Disaster relief and PAGCOR

Published May 29, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng


At a time when most government agencies have basically gone into a “holding pattern,” playing a game of “wait and see” in anticipation of the fact that a new administration is ushered in some 30 days from now; it’s good to note how PAGCOR is still flexing its muscles, and inaugurating several Multi-Purpose Evacuation Centers (MPEC) all over the country. It’s great because we all know that the rainy season is just around the corner; and disaster control, relief, and resilience will soon be a major concern in different parts of the nation.

Just last May 20, the town of La Paz, Tarlac became the latest LGU (local government unit) to inaugurate a fully constructed Multi-Purpose Evacuation Center, as funded by the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). This emergency structure was completed a year after the project broke ground on April 9, 2021. Situated in Barangay Rizal, this is one of the communities in La Paz that is notorious as prone to heavy flooding and natural calamities. That the barangay is part of a catch basin is often cited as the reason for the unusual heavy flooding.

Alicia Cumbe, 52 years old, is a La Paz local who shared how her house is often submerged in deep water after periods of heavy precipitation. A single mother, she supports her child and elderly mother by selling goods and food items in a little stall outside their house. Each time there are heavy rains, she and the family have to suffer the ordeal of evacuating their home, and seeking shelter either at their relative’s house located in higher ground, or at the barangay day care center, and she readily says that the situation there is far from ideal.

A TWO-STOREY structure, the new PAGCOR MPEC at La Paz, Tarlac, was completed in just a little over a year.

Besides the anxiety, nervousness, and outright fear, Cumbe shared that it’s the uncertainty of where they can head to that’s truly safe, and how they’ll find food and shelter for the days of heavy flooding, that occupies her mind whenever the rainy season comes. The hygiene factor, the health of the children, how they can keep away from disease, are preying on her thoughts as well. So it was a relief for her to understand what this new MPEC funded by PAGCOR represented — a clean, safe haven, and new option for those displaced by natural disasters in the locality.

Another La Paz resident, 64-year old farmer Alex Cancio recalls having to sleep overnight in a tractor, parked on the national highway, as their house was submerged because of flooding. And let’s not even talk about how his crops were damaged by typhoons and flooding. For Cancio, every year’s rainy season is a cause of trepidation and fear for what may befall his noble livelihood. If only for his personal safety, Cancio also welcomes this new two-storey structure in his municipality.

Alicia Cumbe and Alex Cancio are just two of the real people and stories that will be impacted by this MPEC coming into reality right before the rainy season really gets underway. La Paz Mayor Venustiano Jordan expressed his sincere gratitude to PAGCOR for funding the facility, and welcomed PAGCOR

Chairperson and CEO Andrea Domingo, who graced the Center’s inauguration. With the Center now fully functional, residents of La Paz have a safe haven to stay at during times of natural calamities.

During the turnover ceremonies, the indefatigable PAGCOR Chairperson and CEO Didi Domingo had this to say, “I’m so happy to see this emergency structure completed. It’s beautiful. And those affected by calamities, by fire, or whatever unforeseen disaster, now have a comfortable and clean place to head to.

PAGCOR CEO and Chairperson Andrea Domingo (right) joins La Paz Mayor Venustiano Jordan at the plaque that heralds the completion of the La Paz PAGCOR Multi-Purpose Evacuation Center.

For the most affected victims of these calamities, may have just lost their homes, have lost their livelihoods, and then they’re relocated just anywhere, on top of which, they’re made to suffer even more hardships such as hunger, sickness, and cold.” Reminding us of these very important facts brought home why these MPEC’s are potential life-savers wherever they’ve been constructed.

In response, La Paz Mayor Jordan remarked, “PAGCOR helped us realize our dream of having a safe haven for families who have no place to stay when their homes are submerged in deep rain water. As you all know, the town of La Paz is historically marked as a catch basin. During heavy rainfall, La Paz locals suffer the impact of heavy flooding.”

PAGCOR is the state-run gaming firm, and has allotted ₱3.5 billion for the construction of these MPEC’s in 76 approved sites nationwide. There are a total of seven MPEC’s in Tarlac, Albay, Capiz, and in Caramines Sur that have been completed. In Camarines Sur, you’ll find MPEC’s in the towns of Sagnay, San Jose, Tiagon, and Ocampo. This is the kind of ‘good work’ that PAGCOR has begun, and we can just hope that it is continued in the years to come.

In years past, I know that the existence of PAGCOR has often been a controversial issue, seen by some as a “cash cow.” But under Chairperson and CEO Andrea Domingo, we’ve seen the concrete proof of how PAGCOR can be harnessed for nation-building in general, and specifically for Disaster Risk Reduction.