Osmeña stands firm on proposed ban

CEBU City Mayor Tomas Osmeña stood pat on his proposal to ban the construction of high-rise buildings in the city due to safety reasons.

This, despite some opposition councilors calling the measure “anti-development and anti-business.”

Osmeña had made the announcement after a fire broke out at the Metro Ayala Department Store last Friday night.

Barug Team Rama Councilors Raymond Garcia, Philip Zafra and Jose Daluz III said that instead of prohibiting developers from constructing high-rise edifices, the firefighting capabilities of the BFP should be improved, among others.

But for Osmeña, the lives of the people should not be compromised in favor of economic growth.

“Well, I’m sorry but I’m the mayor. I don’t care what they think. The lives of the people come first. There are some people who feel that the lives of the people are not as important as business. That’s where I disagree,” he said.

Osmeña has directed the Office of the Building Official (OBO) to withhold the building permit applications of around 31 medium- and high-rise buildings until the City can look into the matter more thoroughly.

He said that he has no qualms procuring the services of external consultants to study the proposed measure, should the need arise.

The mayor said he will also ask for technical assistance from Cebu City’s sister cities to train City Halls’ personnel in disaster and emergency response.

Prior to Osmeña’s news conference yesterday, he also met with new City Fire Marshal Chief Insp. Noel Nelson Ababon to discuss building safety measures following the Metro Ayala fire.

“God’s warning”

In a separate interview, Ababon told reporters that his office will intensify its inspections on establishments, especially with the ongoing renewal of business permits in the city.

While he welcomed the pronouncement, Osmeña said the inspection is just the first of many steps to take when it comes to fire safety in establishments.

“This is God’s warning to us. If that (Metro Ayala) were a high-rise residential building, wow, that will be the nightmare of my life,” he said.

Aside from the possible ban on high-rise buildings, Osmeña said he is also pushing for the installation of ventilation machines and an inspection of sprinklers inside establishments.

The City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office is expected convert one of its ambulances into a mobile oxygen tank-refilling station.

City Hall will also procure more breathing apparatus for the responders.

The Department of Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Eduardo Año praised the Bureau of Fire and Protection (BFP) 7 for successfully putting out the fire the Metro Ayala fire.

Año is set to give a commendation to BFP 7, which is led by director Senior Supt. Samuel Tadeo.

“High morale yung mga tao natin,” Tadeo said in a phone interview.

He welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval to buy P1 billion worth of firefighting equipment, but he doesn’t know how much will go to the BFP 7, which lacks breathing apparatuses.

He said the fire-gutted department store will not be demolished this week, as the special investigation team is still not yet done with its inquiry.

Cebu City Engineer Josefa Ylanan said the Metro Retail Stores Group Inc., the store owner, can demolish the structure if they can submit an inspection report from their structural engineers and copies of building tax clearances to OBO.
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