Davao to come up with plan after City Hall’s failure to meet fire safety standards

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 March) – The city government of Davao will draft a plan this month after its 71-year-old City Hall, declared as a heritage building by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, failed to meet fire safety standards set by the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) due to lack of fire exit signs and fire alarm systems.

Erwin Alparaque, human resources head, told reporters on Thursday that the city government is working on the recommendations provided by the BFP 11 to fireproof the City Hall.

Davao City Hall. June 2017 photo from the City Government of Davao FB page

The official said prior to the February 27 inspection of the BFP, the local government had asked the BFP 11 to assist them determine the possible fire safety violations of government-owned buildings, including the buildings that house the City Engineers, City Hall and its annex, and City Council.

“We coordinate with them and asked from them their recommendations to assist us in coming up with the plan to improve the fire safety requirements of those buildings,” Alparaque said.

The structure, then a municipal hall, was constructed in 1926. President Manuel L. Quezon signed Commonwealth Act No. 51 creating the City of Davao on October 16, 1936. It was inaugurated on March 1, 1937 with then Interior Secretary Elpidio Quirino. It was destroyed by war in 1945 and restored two years later based on its original design.

It was declared as a heritage building on November 17, 2012.

Alparaque said the group drafting the plan is composed of representatives from the City Engineers, BFP 11, Central 911, Office of the General Services, and City Architect. Once completed, actual works – consisting of installation of fire exits signs, fire alarm and fire appliance systems, fire hoses, and construction of fire exits – can start next month.

He said works couldn’t be done immediately. The exterior must be left untouched, being a heritage structure, he said.

“We cannot destroy the outside part of the building. What we can do is just inside renovation but we can install fire standard requirement recommended by BFP even without major repairs on City Hall,” Alparaque said.

He added that repairs on the wooden floors might also be undertaken because some parts may give in due to its antiquity.

“We have to assess the structural strength of the building because this City Hall is made of wood. We have to check if the structural component is okay. It may collapse,” Alparaque said.

BFP 11 director Wilberto Rico Neil A. Kwan Tiu said during a press conference on March 7 that his agency is willing to help preserve the City Hall due to its historical value.

“We cannot destroy it. What we can do is fix it and retrofit. These are the recommendations of the City Fire Station without jeopardizing fire safety,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)