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Batasan complex buildings violate building code; wiping out nat’l leaders in a quake a real risk

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By Ben Rosario

The Batasan Pambansa is among the many buildings in the country that violate the National Building Code of the Philippines and endangers the lives of occupants for lacking the life-saving Earthquake Recording Instrumentations or accelerograph alarms.

In a privilege speech, 1PACMAN Partylist Rep. Eric Pineda said the main building of the Batasan Pambansa and other legislative offices within the Batasan complex that house the offices of the country’s 304 congressmen “do not have earthquake recording and alarm instruments.”

Pineda said that while President Rodrigo Duterte joked in his recent State of the Nation Address about the “big one” hitting the country while all government officials are huddled at the Batasan Pambansa building, such scenario is possible.

Interviewed by reporters Pineda said such situation caught in the scenes of the “Designated Survivor” television drama series where nearly all key officials of the United States government, from the president down to all constitutional successors, perished in a destructive bomb explosion set off by terrorists during the State of the Union Address at the US Capitol.

“Imagine if a high-intensity earthquake happened during the State of the Nation Address it would probably wipe out most of the leaders of this country” Pineda said in underscoring the importance of installing ERIs.

Pineda disclosed that this is a mandatory requirement for all buildings under the Guidelines and Implementing Rules on ERI for Buildings that form part of the amended Presidential Decree 1096 or the National Building Code.

“Accelerographs are sensors that monitor building response to strong ground motion.  They set parameters and record data for subsequent analysis and trigger alarms if a quake has the intensity to cause serious damage to a structure, giving occupants a better perspective on making decisions,” Pineda explained.

The ERI makes a quick analysis of the intensity of a tremor and automatically sets off an alarm that would instantly advise occupants what safety action to take.

“If we fail to ensure compliance to the IRR and the Big One comes, the loss of lives and limbs shall be unspeakably devastating,” Pineda warned.

Pineda, together with partylist colleague Rep. Michael Odylon L. Romero, filed House Resolution No. 32 directing the Committee on Public Works and Highways and other appropriate House panels to inquire into the compliance of building owners to the mandated installation of ERIs.

The two lawmakers expressed strong doubts that both old and new buildings have alarm instruments installed.

Under  PD 1096 as amended, non-installation of the instrument serves as a basis for the building official of a locality to deny the issuance of occupancy permit and subject the violators to penalties.

“Occupancy permits should have never been issued to the owners of non-compliant buildings.  It’s a clear violation of the National Building Code which prescribes penalties and fines for non-observance,” stressed Pineda.

The senior administration lawmaker aired the belief that while there may be buildings with ERIs already installed, the device may not be compliant to the specifications provided under the IRR.

“Further, we also found that many of the accelegraphs being sold in the market today are out of spec or substandard.  It seems like building contractors and owners are installing these equipment just for the sake of complying and not with the public’s safety in mind,” he said.

According to him the IRR took effect in the first quarter of 2015 and mandates that accelerographs be installed in all existing government and private structures of a certain height and located in Seismic Zone 4 in the entire country.

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