Bayan Muna calls on Senate to expedite bill establishing evacuation hubs

Following the destruction wrought by Typhoon Agaton, the Senate must expedite their version of the Permanent Evacuation Centers Bill, argued Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate.

Search and rescue personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police assist in the retrieval operations in Baybay City, Leyte on April 15, 2022 after it was hit by a landslide at the height of Typhoon "Agaton." (Courtesy of Philippine Army)

The Senate’s version of the bill, Senate Bill (SB) No. 747, was filed by Sen. Win Gatchalian in July 2019 and has remained pending since August 2019.

"A secure and safer evacuation place has long been the desire of our people living in disaster-prone areas and it behooves on congress to finally heed this oft-repeated lamentation," Zarate said in a press statement on Monday, April 18.

As a proposed solution to mitigate the effects of future natural disasters, Zarate, in his statement, cited House Bill 5259 (now substituted by HB 8990) which he was a principal author of.

"This is a departure from the common practice of using schools and multi-purpose halls as evacuation centers but are still in danger prone areas. The evacuation centers proposed by HB 5259 (HB 8990) should also be located in between barangays so that more people can reach them at the soonest time and may also serve as the command center for disaster response. It should have a stockpile of food and water as well as isolation centers and clinics. It can also house generators and secured cell sites so that there would be communications even if other towers are down," Zarate explained.

Under HB 8990, permanent evacuation centers would be established in every city and municipality in the country while existing facilities would be upgraded to fit the bill’s proposed standard.

He reasons that as the country is prone to natural disasters, particularly typhoons or tropical depressions, the government should prioritize countermeasures to these disasters “while waiting for the completion of a comprehensive disaster preparedness program and its eventual implementation.”

“Isang hamon naman sa Senado ngayon ang mabilisang pagpapasa ang katuwang na HB 5259 (The challenge now to the Senate is the speedy passage of a partner bill to HB 5259 ),” Zarate concluded.

As of April 17, about 172 have been reported dead and 110 missing in the wake of Typhoon Agaton as per the the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).