Build gyms-cum-evacuation centers so schools won’t be used as disaster shelters

Mayon's eruption has again put on full display one constant in this calamity-prone land - of schoolchildren being the first collateral victims when their schools are commandeered to house refugees, a practice which can be stopped by building permanent evacuation centers.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto issued this call urging government to step up its evacuation center-building program that began in 2016, when that year's national budget authorized funding for 32 dormitory-type buildings in 16 regions.

In addition to building more of these, Recto urged government to "consider other designs, like gymnasiums which will serve as evacuation centers during calamities."

Recto has authored Senate Bill No. 805 which seeks the construction in every city and municipality of a multi-use gym, "na hindi lang pang sports, pang disaster pa."

The sports-cum-evacuation center, Recto explained, hits two birds with one stone.

"It addresses the shortage of covered sports facilities in municipalities and the need for a disaster-resilient safe building people can seek shelter in during calamities," Recto said.

Such a multi-purpose civic center can be the venue for community events on ordinary days but when calamity strikes, could take in evacuees, Recto said.

He said the building can store disaster rescue equipment and emergency supplies. "It can also serve as the HQ of the local disaster management committee."

Recto said putting up that building in every town will prevent schools from becoming default evacuation areas during calamities, a practice which turns students into displaced persons, too.

"Disasters displace two kinds of people: those who are directly hit, and the children, who, though unscathed, have to temporarily give up their classrooms to evacuees," Recto explained.

In conflict areas, the vacation of children whose schools are used to house refugees "is coterminous with the length of fighting," Recto said.

Recto said these structures are needed in the second most disaster-prone country in the world where mass evacuations happen all the time. "Kaya dapat given na itong mga gyms na ito. Bahagi ng ating disaster response infrastructure."

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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