Tuesday morning almost the whole of Mindanao was shaken with an earthquake with a maximum magnitude of 7 on its reported epicenter, Tulunan in Cotabato Province.
The destructive incident happened barely two weeks since an almost similar magnitude earthquake rocked the southern Philippines. Considering the strength of the temblor many were expecting that in the final assessment the damage could be much more than the October 16 quake that hit basically the same places. And they were right. What with many structures already in the verge of collapsing or standing on shaky grounds.
Yes, as of early afternoon last Tuesday in Davao City alone, the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CDRRMO) through the City Information Office (CIO) released its initial list of damage structures both major and minor.
According to the CDRRMO its assessment team that included a group of safety engineers from the City Engineer’s Office (CEO), monitored a total of 38 structures with cracks of varying degrees. Of the 38 majority are public structures mostly school buildings. An important bridge was also found with cracks.
Of the private structures those that suffered damage that can be considered alarming are a Toril mall, a residential/commercial/office condominium in Bucana, and a health care building along C.M. Recto st. that was found leaning.
Ironically, most of the school buildings with damage are those relatively newly completed by its contractors. The new school structures are multi-storey buildings ranging from 2, 3 to 4 levels.
Early television and radio reports last Tuesday also showed that in other provinces where damages to structures were reported, many of these also are public buildings. Again majority are schools, barangay halls, municipal buildings, and offices of certain government agencies.
In Kidapawan City the office of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) sustained destructions that need substantial repair before it can be used as office again with some degree of safety for its occupants.
The Municipal Hall of Magsaysay town in Davao del Sur that was partially destroyed during the October 16 earthquake has sustained much bigger destruction after last Tuesday’s shake.
In a post in Facebook one of the new buildings of the Digos National High School was seen in its sorriest state.
Indeed the disasters that hit Mindanao too close to each other in terms of date and magnitude had brought a lot of sufferings to the people. And these had also resulted to humongous destructions to government infrastructures the restoration of which will take some time due to budget constraints.
The two destructive incidents nonetheless, brought to the surface one hard-to-swallow reality. That is, corruption in government agencies has taken its toll in the quality of the finished infrastructure projects like school buildings.
Of course, this could be the new “normal” these days. Talks about the “Koriyan” involved in each transaction cannot anymore be divorced from every government project implemented. Yes, it’s the question the answer of which determines the winning bidder. “Magkano ko riyan.” Translated in English, “How much is mine here.”
And talks are loud that the asking figure is, at the lowest, 20 percent of the bid price. Half of this, according to our insider sources, goes to the politician who initiated the project either at the national or local level, and the head of the implementing agency. The rest will be divided by and among those whose signatures facilitate the execution of the project and sign documents for its acceptance up to its final payment.
We have also been informed that in some agencies of government, the “rebate” now goes up to 25 up to 30 percent.
Now, should we be surprised if the finish projects like school building, government offices, bridges and others are the first to take the hit when earthquakes strike?
Yes, where will the contractor recoup the amount that it will do away with from his expected income in the project but from the quantity and quality of the materials used in the construction. And that is what is happening in the school building projects now sprouting in almost all public school campuses.
And the report by the different C/P/DRRMOs on the damages brought by the strong temblor will surely bare us out on this assumption of ours.