World Bank Approves Funding to Protect Public Buildings against Earthquakes in Metro Manila While Strengthening Emergency Preparedness and Response

WASHINGTON: The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved today US$300 million funding for a new project designed to enhance the safety and seismic resilience of selected 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.

The Philippines Seismic Risk Reduction and Resilience Project will upgrade approximately 425 structures including school buildings and health centers to reduce damage from natural hazards such as earthquakes and other climate-related events. This will reduce risks for approximately 300,000 teachers, students, doctors, patients, and staff who are the users of 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 Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand. “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. In addition, it will provide much-needed economic resilience for the country.”

The project aims to improve the capability of the DPWH to systematically prepare for and respond to potential overlapping hazards including typhoons, floods, volcanic eruptions, and pandemics, particularly in line with its mandate under the different national emergency response plans for multiple hazards. It 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 will also improve core capacities and capabilities to organize operations and coordinate resources to respond to other emergencies.

Retrofitting vulnerable buildings can generate close to four million labor-days throughout Metro Manila contributing to the economic recovery of the construction sector which has been hit hard by wage losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Located along the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’ and the Pacific Cyclone Belt, at least 60 percent of the Philippines’ total land area is exposed to multiple hazards (frequent earthquakes, floods, tsunami, landslides, volcanic eruptions, cyclones, and annual monsoons). Over the past 50 years, the country has experienced more than 15 destructive earthquakes, and four major seismic events of magnitude greater than 6.5 occurred from November-December 2019 alone.

In January 2020, the eruption of Taal Volcano affected over 500,000 people and caused approximately PhP3.4 billion (more than US$71 million) in direct damage to infrastructure and agriculture in the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, and Batangas.

Metro Manila is particularly vulnerable as it is transected by 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 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.

To address the threat of a potentially catastrophic earthquake in the Greater Metro Manila (NCR and surrounding provinces), the President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order No. 52 (EO 52) on May 8, 2018 creating the Program Management Office for the Earthquake Resilience of the Greater Metro Manila Area.

The EO 52 defines institutional roles and responsibilities of government agencies to strengthen the country’s resilience to earthquakes, and to ensure public safety and government continuity. The executive order also mandates government agencies to take proactive steps to ‘guarantee the resilience of public infrastructure (e.g. roads, bridges, buildings, hospitals) in the Greater Metro Manila Area.’

The World Bank has been a partner of the Philippines for 75 years providing support to development projects and programs in the country. Since 1945, it has mobilized funding, global knowledge, and partnerships to support the Philippines’ efforts to alleviate poverty, upgrade infrastructure, improve health, nutrition, and education, strengthen resilience against climate change and natural disasters, promote peace, and enhance global competitiveness.

 

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