Durable shelters

January 07, 2019

Addressing natural disasters and their consequences must not create another disaster in the form of disruption of other human activities like work or education.

For the longest time, campuses and school buildings have been used as temporary shelters for victims of typhoons, earthquakes, floods, landslides, volcanic eruption, and other natural calamities.

The problem is, their use as emergency shelters is not temporary at all. Displaced residents often stay in these school facilities for weeks if not months.

Their extended stay in school campuses  displaces school children from their classrooms, thereby interrupting classes and upsetting academic schedules in the process.

And so the problem of addressing calamity victims is compounded by the problem of disrupting school activities.

Quite thankfully, no less than Malacañang is directly addressing the problem.

President Duterte ordered government officials to speed up the construction of durable evacuation centers and housing units to ensure that there would be no disruption of classes in the aftermath of calamities.

In a situational briefing after his aerial inspection in the aftermath of Tropical Depression Usman in Camarines Sur on Friday, Duterte said he wants the planned evacuation centers to be made up of concrete in order to ensure its durability in times of calamity.

"It has to be a concrete... I would not be satisfied with ‘if it's only made up of wood. They will be the first to go if the winds come. This is quite a novelty of recent time because there are no winds, just purely rainfall. So I saw it, it has become a huge lake," he said.

The President said he wants these buildings to be used solely as evacuation centers and avoid using schools in the conduct of relief operations by government agencies during disaster times.

In the same briefing, Interior and Local Government  Sec. Eduardo Año said the construction of local and regional evacuation centers in landslide- and typhoon-prone areas is their priority.

Late in December, “Usman” lashed parts of Bicol, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon Province), Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), and Eastern Visayas.

Data from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council showed that the calamity damaged the Bicol region immensely, particularly Albay and Camarines Sur, where heavy rains resulted in flash floods and landslides affecting more than 23,000 families, with at least 122 deaths, and 28 reported as missing.