BANTAYAN Island and its surrounding islets were among the hardest hit communities when super typhoon Yolanda pummeled the Visayas last year.

While still coping with the effects of the typhoon, how are the three towns in the northern island—Sta. Fe, Bantayan and Madridejos—preparing for disasters?

The Municipal Government of Sta. Fe is hoping to get grants from international financial institutions to build evacuation centers and a Disaster Risk Reduction and Management DRRM Center.

Mayor Jose Esgana said they included the construction of evacuation centers and a DRRM Center in the rehabilitation plan they submitted to the Cebu Provincial Government.

Whether or not the National Government can fund the projects has yet to be known. Esgana said he is open to applying for a grant from the World Bank to finance the projects.

The World Bank is providing $480 million to support rebuilding efforts in communities severely hit by Yolanda.

Emergency cover

Esgana said the Municipal Government will need at least P23 million to build four evacuation centers that will also serve as warehouses for relief goods and other necessities during calamities.

They plan to build two evacuation centers in the mainland and establish one each in Hilantagaan Island and Kinatarkan Island.

“There should be a place for people to seek shelter in during emergencies, aside from schools,” Esgana said.

To improve their monitoring of typhoons and communication with disaster responders in the island barangays, Esgana said they hope to construct a three-story building that will house the DRRM Center.

He said the Municipal Government will need P17 million to establish the facility, which will have a tower overlooking the sea and the whole town.

Apart from evacuation centers and a DRRM Center, Esgana said the Municipal Government will seek grants to construct a seawall or breakwater to protect the town against coastal erosion.

For now, schools

Esgana said he hopes to implement the projects before his term ends in 2016.

While they have yet to receive funds to construct evacuation centers, the town will have to make do with school buildings as their evacuation centers.

For Madridejos Mayor Salvador dela Fuente and Bantayan Mayor Ian Christopher Escario, schools remain the most viable places to evacuate people living in vulnerable areas.

Dela Fuente said schools are accessible and present in the town’s 14 barangays. It would be hard, he said, to place vulnerable residents from 11 coastal barangays in one building when a typhoon strikes.

“We are thankful to RAFI (Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc.) for building typhoon-resilient school buildings,” he said.

Last Oct. 21, RAFI and the Department of Education turned over 229 classrooms in the three towns of Bantayan Island and Daanbantayan in mainland Cebu. In Madridejos, the foundation repaired and rebuilt 42 classrooms and three day care centers.

Mayor Escario said having evacuation centers aside from schools will help the town become better prepared for disasters, but the Municipal Government doesn’t have enough resources to build these facilities.

The National Government, he said, should help local government units construct evacuation centers.

Escario said the town has more than 30 schools where people living in danger zones can be sheltered during disasters.

At least 26 persons died on the island when Yolanda struck last Nov. 8, more than half of them recorded in Escario’s town.

The three mayors said their disaster responders will continue to undergo training.

Ready households

Mayor Esgana said the Municipal Government plans to hold trainings not only for the responders, but for people in the communities themselves.

“There has to be capacity-building in every household,” he said.

Acquiring necessary equipment and devices, particularly in communication, is also high among the mayors’ priorities.

One of the lessons he learned from the Yolanda, dela Fuente said, is the importance of communication. The Municipal Government’s 2015 budget includes the purchase of more advanced communication gadgets.

Much still needs to be done, but Dela Fuente said he believes his constituents are now more prepared for disasters. “The people in my town have learned the lesson of the past calamities,” he said.

Before Yolanda, the town and its neighboring towns also suffered from devastation wrought by typhoon Frank in 2008.

“But frankly speaking, we can never say we are fully prepared,” dela Fuente said. “We never know when the next disaster will strike.”