Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito on Sunday called on the Department of Public Works and Highways to conduct a nationwide structural audit of all government buildings to determine if these can withstand strong earthquakes.
Ejercito, vice chairman of the Senate Committee On Public Works, raised the need for the DPWH to reassess the structural integrity of government buildings, bridges, and other critical infrastructure to make sure that these are resistant to natural disasters.
The senator issued the statement in the aftermath of the 6.7 magnitude earthquake that hit Surigao and amid the renewed calls of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) to prepare for a big quake expected to be generated by the West Valley Fault.
The West Valley Fault that runs from the Sierra Madre in Cagayan to Laguna crossing Quezon City, Marikina, Pasig, Makati, Taguig, and Muntinlupa is capable of generating a magnitude 7.0 to 7.4 earthquake.
The West Valley fault has movement intervals of 400 to 600 years and the last movement was recorded in 1658.
A study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and Phivolcs in 2004 showed that a 7.2-magnitude quake hitting Metro Manila could result in the death of 34,000 people and injure 114,000 others.
The study said about 170,000 residential houses could collapse while 340,000 could sustain damage. Fires will also erupt in buildings due to electrical short circuit.
The number of casualties however is expected to be higher because according to Phivolcs, the 2004 study was based on the 2000 census when the population in the National Capital Region was only about 9.3 million.
As of August 2015, the population in Metro Manila has reached 12.88 million. Quezon City has the highest population with 2.9 million.
“I am calling on the DPWH to conduct a facilities check across the country. We need to know whether our airports, ports, roads, bridges, and other public infrastructures, and even our homes are earthquake resilient and compliant even with the minimum requirements of the National Building Code,” Ejercito said.
What happened in Surigao was devastating and such a strong earthquake could be more catastrophic in densely populated cities like Metro Manila, Cebu City, Davao City and other highly populated areas in the country, he said.
Ejercito, who has been calling since 2012 for the holding of a National Summit on Disaster Preparedness, said the Surigao quake should serve as a wake-up call for the government to take action.
“We cannot just sit around and wait for the Big One to happen. We need to act now,” the senator stressed.