Green Breakthroughs: DPWH launch of the Philippine Green Building Code

25 June 2015

As I am under strict time limit, as imposed by Sec. Babes Singson, I will skip the individual acknowledgements, and just greet in general, all the green building advocates and eco-warriors present here today:

Isang maganda at luntiang umaga sa inyong lahat!

I extend my sincerest and proudest congratulations to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) on the much-awaited launching of the maiden set of our national green building regulations, painstakingly collated and reposed in one Philippine Green Building Code!

Much credit is also due to the professionals, the stakeholders and partners, and the active local governments who have all contributed their valuable time, talent and insights in accomplishing this huge and very intricate task.

We hail this as a triumph of a mutual collaboration between government and the private sector, led, of course, by a proactive and visionary Department and its very competent Secretary. This Code is clear proof that our DPWH has chosen to rethink and reverse our nationally ingrained wasteful and imprudent building practices and the “business as usual” paradigm, and heed the worldwide call for a more environmentally conscious building methods and practices. In doing so, it has stamped its mark on this very important part of our national contribution to the world’s climate change mitigation strategies.

And the DPWH family must be very proud of its contribution, having been able to assemble and unite, collect and then distill the combined wisdom and best practices of great minds in government, the building industry, pioneering local governments, such as the cities of Mandaluyong, Makati and Quezon City, and other important stakeholders.

The result is a practical—and hopefully, equally effective—means of achieving a desirable and workable green building framework for initial implementation in the entire country, especially when we think of the rather long and tedious alternative: the process of lawmaking in Congress.

Ano nga ba naman ang alam ng sangkaterbang miyembro ng Kongreso ukol sa mahirap at napakasalimuot na teknikal na aspeto ng “green building”? Sa pinansyal na aspeto o sa larangan ng budget ng DPWH siguro, pwede pa! Ngunit pagdating sa agham at siyensya, babalik at babalik pa rin ang Kongreso sa ating magaling na mga kinatawan sa Kagawaran at sa maasahang mga dalubhasa at ispesyalista sa industriya!

Besides, the Department not only has the clear mandate under our National Building Code “to safeguard life, health, property, and public welfare, consistent with the principles of sound environmental management and control”, but also possesses the technical competence to authoritatively institute effective, viable, affordable, flexible and responsive green building practices for our communities to adopt and follow.

With a favorable DOJ opinion confirming the Department’s mandate, and also a formidable team of experts and professionals behind, the Code becomes an arguably unassailable law not only in its legal authority, but also in its proffered technical analyses and conclusions!

However, we take note that the Code is as yet untested in its implementation and enforcement. As the saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Or to restyle it for our present purposes, the proof of the “greening” is in the “actual building”!

So, therefore, there are still lots to be done! Even after its launching of this Code, we still have to go back to study mode and diagnose the overall regulatory framework that will actually take care of the proper and faithful implementation of the Green Building Code.

And this is where the best and actual practices of our model LGUs—the Cities of Mandaluyong, Makati and Quezon City—will become most useful. Let us not forget that the success of the implementation of these regulations boils down to a local government concern—or, to put it in the negative, a local government problem.

Which is why when were heard my Green Building bill in the Senate, the discussions had unavoidably branched out and led us to a parallel discussion of the need to strengthen the regulatory framework in the LGU level—through the creation of the separate office of the Building Official in cities and certain municipalities, who shall be under the control and supervision of the DPWH.

Of course, the LGUs of Mandaluyong, Makati and Quezon City are all on a different level. They are a step ahead and a cut above the rest, having taken the cudgels by creating the “O.B.O.”, or the Office of the Building Official, through mere ordinance!

It is believed that the beefing up of the Building Official is essential to capacitate our local governments to cope with the increasing demands and pressures of their routine and round-the-clock tasks of ensuring safety and resiliency of our buildings, especially in light of important public concerns such as climate change mitigation and disaster risks reduction.

It is hoped that this is a necessary structural change, which would unburden and unload local engineers who generally have to double as building officials, by mandating another professional to devote exclusive attention to the equally important task of strict enforcement of our National Building Code, including, of course, our Green Building Referral Code.

But as with any serious endeavors, there will surely be “birth pains”. As the Department had been strong-willed and effective in the conceptualization and drafting of the Code, I urge and rally the Department to be ever more strong-willed and effective, as it confronts and braves the initial apprehensions, criticisms and indifference of a surprised, though hopefully small, portion of the public, who are as yet unacquainted and unbaptized in this emerging paradigm and booming industry of “green building”.

Slowly but surely, the public will soon realize the importance of green building to our lives as a people, to our communities and, most of all, to the environment. More especially so if it carries the promise of economic development for our country, particularly when the so-called “green economy” is opened and its economic potential tapped, which would help create investments, jobs and economic value for our people in the process.

So I bid you off to a productive exchange of information and insights in this forum. Hopefully, you will care to put more emphasis on the workability of the enforcement and monitoring on the ground, so this early you can already diagnose, foresee and remedy the problems that would be encountered along the way.

The model LGUs are here. Let us continue to seek and give credence to their practical insights and frontline knowledge. They are indeed essential and indispensable partners in this Herculean task if we want to achieve surefire and sustained success nationwide, at the soonest possible time.

As a final word, I encourage the Department to collate and condense all the significant findings and observations made here, and thereafter suggest to Congress the needed adjustments and refinements to our legislation and government institutions and structures, so as to ensure that the Green Building Code would evolve to a more effective and workable mechanism. And through the help of its champions of the environment, Congress will be able to respond timely—and hopefully, with a sense of urgency, as these efforts will all ultimately impact on our continued survival as a people and as a nation.

Kaya hindi ko na po patatagalin pa. Kailangan pong magmadali upang masimulan na ang inyong talakayan. Marami pa pong dapat na gawin para repasuhin ang mga pamamaraan upang gawing matagumpay ang Philippine Green Building Code!

Again, congratulations to the DPWH and the entire green building industry and advocates!

So, here’s to more resource-efficient and environment-friendly buildings, healthier, more livable and more resilient communities, and a more prosperous country brought about by the promise of the “green economy”!

Maraming salamat po at magandang umaga!

Dios ti agngina kadakayo amin!