refuse assistance will be required to sign a waiver declaring that they choose to remain with full knowledge of the risks and dangers of staying in their houses, and that they expect no assistance from the city government,” she said.

Binay said the city has also offered to help in the retrofitting of houses outside the five-meter buffer zone, through a partnership with Build Change, a non-profit organization aiming to promote disaster-resistant structures.

During the dialogs, experts from Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology presented the hazards faced by affected residents in the event that a 7.2 magnitude earthquake actually occurs in Metro Manila, as seismologists have warned.

Last February, the city government conducted a strategic campaign targeting barangay and school officials, zone leaders and residents to facilitate the smooth implementation of the WVF Marker Installation Project. The project aims to raise public awareness on the actual track of the WVF based on the Walk-the-Fault activity jointly conducted by Philvolcs and the city government.

The city Office of the Building Official has also reiterated its mandatory requirement for buildings 15 years and older to undergo inspection by a qualified Structural Engineer, and for concerned building owners and administrators to submit a Certification of Structural Stability.

High-rise buildings in Makati, both completed and under construction, are also required to install seismographs to monitor ground vibrations. At present, three units of that device are installed at the Makati City Hall.

With technical assistance from the International Recovery Platform, Makati has formulated The Makati Pre-Disaster Recovery Plan, becoming the first local government unit in the country, and only the third in the world, to do so. The plan outlines sectoral activities in pre- and post-disaster phases for short and long-term recovery.

“From the experiences of other cities in the country and abroad, we have learned of the need to pre-position vital systems and mechanisms for smoother and faster recovery,” Binay said.

The city has also completed its Contingency Plans for Earthquake and Flood, which are designed for a worst-case scenario. Currently, the city government is working on the updating of systems, upgrading of equipment, and augmenting of manpower complement.

“To strengthen our Communications Sector, we are undertaking the rehabilitation of our Operations Center, modernization and unification of our radio equipment, and the establishment of a mobile back-up communication system we can use when a disaster strikes,” she said.

To augment its manpower, the city established the Makati Disaster Risk Reduction Volunteer Management System. It has institutionalized protocols and standards for accreditation and capacity building to form a pool of “skilled, competent and values-driven volunteers” who can be tapped by the City before and after a disaster.

“As the country’s financial center, any disruption in our city’s normal operations would have great impact on the national economy. Makati, therefore, must be prepared. It is imperative that we are beyond capable in preparing for the inevitable – disasters of any and every kind, at any given time,” she said.

Topics: Makati City , West Valley Fault
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