Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said the time has come for the government to establish permanent disaster-resilient and fully-equipped evacuation centers to shelter people during natural calamities.
“Experience has taught us, like the harrowing super typhoon Yolanda, to rethink our strategies in emergency preparedness and invest in sophisticated early warning systems to mitigate the number of casualties,” he noted.
Gatchalian made his call after Super Typhoon Rolly left some 16 people dead and displaced over 390,000 people particularly in Albay and Catanduanes in Bicol.
“Typhoons are natural occurrences which allow us ample time to prepare for any eventuality. Given the frequency of tropical cyclones in our country yearly, the exigency of having permanent evacuation centers in most vulnerable communities is something that should be given serious consideration,” he stressed.
The Senator has filed Senate Bill No. 747 which seeks to establish structurally sound evacuation centers, especially in population centers that are prone to typhoons, flooding, and other calamities.
“It’s high time we put behind the thinking of converting public schools and basketball courts as the go-to places whenever there’s forced evacuation. We should instead put up facilities for evacuees that can withstand wind speeds of 320 kilometers per hour (kph) and moderate seismic activity of at least 7.2 magnitude,” he said.
Gatchalian said fully equipped permanent evacuation centers should also ensure that there will be no congestion as public health and safety concerns should be considered in the suitability of the premises especially during pandemics.
Besides water and electricity, he said the facilities should have the most basic amenities such as areas for sleeping, eating, cooking, laundry, shower and toilet, as well as clinic and isolation area for potentially infectious people and holding area pets.
The proposed measure gives priority to local government units with the most vulnerable communities and with less secure infrastructures based on the assessment of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
He added that it is imperative to strictly comply with the National Building Code of the Philippines and that inputs of structural engineers are integrated into the design and specifications of evacuation centers to ensure that it can withstand climatic and other hazards.
“Let’s give victims not only dignity but peace of mind amidst calamities. We should make sure they are safe. And if we have this kind of facilities, we can easily convince them to evacuate if needed for their safety,” he emphasized.