University of Philippines Visit

Visiting the University of Philippines in Manila

manila2I met Jolanta and Artessa for a breakfast meeting at a hotel lounge in Manila’s high-rise business district. They were the World Bank officials from D.C. — Artessa is a Filipino structural engineer who speaks with keen articulation and sense of strategic direction. I knew Jolanta from the Istanbul seismic risk-reduction project. It was considered to be one of the most successful programs organized by the World Bank and we had a small, but key, role in the project. We built technical capacity within the Istanbul government. She was promoted to be in charge of South East Asia. Subsequently, we went through the international qualification process and were engaged to develop the Manila seismic risk-reduction program, too.

Our California team, Lon, Amir, Andy and Tom, developed a conception platform for the program. It consisted of multi-hazard prioritization, seismic hazard-risk ranking of about 4,000 school and hospital buildings, guideline development and communication strategy development. We  developed probabilistic casualty methodology. The message must be crystal clear to make the society move. Many lives depend on the success of this program. Based on probabilistic analysis, we estimated  over 20,000 student causalities. Manila is one of the most seismically dangerous places in the world.

Faults and Trenches in the Philippines

The Marikina West Valley faultline, which crosses this city of 20 million people, is capable of rupturing with a magnitude of 7.2 or larger. This rupture is well over due since it hasn’t given way for 200 years. Plus, earthquake code is a somewhat of a new concept here.

The country adapted a modified version of the 1997 Uniform Building Code from the US in 2010. Thousands of high-risk concrete high-rise and low-rise buildings were built without much control. So our main job is to use the information we developed to communicate with the Philippine government to initiate the seismic risk reduction program in schools and hospitals.

Our first meeting was at the University of the Philippines, which has the most respected engineering school in the country. We drove through a tropical campus with 1940 concrete classrooms. It is so critical to get a buy-in from the academia for our program. These professors are influencers.

I presented our findings to a group of about 10 professors. At first, they were fairly quiet, but as the lecture kept going, some interrupted my talk and asked questions. This type of discussion is very important to build a consensus. After the meeting, they all agreed that they would participate in the program development phase.

The following day and a half, we met and presented our program to various ministries: Health ministries, civil defense agency, public works and even to an Australian Aid agency. We basically met all influencers in this government and communicated how important this program is. This program would eventually save over 20,000 student lives. We will be back in September to meet the President for the final push.

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