DPWH on the 1,500 damaged schools
(The Philippine Star) - November 19, 2019 - 12:00am

Relating to the above subject news clipping of Mr. Beltran regarding the damaged school buildings in Mindanao which were affected by the recent earthquakes, please find here below our noted comments/observations;

1. DPWH Secretary Mark Villar should immediately conduct a forensic examination of more than 1,500 school buildings that were affected by the recent earthquakes because there is widespread proof that a number of builders and contractors cheated the government, particularly the DepEd Thru the instruction of Secretary Villar, the undersecretary for Regional Operations in Mindanao, in a memorandum dated November 01, 2019 (copy attached), has instructed the Regional Directors and District Engineers in Mindanao to conduct damage assessment on all infrastructures affected by the recent earthquakes; Based on the initial report of the District Engineering Offices from Region XI, a total of 752 school buildings (equivalent to 4155 classrooms) were inspected, where 330 school buildings (1904 classrooms) have been affected, 33 school buildings (159 classrooms) were totally damaged and 297 school buildings (1,745 classrooms) were partially damaged.

Moreover, we have organized a Composite Team from the Bureau of Maintenance and other concerned Bureaus to conduct post-earthquake assessment of the damages of school buildings/classrooms submitted by the various Regional/District Offices (Regions XI & XII) to determine whether these schools were built in accordance with the design plan specifications when constructed and who were the Contractors as well as to determine any lapses in supervision from our field personnel. The assessment reports will be forwarded to your office, upon receipt of the said documents, including our initial investigation of the damaged infrastructures and the proposed recommendatory works of our Composite Team.

2. The DepEd pays or funds for the construction of school buildings that are supposed to withstand a magnitude 8 earthquake. The construction of those school buildings and schoolrooms in turn is the sole responsibility of the Department of Public Works and Highways – We would like to clarify that not all of the schools were implemented by the DPWH since there were schools implemented by the DepEd and some of which may have been implemented by the Filipino-Chinese Federation. Furthermore/ different design plans were utilized during construction of these school buildings. Under the DepEd’s School Building Program for CY 2013 Basic Educational Facilities Fund (BEFF), the Minimum Performance Plan (of the DepEd) were then utilized taking into account the limited allocation released then by the DepEd; i.e; P650,000.00/classroom. After the horrendous destructions brought about by super typhoon Yolanda in Visayas/ the design plans for school buildings were requested by DepEd for upgrading utilizing the 2010 National Structural Code of the Philippines (NSCP)/ from CY 2014-CY 2017 BEFF. Finally, in CY 2018, design plans were modified based on 2015 NSCP which may resist a force corresponding to 7.0-8.4. Moreover, DPWH will be responsible for the construction of school buildings it implemented on the basis of the design criteria prepared/approved by the Bureau of Design of this Department.

3. Judging from the aftermath of the October/November earthquakes in Mindanao, we have undeniable evidence that the buildings were not built to withstand a magnitude 8 – As mentioned above/ not all of the school buildings were designed based on the NSCP 2015. Representatives of the DPWH-Regional/District Offices are still conducting damage assessment of these school buildings including its identification and funding year allocation to determine the design plans used and the implementers of these school building projects. Also, we are still evaluating the age of these damage school buildings.

4. An estimated 1,500 to 1,800 public school buildings were reportedly destroyed or seriously damaged after three earthquakes hit various parts of Mindanao in the last three weeks. According to the reports on the ground more than 50 percent of those buildings are new and judging from photos collected from the field anyone familiar with construction can quickly surmise that the damages resulted from one of several obvious causes; walls collapsed because the builder did not bother to dig a 18” to 24” deep trench and install a web constructed out of steel bar that serves as the footing for posts and walls itself – Based on the approved DPWH-BOD plans, CHB should rests on wall footing (with reinforcing bars) or on top of the footing tie beams. Any deviation thereof, shall constitute non-conformity to the said plans and will be subjected to further investigation. In this case/ any Composite Team is directed to work into this matter.

5. A common observation in the earthquake-hit areas is that many of the damaged schools had their ceiling collapsing down on the schoolrooms – One of the directive of the Composite Team is to find out whether the materials used were in accordance to materials specifications. Rest assured, the DPWH will not tolerate the use of substandard materials.

6. The builders skimped or cheated in their construction by not installing the appropriate number of roof ties or beams across a schoolroom. Ideally in today’s construction, this would be made out of thick steel and would be long enough and strong enough to support the load of the roof and provide an anchor for the plywood or particleboard ceiling panels, But what I saw many times over were collapsed ceilings because the builders used coconut lumber or “C-channels” which are made out of thin metals that are machine pressed but have no strength to carry a ceiling across a wide distance such as classroom – Based on the approved DPWH-BOD plans, school buildings constructed starting CY 2014 are designed with roof beams having trusses as support system to carry the load of the roof. Any deviation thereof to the approved plans will be subjected to further investigation. With regards to the alleged use of coconut lumber and channels to the ceiling support system, which is non-compliant to the approved plans, these will be subject to further investigation.

7. The mere fact that DPWH contractors still install ceilings as a heat barrier shows how “Jurassic” their school building designs are. Many of the LGUs around the country simply require their contractors to install foamed insulation to be glued or tied into their metal roofs and this saves a ton of cash results in cooler rooms and multi-purpose halls and makes it easy to repair leaks whenever – Per BOD information, bubble wrap insulations were recommended to be installed beneath the roof and any deviation thereof shall be subjected to further investigation.

8. As construction lumber, coconut should be disallowed because its strength and durability is totally inconsistent and once it is exposed to rain water or high moisture it quickly deteriorates, Coconut lumber and thin metal channels do not have strength when used horizontally to carry weight. You could get away with using them vertically such as in walls where their strength is multiplied when combined with plywood or cement board but using them horizontally lead to collapsed ceiling as shown in the many schools destroyed in Mindanao – We have noted your comments and certainly coconut lumber was never recommended for use as part of the structural reinforcement nor part of the ceiling support system. We will conduct investigation of these allegations.

9. It’s hard to tell based on pictures but many of the cracked or crumbled walls and pavements would indicate that the builders of those school buildings did not follow industry standard mix of gravel, sand, cement and steel bar webbing. A number of the pathways were probably poured in place without any connection, ties or anchored to the adjacent schoolrooms or building and were done at a later stage. Most people don’t know that there will be little to poor adhesion when you do that. There is even a special chemical used for this type of job. Another reason for such cracking and separation is caused by too much water or too little water and poor quality sand that has soil or mud in it – Our Department has instituted numerous department orders to upgrade the quality of the materials in accordance with the provisions of DPWH Standard Specifications for Public Works and Highways, utilizing qualified and highly trained project engineers to ensure quality assurance and conduct necessary inspections and have even created an inspectorate teams to validate the quality of works on site once the project is declared completed. We will take note of your observations and likewise conduct an investigation,

10. Speaking of Jurassic building designs, why persist in making classroom walls and partitions out of concrete and hollow blocks or plywood. The former is too expensive and cannot be inspected for the quality and sufficient use of steel bars used, while plywood is susceptible to termite damage and fire. I have used cement fiberboards commonly called hardiflex on various applications including our resthouse in Lipa as room dividers even as lightweight walls and given the proper treatment they have lasted years – As we understand the use of hollow blocks as divider walls is to serve as partition and noise barrier so as not to disturb the adjacent classroom. We will take note of your comments, for our Bureau of Design and recommend it to the DepEd for approval.

Rest assured that we will provide you with the updated report on these concerns: upon receipt of the same from our concerned Regional/District Offices. Thank you and best regards. – ANTONIO V. MOLANO, JR. CESO III, Assistant Secretary for Operations in Visayas, the NCR & Region IV-B Chairperson, DPWH-TWG on Implementation of BEFF Projects

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