Sinkhole jitters hit Bohol, Cebu

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - After a powerful earthquake and hundreds of aftershocks, fresh jitters are spreading among residents of Bohol and Cebu over reports that sinkholes are forming in the provinces.

Government scientists said yesterday they would send teams next week to verify the reports of sinkholes, which in other countries have swallowed up entire houses.

A 15-meter-wide sinkhole was reported in Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu, but Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional director Ador Canlas yesterday said he has not yet discovered any sinkholes.

“What we have here are road cuts and road slips,” Canlas said.

Sinkholes have also been reported in Calape and Getafe in Bohol, but Canlas said he assessed the damage in Getafe last Thursday.

“It was not a sinkhole. The concrete gave way and there was seepage. There was liquefaction and it resulted to a movement in the concrete,” Canlas said.

An alternate route for motorists has been arranged in Getafe, he said.

Canlas said he would have to re-inspect the damage in Calape.

Meanwhile, a team of three government geologists would begin mapping the location of reported sinkholes in Bohol next week, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Leo Jasareno said.  “The findings will be made available to local government units. They can use these to warn residents,” he said.

A sinkhole that reportedly destroyed at least five houses was a natural depression that had widened over time as limestone deposits eroded underneath, Jasareno said. 

Damage now over P500 M

The DPWH and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported yesterday that damage caused by the strong quake that rocked Central Visayas has reached P563.66 million.  The amount includes damage to critical infrastructure like roads, bridges and flood control facilities in Cebu City and neighboring Bohol.

Ernesto Gregorio, an official of the DPWH, told reporters at a press briefing Thursday that Bohol and Cebu City sustained P546.01 million and P17.6 million in damage, respectively. Gregorio said 21 bridges are still not passable while three are hardly passable in Bohol, Cebu and Negros Oriental. 

Audit of buildings

President Aquino yesterday said he had been informed by Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson that there is an ongoing audit on the compliance of buildings with the Building Code.

“The DPWH, led by Secretary Singson, together with the Department of Science and Technology, especially the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, have been conducting training, seminars and audits to increase building resiliency in the face of earthquakes,” Aquino said.

He said retrofitting may be necessary, particularly for old buildings. 

“Retrofitting need not be such a major expense, so it’s doable. We will be able to increase resiliency even for very old buildings that were built under a very different code,” he said, noting that the latest Building Code is dated 2010. 

Aquino said the government may also have to summon municipal engineers who built the Mandaue public market and its adjacent buildings, including the provincial capitol, whose structural integrity may have been compromised.

“I’m not an engineer nor an architect but it didn’t look to me like a very good construction. I’m having it investigated,” Aquino said.

The President said he noticed when he conducted an ocular inspection there that the reinforcing bars were very thin.  

Cebu airport safe

The Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) yesterday assured the public of the structural integrity of the passenger terminal building of the country’s second largest gateway.

The MCIAA assessed the structural integrity of the facility after the Mactan Cebu international airport was closed for almost four hours last Tuesday due to the quake.

“No major damage was detected, as minor damages such as cracks were non-structural in nature. Passenger and cargo processing were returned to the passenger terminal building from separate buildings by around noon of the same day,” MCIAA said in a statement. 

Spain’s help eyed

Experts and church officials are looking to the Spanish government, the Vatican as well as to the ordinary faithful to defray the huge cost of restoring the centuries-old Catholic churches damaged by the powerful earthquake in Cebu and Bohol.

Masses continued at the quadrangle of the damaged Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu against the backdrop of a crane hovering over its coral-made belfry now destroyed by the recent earthquake. Its side entrance collapsed yesterday due to the hundreds of aftershocks hitting the region.

Apart from the basilica, other damaged churches include the Church of San Pedro Apostol, Loboc, Bohol; Church of Our Lady of Light, Loon, Bohol; Santissima Trinidad Parish, Loay, Bohol; Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Baclayon, Bohol; Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Dauis, Bohol; San Nicolas Church, Dimiao, Bohol; Santa Cruz Parish Church, Maribojoc, Bohol; Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, Cebu; and St. Catherine’s Church, Carcar, Cebu – all built during the Spanish era.

“We are still continuing our assessment of the damage but right now what we’re doing is palliative, and we are also securing the sites because there are so many precious artifacts underneath,” Ludovico Badoy, executive director of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), told The STAR.

“Restoration is going to be a very expensive undertaking and this needs the combined effort of all,” he said. “I think the Spanish government would want to participate, it’s just a matter of us seeking their help.”

Badoy, accompanied by representatives of the DPWH and private restoration experts, has been making the rounds of the damaged historical structures. Several teams from the National Historical Institute were also dispatched to Bohol, which was the hardest hit.

Local authorities in Bohol and Cebu were given strict instructions not to touch the rubble until the experts have arrived.

Using chalk and colored markers, experts and workers have begun the painstaking task of accounting for every brick and stone in the rubble of the basilica to salvage them and help ensure that original material is used as much as possible in the restoration.

“These churches tell our history, strengthened the faith of Catholics among us. Many of us were baptized here, married here, and our elders interred here,” Badoy said.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said help might be forthcoming from Pope Francis, who is expected to issue any time soon a formal message of sympathy for the victims of the earthquake.

Cebu Rep. Ace Durano, a former tourism chief, said even if the government would want to fully restore the churches, it could only do so much. 

Amendment of infra projects possible

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. yesterday said it is possible for lawmakers in Cebu and Bohol to amend their infrastructure projects in the proposed P2.268-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2014 to help in the rehabilitation work.

Belmonte, however, stressed there are also sufficient funds from concerned agencies like the DPWH and the Office of the President for rehabilitation and relief work.

He said senators have started informally deliberating on the proposed national budget.

“But after they are through there, we will meet in bicam (bicameral conference committee) and there, we can still make changes at that point,” he said.

Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap said he was considering making changes to his proposed infrastructure projects after his district was among those hit by the quake. 

‘No massive displacement of workers’

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), for its part, allayed fears of massive displacement of workers in Central Visayas.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the quake may impact the tourism industry in Bohol and Cebu but it would likely be minimal and temporary.

She said the DOLE is set to release a maximum of P14 million to fund programs that would provide immediate and temporary employment to affected workers in Central Visayas. – With Evelyn Macairan, Jaime Laude, Ricky Bautista, Delon Porcalla, Paolo Romero, Mayen Jaymalin, Lawrence Agcaoili








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