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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

No-nonsense audit of high-rise buildings sought

Lawmakers on Thursday sought a corruption-free audit of the structural integrity of various structures to ensure public safety in anticipation of strong earthquakes.

Reps. Alfredo Benitez of  Negros Occidental,  Albee Benitez and Winston Castelo of Quezon City made the call following reports that some high-rise buildings used “ampaw” or substandard construction materials, especially steel bars.

Benitez and Castelo also asked the concerned government agencies led by the Departments of Trade and Industry to address the seemingly questionable testing or mislabeling of steel bars by some manufacturers.

They said the DTI and the Department of Public Works and Highways should start reviewing manufacturing practices adopted by some large local steelmakers which are reportedly profit-driven, jeopardizing public safety.

“There should be a thorough evaluation of all high-rise buildings to ensure that these are structurally sound and are not at risk should a catastrophic earthquake hit us in the future,” said Benitez, chairman of the House committee on housing and urban development.

In related developments:

• The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology reported the fault line in Capoocan, Leyte moved three times in less than 24 hours.

A magnitude 2.5 earthquake shook the town 12:58 a.m. on Thursday. A stronger ground shaking at 3.1 in magnitude rocked the town minutes earlier at 12:44 a.m.

The strongest was recorded at 11:13 p.m. on Wednesday at magnitude 3.9.

The first tremor was felt at Intensity III in Capoocan, Leyte; Intensity in Kananga and Carigara, Leyte; and Intensity I in Ormoc City. 

The two other quakes were felt at minor intensities in Capoocan and Kananga towns.

According to Phivolcs, magnitude measures the energy released from the source of the quake while, intensity measures the strength of shaking produced by the earthquake at a certain location.

“This is normal since the fault line is active. It’s good that we feel the minor ground shaking since the fault line releases its energy,” said Myra Dolina, Philvocs Leyte science research analyst in a phone interview Thursday.

• The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said in its 6 a.m. update Thursday.the number of families affected by the magnitude 6.1-magnitude earthquake that rocked Luzon last April 22 has now reached 3,630.

This is equivalent to 18,086 persons residing in 41 barangays in Central Luzon.

In the same report, signed by NDRRMC executive director Ricardo Jalad, it said 696 families or 2,979 individuals are being aided in three evacuation centers while 951 families or 4,756 persons are being helped outside.

The number of fatalities remains at 18 with 256 injured and three persons reported missing in Central Luzon and the National Capital Region.

Of the wounded, 183 are validated with the remaining casualties still subject to validation, the NDRRMC added.

Benitez called on the DTI, DPWH, Philvolcs, and local government units  to spearhead the audit  “as a first step to ensure the integrity of these structures.“

Castelo, chairman of the House committee on Metro Manila development, “recommended the filing of charges against contractors, and buildings owners, as well as manufacturers who have been using substandard construction materials” such as steel bars and cement.

“We should seriously look on the use of substandard construction materials, especially steel products that were mislabeled,” said Castelo.

According to Castelo, “these products are a danger to life in our earthquake-prone country.”

“In the event of a high magnitude earthquake, mislabeled and sub-standard steel materials can cause the foundations of buildings to crumble as they cannot withstand the pressure, and are not made for that type of building construction,” Castelo said.

But Steelmakers, represented by Engineer Roberto Cola of the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute defended their current testing procedures, maintaining that their products had been tested, in coordination with DTI, thus vouching the use of quality products for high-rise buildings.

Reports said that a questionable testing process is being implemented in the industry by falsely upgrading or mislabeling the grade of steel bars to determine its tensile strength.

Testing steel bars for tensile strength is important to determine if the steels can withstand high magnitudes from natural disasters.

Benitez and Castelo said government agencies with proven expertise in engineering and construction should conduct a no-holds barred investigations on questionable manufacturing process of local steelmakers to ensure products they produce meet international standard and can withstand high magnitude temblor.

They also stressed the need to strengthen the current testing processes

for steel bars by the DTI and ramped up to international standards since these may not be safe to use in earthquake prone areas like the Philippines.

Over half of the buildings in Metro Manila, particularly those located in the central business districts of Makati, Bonifaco Global City, Ortigas, Mandaluyong and Quezon City were constructed during the property boom over the past decade, including government infrastructure such as airports and mass transport facilities. With PNA

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