Press Release
January 18, 2010


In the aftermath of the earthquake that killed thousands in Haiti, Senator Loren Legarda called on the government agencies for public education to re-assess the safety of school buildings and classrooms in the country. Legarda warned that as the Philippines is vulnerable to earthquakes in the Pacific zone, schools should be a safe haven in cases of evacuation rather than a trap.

"As a mother, I am very bothered by schools crumbling during earthquakes. School buildings that collapse and kill scores of children have become a common incident in earthquakes," said Legarda

She cited the recent tragedy in Haiti, where a school collapsed during classes and believed to have trapped about 500 students, and another that collapsed and trapped 200 children. Legarda also referred to events in Italy last year, where a primary school collapsed killing 26 children.

"We must not wait for another strong earthquake to reduce our school buildings into rubble. School authorities must act now - consult structural engineers and assess the vulnerability of school structures to strong tremors, and institute immediately measures to strengthen parts found weak and likely to collapse," Legarda, the UN's regional champion for combating climate change, lamented recently.

It is alarming to recall that in the 1990 Luzon earthquake, 154 school children died in the collapse of the Christian College of the Philippines in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija. A study in Columbia University found that the Philippines has the most number of school children at risk of earthquakes. According to the study, the Philippines has 15.6 million school-age children in

earthquake zones, the highest exposure cited in that study.

Further, Legarda cited other events in the world of similar nature: in China in 2008, 7,000 school buildings collapsed and killed about 15,000 school children and teachers. In Pakistan about 17,000 children died in more than 7,000 schools that collapsed in 2005. In the Pakistan earthquake, out of several school buildings in a field or rubble in Balakot, the only one that remained standing was the one that had been reinforced two years earlier with extra columns and roof beams.

"Let's not wait for another earthquake aftermath to revisit our construction standards, codes and practices. We must examine them now and correct any deficiencies. We must save lives now as we speak, before any major earthquake hits Metro Manila," she added.

Legarda pointed out the rampant corruption in various sectors of the society--both public and private--and said that the small additional percentage required for initial construction safe against earthquakes is less achievable when twice that amount is lost in bribery and robbery from construction budgets.

She further explained, "Corrupt public works kill like bombs and landmines Cheating in constructing public infrastructures such as schools and hospitals is like planting bombs or landmines that will explode when an earthquake strikes. It is criminal. It is meant to kill. People dwelling or working in poorly built buildings are destined to die when those buildings collapse in inevitable future earthquakes. When buildings are not appropriately sited and adequately constructed to take full account of earthquakes and other hazards, they represent disasters waiting to happen."

News Latest News Feed