As residents near Taal Volcano face the combined threats of COVID-19 and a possible explosive volcanic eruption, Senator Win Gatchalian is urging the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and local government units (LGUs) to ensure the welfare and safety of children amid evacuation efforts.
Aside from the establishment of child-friendly spaces, Gatchalian seeks the timely provision of basic necessities and services such as food, water, nutrition, medicines, sanitary, and hygiene kits, psychosocial interventions, and other items needed for emergency situations.
The provision of these necessities and services are mandated by Republic Act No. 10821 or the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act. The law mandates the DSWD to formulate a Comprehensive Emergency Program for Children (CEPC), which should be used as the basis for handling disasters and other emergency situations to protect and support the immediate recovery of children and pregnant and lactating mothers.
At least 124,000 children were displaced when the Taal Volcano erupted in 2020, according to children’s organization Save the Children.
Gatchalian also pointed out the vulnerability of children, especially young girls, to abuse and exploitation in times of calamities. According to a 2017 study by Dr. Gloria Luz M. Nelson, a social science researcher of the Department of Science and Technology DOST – National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST – NRCP), girls aged 10-19 are most likely to get molested or pregnant with the length of their stay in evacuation centers. The study looked at how teenage girls in Eastern Visayas were affected by Typhoons Yolanda and Ruby in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
The Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act also mandates heightened comprehensive measures and monitoring to prevent all forms of domestic and sexual violence in areas under a state of calamity.
“Ngayong hinaharap ng mga kabataan ang pinagsamang panganib ng pandemya at posibleng malakas na pagsabog ng bulkang Taal, dapat nating tiyakin ang kanilang kaligtasan mula sa pagkakasakit at pang-aabuso,” said the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.
To address issues that evacuees commonly face such as congestion, exposure to hazards, and lack of facilities, Gatchalian seeks the establishment of structurally sound evacuation centers in every city and municipality, which is the objective of Senate Bill No. 747 filed in 2019.