Go renews call for mandatory evacuation centers

Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go strongly appealed for the passage of a measure that would make the creation of permanent, safe, and properly equipped evacuation centers mandatory in every municipality, city, and province across the Philippines.

Go, chairman of the Senate Health and Demography Cìommittee, issued the statement as he expressed concern over the situation of many displaced typhoon victims such as those hit by the tropical storm ‘’Agaton", especially amid an ongoing pandemic.

‘’If a strong typhoon will come or whatever disaster, it is the poor that will be affected most. Every year, the Philippines faces various crises and need faster government action in order to protect the lives and welfare of the Filipinos,” he said.

“Kaya napaka importante po na tayo ay makapagpatayo ng mga safe, permanent, and dedicated evacuation centers na may sapat na emergency packs, tulad ng maayos na tulugan, tubig, gamot, at iba pang relief goods. (It is therefore important that we establish safe, permanent, and dedicated evacuation centers equipped with emergency packs, such as beds, water, medicines and other relief goods. Nakahanda na dapat ito kahit wala pang sakuna (These have to be prepared ahead of any disaster)” he added.

Go has been steadfast in advocating for measures to ensure that victims of disasters would have temporary shelters that will guarantee their safety, promote their social well-being, and guard their welfare while they recover and rebuild their lives.

In 2019, he filed Senate Bill (SB) 1228, or the Mandatory Evacuation Center Act, after observing from his frequent trips across the country to help disaster victims that the displaced residents are usually housed in tents, barangay centers, schools, plazas, gymnasiums, or basketball courts, which are not equipped with the basic necessities to help victims recover.

The bill outlines the basic minimum requirements for each mandatory evacuation center, such as its location, amenities and operation.

Just last April 15 and 16, Go joined President Duterte in personally visiting and giving aid to Agaton victims who were temporarily staying at the Baybay City Senior High School in Leyte and Pontevedra Elementary School in Capiz. Notably, the displaced residents are not in dedicated evacuation centers.

“When disaster strikes, the Filipinos, especially ‘yung mga (the) underprivileged, suffer. In most instances, this disaster renders their homes unlivable, leaving the victims without roofs,” Go observed.

“Minsan po, ‘di nagagamit ang mga paaralan kapag ginagamit ang mga eskwelahan (bilang evacuation centers]. (There are times, schools are not available as evacuation centers). Kaya panahon na po magkaroon tayo ng evacuation center sa bawat bayan (That's why it is time for us to have evacuation centers in every municipality/ city),” he reiterated.

The senator from Davao also echoed the calls of other lawmakers to ensure that there should be sturdy, typhoon-resilient, and climate change-adaptive evacuation centers located at distances which are safe from waters and landslide-prone areas in every two to three contiguous barangays.

Go’s SB 1228 is still pending in the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation together with SB 205, which he also filed in 2019 to establish a Department of Disaster Resilience.

He once again cautioned that the Philippines is visited by an average of 20 typhoons every year, five of which are destructive. As such, the government must always be a step ahead to save more lives once disaster strikes.

“Nakita naman natin ang matinding pangangailangan para sa mga evacuation centers na magsisilbing panandaliang tahanan ng mga Pilipino sa tuwing may bagyo o anumang natural disaster (We have seen the serious need for evacuation centers that will serve as temporary shelter for Filipinos every time there is a typhoon or whatever natural disaster). Huwag nating antayin na may panibagong sakuna pang dumating. Umaksyon na tayo dapat para maprotektahan lalo ang buhay ng bawat Pilipino (Let us not wait for another disaster to come. Let us act now to protect the lives of the Filipinos),” he stressed.