President Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Tuesday checked on the situation of more than 1,200 families taking refuge in in Batangas evacuation centers after the Taal Volcano eruption.
The President led the discussion on how to address the danger facing the victims, especially with the possibility of the volcano erupting again anytime soon.
Calamity aid came in the form of food packs and cash assistance for every family as arranged by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, hygiene kits from the Department of Health and more food items from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
Additionally, livelihood and financial assistance were also turned over by the Department of Agriculture to farmers and fishermen.
The President ordered a simultaneous construction of evacuation centers and hopes that the construction will be finished before his term ends.
“I hope that you can finish it before my term ends… I want projects that are doable and can be finished doing my term,” the President added.
Go supported President Duterte’s orders, especially in areas vulnerable to natural disasters.
Seeking to address the vulnerability of the country to the impacts of climate change and natural as well as human-made disasters, Go recently filed a bill providing for mandatory evacuation centers nationwide.
Senate Bill No. 1228 or “An Act Establishing a Mandatory Evacuation Center in all Cities, Provinces and Municipalities, Appropriating Funds Therefor” provides for the establishment of an evacuation center in every city, province and municipality throughout the country.
Go said it is necessary to build permanent evacuation centers nationwide to ensure safety in times of natural calamities and other disasters given the geographic location of the country.
“The Philippines is highly vulnerable to natural hazards, attributed primarily to the country’s location. The country is positioned along the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, an area where earthquakes and volcanic activities are more frequent than in any other part of the world,” Go stated in the explanatory note.
“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,” he added.
The bill also provides for the minimum requirements for every evacuation center, such as its location, amenities and accessibility, operation and management, among others.
Under the measure, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council or its successor will act as the lead agency to oversee the implementation of the act should it be passed into a law.
As for its appropriation, the construction and maintenance of evacuation centers under the measure will be sourced from a portion of the general appropriations of the Department of Public Works and Highways.
The bill also states that “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 annual budget in the General Appropriations Act.”
In previous interviews, Go lamented that victims of calamities and disasters are often relocated to barangay centers, plazas, gymnasiums or basketball courts, places not ideal for evacuation or shelter.
Worse, some Filipinos do not have evacuation centers at all, said Go.
“Kailangang magpatayo tayo ng mga safe, permanent and dedicated evacuation centers na merong sapat na mga emergency packs, katulad ng blankets, tubig, gamot, flashlight, at ready na relief goods,” he said.
“Obligasyon ng gobyerno na palaging maging handa na tumulong sa oras ng sakuna,” he added.
The senator also said that President Rodrigo Duterte is supportive of the proposed measure.
“Kagaya ng gusto ni Pangulong Duterte, kailangan nating magpatayo ng safe, permanent at dedicated na evacuation (center) na kumpleto po sa mga kagamitan,” said Go.
The senator also urged his colleagues for the establishment of the Department of Disaster Resilience through his SB No. 205.
The bill provides for the creation of a sole department that will deal with the mitigation and operations regarding the effects of disasters and natural calamities.
The DDR will be “an empowered, highly specialized department with clear unity of command and primarily responsible in ensuring safe, adaptive and disaster-resilient communities,” explained Go.
The DDR will also have funds that will finance its operations in disaster risk reduction, disaster preparedness, response, recovery, rehabilitation and building forward better programs, projects and activities.
One of these programs will be the construction of evacuation centers to provide comfortable facilities to those distressed Filipinos affected by such incidents.
During the situational briefing in Batangas City, the President directed the DPWH to assist in road clearing operation while the labor department was tasked to assist in identifying alternative livelihoods for affected individuals.
The Department of Budget and Management will facilitate the quick and responsive release of funds, implying that any unnecessary delay is unacceptable.