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Let’s build real evacuation shelters now

/ 09:03 PM January 19, 2014

The government always talks about “evacuation centers” (evacuation shelters) but only after disasters happen. Yet, common sense dictates that in the Philippines, which has been found to be one of the three most disaster-prone countries in the world, disaster preparation must take precedence over most government projects. But no! Roads and bridges (which are built to please the voters, never mind that they are substandard) are priority. Absurd as it is, let’s add waiting sheds and other useless structures for exhibition to mindless voters.

Forty-seven years ago in the the Seventh Congress, a bill was filed to build disaster evacuation shelters in coastal towns visited by typhoons every year, for people to seek safe shelter in when the typhoons come. But the bill did not merit serious attention. It simply was ahead of its time.

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Now—47 long years later—with global warming confronting us with terrible portents and unleashing erratic weather conditions around the world, we have been thrust to look again at the bill, this time with utmost urgency as experts warn that typhoons will become stronger and stronger. If the government is listening, before another “Yolanda” comes we better be prepared.

Poorly-built public school buildings and other loosely-built government houses (due to kickbacks paid by contractors to corrupt government officials) are designated “evacuation centers” every time natural disasters occur. Because of this ridiculous anomaly, government services and school timetable are disrupted all because government has added the extra burden of making these structures “evacuation centers.” What happens is, all necessary amenities integral to an evacuation building such as clean water supply, health and sanitation, sleeping areas, kitchen, etc. are absent, thus exacerbating the problems faced by government and the private sector helping out the poor evacuees.

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For whatever it is worth, our Maharlika Movement, in association with Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team and EAP Associates (project management and architectural and engineering design consultants), has come up with a design for an evacuation shelter we call the “Likasan Dome”—with the help of volunteer architects and engineers who have studied modern designs for this purpose. This dome-shaped calamity shelter, contrived to be earthquake-proof and fire-proof, can withstand 400 miles per hour of wind gusts and will be built away from the shore and on high ground, safe from tidal waves or tsunamis.

The absence of well-planned, strategically located evacuation buildings especially in coastal areas highlights the urgency of constructing—starting with—prototype models of real, honest-to-goodness buildings where people can run to and temporarily take shelter in safety during and in the aftermath of calamities.

Likasan Dome will include adequate sleeping areas arranged to consider the safety of children, the sick and the elderly, and women’s privacy.

Adequate provisions for separate toilet and bath for male and female users, mini kitchens, several mess halls in detached structures are included to maintain sanitation.

Likasan Dome will be equipped with the “musts” of a well-planned evacuation shelter: power generators, solar panels, a large water cistern for both deep-well and rain water collection system, storerooms for foodstuffs (such as rice, baked goods, canned foods, instant noodles,

bottled water) and other necessities (blankets, towels, flashlights, mosquito nets, foldable cots, plates and utensils, pots and pans, gas or charcoal stoves ready for use, first aid stations stocked with medicines, water purifiers—and body bags just in case—etc.).

The maintenance funds for the Likasan Dome can be sourced from the rentals of spaces in the center, which, when there’s no calamity, can be used for sports activities and gym workouts, seminars, conventions, private meetings, wedding and other receptions, and other income-generating projects, such as mobile or portable restaurants and  pasalubong  stalls. Space permitting, other available spaces may be used for daily or weekly  tiangge-tiangge or other retail activities. The local government unit (LGU) in charge may also assign interested people who are willing to cultivate spaces around the dome for high-value crops and vegetables, and to maintain a rain catchment area for fish culture, for added revenues. The dome-shaped roof may be converted into a unique rooftop herbal garden which can surely attract tourists for its unique “green design.”

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We envision a private initiative to construct the Likasan Dome if government remains indifferent and uninterested. Government participation shall only be by LGUs that can provide the land for the shelter’s site. A big amount is needed to build the prototype models of a real evacuation shelter. God willing, “to persist is to win” shall be proven true. Our cause is worthy and divine, that is why we know we are not alone.

Eddie Ilarde, a former congressman and senator, is the founding chair of the Maharlika Movement for National Transformation and the Golden Eagles Society for Senior Citizens. He may be reached through PO Box 107, Makati City 1222, or through architect Renato L. Punzalan ([email protected]).

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