BAGUIO CBD. An aerial view of the Baguio Central Business District taken from upper Session Road. The City Building and Architects office reported that only 14.6 percent of the 8,943 structures in 41 out of the 128 barangays have building permits prior to construction. (Photo courtesy of Jam Malingan/PIA-CAR)

BAGUIO CITY – A city building official on Wednesday underscored the importance of securing a building permit before erecting structures to ensure that buildings can withstand strong quakes.

Engr. Nazita Bañez, head of the City Buildings and Architecture Office (CBAO), in an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Wednesday said out of the 8,943 existing structures -- comprised of buildings and houses -- in 41 barangays, only 14.6 percent are covered by a building permit, based on the inventory that started in July 2018 until end of April this year.

Baguio has 128 barangays.

"The building permit will assure that the structure built is designed to withstand natural calamities and the materials used are within the specifications of the design and the requirement of law," she said.

“I am reporting this because of the question from the media how resilient is Baguio from earthquake. We can only assure the stability of buildings if they have building permits,” Bañez added.

Bañez said a building permit is issued to assure the government that the plans have been evaluated, thereby assuming that the building is safe.

The engineer said that if an earthquake strikes, the government cannot assure the safety of buildings that did not secure permits prior to construction.

“We should always be prepared for whatever calamity that will strike us, that is natural force of nature and one precautionary action is to have your building be evaluated by the CBAO by securing a building and occupancy permit,” she said.

Kapag may calamity dito sa Baguio (if there will be a calamity here in Baguio) especially earthquake, the government cannot assure the safety of buildings without building permit but those with building permit have a greater chance to withstand,” Bañez added.

Baguio City suffered the most devastation during the 7.7-magnitude earthquake on July 16, 1990. More than 1,000 people were killed as the massive tremor wreaked havoc across Luzon.

Bañez said it is no longer burdensome to secure building permits which can be processed from five days to one month. A fee of PHP6,000 is charged for every 100 square meters of the building.

“Just employ an architect, or engineer to do the plans, specifications and bill of materials, submit [the document] to the CBAO for assessment," she said.

For titled lands with structures built without a building permit, residents can still secure one to make sure that their buildings are safe during an earthquake.

“They may apply for building permits even if the structures are already existing, but they have to pay the penalty of PHP10,000 for constructing without building permit,” she said.

Owners have to hire an architect to do the “as built plan” and an engineer to do the “structural design” according to the existing structure.

“When we evaluate and we see that it is ‘underdesign’, we recommend for a retrofitting plan and retrofitting construction. They have to retrofit whatever structural members are underdesigned,” Bañez said.

Bañez said even landowners who built without a permit can still assure the safety of their existing structures.

“They could hire private engineers to evaluate and assess their buildings and implement the necessary retrofitting of the structures,” she said.

Retrofitting means increasing the column, the beam, and the footing which will be evaluated by the CBAO after it is done and prior to the issuance of an occupancy permit.

She said building permits cannot be issued for lands not covered by a land title since it is a requirement of the national building code that lots have titles before a building permit on the property can be issued. (PNA)