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Prioritize evac centers on PH’s eastern seaboard

/ 12:52 AM October 25, 2014

The Inquirer’s Oct. 18 editorial (“Ad hoc”) accurately underscored the urgent need to put up permanent evacuation centers all over the country.

The preemptive evacuation of residents in calamity-threatened areas has become the “new normal.” It is even worse in areas threatened by volcanic eruption, like those surrounding Mayon volcano these days, where residents have to stay in classrooms-turned-into-evacuation centers for an uncertain period of time because no one knows for sure when the big bang will come. And the situation is worst for schoolchildren who have been displaced from their classrooms and are now attending classes outdoors. For how long these evacuees will stay in classrooms is a question only nature and God can answer.

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While we acknowledge that calamities are the new normal and we have taken steps to adequately prepare for such eventualities, we nonetheless fail to provide a lasting and sustainable solution to specific problems. Because it is the classrooms that are usually turned into evacuation centers, the schoolchildren also suffer. This, beside the fact that the classrooms are not adequately equipped to accommodate evacuees, especially when it comes to their sanitation needs. The Inquirer editorial could not have said it more accurately when it pushed for “well-planned, long-term structures that would provide more humane accommodations to potential calamity victims.”

During the last budget deliberations, I called the attention of Education Secretary Armin Luistro to this problem and proposed for the construction of specially designed, cost-efficient, typhoon-resilient multipurpose buildings with more than sufficient toilets in our schools all over the country. I said that if funds are inadequate, we should prioritize the schools situated in the eastern seaboard—from Cagayan Valley to the Surigao provinces since these are places in the Philippines that are always visited by calamities. These multipurpose buildings can be primarily used for school programs and activities such as sports, graduation ceremonies and other gatherings. In towns or barangays where there are no large roofed structures, these can also be used by the townspeople for important social and political gatherings for a minimal fee, which should go to the school. Once there is a calamity, these multipurpose buildings can immediately be converted to evacuation centers. With a specially designed multipurpose building, we shall have built a) a facility needed for school activities; b) a roofed-structure for sports, social and political gatherings in a barangay or town; and c) a permanent evacuation center for victims of calamities, adequately equipped to address their sanitation needs.

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I am happy to note that the secretary was receptive of my proposal and has committed to include this in the Department of Education’s 2016 budget proposal. In the meantime, the DepEd is now identifying schools in the Bicol Region, which have adequate land areas to host evacuees. It is hoped that by 2016, we shall be constructing permanent and safe evacuation centers that can provide a humane and decent environment for evacuees.

And yes, this will ensure that our children will continue to get education without any interruption.
—RODEL M. BATOCABE,
representative, Ako Bicol Party List,
chair, Committee on Bicol Recovery
and Economic Development,
House of Representatives

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TAGS: Calamities, Disaster, evacuation centers, Letters to the Editor, Mayon, opinion, volcanic eruption
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