Tuesday, January 17, 2017

DPWH to make Bicol a pilot area for earthquake and typhoon-resilient school buildings
By Rhaydz Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 16 (PNA) —- Starting this year, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) will be constructing typhoon and earthquake resilient public school buildings in the Bicol region that could withstand even typhoons with the strength of 300 kilometers per hour.

“Bicol will be the pilot area for the country’s first and strongest public schoolbuilding that could withstand stronger typhoons,” said DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, who flew to Bicol to check the status of rehabilitation efforts, particularly in Albay and Camarines Sur, which were devastated by typhoon Nina on Christmas day.

He said current public infrastructures like public school buildings could only withstand typhoons with the strength of 255-kph.

Villar said that as natural calamities get intense due to climate change, the government will have to build the country’s first typhoon and earthquake-proof public school buildings in disaster-prone Bicol.

“For single public school classrooms, the department is allocating a budget of Php1.2 million but with the new master plan for disaster mitigation, the budget will be doubled,” the state public works chief said.

He said under the 2017 budget, the department has allocated funds for disaster mitigation that include the construction of schoolbuildings.

“The goal is not only to use the public school infrastructure for evacuation but to serve as a lasting structure conducive for learning,” said Villar.

Earlier, the Department of Education (DepEd) in Bicol reported Php1.1 billion initial damage to public school buildings and Php34 million damage to non-infrastructure assets during the post-assessment briefing of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council here.

Roy Bañas, DepEd-Bicol information officer, said that in Albay, there were 186 classrooms totally damaged by typhoon Nina that need a budget of Php223.2 million.

He said there were 625 classrooms totally damaged or in need of replacement in 3,827 public schools from elementary to senior high school in the Bicol region with the damage estimated at Php750 million.

Aside from this, there were 1,082 classrooms in the region that were partially damaged and in need of major repairs with estimated costs to reach Php378 million.

Banas added there were 988 classrooms, which were partially damaged and in need of minor repairs amounting to Php14.82 million.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri of the Senate committee on finance said that he will ask Congress to double the budget for public school infrastructures to lessen the impact of disasters in regions.

As to the other infrastructure development programs in the country, Villar said he aims to build a superhighway from La Union to Bicol as a major thrust of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

“The President believes that infrastructure projects could breed massive development, open new business opportunities and (generate) employment,” he said.

Villar said there will be road widenings and bypass roads from Legazpi City to Daraga town in Albay while an expressway will be built in Naga City in Camarines Sur to decongest traffic in the area.

“More environmentally friendly projects will also be put up across the country such as bike lanes and walkable roads for the public to lessen carbon footprints,” he said.

Villar said the government has allocated a multi-billion budget for 2017 to address traffic congestion traffic problems in the country, specifically in Metro Manila, by establishing more access roads and superhighways.

“Ultimately, I want to have a superhighway in Luzon from north to south, that would include Bicol, before the President’s term ends,” said Villar.

He said he was in Bicol to look into the possibility of pursuing a superhighway from Lucena to Bicol or from La Union to Matnog, Sorsogon.

Villar said he is also studying if there could be six to eight lanes in Bicol International Airport’s (BIA) access road as the existing two lanes could not accommodate the big volume of vehicles that would travel to and from the international airport once it becomes operational here. (PNA) LAP/RB/EDS