LOCAL governments must prioritize evacuation facilities.
Cebu Provincial Schools Division Superintendent Rhea Mar Angtud underscored this local priority when she recently urged that properly constructed evacuation centers should be used to shelter communities during emergencies.
The practice of using classrooms for evacuations comes at a cost as it disrupts classes, requires make-up sessions, and extends school calendars, explained the education official in SunStar Cebu’s May 31 report by Jerra J. Librea.
Angtud said that classrooms can be used in extreme situations when the affected families cannot be accommodated in evacuation centers and other government facilities.
Today’s opening of the academic year in public schools across the nation highlights the perennial problem of lack of classrooms. In a May 28 report for SunStar Cebu, Librea reported that only 57 of 1,900 classrooms, representing three percent of the target for Central Visayas, were completed in 2018. More than two million public school students will troop back to classrooms today.
The lack of classrooms requires stopgap measures, such as double shifting of classes and exceeding a classroom’s ideal number of students. The learning process is made more fraught for students and teachers, shortchanging the youths whose personal circumstances already pose significant challenges to learning.
Unnecessary class disruptions can be avoided through better local government planning and resource allocation for the construction of evacuation centers.
In an August 14, 2018 press release, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) urged local governments to allocate a portion of 70 percent of the local disaster risk reduction and management fund (LDRRMF) or use 20 percent of the local development fund (LDF) to construct or upgrade evacuation facilities.
For the funds to be released, the local governments must include these projects in their DRRM Plans and the approved Annual Investment Programme (AIP).
Assessed according to the standards for the design, construction, operations, maintenance, and rehabilitation of evacuation facilities specified in Memorandum Circular 122 series of 2018, public schools, covered courts, and temporary shelters do not meet the stringent standards of evacuation facilities, such as the capacity of withstanding “wind speeds of 300 kilometers per hour and earthquakes with a magnitude of 8.0 on the Richter Scale.”
The nation’s experiences with disasters and emergencies are the best testimonials for the essential features of evacuation facilities that do not just provide sanctuary during a catastrophe but specially during the protracted post-disaster period that exposes the vulnerability of affected Filipinos.
Proper ventilation and lighting, partitions to provide privacy and security for families, and access to water, kitchen, and toilet and bathing facilities are basics that ensure humane living conditions promoting good sanitation and health, order and security, and harmony among the evacuees.
The prolonged cohabitation of many individuals and families creates stressful conditions, which include exposure to sexual harassment, marginalization, and discrimination against persons with disabilities and lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders (LGBT). Local governments must address these in operating an evacuation center.
Last May 31, a Magnitude 6.2 earthquake was recorded at Governor Generoso, Davao Oriental. Aside from being in the seismically active region of the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” the country has regular bouts with typhoons, monsoons, floods, and fires.
The frequency and intensity of disasters, both man-made and natural, present real-world challenges that local governments, with foresight and political will, can insulate their community against through evacuation facilities that meet standards for DRRM, as well as policies and procedures that protect life and property.