Respect for the right professional

June 5, 2019 | By: Arch. Benjamin K. Panganiban, Jr., (as first published in The Manila Times last June 4, 2019)

Recent calamities in the Philippines shook up many Filipinos. I’m not referring to the disastrous foray of the Otso Diretso in the recently conducted midterm elections where they lost disastrously to administration candidates. Rather, I’m talking about the recent tremors that happened in various parts of the country.

More troubling, however, is the “mega earthquake” the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivocs) has been reporting for the awareness and preparation of the public.
As Phivocs mentioned in its TV interviews and press releases, the Philippines may be expecting a big shake with a magnitude of 8 in the Richter scale. When it happens, Filipinos should be ready.

But how do we get ready for the “Big One?” We cannot predict when and where an earthquake will strike next. There is no scientific data or exact science that could tell this. The earth is still a much complicated planet to understand and comprehend. We may know about the fault lines but never the place and time the quake will occur. Back to the question, how do we prepare for the big one?

I guess the answer is in the disaster preparedness drills conducted in schools by the Department of Education where students are taught what to do during a jolt. Maybe its in the warning raised by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in areas where a storm surge like the one caused by Typhoon Yolanda is about happen. Probably its in the Department of Social Welfare and Developmen’s temporary alternative shelters and relief goods offered to victims of natural calamities. Or in the setting up of the proper chain of command and coordination of the policies during a disaster by the National Disaster Coordinating Council. Could it be in the Department of Public Works and Highways’ task to mobilize the heavy equipment to clear the highways (DPWH) for easy and immediate access to affected areas? How about in the soldiers who are always made ready by the Department of National Defense to execute rescue operations when our people needs help? Is the answer found in the Philippine National Police’s mandate to uphold peace and order?

I guess you would say the Philippines is ready for the big one. But are we really?

On the technical side of our profession, I think there are areas that need to be highlighted and improved prior to the big one or any natural or man-made calamity that might occur. And this is on the proper implementation of certain provisions of the National Building Code of the Philippines. Technical professionals such as architects, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, sanitary engineers, master plumbers and electronic engineers have separate responsibilities in the construction of vertical structures, especially those that shelter humans. These structures should conform to the specialization or expertise of concerned professionals.

As of today, this has not been applied or implemented by the DPWH. This is because two of the ancillary permits have not been issued by its national office. The National Building Code mentions that the building permit will not be approved if it does include the ancillary permits. The ancillary permits hold accountable the right professional in the design and build area of responsibility. Meaning to say, if a big one happens or if a building collapses due to defects attributed to poor plans and specifications, or defects on the ground, the concerned professional will be liable under Article 1723 of the Civil Code of the Philippines.

Normally, the culprits here are the building officials because they approve the permits and as such, they normally get the penalty in court. I suspect, that is why the process of approving building permits gets to be too tedious and so long because the Building officials’ neck are on the line. This is where the new law, the Ease of Doing Business, should come into the picture. I firmly believe that the right professionals — the licensed and registered architects and engineers — should be the responsible parties for any defect on the plans and specifications of a building.

The ancillary permits missing out are the Architectural Permit and the Structural/Civil Works Permit. Both of them have not yet been published by the DPWH. These two permits identify the responsible professionals. Without these two ancillary permits, I do believe it will be the building officials who should always be blamed for any defective vertical structure. And they should be penalized and go to jail. A lot of unregistered and unlicensed architects are signing as architects on record when they are not even qualified for such. This is tolerated in many local governments.

It’s also very wrong when structural computations and analysis of a legitimate architect, who is supposed to be the prime professional for vertical structures, are questioned by building officials.

The worst thing is that building officials turn blind to phony architects that sign as architect on record for building permits. How could they let public safety to be compromised? Well, that is why building officials get the flak and the penalty whenever a building is in question because of such irregularity

But these malpractices should be rectified at the soonest so that we can avoid loss of precious lives. The architectural and civil/structural permits should now be made part of the building permits as provided under the National Building Code of the Philippines. Otherwise, the DPWH will get part of the blame.

I do hope and pray that the concerned government agencies such as the DPWH or even the Office of the President can hear us out on this plea to address this problem that clearly threatens public safety. The ancillary permits should now be published and implemented properly. Architecture is for architects as Engineering is for engineers. Respect for the right professionals contribute well and faster to nation building.

(The writer is the current national president of the United Architects of the Philippines and the first national president coming from Mindanao. He has been in the Private practice for more than 33 years and is a Fellow of the UAP. He is also the first Asean architect and APEC architect coming from Davao City. He is a graduate of BS Architecture from the University of Mindanao and is also a Doctor Fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects Singapore.)

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