After hotel collapse, Kidapawan mayor urges businesses to inspect buildings

COTABATO, Philippines (UPDATED) – Kidapawan, Cotabato Mayor Joseph Evangelista appealed to business establishments in the city to inspect their own buildings following the magnitude 6.5 earthquake that rocked Central and Eastern Mindanao on Thursday, October 31. 

A portion of Quezon Boulevard in Kidapawan City was closed to traffic as the city monitors both Eva Hotel and its adjacent building, the Kidapawan City Doctors Hospital (KCDH). 

Eva Hotel, which stands in front of the Kidapawan City Hall, collapsed due to the earthquake and the aftershocks that followed. 

The Philippine Army's 901st Infantry Brigade and the Kidapawan City Police have dispatched soldiers and police to keep watch of the building and those adjacent to it. A military dog also helped look for signs of life at the perimeter of the hotel but detected none. 

Evangelista said he had ordered a demolition of the hotel but admitted they don't know how to demolish a 6-story building.

"I issued a demolition order, the problem is how will we implement it. We also sent a copy to the owner and the sooner, the better. But we don't have the capacity to (demolish) it. This is not an ordinary building demolition, because this is a 6-story building [and] there are also adjacent buildings," Evangelista said.

On Thursday afternoon, Eva Hotel issued a statement on its social media page saying no occupants, guests, hotel staff and workers were reported injured or missing following the earthquake.

Eva Hotel also denied that the hotel has long been condemned, saying they "have not received any notice of condemnation nor were the building's permits questioned in its entire operation."

It added that since the first earthquake on October 16, the hotel management has been closely monitoring the repairs and in constant communication with the engineers. The hotel even asked the city government for help in assessing the building.

"The city Government conducted its inspection on October 22, 2019, 6 days after the first major earthquake. Subsequently, an order was issued dated October 25, 2019 that the building was safe to occupy except for some restricted areas which were then specified in the same document. The management religiously followed all of the instructions therein." Eva Hotel said.

City can't do it alone

Evangelista said the city cannot inspect each and every single structure in the city.

"We encourage [the businesses]. Perhaps they have their own civil or structural engineers when they constructed their buildings, it can be that they can be certified by their engineers and then we can validate so that they can open up," Evangelista said.

Intensity 7 was felt in Kidapawan City when the earthquake struck past 9 am Thursday, with its epicenter at Tulunan, Cotabato. It is the third such earthquake to hit Tulunan in October – the first was on October 16, and the second was on October 29. (READ: FAST FACTS: The destructive earthquakes that hit Mindanao)

During the October 29 earthquake, hospital staff at the KCDH had to evacuate hundreds of patients to the city hall open grounds.

Asked about the hospital, Evangelista said, "First and foremost, let's just focus (on Eva Hotel), we are trying to avert that it won't lean towards the KCDH, and now the weather is also not cooperating, we are again on the edge."

In a press conference on Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte said it's time for all local government units (LGUs) to inspect all buildings.

"Umpisahan na nila ngayon. (They should start). It’s a...the earthquake season has come. I don’t know if it will occur again between now and tomorrow."

Evangelista said they are closely monitoring the landslides in Sitio Wayan, Ilomavis, but that no one was reported killed in the landslide. 

The city government is still compiling assessment reports to get a clearer picture of the situation following the earthquake. Evangelista also said they are yet to get figures on the economic losses and the cost of damage and loss of structures.

Kidapawan Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo met with the Social Action Center Staffs and Vicars to assess the situation following the earthquake. 

There are a total of 1,113 evacuees in Ilomavis, 130 in Balabag, 35 in Perez, and 14 in Nuangan. 

"The Diocese of Kidapawan has decided to do immediate relief work to serve evacuees either directly or in partnership with LGUs in the parishes of Mlang and Tulunan and other areas, especially bringing needed water and food," said Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippine President Romulo Valles, the archbishop of Davao

Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda reiterated the importance of disaster preparedness following the strong tremors that rocked Cotabato and parts of Mindanao in the second half of October. This is especially true in a country like the Philippines which "is among the countries most vulnerable to earthquakes," she said.

“Given these recent disasters, 7.2 magnitude earthquake as described in the MMEIRS is a possibility that we all should be prepared for. We cannot prevent an earthquake from happening, but with the proper preparedness and preventive measures, we can minimize possible casualties and damages,” Legarda said.

She was referring to the 2004 Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS) conducted by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA). It warned of a devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Metro Manila.  –