In a bid to make communities around the country safer and more disaster-resilient, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go filed a bill in December 2019 that seeks to provide for the effective regulation of planning, design, construction, occupancy, and maintenance of all public and private buildings and structures.

Senate Bill (SB) No. 1252, also known as the “Philippine Building Act of 2019″, aims to safeguard the public welfare and to mitigate the impact of disasters by proposing to provide all buildings and structures a framework of minimum standards and requirements in line with mainstreaming disaster risk reduction and management efforts and to regulate and control their location, siting, planning, design, construction, and maintenance.

Asked on why there is a need for such measure, Go said that many elements are lacking or need to be updated in the current building code due to the changing times.

“The National Building Code of the Philippines took effect on February 19, 1977. Ilang dekada na po ang nakakalipas mula nang ito ay naging batas. Mula noon, marami na po tayong mga natutunan tungkol sa building safety dahil sa advancements in science, at pati na din po sa ating mga naging masasamang experience mula sa sakuna, tulad ng lindol na nangyari sa Mindanao. Panahon na upang ating pag-aralan ang pag-update sa National Building Code na ito,” Go said.

The senator added that some safety standards on fire safety and sanitation are not mentioned in the current Building Code, leaving several loopholes and inadequacies that should be addressed.

“Kapansin pansin po na kahit na mayroong mga safety standards ang current Building Code, gaya ng fire safety and sanitation, hindi po specifically mentioned ang disaster resiliency dito. Napakahalaga ng disaster resiliency dito sa ating bansa dahil maliban sa around twenty typhoons ang pumapasok sa ating bansa taon-taon, our geographic location makes us vulnerable to other disasters, such as earthquakes, landslides, storm surges, and more.”

To fill up these loopholes, Go is proposing amendments to ensure that all buildings and structures in the country are built according to the principle of “building back better”.

“‘Building back better’ requires that in the reconstruction of damaged structures, due consideration shall be given to the possibility of the disaster repeating itself,” said Go.

“Ire-require din natin na ma-integrate ang disaster resilience measures sa paggawa ng rules and regulations, at sa reference standards para sa pagplano, pag-design, at pag-reconstruct ng mga bagong buildings and structures na itatayo,” he added.

To prevent corruption in the building of such structures, the bill also promotes the accountability among relevant stakeholders and establishes sustainability standards for government-owned buildings to mitigate any negative environmental, economic, and social impacts.

“Kailangan din nating mag introduce ng steps upang maiwasan ang corruption na possibleng nagiging sanhi ng non-compliance ng ibang building owners sa safety standards. To do this, we can introduce a ‘Peer Review’ system which shall be performed by an accredited and independent verifier who can confirm whether or not the structural design of a proposed or new building or structure complies with the new set of safety standards.”

If the proposed measure is passed into law, the National Building Official (NBO) will be primarily responsible for its execution, administration and enforcement, while a Building Regulations and Standards Council will be created to assist the NBO in reviewing and recommending rules and regulations and reference standards to accomplish the objectives of the proposed law.

The Office of the National Building Official (ONBO), within the Department of Public Works and Highways, will also be created to provide sufficient technical, legal, administrative, and support personnel to the NBO.

To ensure the safety and resilience of buildings and structures, the bill provides a system of classification as to their type of construction according to fire resistance rating; use or occupancy; and required permitting process. Each classification will have specific rules and regulations promulgated by the NBO.

General planning requirements for the location, siting, and zoning of buildings and structures are also provided in the bill, all of which should also take into account the environment and its conservation and protection.

As for design requirements, the bill mandates due consideration of structural stability, protection from fire, moisture and surface water, among others. Buildings and structures will also be required to provide safe access, circulation, and egress from the buildings, including emergency exits for persons and vehicles.

According to Go, the use of materials, pieces of equipment, plants, and tools, and selection of personnel for construction must also conform to reference standards to ensure quality of materials and workmanship.

“Pagdating sa construction and demolition ng buldings, kailangan natin magkaroon ng maayos na waste management. All buildings must be constructed or demolished with a corresponding waste management plan to protect the environment and the health of surrounding inhabitants,” Go said.

“Sa pagpili ng building materials at components, kailangang sumunod sa set of criteria that will consider, among other things, the strength, fire resistivity, moisture resistance, durability, and sustainability and, of course, disaster resilience,” Go added.

Go also said that the proposed measure covers the review and inspection of old buildings to ensure that structural integrity of these structures are compliant.

“Sa pagpasa ng bagong batas na ito, kailangan din po nating ma-review ang structural integrity ng mga building na naluma na,” he explained.

To promote accountability among stakeholders further, building owners of any proposed construction or existing building or structure will be asked to secure the appropriate permits from the Local Building Official, prior to the start of such work or occupancy.

The owners will also be required to maintain the buildings according to provided requirements. The ONBO will establish a system for monitoring, reporting, and evaluating maintenance and inspection activities, according to the bill.

Finally, the NBO, in coordination with relevant agencies, will also develop and administer incentive schemes to promote voluntary compliance and to encourage all owners to promote the use of environmentally sound or sustainable materials, methods, practices, and technologies.

“Huwag na po natin intayin magkaroon pa ng isa pang sakuna. Importante na maging handa ang ating bansa para masigurado na safe at disaster-resilient ang ating mga komunidad,” Go explained.

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