By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Christopher “Bong” Go has stressed the need for the government to institute a more proactive approach when dealing with natural disasters. He accompanied President Rodrigo Duterte during the inspection of the evacuation center in Mataasnakahoy, Batangas on Monday, April 4.
The evacuation center in Mataasnakahoy is one of the three evacuation centers strategically located in three municipalities within Batangas province outside the danger zone of a Taal Volcano eruption. The other two are located in the towns of Sta. Teresita and Alitagtag. All the centers were turned over to the respective municipal governments by the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development on March 30.
Also present during the inspection were Mataasnakahoy Mayor Janet Ilagan and DHSUD Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, as well as other officials and staff of DHSUD and the municipal government of Mataasnakahoy.
The evacuation centers were built according to the specifications and requirements approved by the President. The facilities include an administrative office, clinic, kitchen and mess hall, separate female and male comfort rooms, prayer room, conjugal rooms, children’s section, and storage room, among others.
They were established as part of the government’s continuing efforts to improve the country’s readiness for natural disasters and other calamities.
Go, who frequently goes around the country to assist victims of natural and man-made disasters, has early on bemoaned that victims are usually temporarily housed in barangay centers, schools, plazas, gymnasiums, or basketball courts, which are not suitable as temporary shelters.
“Kailangang magpatayo tayo ng mga safe, permanent and dedicated evacuation centers na merong sapat na mga emergency packs, katulad ng blankets, tubig, gamot, flashlight at ready na relief goods,” he noted in previous interviews.
“Obligasyon ng gobyerno na palaging maging handa na tumulong sa oras ng sakuna,” he stressed.
In line with these initiatives, Go renewed his call for the passage of a law for the mandatory creation of safe and properly equipped evacuation centers in every municipality, city and province across the Philippines.
He stressed the urgent need to act on disaster resilience measures such as his Senate Bill No. 1228 or the “Mandatory Evacuation Center Act”, which he filed in 2019 to ensure that victims of disasters will have temporary shelters that will guarantee their safety, promote their social well-being, and guard their welfare while they recover and rebuild their lives.
“When disaster strikes, the Filipinos, especially ‘yung mga underprivileged, suffer. In most instances, this disaster renders their homes unlivable, leaving the victims without roofs. Ibig sabihin nasisira ang mga bahay, marami pong apektado,” Go said.
“Minsan po, ‘di nagagamit ang mga paaralan kapag ginagamit ang mga eskwelahan (bilang evacuation centers)… Kaya panahon na po magkaroon tayo ng evacuation center sa bawat bayan,” he reiterated.
SBN 1228 is currently pending in the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation, along with SBN 205, which Go also filed in 2019 for the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience.
If created, the DDR shall serve as the lead agency for all disaster preparedness, mitigation and management activities. The lawmaker explained that consolidating all the disaster-related functions into the DDR would allow for a more concerted approach toward disaster risk reduction and quicker and more efficient delivery of services during times of crises.
Because of the country’s vulnerability to natural disasters, Go said that passing the bills as quickly as possible is even more critical, as the government must be more proactive in responding to such calamities.
“Talagang napapanahon na. ‘Yun po ang aking isinusulong na dapat maipasa na po ito. At huwag na natin hintayin ang panibagong sakuna,” he ended.
After the inspection, President Duterte and Senator Go headed to the Agoncillo Central Elementary School in Agoncillo, Batangas to assist families affected by the recent eruption of the Taal volcano. The assistance they distributed included personal protective equipment, water containers, alcohol, nebulizers, micronutrient powder, maternity, and newborn kits, and food packs.
On March 26, magmatic unrest was reported in Taal Volcano that prompted its alert status to be raised to Level 3 and forced thousands to evacuate their homes. (ai/mtvn)