Senator Win Gatchalian raised anew the need to put evacuation centers in all cities and municipalities amid the persisting unrest of Mayon volcano.
Gatchalian pointed out how the use of school buildings as evacuation centers in times of calamities disrupt education. According to news reports, more than 17,000 learners from five towns in Albay are affected by eruption-related displacements because evacuees are staying in more than 20 emergency shelters, mostly grade school and high school campuses.
While around 80% of learners continue with their studies using modules, some continue to attend face-to-face classes, which teachers had to conduct in spaces such as gymnasiums and daycare centers, even in corridors or under the trees.
Gatchalian has been pushing for the establishment of evacuation centers in all cities and municipalities nationwide. The Evacuation Center Act (Senate Bill No. 940), which Gatchalian filed, provides that the evacuation center to be built in every city and municipality in the country shall provide a dedicated accommodation for people who have been displaced due to disasters, calamities, or other emergency events.
Gatchalian’s proposed measure provides that these evacuation centers 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.
Under the proposed measure, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) shall coordinate with local chief executives to identify areas to be prioritized in the establishment of evacuation centers. When a local government unit is prioritized for the construction of an evacuation center but has no available site, the NDRRMC may instead consider the improvement of facilities in schools or other structures already being used as evacuation centers.
While the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act (Republic Act No. 10821) provides that the use of classrooms as evacuation centers shall only be a last resort, the lawmaker lamented the continued practice of using schools as emergency shelters during emergencies which further disrupt learning continuity.
“Upang maiwasan natin ang paggamit sa mga silid-aralan bilang evacuation center, napapanahon nang maipatayo natin sa bawat lungsod at munisipalidad ang angkop na pasilidad kung saan maaaring manatili ang mga biktima ng mga kalamidad,” said Gatchalian, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Basic Education.