Senator Win Gatchalian is urging the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to convert school buildings into typhoon-resistant structures.
Considering the Philippines’ exposure to natural calamities and hazards all-year round, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture explained that having typhoon-resistant school buildings would be a long-term investment on the safety of schools, which sometimes serve as evacuation centers.
Gatchalian’s Senate Bill No. 747, which seeks to establish a permanent evacuation center in every city and municipality, also proposes that in order to ease the pressure on classrooms of schools already utilized as evacuation centers, constructing additional facilities in these schools is an option.
While they are not built to serve as evacuation centers, schools are normally utilized in the country as such during calamities.
SB 747 or the Evacuation Center Act has identified standards for the improvement of school structures. Under the proposed measure, the design of new evacuation centers and improved facilities should be able to withstand wind speeds of 320 kilometers per hour or 200 miles per hour and moderate seismic activity of at least 7.2 magnitude. These structures should also use materials in accordance with the National Building Code of the Philippines (Republic Act No. 6541).
“Sa ating pagkukumpuni o pagpapatayo ng mga bagong gusali sa mga paaralan, kailangang siguruhin nating ang disenyo ng mga ito ay kayang makaiwas sa pinsalang maaaring idulot ng mga kalamidad,” said Gatchalian.
“Ang pagkakaroon ng matitibay na mga paaralan ay mahalaga hindi lamang para sa agarang pagpapatuloy ng edukasyon. Dahil ang mga paaralan natin ay madalas nagsisilbi ring mga evacuation centers, kailangang siguruhin natin ang kaligtasan ng mga ito sakaling sumilong dito ang mga residente sa tuwing may kalamidad,” he added.
A DepEd official had said that substandard construction is one of the reasons why many schools sustain damages during typhoons and other calamities, adding that based on observation, ceilings of buildings constructed from 2014 to 2019 are likely to collapse. The official also said that classroom windows and roofs should have storm protectors to make schools more calamity-resilient.
For Gatchalian, roofs should instead be replaced with concrete roof decks, which would spare the government from the cost of replacing damaged roofs every time a typhoon hits.
Based on the Education Cluster Report as of November 15, Typhoon Ulysses has damaged 1,190 schools in 67 divisions. Super typhoon Rolly on the other hand, damaged 1,739 schools in 36 divisions. DepEd estimates that P8.9 billion is needed to rebuild these storm-hit schools.