GOV. Hilario Davide III, after consulting with officials of the weather bureau Pagasa, suspended classes in all levels the other day and the whole day yesterday following the entry of tropical depression Marce in the Philippine area of responsibility and projections that it would pass by Cebu. Cities like Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu also suspended classes the other day. Pagasa had by then declared signal no. 1 over Cebu.
Marce, however, had other things in mind. While it momentarily strengthened into a tropical storm, it veered away from Cebu. The rainfall, which was projected to be heavy, was light and not sustained. This has led some sectors to question the correctness of the decision to suspend classes in many Cebu schools.
Under Department of Education (DepEd) guidelines, officials of local government units (LGUd) are the ones tasked to decide on the suspension of classes when weather disturbances hit an area and no storm signals are raised. Otherwise, the suspension of classes are based on the storm signals, and these are:
--for signal no. 1, classes in public and private pre-school and kindergarten are suspended;
--for signal no. 2, classes in public and private pre-school, kindergarten, elementary and high school (including Senior High School) are suspended;
--for signal no. 3, classes in all levels are suspended.
Following the DepEd guidelines, suspension of classes in public and private pre-schools would have automatically been suspended. But officials of some LGUs did more by suspending classes in all levels, which was still within their mandate. The reason in most cases was the safety of the students. While Marce was not not strong, the worry was it could induce flood and landslide-causing rainfall.
Because the weather was not particularly bad in Cebu, there are now suggestions to review the part of the DepEd guidelines that automatically suspends some classes when Pagasa declares storm signal no. 1. There may be some logic to it but the guidelines plus the setup that includes local government officials and even school principals in the decision-making process, while inviting subjectivism, looks fine as it is.
The rule in disaster preparedness is always to err on the side of safety.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 26, 2016.
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