Monday, 23 March 2015

HB 5127 and SB 2623 gathers support from architects

In 2004, Congress enacted Republic Act No. 9266 or the Architecture Act of 2004.  This law categorically provides, without any exception, that only duly licensed architects can sign architectural plans and documents. To give teeth to this mandate, the law further provides that building officers cannot accept architectural plans and documents which are not signed by architects.  Congress thus removed the overlaps between the practice of architecture and the other professions, including civil engineering.

“Now that the devastation brought about by the Second World War (which allowed civil engineers to participate in the preparation of plans and specifications of buildings, which is the primary function of an architect) has been properly addressed, it is but necessary to give unto the architects the performance of a function for which they were specifically trained.”

HB 5127 and SB 2623 seeks to strengthen the Architecture profession, amending for the purpose certain provisions of RA 9266, otherwise known as the Architecture Act of 2004.

“Architects have been practicing their art and science since antiquity. The profession as we know it today has undergone extensive growth and change. The profile of architects’ work has become more demanding, clients’ requirements and technological advances have become more complex, and social and ecological imperatives have grown more pressing. These changes have spawned changes in services and collaboration among the many parties involved in the design and construction process.

As professionals, architects have a primary duty of care to the communities they serve. This duty prevails over their personal interest and the interests of their clients.

Members of the architectural profession are dedicated to standards of professionalism, integrity, and competence, and thereby bring to society unique skills and aptitudes essential to the sustainable development of the built environment and the welfare of their societies and cultures. Principles of professionalism are established in legislation, as well as in codes of ethics and regulations defining professional conduct.

Given the public interest in a quality, sustainable built environment and the dangers and consequences associated with the development of that environment, it is important that architectural services are provided by properly qualified professionals for the adequate protection of the public.”
The recent natural calamities that the country experienced have amplified the need for resilient, sustainable and well-planned communities. These kinds of communities will greatly mitigate the effects of natural calamities in the lives of the Filipinos. Undoubtedly, architects will play a crucial role in the development new and existing communities to be resilient, sustainable and well planned.

The passage of Republic Act No. 9266 (“R.A. 9266”), otherwise known as the Architecture Act of 2004 is a significant step in protecting and assuring the public that only Architects can offer and provide architectural services. It is envisioned to raise the level of Philippine architecture in order to develop a built environment that is resilient, sustainable and well planned, conducive for the advancement of the Philippine culture to help promote the country as a center for business, culture and tourist destination in Asia.

After a decade since its passage, however, the need to strengthen R.A. 9266 and harmonize other laws affecting the practice of architecture has become evident. R.A. 9266 has not been fully implemented by government agencies due to the fact that other laws have varying incompatible provisions. Consequently, the real intent of R.A. 9266 in protecting and assuring the public that only Architects can offer and provide architectural services has not been realized.

In addition, the impending ASEAN integration has also manifested the need to prepare the Filipino architect’s qualifications to practice architecture in other jurisdictions.

To protect public interest and to comply with the provisions of the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Agreement signed by the Government, this Bill seeks to strengthen the architecture profession in the country through the amendment and repeal of specific provisions and the introduction of architectural terms that will delineate the practice of architecture from other professions.

“It is high time that the Filipino public be assured that only individuals who have been properly educated, qualified and trained will undertake the planning and design of buildings and be held responsible for such acts.” 

The academic requirements of a civil engineering degree vis-√†-vis an architectural degree demonstrate that civil engineers are not academically competent to practice architecture, nor to prepare and certify architectural documents.  A typical civil engineering course does not include a single unit of architectural design, planning or drafting.  On the other hand, a typical architecture course has ten semesters of mainstream architecture (design, planning, graphics, visual techniques, etc.), and units in building technology and engineering sciences similar to civil engineering. A civil engineering curriculum does not have the  same comprehensive design and planning subjects.

Moreover, the bill will not deprive CEs to practice as it is a requirement for all buildings that the structural plans and analysis are to be prepared by civil/structural engineers.

The United Architects of the Philippines (UAP), the Integrated and Accredited Professional Organization of Architects has urged lawmakers to pass the measure seeking to strengthen the architectural profession in the country and at the same time, comply with the provisions of the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Agreement.

House Bill 5127, authored by Reps. Susan A. Yap (2nd District, Tarlac) and Gary C. Alejano (Party List, MAGDALO) and Senate Bill 2623, authored by Sen. Antonio "Sonny" Fuentes Trillanes IV seeks to amend Republic Act 9266, otherwise known as the Architecture Act of 2004, in a bid to further delineate the practice of architecture from other professions.

RA 9266 explicitly provides that only Registered Licensed Architects shall practice architecture and as such shall exclusively prepare, sign and seal architectural plans and documents. Moreover, the Registered and Licensed Architect is the prime professional for the planning and design of buildings as internationally practiced. The said law was envisioned to raise the level of Philippine architecture in order to develop a built environment that is resilient, sustainable and well planned, conducive for the advancement of the Philippine culture to help promote the country as a center for business, culture and tourist destination in Asia.

According to UAP National President, Arch. Ma. Benita Ochoa-Regala, “UAP maintains that architectural plans and documents of buildings and structures are the domain of the architect based on law, academic training, professional competencies and government licenses issued to enable one to practice. We counter argue the statement of our allied professional that one cannot be disenfranchised if one is not vested with the right and interest to practice architecture such as the civil engineers. We respect the professional competency of the Civil Engineers with regard to the civil/structural design of buildings and structures, and as such we encourage them to do the same for our profession. Irrespective of the number of civil engineers in the country, we humbly submit that the architectural practice should be limited to architects”.

With the passage of these bills, according to UAP National President Regala, it will be an opportune time to establish professional accountabilities based on each of the disciplines involved in the construction and building industry, in the interest of public safety and welfare. This is also in line with the upcoming Asean integration by the end of this year, wherein our foreign counterparts may now practice in our country. It is incumbent now upon government to clarify any ambiguity in any of our professional laws.

House Bill 5127 – Amending the Architecture Act (Republic Act 9266)
Statement of the United Architects of the Philippines

As the official professional organization for Architects, the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) has consistently upheld the profession of Architects to the highest professional standards and similarly been at the forefront of protecting the rights of Filipino Architects.

By providing substantial legal definitions and an amendment on the practice of sealing architectural plans, HB 5127 is a beneficial and prudent measure. It is not only a step in the right direction, but a pro-active preparation for the ASEAN integration.   

The proposed amendments uplifts the profession of Architects, as the legal delineation strengthens the need to abide by legal requirements in the service of the highest values and practices imposed by the professional and ethical codes. 

As a pro-active step in the incoming ASEAN integration, this bill helps to ensure that foreign competition is limited only to this who meet the exacting standards of being a professional architect.

All of this ultimately bolsters commitment to the highest ideals of architecture for public interest and safety.

We request the support of Congress in the timely passage of HB 5127 not only for the greater good of the profession, but more so the public which will definitely be the ultimate beneficiary of all this effort. 

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