THE World Bank approved on Tuesday a new $300-million (P14.34-billion) loan for a Philippine government project that aims to protect key public buildings in Metro Manila against earthquakes, and to boost emergency preparedness.
In a statement, the Washington-based multilateral lender said the Philippines Seismic Risk Reduction and Resilience project will involve upgrading 425 structures, including school buildings and health centers, to make them more resilient against natural calamities such as earthquakes.
The World Bank estimated the project will benefit 300,000 teachers, students, doctors, patients and personnel that use these facilities.
The loan will also support the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) efforts to “systematically prepare for and respond to potential overlapping hazards including typhoons, floods, volcanic eruptions, and pandemics.” It will fund the acquisition of equipment that will allow the DPWH to boost its capability to communicate and restore transport in Metro Manila after an earthquake, as well as improve capacity to respond to other emergencies.
“Metro Manila or the National Capital Region is the seat of government and the country’s population, economic, and cultural center. Enhancing the safety of its buildings and structures while boosting institutional response to disasters will help protect the lives and safety of more than 12 million residents, including the poor and most vulnerable,” said Ndiamé Diop, World Bank’s country director Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.
Mr. Diop said this will also help boost to the Philippines’ economic resilience.
The World Bank estimated that retrofitting public buildings in the Philippine capital would involve four million working days. This will aid the construction sector’s recovery from the pandemic.
According to the bank, at least 60% of the Philippines total land area is exposed to various natural hazards, such as earthquakes, floods, tsunami, landslides, volcanic eruptions and typhoons, since it is situation along the Pacific Ring of Fire and the Pacific Cyclone Belt.
The country suffered from more than 15 destructive earthquakes in the last 50 years. Four major ones with magnitude of more than 6.5 occurred in the last two months of 2019 alone.
Taal Volcano erupted in January 2020, displacing 500,000 people and inflicting P3.4 billion in damage to infrastructure and agriculture in the surrounding areas.
“The Greater Metro Manila Area (GMMA) risk assessment study estimated that a magnitude 7.2 earthquake on the West Valley Fault (a probable 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,” the World Bank said.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte issued Executive Order (EO) No. 52 (EO 52) on May 8, 2018 that created a Program Management Office for the Earthquake Resilience of the Greater Metro Manila Area to mitigate the potential devastating impact of a major earthquake.
The EO mandated state offices to improve their resilience to earthquakes and ensure that government buildings, hospitals and other infrastructure can withstand the earthquakes.
The new $300-million loan is among the World Bank’s 13 pipeline projects worth $3 billion for the Philippines targeted for approval starting June.
This is in addition to the three new loans the bank granted the government so far this year, following the $500-million loan it extended to buy coronavirus vaccines and the $700,000 technical assistance for the feasibility study for the Agus-Pulangi Hydropower Complex rehabilitation project. — Beatrice M. Laforga