The World Bank said Thursday it approved a $300-million (roughly P14.35-billion) loan for a new project designed to enhance the safety and seismic resilience of selected public buildings in Metro Manila and strengthen the capacity of the Department of Public Works and Highways to prepare for and respond to emergencies.
“Metro Manila or the National Capital Region is the seat of government and the country’s population, economic, and cultural center. 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,” said Ndiamé Diop, World Bank country director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand in a statement.
He said the project would also provide much-needed economic resilience for the country.
The Philippines Seismic Risk Reduction and Resilience Project will upgrade about 425 structures including school buildings and health centers to reduce damage from natural hazards such as earthquakes and other climate-related events. This will reduce risks for 300,000 teachers, students, doctors, patients and staff who are the users of these facilities.
It also 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.
Retrofitting vulnerable buildings can generate close to four million labor-days throughout Metro Manila contributing to the economic recovery of the construction sector which has been hit hard by wage losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the World Bank.
Located along the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’ and the Pacific Cyclone Belt, at least 60 percent of the Philippines’ total land area is exposed to multiple hazards such as earthquakes, floods, tsunami, landslides, volcanic eruptions, cyclones and annual monsoons.
Over the past 50 years, the country has experienced more than 15 destructive earthquakes, and four major seismic events of magnitude greater than 6.5 occurred from November-December 2019 alone.
The eruption of Taal Volcano in January 2020 affected over 500,000 people and caused about P3.4 billion (more than $71 million) in direct damage to infrastructure and agriculture in the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Batangas.
The World Bank 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 risk assessment study estimated that a magnitude 7.2 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 Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order No. 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 such as roads, bridges, buildings and hospitals) in the Greater Metro Manila Area.