Tolentino: Be ready for quakes

FORMER MMDA Chair and administration Senate bet Francis Tolentino on Thursday proposed an “urgent list” of measures aimed at improving earthquake preparedness, including strict compliance with the National Building Code and mandating regular earthquake seminars in schools and both government and private offices.

“I agree with our leading engineering experts that the National Building Code provides sufficient standards for structural integrity. The Code ensures that edifices can withstand earthquakes up to 8.4 magnitude. It’s just a matter of strictly implementing the law,” Tolentino noted.

“We also have the National Structural Code of the Philippines which provides a more technical guide on construction. The measure was last updated and enhanced in 2010 and includes sufficient standards to address seismic occurrences.”

The former Presidential Political Adviser noted, however, that aside from tall commercial and residential buildings in metropolitan areas, many smaller structures including houses are “non-engineered” and are being built without the benefit of engineers and structural codes.

“We also have to develop a mindset that structural integrity, and not just aesthetic, should be an important consideration in any construction, even for our homes. Most likely, many Filipinos would be at their own residences when earthquakes occur. That’s why our own houses should be the first one to be strengthened.”

As former MMDA head Tolentino praised the agency for conducting post-earthquake inspections, adding that it should regularly perform such tasks.

“Increased technical and engineering competence within the MMDA is needed to beef up its current competencies,” Tolentino stressed.

He likewise noted that mandatory trainings and seminars should be part of a nationwide disaster preparedness policy, with schools and both government and private offices involved in the effort.

“An alert and aware citizenry is able to act and react properly during earthquakes and other calamities. Education therefore is essential at a comprehensive, grassroots level. We of course don’t know when and where an earthquake will strike, but we can educate everyone on safety protocols.”

“I’d strongly propose and encourage HR departments to obtain trainings and obtain certificates relating to disaster preparedness so they can pass on their knowledge to employees. In the same vein, guidance counselors or appropriate school officials should undergo the same trainings and seminars,” the Senate hopeful said.

“Most importantly, let’s not wait for the next earthquake before we start implementing these needed policies. We should all act now.”