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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

Another US$300 WB loan for public infra improvement

World Bank approved US$300 million loan to reinforce government buildings against earthquakes

MANILA – A US$300 million funding has been approved by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors to enhance the safety and seismic resilience of a number of public buildings in Metro Manila and strengthen the capacity of the Department of Public Works and highways (DPWH) to prepare for and respond to emergencies.

In a statement datelined Washington and released a few minutes ago, the “Philippines Seismic Risk Reduction and Resilience Project” will upgrade about 425 buildings including school structures and health centers to reduce damage from natural hazards such as earthquakes and other climate-related events. The project hopes to reduce the risks of some 300,000 teachers, students, doctors, patients, and staff who regularly use these facilities.

“Metro Manila or the National Capital Region is the seat of government and the country’s population, economic, and cultural center,” said Ndiamé Diop, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. He explained enhancing safety of public buildings and structures while boosting institutional response to disasters will help protect lives and safety of over 12 million residents including the poor and most vulnerable. The funding will also provide the needed economic resilience for the country.

The project is expected to improve the capability of the DPWH to systematically prepare and respond to potential overlapping hazards including typhoons, floods, volcanic eruptions, and pandemics, in accordance with its mandate under the various national emergency response plans for multiple hazards. The loan will finance DPWH’s essential equipment to upgrade its capability for communications and restoration of mobility and transport in Metro Manila after a major earthquake. It is also expected to improve core capacities and capabilities to organize operations and coordinate resources to respond to other emergencies.

It has been said at least 60 percent of the Philippines’ total land area is exposed to multiple hazards characterized by frequent earthquakes, floods, tsunami, landslides, volcanic eruptions, cyclones, and annual monsoons. For the past five decades, the country experienced more than 15 destructive earthquakes, and four major seismic events of magnitude greater than 6.5 from November-December 2019 alone.

Last January 2020, Taal Volcano erupted and affected over half a million people and caused about P3.4 billion (more than US$71 million) in direct damage to infrastructure and agriculture in the provinces of Batangas, Laguna, Rizal and Cavite.

Metro Manila is vulnerable because of numerous earthquake generators, of which the West Valley Fault poses the most significant earthquake threat. The Greater Metro Manila Area (GMMA) risk assessment study estimated that a magnitude 7.2 earthquake on the West Valley Fault (a probably maximum scenario, so-called ‘The Big One’) would result in an estimated 48,000 fatalities and US$48 billion in economic losses, with catastrophic impact on government continuity and service provision.

It will be recalled President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 52 (EO 52) on May 8,2018 creating the Program Management Office for Earthquake Resilience of the Greater Manila Area.

The EO defines institutional roles and responsibilities of government agencies to strengthen the country’s resilience to earthquakes, and to ensure public safety and government continuity. It also mandates government agencies to take proactive steps to “guarantee the resilience of public infrastructure including roads, bridges, buildings, and hospitals” in the Greater Metro Manila Area. (Melo M. Acuña)

World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand Ndiamé Diop. (World Bank file photo)

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