Hindi lang pang sports, pang disaster pa’
Construction is underway for 32 buildings in 16 regions that will serve as prototypes of “disaster-resilient evacuation centers” which Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto hopes will be replicated in all of the country’s 145 cities and 1,490 towns.
To be built by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), funding for these structures come from a P768 million allocation in the 2016 national budget, Recto said.
Two models, Recto said, are being used. One is a multi-storey dormitory-type building to maximize space where land is scarce, and the other is a multipurpose-gym-cum-
Recto said the funding for the evacuation centers – meant to spare schools from being used as sanctuaries during calamities – is part of a bigger allocation to build public buildings that are calamity-proof and retrofit old ones so they become one.
Recto thanked Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate finance committee, for joining efforts to fund what were once proposals to build a network of durable evacuation centers in a typhoon-lashed country where hundreds of thousands of people flee homes from a multitude of calamities yearly.
Recto is the author of Senate Bill No. 2867, which seeks the construction in every city and municipality of a multi-use gym which makes it “hindi lang pang sports, pang disaster pa.”
The sports-cum-evacuation center, Recto said, hits two birds with one stone. “It addresses the shortage of covered sports facilities in municipalities and the need for a safe building people can seek shelter in during a calamity.”
“What is being envisioned is a multi-purpose civic center, which can be the venue for events on ordinary days but when calamity strikes, could take in evacuees,” said Recto.
Such a structure, he said, is where disaster rescue equipment, emergency supplies can be stored. “It can serve as the HQ of the local disaster management committee. It can be the rallying point for rescue personnel and the warehouse of rescue equipment.”
Recto said the structure can also serve as storage of relief goods, medicine. “And because sanitation is a major problem during evacuation, it must have provisions for water and toilets.”
Recto said putting up that building in every town will prevent schools from becoming the default evacuation areas, a situation which creates another class of evacuees – students, when they are temporarily displaced from their schools.
“Disasters displace two kinds of people: those who are directly hit, and the children, who, though unscathed, have to temporarily give up their classrooms to evacuees,” Recto explained.
“In any calamity, students are the collateral damage. ‘Pag may sunog, eskwelahan kaagad ang ginagawang boarding house. ‘Pag umapaw ang ilog, at kailangan magpalikas ng tao, sa mga paaralan pa rin ang takbo,” he lamented.
“Even in conflict areas, schools automatically become the temporary shelter of those displaced by fighting,” Recto said, “and if the latter lasts for weeks, then students go on early or unscheduled vacation.”
“Kahit sa dami ng evacuees natin taun-taon, hindi naman praktikal na magtayo ng mga dormitory para sa mga magiging biktima. Unang-una, magastos. At kung walang kalamidad, e di nakatiwangwang lang ang mga ito,” he said.
“So why not adopt the Swiss-knife kind of a structure? One that can, for example, host programs during summer, and then can hold evacuees during typhoons,” Recto said.
A parade of cyclones from 2004 to 2014 left 14,150 dead, 46,691 injured, 4,169 missing; damaged 5.5 million houses and destroyed P338 billion worth of property.
A total of 40,696 fire incidents from 2010 to 2013, on the other hand, claimed 990 lives, injured 2,874, and destroyed P27.1 billion worth of property.
“We are the second most disaster-prone country in the world. Mass evacuation is predictable. So let us build these multi-purpose durable gyms,” he said.