Concerned about the safety of the building they are now using for their office, Cebu Customs officials, through Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, is appealing to President Benigno Aquino III to allow them to return to the original Customs building in Cebu which was converted into the Malacanang of the South during the Presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
In a letter to the President dated March 6, 2012, Biazon pointed out the grave structural damage brought by the 6.9 magnitude earthquake that rocked Cebu on February 6, 2012 on the building they are now occupying saying that, the extensive damage on the building’s structure, interior walls, ceiling and floors have made the place, practically an unsafe building for Customs employees, industry stakeholders and other BOC clients.
“We are afraid that even only a slight tremor might cause some portions of the building to collapse,” Biazon said adding that, “And as much as possible, we do not want to take that chance, especially if it concerns the safety of our employees and industry stakeholders.”
The Cebu Customs office was relocated to a Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) warehouse at the Cebu Port area after its centuries old and historic BOC building in front of the Plaza Independencia along Morga street in Cebu was converted into the Malacanang of the South during Arroyo’s Presidency, to serve as the President’s official residence whenever Arroyo visited the Queen city of the South. The Malacanñang sa Sugbo has remained vacant for years already.
In BOC IAG Deputy Commissioner Jorenz Tañada’s recent inspection of its Cebu District office, upon the instruction of Commissioner Biazon, Port of Cebu District Collector Ronnie Silvestre showed Tañada the extent of the structural damage caused by the February 6, 2012 tremor in Cebu on the building now being used by the BOC-Cebu for its office.
According to Tañada their primordial concern at this point is the safety and well-being of customs employees, stakeholders and the BOC transacting public.
“The current BOC premises now have uneven floors with some cracks on some portions of it. Its walls are likewise in similar state. I am uncertain if, God forbid, another earthquake should hit Cebu, the structure would be able to withstand it,” Tañada said, adding that, :At any rate, if we are to spend for refurbishing a structure, I would much prefer spending for something the BOC already owns.”
In an earlier notice by Cebu building officials to the BOC Cebu District office, Cebu customs officials were informed of the recommendation of the city’s Office of Building Officials’ (OBO) Architect Fernando Opiñano and Enforcement Division Head Pascual Gimenez to temporarily vacate the place for safety reasons, due to the extent of the structural damage on the building. Four major cracks of about 20 cm. in width and about five (5) meters long were noticed by the building officials upon their inspection. Cracks were also observed in certain columns of the building.
For his part Collector Silvestre explained that even prior to the February 6, 2012 earthquake, they already received an earlier notice from the PPA informing them of their forthcoming use of the building.
“The hurriedly done relocation of the BOC office to the PPA warehouse entailed a lot of sacrifices on our end. Before we were able to do some improvements in the old and cramped PPA warehouse, we had to endure the dark and poorly ventilated rooms and the hallways that were only good for one person,” Silvestre said.
“But while, we have already made significant improvements on the functionality of the building, we are, however, concerned of its safety after seeing huge cracks on its interior walls, ceiling and floors after the February 6, 2012 Cebu earthquake,” Silvestre added.