With 307 congressmen voting in the affirmative and just one in the negative, the House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill that seeks to establish evacuation centers in every city and municipality in the country.
Under House Bill (HB) No.7354, these evacuation centers will serve as immediate and temporary accommodation for people who have been displaced by disasters, calamities, or other emergency events such as typhoons, floods, and storm surges.
The bill gained the House's final nod during plenary session Monday night, March 6. The official result of nominal voting on HB No.7354 was 307-1-0 (yes-no-abstain).
Deputy Speaker and Ilocos Sur 2nd district Rep. Kristine Singson-Meehan, who presided over plenary session Monday, announced the bill’s third-reading passage.
House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, and Tingog Party-list Reps. Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre were among the principal authors of the measure.
The proposed evacuation centers may also be used by victims of fire, and the outbreak of illnesses and diseases that present imminent danger to life and property, as per Section 2 of the bill.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRMC) and local executives of provinces, cities, and municipalities are tasked to identify areas to be given the highest priority in the establishment of new evacuation centers.
“It shall be the policy of the State to uphold the constitutional right of the people for the protection of their life and property and the promotion of the general welfare. Towards this end, the State shall establish and maintain a safe, fully-equipped, and fully-operational evacuation center, responsive to environmental or climatic events, in recognition of the vulnerability of the Philippines to climate change, and hazards such as the occurrence of severe floods, typhoons, and other natural or human-induced disasters, illnesses, diseases and other factors that affect the environment,” HB No.7354 read.
The bill also provides that existing structures that can meet the minimum requirements or can be upgraded to effectively serve as evacuation centers may be designated as such according to the needs of the local government unit (LGU) concerned.
An LGU included in the priority list is also allowed to improve schools or existing structures used as evacuation centers by making these compliant with the minimum requirements such as location and structural capacity.
Under HB No.7354, the LGU is also in charge of the operation, supervision, and management of evacuation centers.
It provides that the initial amount necessary for the construction and maintenance of multi-purpose gyms will be charged against the budget provided for this purpose under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
On the other hand, the construction and maintenance of additional facilities for schools already used as evacuation centers shall be charged against the appropriations for the Department of Education (DepEd)
Thereafter, such amounts necessary for the continued implementation will be included in the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA).