By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte’s order to construct permanent evacuation centers to house victims of various calamities is one of the casualties of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the country.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement as the country faces the wrath of Typhoon Ambo, the first one to hit the country this year while busy grappling with COVID-19.
In a radio interview, Roque said that the construction of evacuation centers was among the projects shelved due to the pandemic.
“Lahat ng ating mga plano siyempre naisantabi dahil nga po COVID-19 tayo lahat ngayon (All of our plans took the backseat because we’re all focused on the COVID-19 situation),” he said.
“Ang alam ko po mayroong mga nag-donate na mga pribadong sektor ng mga permanent evacuation centers (But from what I know, the private sector has donated some permanent evacuation centers),” he added.
President Duterte has lamented the use of schools as evacuation centers whenever a calamity hits the country, saying this compromises the education of children.
During the height of the unrest of Taal Volcano in January this year, Duterte urged Congress to allocate funds for the construction of evacuation centers in disaster-prone areas.
“In the meantime that we are expecting another eruption mas mabuti na lang na umpisahan na rin ang (It’s better that they start now with the) evacuation center,” he said in a speech in January.
“Dagdagan na lang gawain nilang P50 [billion] para mag tayo ng evacuation center (Congress should make the P30 billion into P50 billion so we can build evacuation centers),” he added.
In January this year, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar said more than 200 evacuation centers were programmed to be constructed under their budget for 2020 but more would be added following the recent directive of President Duterte.
“Madadagdagan po yun (We can add to the 200) if we get additional budget. But yung iba siguro hindi rin matatapos sa loob ng isang taon (Maybe we won’t be able to finish everything in just one year) but we’ll do our best to build as many as we can within the year,” he said.
Villar said they have allocated at least two evacuation centers in each province for this year but stressed the need for more evacuation centers because of the number of evacuees.
“Sa dami rin ng mga evacuees, we need more. So ‘yan po yung sinasabi ni President na kailangan pa nating dagdagan (We need more [budget] because of the number of evacuees. That’s why the President said we needed to have more budget) and there are moves at this point to increase the budget,” he said. (Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos)