Amid the ongoing eruption of Taal volcano, two senators on Wednesday renewed their call for the establishment of permanent evacuation centers in every municipality, city, and province in the country to address the issues encountered by evacuees in times of calamity.

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, who accompanied President Rodrigo Duterte in his visit to Taal evacuees in Batangas, said it is necessary to build permanent evacuation centers nationwide to “ensure the safety of Filipinos” given the country’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and other human-made disasters.

Go noted that the Philippines sits along the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire,” where earthquakes and volcanic activities are more frequent than in any other part of the world.

Furthermore, the country fronts the Pacific Ocean, exposing it to a high number of typhoons and related weather disturbances annually.

“When these disasters strike, the Filipinos, especially the underprivileged, suffer the most. In most instances, these disasters render their homes unlivable, leaving the victims without roofs above their heads and food on their plates,” he said.

“Hence, It is high time that the State establish evacuation centers in all cities, provinces, and municipalities which will cater to the basic needs of the victims of these disasters and provide them temporary shelters that will guarantee their safety, promote their social well-being, and guard their welfare while they recover and rebuild their homes and their lives,” Go said.

The lawmaker has earlier filed Senate Bill No. 1228, or “An Act Establishing a Mandatory Evacuation Center in all Cities, Provinces, and Municipalities, Appropriating Funds Therefor.”

Filed on December 10, 2019, the bill mandates that the permanent evacuation centers that will be constructed should be designed to withstand super typhoons or wind speeds of at least 300 kilometers per hour and seismic activity of at least 8.0 magnitude.

The evacuation centers shall be well-ventilated and shall have the capacity to accommodate a large number of evacuees, complete with sleeping quarters, separate shower and toilet facilities designated for males and females, necessary amenities and accommodation for the disabled, food preparation areas and health care areas among others.

SB 1228 mandates the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), or its successor, to be the primary lead agency which shall oversee the implementation of this measure.

It also provides that the amount necessary to fund the construction and maintenance of evacuation centers shall be sourced from a portion of the general appropriations of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Every year thereafter, the amounts necessary for the construction and maintenance of evacuation centers shall be included in the list of programs as part of the annual budget in the General Appropriations Act.

On the other hand, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian expressed concern that with no permanent evacuation centers, the current situation might take a toll on the students and teachers in the long run since many schools are being utilized as temporary shelters for displaced families.

He noted that of the 118 evacuation centers currently being used in the ongoing calamity in Batangas, 14 are schools in three divisions under Region IV-A.

“Nakagawian na natin na sa tuwing may sakuna sa ating bayan, ang kadalasan na ginagawa nating evacuation centers ay ang mga eskwelahan. Dahil dito, madalas naapektuhan ang pag-aaral ng mga bata kasi hindi natin alam kung kelan mananatili ang evacuees sa mga paaralan (In times of calamities, it is common practice to utilize schools as evacuation centers. Because of this, the education of our children is affected because we don’t know how long the evacuees will stay in the schools),” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian filed in July last year Senate Bill No. 747 or “An Act Establishing Evacuation Centers in Every Municipality and City, Providing For The Necessary Facilities, Ensuring Their Structural Capacity, and Appropriating Funds.”

The measure mandates every municipalities and cities to construct an evacuation center for people who have been evacuated or displaced from their homes due to emergency events such as typhoons, floods, storm surges, drought, and other severe climate disturbances, as well as fire, and the outbreak of illnesses and diseases that cause imminent danger to life and property.

Similar to SB 1228, Senate Bill No. 747 also sets the minimum requirements for every evacuation center that will be established, including its location, structural capacity, suitability and capacity of premises, physical amenities, and food safety. (PNA)