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Rough Cuts: Why the early deterioration of Talomo Bridge 2

Last Monday afternoon’s 6.1 magnitude earthquake that hit most of Luzon area was a test of the effectiveness of the government’s continuing emergency preparedness drills. And apparently, based on the reactions of the people in most affected areas, it appears that the drills passed with flying colors.

Yes, the reactions of people were captured live on video and it was clear that drill instructions specifically on the “dock, cover and hold” had worked well.

Another indicator of the success of the government’s earthquake preparedness program is the relatively few casualties in terms of lives lost and number of persons injured. While it is true that authorities are not yet through with their search and rescue operations and that there are reports of some people trapped inside a collapsed supermarket in Porac, Pampanga the number is reportedly few and rescuers have already succeeded in bringing out alive some of the victims.

Another proof of the preparedness efforts success is the immediate mobilization of government and private sector emergency responders.

The learning in the preparedness exercises though was more manifest among employees of government offices and private corporations that are consistent participants during earthquake response drills and other related exercises.

There was however, something very much wanting in the after-incident response in the airline sector.

This was clearly seen when outbound passengers whose flights were cancelled after the temblor destroyed some portions of the infrastructure of the Clark International Airport in Pampanga were left unattended by the airline companies whose planes they were supposed to take.

Based on the accounts of the affected passengers interviewed by television crew early yesterday morning they have no one from the airline companies they have booked their flights with to inquire what they would have to do as well as when they could possibly fly out to their respective destinations.

It is on this aspect that probably the government needs to work out with air transportation firm managements. Keeping the outbound passengers in the dark as to the status of their flights could further add to the anxiety they feel after their horrifying experience of the earthquake.

On the whole, last Monday’s 6.1-magnitude temblor showed a marked improvement in public reactions and the performance of both government and private sector emergency management and responders.

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Talking of infrastructure destruction, yesterday’s collapse of a supermarket building in Porac, Pampanga, and the damage the earthquake brought on the tower building and ceiling of the terminal at Clark International Airport in the same province, only show how quality of finished projects plays a role in the safety of people.

Unfortunately, quality of infrastructure is most wanting in many government projects. This is because most, if not all, completed infrastructure work is affected by the level of corruption that is attendant to the implementation of each project. The bigger the money coughed up by winning bidders to ensure getting the project they will recover the same by skimming on the quality and number of materials used in the project construction.

According to some government road contractors we have talked with, one way of getting back the money they give to corrupt officials is by reducing the width of the road by as much as one foot on both sides. They disclosed to us that a kilometer of one foot wide by eight inch thick concrete pavement reduction on each road side could save them a million pesos.

Another scheme is by not following the standard mixture of sand, gravel and cement used in road concreting projects. Or, they may resort to using smaller steel bars in cases of bridge projects or reducing the number of steel bars used in concrete post and base.

We suspect that this is what exactly happened to the Talomo Bridge 2 which is now undergoing rehabilitation.

Yes, the same bridge was constructed much later than the Talomo Bridge 1. But already, the Talomo Bridge 2 is now visibly sagging downward. If the workmanship of the bridge is in accordance with the prescribed quality in its construction plan and design how come it already sagged while the Talomo Bridge 1 that was constructed several years ahead and suffered the brunt of a massive flood some time in 1994 still stand proud?

Yet, construction of roads and bridges some decades back did not enjoy the sophistication of modern engineering technologies like what present day contractors have. But in the case of the Talomo Bridge 1 it outlasted its neighbor Talomo Bridge 2 which was constructed much later in an effort to reduce vehicular traffic in that part of Davao City’s MacArthur Highway.

Indeed we cannot help if the more observant of our people will see the low quality of construction due to corruption is the reason of the early deterioration of the Talomo Bridge 2.

Where else will its contractor could have recovered the money he put in the pockets of corrupt government officials but by skimming on the materials used in, as well as on the level of workmanship applied on the project.

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