Guns ’N Roses rocks Manila
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - November 12, 2018 - 12:00am

No, this time it wasn’t an earthquake, it was “the most dangerous band in the world” that rocked us at the Philippine Arena last night. Guns ’N Roses on a sold out concert thrilled more than fifty thousand Filipinos.

For some who may have not heard of them but this seems quite impossible, Guns ’N Roses is an American hard rock band from Los Angeles, California formed in 1985. They have sold over 100 million records worldwide. Their “Not in your lifetime” concert tour is one of the highest grossing concert tours worldwide.

Their lead vocalist Axl Rose, lead guitarist Slash, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Steven Adler have been part of the 1985 original band. The current lineup includes keyboardist Dizzy Reed, guitarist Richard Fortus, drummer Frank Ferrer and keyboardist Melissa Reese.

Melissa Reese the blue haired female member of the band is half Filipina. Her maternal grandparents are from Bicol. Melissa joined Guns ’N Roses in 2016 as the band’s second keyboardist, replacing Chris Pitman, while also playing synthesizer, sub-bass, background vocals, and programming for all electronic sounds during live performances.

Melissa Reese is the sister of a very good friend of mine, theater actress and singer Stephanie Reese who has also done several concerts here in Manila but her most notable performance was playing Kim in Ms. Saigon, Germany edition.

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Now let’s talk about the unfinished business of the DPWH. How can a government agency tasked to “maintain an engineering and construction arm and continuously develop its technology, for the purpose of ensuring the safety of all infrastructure facilities and securing for all public works and highways the highest efficiency and the most appropriate quality in construction” become a victim of its own inefficiency? Quite ironic!

The landslide that trapped some 30 people inside the Department of Public Works and Highways building in Barangay Banawel, Natonin, Mountain Province on October 31 continues to disturb me. On one hand, I can’t believe it happened. But on the other hand, I tell myself, “So what’s new?”

This landslide was triggered by Tropical Cyclone Rosita but was already in a ‘heavy prone’ landslide area. The question is why did the DWPH build on this hazardous area? As of press time, 18 bodies were recovered from the rubble and 11 are still missing.

The place is in an isolated area that requires up to four hours of land travel on zigzag roads from Bontoc proper. This made rescue operations a challenge because roads leading to ground zero are only accessible by foot and rescuers had to use manual ways to search for the laborers.

As the rescue and retrieval operations continue to unfold, Natonin Mayor Chiwayan questioned a risk management report of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) released last October 25, which showed that “no area in Natonin is declared safe.” If this is the case, “Saan kami magbi-build ng bahay namin. Baguio City was also declared a high-risk area in terms of landslides... but MGB personnel have big houses there,” he said. He also added that he did not sign anything for the construction of the DPWH office in the area. He further said that the DPWH is the expert in the construction of buildings.

Philippine geoscience experts say that the DPWH building in Mountain Province was standing on a landslide prone area. In fact, there are two existing hazard maps for landslides that both covered the damaged DPWH Engineering Office. Project NOAH maps that show safe areas because of the accuracy of data and the MGB (Mines and Geosciences Bureau) maps that allegedly hesitate to show safe areas because generally, they are more legally and financially accountable if they incorrectly show an area to be safe. They tend to label no safe areas at all as a policy. But if their maps are the official ones, then they should make them more useful to the public.

Hazard maps should always show which areas are not hazardous (safe areas). This would help decision makers and the public know where to go in case of a disaster or where to live safely. I hope the DENR looks more into this concern for public safety and disaster preparedness issues. 

When it comes to EGGAR (Engineering Geological and Geohazard Assessment), this means that all projects should take into account the hazards in an area even before planning or construction begins. These are usually conducted by professional geologists or companies such as the Goes, Inc. that provides a guide for engineers in what they need to build to make it resilient against hazards like landslides or if they should build there at all.

EGGAR is part of the Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC) that all projects need to have to continue construction. The EGGAR and ECC of the DPWH Engineering office would indicate if they were warned of the landslide hazard in the area or if the certificates were incorrect/inaccurate. This would place the blame for the incident on those who made the EGGAR/ECC or those who chose to continue the project despite the risks. In this case, it seems that EGGA approved the location and MGB approved the project. The buck will always stop at the MGB level. So, who’s the culprit? Who’s accountable?

The DPWH said that the location of the building was “never identified as a danger zone” and passed a safety test six years ago. Gladys Faith Claver of Mt. Province 2nd District Engineering Office told CNN Philippines that, “We checked, but it was really safe. There were quality tests conducted and it was constructed before 2012. She added, “Nagkataon lang na malakas ang ulan, na talagang nag-mudslide kaya tinulak ang buong building.” What a third world mentality this lady has. Sanamagan!

What happened in Mt. Province is a clear indication of government agencies not following the proper protocol in making decisions. What comes first is the task of completing what was planned and meeting deadlines perhaps without consideration for the safety and well-being of the people who will use these infrastructure facilities.

If this happened to the DPWH, it could happen to us, the ordinary citizens. The LGUs should heed the call of the experts to seriously study hazard maps in their areas. It will help them make informed decisions when the time comes. Otherwise, expect the worst. We are doomed.

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