Senator Sherwin Gatchalian today maintained a permanent evacuation center in every city and municipality should be part of the country’s efforts to “build back better” from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The chairman of the Senate basic education committee issued the statement with the Department of Education (DepEd) allowing the use of 17,910 classrooms in the National Capital Region (NCR) as isolation and quarantine facilities.
Though Republic Act (RA)10821, or the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act, mandates the use of classrooms as evacuation centers should only be a last resort and only for a brief period, Gatchalian observed that Local Government Units (LGUs) still end up using classrooms to provide temporary shelter to displaced persons, something that does not contribute to embedding a culture of safety in the education sector.
Gatchalian also pointed out how it is not sustainable and could delay the resumption of classes.
He also emphasized that the vulnerability of the Philippines to natural disasters adds urgency for municipalities and cities to have their own permanent evacuation center, which was the objective of Senate Bill 747, or the “Evacuation Center Act,” which he filed.
Under the bill, these evacuation centers will provide immediate and temporary evacuation for people who have been evacuated or displaced due to typhoons, floods, storm surges, drought, fire, and the outbreak of diseases and illnesses.
Since the construction of permanent evacuation centers in all local government units at the same time is not feasible, the bill mandates the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and LGUs to identify areas that will be given the highest priority.
To ease the pressure on the use of classrooms in areas where it will be difficult to have new evacuation centers, the bill also gives the option of constructing additional facilities for the same in schools.
Gatchalian said that when public health emergencies or disease outbreaks occur, these centers can be used to provide additional bed capacity or serve as isolation facilities, avoiding the possibility of straining the healthcare system.
As of August 19, 82 percent of ward beds, 69 percent of isolation beds, and 66 percent of intensive care unit beds in NCR are occupied.