Press Release
March 12, 2011

Legarda: "Unsafe Structures Turn Earthquakes Into Devastating Disasters"

In light of the recent magnitude 8.9 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, today reiterated her call for the immediate evaluation of the structural integrity of critical infrastructure in the country.

"Natural hazards are inevitable, but disasters are preventable if we make the necessary preparation. Earthquakes turn into major disasters due to unsafe structures--poorly built infrastructure, buildings in inappropriate places, inadequate design and materials specification, and shortcuts in construction," Legarda cited.

"Inspection during the construction of both public and private infrastructure is important. The additional expense required for making structures safe from earthquakes is worth it especially if it would save thousands of precious lives," she added.

Legarda recommended that the government must ensure that all critical infrastructure, especially schools and hospitals, are earthquake-proof through the conduct of a nationwide structural evaluation of all schools and hospitals and by retrofitting these structures to allow them to withstand destructive earthquakes.

"School authorities must act now. They must consult structural engineers and assess the vulnerability of school structures to strong tremors, and institute immediate measures to strengthen parts found weak and likely to collapse. We should likewise ensure that our homes and offices, shopping malls and public buildings are able to withstand strong earthquakes. We must ensure proper and safe construction."

"This lesson we must accept: Prevention is cost-effective. Based on international studies, the cost of disaster-proofing a hospital or health facility is negligible when included in early design considerations. Incorporating comprehensive disaster protection from earthquake and extreme climatic events into designs from the beginning will only add 4% to the cost. This cost is nothing compared to the risk of destruction and death of patients and staff during a disaster, and the equally high health, economic and development impacts in the aftermath," Legarda explained.

"The best protection against earthquakes are sound engineering practices. We must not wait for a strong tremor to revisit our construction standards, codes and practices. We must examine them now and correct any deficiencies. We must save lives now, before any major earthquake hits the country," Legarda concluded.

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