Governance Senate

Government should provide safe, proper evacuation centers in communities nationwide — Bong Go

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go appealed to the government to ensure that safe and properly equipped evacuation centers are made available in communities nationwide, particularly areas prone to natural disasters.

A stadium converted to temporary evacuation center in Batangas during the recent Taal volcano eruption (PNA file photo)

The evacuation centers should be properly designed to avoid transmission of diseases given the ongoing health crisis, Go said.

“Dapat masigurado natin na ang mga pasilidad na ito ay COVID-19-ready at disaster resilient. Aksyunan na natin ito. Huwag natin hintayin na mangyari ang ating kinakatakutan na sabay-sabay ang kalamidad at pagtaas ng COVID-19 cases. Dapat laging handa tayo,” Go said.

“Huwag nating pahirapan pa ang mga kababayan nating naghihirap na dulot ng mga krisis at sakuna. Magmalasakit tayo sa kanilang kalagayan at alagaan natin sila sa panahong walang-wala na sila upang makabangon sila muli,” Go said.

Go recently filed Senate Bill 1228 or the “Mandatory Evacuation Center Act” aimed for authorities to set guidelines and health protocols that will minimize the likelihood of spreading COVID-19 in evacuation centers.

The bill aims to establish safe, permanent, and dedicated evacuation centers in every city, province, and municipality in the country. It must also be fully-equipped to provide immediate aid to calamity and disaster victims, including fire victims.

“With the typhoon season, it is expected that many communities that might be hit by typhoons will be needing evacuation centers, yet with the COVID-19 outbreak that continues to threaten the lives of Filipinos, we need to scale up our efforts to keep them safe from harm and from health hazards,” Go said.

Every year, around twenty typhoons visit the Philippines with at least five of them being destructive. Stronger typhoons require either preemptive or mandatory evacuation of people, often ending up cramped in schools and gymnasiums.

The Philippines is also along the Pacific Ring of Fire, causing around 100 felt earthquakes every year. The recent series of strong and destructive earthquakes that primarily hit North Cotabato and Davao del Sur provinces late last year also resulted in massive displacement of people.

“Iba’t ibang krisis at sakuna ang hinaharap ng mga Pilipino kada taon. Nadagdagan pa ito ng isang pandemya ngayon. Kung gaano kabilis makasira ng pamumuhay ang mga di inaasahang pangyayaring ito, mas mabilis dapat ang aksyon ng gobyerno upang mapaghandaan at maprotektahan ang buhay at kapakanan ng mga Pilipino,” Go said.

“Bukod pa rito, kapag may proper evacuation sites na tayo na COVID-19-ready, mas madaling maayos ang mga sistema at health protocols at may nakahandang mga medical equipment na rin,” Go said.

The Senator also recommended that the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and other relevant agencies must coordinate with local government units and their local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officers, health offices, and the National Task Force on COVID-19 to craft evacuation plans that take into consideration the health hazards posed by the ongoing pandemic.

Go stressed that evacuation centers should also be equipped with necessary medical and personal protective equipment, such as masks, which will be provided for free to evacuees to protect them in their temporary shelters.

Meanwhile, Go also pushed for measures to ensure that isolation facilities of LGUs are both COVID-19-ready and disaster-resilient.

Go recently filed SB 1259 or the “Mandatory Quarantine Facilities Act of 2020” which mandates the establishment of quarantine facilities in every region in the country easily accessible to a Department of Health hospital and strategically located to ensure the safety of the community. This ensures quicker government response to pandemics such as COVID-19 and other contagious diseases.

Go had also filed SB 205 or known as the “Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) Act” in July last year. The bill seeks to create an empowered, highly specialized and responsive DDR with clear unity of command and primarily responsible in ensuring safe, adaptive and disaster-resilient communities.

“We should acknowledge the fact that government as a whole can do more to prepare contingency measures for disasters. This includes educating the public when it comes to disaster preparedness, especially communities that are most affected by the pandemic, or near a volcano, or frequently hit by typhoons and earthquakes,” Go said.

As the country continues to battle COVID-19, Go, who also sits as the chair of the Senate Committee on Health, reiterated his appeal to his fellow Filipinos to continue cooperating with the government by simply following the health protocols, such as wearing of mask, observing social distancing, frequent hand washing and avoiding non-essential travels.

“Patuloy rin po tayong magbayanihan at magmalasakit sa kapwa. Tulungan natin ang mga Pilipino, lalo na ang mga mahihirap na makaahon sa krisis at mabigyan ng maayos na kabuhayan,” Go said as he vowed to continue supporting government policies and pushing for measures for the betterment of Filipinos.

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