Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said his office is conducting an assessment and investigation to determine who could be held liable for the incident where at least 12 people have died.
Boy Santos
DPWH probes liability of supermarket contractor
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - April 25, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is looking into the possible liability of the owner and contractor of the supermarket in Porac, Pampanga that collapsed during a strong earthquake last Monday.

Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said his office is conducting an assessment and investigation to determine who could be held liable for the incident where at least 12 people have died.

“We will find out who’s to blame for the incident – if there’s any negligence on the part of the owner or contractor and if there are regulations violated,” Villar said in an interview yesterday.

“We have to find out who is accountable for the collapse of Chuzon Supermarket so we will  know what to do and so we can prevent this from happening again,” he stressed.

Villar said their assessment team was still on the ground to gather information and evidence.

“We are waiting for the final analysis of our forensics team. As of now, they’re still collecting evidence. Hopefully, we will able to come up with a more detailed assessment soon,” he said.

Villar said preliminary findings showed the four-story building collapsed forward.

President Duterte on Tuesday personally inspected the damage of the earthquake in Pampanga and ordered government agencies to investigate the collapse of Chuzon Supermarket for possible filing of criminal charges against its owner.

The government is also set to suspend the business permit of Chuzon, which has four other branches in the province.

Most of the fatalities in last Monday’s tremor were those trapped in the ruins of the supermarket.

Rescuers are racing against time to retrieve more survivors from the rubble, officials said.

At least 16 people were killed, 81 injured and 14 still missing from the earthquake that struck Central Luzon, including Metro Manila.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the number of fatalities remains unchanged.

Regional police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Col. Christopher Abrahano said they started the probe with an interview with Samuel Chu, owner of the ill-fated supermarket in Porac.

“The owner of the business establishment is cooperating,” Abrahano said.

He said Chu agreed to submit documents detailing the floor plan of the supermarket as well as the list of workers.

Abrahano said the regional CIDG also invited the engineer and the contractor who built the supermarket.

Abrahano stressed it is premature to say the store’s construction was substandard. He said the police will be coordinating with the DPWH for the technical aspect of their investigation.

Damage control

The DPWH, on the other hand, said at least three roads in Pampanga remained closed to traffic as of yesterday – East Lateral Mega Dike (Maiwalo/Dolores, Bacolor), Floridablanca-Consuelo Bridge and Sasmuan-Lubao Road – due to cracks, opening of concrete slope protection and depression of approach.

The DPWH has pegged the amount of damage from the earthquake in Central Luzon at P200 million.

In Metro Manila, Villar said they are focusing on the building of Emilio Aguinaldo College that was severely damaged by the earthquake.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, pressed the government to go after the contractor that built the Clark International Airport.

Clark airport was closed temporarily because of damaged check-in counters, ceilings and parts of the departure area. Seven people were slightly injured and more than 100 flights canceled.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said the Building Code mandates that buildings and other structures covered by the law should be able to withstand an earthquake of at least magnitude 8.

“Our airports must be able to withstand major earthquakes and other calamities because they do not only act as a transport hub for passengers but they are also important in the delivery of relief goods and other forms of help during disasters,” Gatchalian told the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.

Gatchalian also said government and private inspectors must be trained enough to know what they are doing after earthquakes.

Sen. Sonny Angara, for his part, wanted local government units (LGUs) to spend their local disaster funds wisely by prioritizing disaster planning and risk management, saying such move is more proactive and cost-effective in terms of disaster response. – With Emmanuel Tupas, Ding Cervantes, Paolo Romero, Pia Lee-Brago, Delon Porcalla, Jaime Laude

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