Open Letter To DPWH Secretary Mark Villar

May 8, 2019 | By: Arch. Benjamin K. Panganiban, Jr. (as first published in The Manila Times last May 7, 2019)

According to some reports, the scale, frequency and severity of natural disasters have risen progressively over the last 20 years. This trend is likely to continue as rapid urbanization and climate change combine to create a `perfect storm` in terms of increasing levels of vulnerability; a storm, which will be further compounded by poverty, environmental degradation and resource scarcity. The rapidly escalating cost of disasters is an increasing cause for concern for insurers, businesses and governments, but the true costs of a disaster are felt most acutely at community level and are determined by the community’s ability to recover and rebuild their lives. Investment in reducing the impact of natural hazards and in enhancing the ability of communities to recover is more cost-effective and long-term than dealing with the consequences of natural hazards.

The architecture community has played an important role in the prevention and mitigation of disasters by carrying out risk assessments, and designing structures that can withstand extreme events or major infrastructure projects. Architects have also played a vital role in humanitarian response by helping to provide clean water, sanitation and shelter, and the infrastructure needed to facilitate delivery of food and medical supplies. The nature and scale of the four challenges presented earlier, matched by the paradigm shift taking place in both humanitarian response and disaster management create an opportunity for more proactive engagement, and demand a more holistic and collaborative approach.

In this, the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) community is committed to: Embrace a more holistic understanding of risk and fully recognize the potential which our projects afford in reducing vulnerability; recognize that appropriate strategies are needed which reflect local perceptions of risk, and financial and technical resources available; adopt a systems perspective in the design of urban infrastructure, recognizing integration and interdependence of projects; encourage a shift to a new culture of safety which acknowledges uncertainty and recognizes the possibility of failure; recognize that collaboration and partnership with other professionals, policy makers and decision makers, is essential if our voice is to be heard; and ensure that all architects possess sufficient knowledge and understanding of disaster risk, in order to become critical agents in ensuring the safety and well-being of mankind.

And in order to create safer and more resilient communities able to adapt to changing circumstances, and survive and recover from extreme events, the UAP transmitted to Secretary Mark Villar of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) this letter for proper collaboration:


Department of Public Works and Highways
Manila, Philippines

Dear Honorable Secretary:


By way of introduction, the United Architects of the Philippines is the integrated professional organization of architects in the Philippines, duly accredited by the Professional Regulation Commission. At present, the UAP has more than 44,000 members from 162 Chapters, nationwide and internationally. UAP is a national section of the International Union of Architects (UIA), founding member of the Architects Regional Council Asia and lifetime member of the Eastern Regional Organization for Planning and Housing.

The Philippines is among the most disaster-prone countries in the world, being located between three tectonic plates — the Philippine Sea, Sunda and Eurasia — and consequently is exposed to regular earthquakes. Recently, the Philippines was hit by another powerful earthquake
on Tuesday afternoon, a day after a deadly tremor hit the north of the country.

As we convey our profound sorrow and condolences to the victims of the earthquake, the United Architects of the Philippines stands ready and willing to support the government as it responds to the devastating earthquake that struck Luzon and Visayas, particularly in the post-disaster damage assessments and evaluations on public structures and establishments affected by the temblor.

Also, we wish to inform your good office that the UAP is fully supportive of the government appeal to local government units (LGUs) to implement stricter rules in the issuance of building and construction permits. In these times wherein the safety of structures is becoming more and more urgent, there is a need to be sufficiently concerned about and clamor to strictly implement all existing laws and regulations, particularly the National Building Code of the Philippines and its implementing rules and regulations, as well as the regulatory laws of all professionals involved in the built environment. UAP believes that the National Building Code of the Philippines addresses many of society’s most important concerns, including public health and safety, and environmental protection. In large part, the National Building Code of the Philippines establishes a building’s quality, safety and energy performance for years to come, because initial design and construction decisions determine operational and maintenance costs for the life of the building.

Hence, the role of architects is vital in the implementation of the said code as they are typically the responsible design professionals, with a corresponding duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of both building occupants and the public at large.

As a prime-professional organization of architects, UAP adheres to legal standards specifically on the building industry, as we attempt to safeguard the well-being of our people. This is particularly true as we try to correspond the needs of development with relevant safety and environmental standards.

We recognize that in the implementation of the National Building Code of the Philippines and its revised implementing rules and regulations, it is necessary that the ancillary permits as mentioned in Section 301 (2a) must be strictly implemented, to wit:

“2. Permits supplementary to a Building Permit shall be applied for and issued by the Building Official. These include Ancillary and the Accessory Permits.

“a. Ancillary Permits

The Ancillary Permits duly signed and sealed by the corresponding professionals and the plans and specifications shall be submitted together with the duly notarized application for building permit. The building permit is null and void if not accompanied by the ancillary permits. The prescribed Ancillary and other Accessory Permits/forms shall likewise be used whenever applicable. The ancillary permits are the following:

i. Architectural Permit
ii. Civil/Structural Permit
iii. Electrical Permit
iv. Mechanical Permit
v. Sanitary Permit
vi. Plumbing Permit
vii. Electronics Permit ”

It is our stand that architectural permits be strictly required in the issuance of the building permit, the necessity of which has been brought about by the existing practice of architecture, wherein non-architects illegally prepare and/or sign and seal architectural plans, specifications and other related documents. The architectural permit serves as an important ancillary permit of the building permit, and is equivalent to the mechanical, electrical, sanitary and plumbing permits presently required in various local government units.

Plans, specifications and other architectural documents required for the issuance of a building permit must be prepared, signed and sealed by competent professionals who possess the necessary skills, knowledge and expertise to ensure safety to life, health, property and public welfare. Hence, the architectural permit, as one of the ancillary permits, is necessary in the issuance of the building permit.

In his keynote address during the 37th UAP National Convention on April 28, 2011 at the SMX Convention Center, Pasay City, Secretary Rogelio Singson underscored that “as designers therefore of these buildings, United Architects of the Philippines should play an active role in integrating your efforts to respond to the disaster risk reduction by designing safe and resilient structures. I have said, the price to pay for failure to comply with the appropriate laws, more particularly, the national building code is very stiff by putting the lives of other people at risk. We should also be aware and build away from known hazard zones precisely because of our long term view.”

Architects have made a significant contribution to reducing disaster risk, both in post-disaster contexts and in designing infrastructure in hazard-prone areas. There is a significant opportunity to build on our experiences and explore how we can contribute to a broader agenda with the ultimate objective of creating resilient communities, businesses and cities able to survive extreme events and adapt to changing circumstances. Resilience is initially a difficult concept to grasp, but so was sustainability. Just as we have learned to accept the challenges posed by an increasing population living on a finite planet, we must rise to the challenges posed by the increasing risk of disasters.
In this connection, the UAP is extending both a reliable helping hand and a hand of long-term collaborative partnership to your good office to ensure the protection and welfare of the people especially in times of disaster.

Looking forward to working with your good office. Thank you and our warm regards.

Very truly yours,


National President
United Architects of the Philippines


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