Crawford team will undertake gruelling five-hour hike to reach plant perched on mountainside
The earthquake which struck the Philippines in July this year caused widespread damage and devastated major facilities in the northern part of the territory. Crawford Philippines have played a major part in assessing the smaller-scale losses and are actively assessing the damage inflicted on a major hydro energy power generation facility located in a remote part of the country.
The earthquake registered a magnitude (Mw) of 7.0 and the epicentre was the mountainous area of Abra with a depth of 15 kilometres the provinces in northwestern Luzon and adjacent areas including Metro Manila were affected. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced.
Crawford were called in to assess many of the losses and have already completed the adjustment process for the majority of the smaller scale losses stemming from the earthquake. According to Graham Tolentino, who is the country manager for the Philippines, there could be some major uninsured losses.
Major loss secured on strong and enduring business relationship
His team is now actively investigating a major project located in the mountainous area of Benguet.
“We got one of the major losses. The loss is significant involving several hydropower stations. At this stage I cannot mention the name of the insured,” says Tolentino.
Tolentino says that a longstanding business relationship that is founded on trust was the key factor behind being nominated for this major project. It is the only large loss his team is working on following the earthquake.
“We managed to keep the relationship with the brokers and that particular insured close, because they know us. They trust us. It is more about keeping the trust and confidence of the client. We continue to handle cases from them even with the changes in the leadership in the Philippines,” explains Tolentino.
He believes his previous experience as one of the key responders during the 2013 Bohol Earthquake proved invaluable in winning the initial contract from the insurers as they are confident he has the know-how to deal with this type of earthquake. Tolentino has been in the loss adjusting business for 17 years.
Long hike will be required to get to the plant perched on the mountain
The tentative inspection has been earmarked for the third week in September. The plant is located high up on a mountain. “There’s a lot of safety protocols that we need to consider,” says Tolentino.
Since being assigned this project Tolentino and his team have conducted numerous virtual meetings so they can gather more information on the extent of damage and understand how the insured are planning to restore the plant and repair the damage.
The hydropower plant has a conveyance structure that consists of a big pipe/tank used to transport the huge water flows that are vital to generating electricity. Initial virtual surveys suggest severe damage has been inflicted on the conveyance line as the plant, perched as it is on the mountain, was badly affected by tremors rippling through the mountain during the earthquake.
“The challenge is going there,” says Tolentino. “It will be five hours’ hiking.”
…..as human contact is vital
For this big loss adjustment Tolentino insists a visit will be necessary despite the apparent dangers, especially for the insurance company who requested their services. “People-to-people contact compared to virtual where you just send an email tell them what to do. It is different if you are talking face-to-face with the client. They will appreciate that you will really help them,” says Tolentino.
Though drones may have some value in assessing the loss, an on-site inspection is deemed crucial for an adjuster for such a large loss. “We can see an overview of it but the challenge is going there. It is not safe, it is dangerous so we have to plan, we have to inform insurers of this,” says Tolentino.
Fear of aftershocks
Crawford was not able to go to the plant immediately after the earthquake for fear of aftershocks. The fact that it is the rainy season also plays a part. “Rocks are falling, it is raining. We understand from the Insured they don’t want any unfortunate accidents, so what we did the initial contact was more on virtual,” explains Tolentino.
“I have a good feeling of what to expect, how to prepare, how to keep you and your juniors safe, that is the most important thing. Of course it is your judgement call….. if it is dangerous don’t go there,” he adds.
The plant is not expecting to resume operations until next year. Rebuilding and repairing the plant will not be easy, according to Tolentino, who cites the lack of infrastructure connected with the plant being a major hurdle and making it hard to rebuild.
“There’s no road. If you see it you will be amazed. They will manually haul everything. They will have people to carry things, the materials. They will carry the machines; they need to bring the machinery to the mountain. They will carry them,” says Tolentino.
Minor claims cleared by Crawford
Within a relatively short space of time, Crawford managed to assess a raft of the losses in the locality of Metro Manilla which were more often than not smaller in scale because there the earthquake only reached 4.0 in magnitude.
“They are done and dusted and were relatively easy,” says Tolentino. “The other losses that we got were the minor, superficial cracks in some of the hotels, really not that major, it is more minor, especially here in Metro Manilla, it was 4.0.”
He points out that in his experience a magnitude of at least 6.0 is necessary “to cause some damage”.
“There are procedures with the Insured that they need to report, even if it is minor,” he adds.
Quake felt by American businessman 500km from the epicentre
Dan Van Hoy, an American businessman presently based in the Philippines, was caught up in the earthquake while he was staying at an Airbnb in Tagaytay, just south of Manila near the Taal Volcano. He was eating breakfast in the dining room when he felt the room shake. He heard from the radio that the epicentre was 500km away. He got out of the building straight away and went to the parking lot nearby.
He takes up the story, “I noticed very heavy electrical cables feeding the condo were swinging like big branches being blown by the wind, but there was no wind!”
“A neighbour in an adjacent building came outside and told me he saw water sloshing back and forth in his glass of water,” says Van Hoy, adding that he previously lived in California and Washington State “all along the ring of fire” and finds earthquakes exhilarating.
Technology more commonplace to assess claims
Tolentino says the use of technology to do virtual assessments is now much more commonplace “if it is small, little cracks, then we see the damage virtually, take a snap shot of it, tell the insured to get some quotations, how much it will cost, let us see if it will exceed the deductible or participation. Perhaps that’s what is different compared to pre-Covid.”
To save time and money and expense for the client, he will seek the insurers’ approval to do it virtually using a variety of different technologies.
He also highlights the fact that in the Philippines many policies for earthquake losses have very large deductibles, up to 2% of the value of the property. In many cases the cost of repairing the damage following the earthquake fell below the deductible and the claimant was urged not to pursue the claim and the case was immediately closed.