CLARK FREEPORT — The government’s chief geologist urged yesterday Catholic church authorities to consider “retrofitting” heritage churches in the country for the safety of church goers in case of an earthquake.
Dr. Arthur Daag, chief of the geology division of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and seismology, said in a recent forum of the Capampangans in Media, Inc. (CAMI) here that such heritage churches are prone to serious damage and endanger the safety of church goers in case of strong earthquakes because of lack of steel support.
In Pampanga, 24 churches were closed pending inspection by structural engineers, after some of them sustained significant damages wrought by the 6.1 magnitude earthquake last Monday.
Daag said retroffiting such churches can be done as was found out in a study made after heritage churches were also damaged by a 7.2 magnitude temblor that hit Bohol, Cebu and parts of Mindanao in October, 2013.
Retrofi tting refers to the addition of new technology or features to older systems to make them stronger.
A report on the study of “retrofit procedures” for the affected churches in Bohol and Cebu indicated that the “unreinforced masonry” (URM) of the churches could be done for those partially damaged. The study was done by the EM2A Partners & Co. based in Quezon City.
Following last Monday’s earthquake that led to the temporary closure of 24 heritage churches in Pampanga, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has suggested government support for the rehabilitation of the churches.
NHCP Chairman Rene Escalante asked Malacanang to allocate calamity funds to repair the damages churches, saying that in case of lack of funds, the needed budget could be included in the General Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2020.
He asked the Archdiocese of San Fernando, whose engineers are still analyzing the damages to the local heritage churches, to provide the NHCP with estimates of funding requirements for consideration of the Department of Budget and Management.