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BUILD MULTI-PURPOSE GYMS AS EVACUATION CENTERS – VARGAS

A Quezon City lawmaker is pushing for the passage of a measure providing for the construction of a multipurpose gym in all municipalities and cities to serve as an evacuation center during times of calamities or disasters.

Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas said House Bill No. 1403 aims to address the needs of displaced families in emergency situations, as he cited the plight of some evacuees who are now staying at a cockpit in Barangay Manghinao in Bauan, Batangas following the Taal Volcano’s eruption.

“Evacuees at the Bauan cockpit are all crammed into small spaces and are sleeping on cardboard pieces.”

“It has come to our attention that unlike other evacuation centers na may tiled flooring and proper lighting and ventilation, ‘yong evacuees sa Bauan cockpit – kasama na ang mga maliliit na sanggol – ay nagsisiksikan at sa karton lang nakahiga (the evacuees at the Bauan cockpit—including the infants—are all crammed into small spaces and are sleeping on cardboard pieces),” Vargas said.

The humanitarian organization, Save the Children Philippines, described the scene in the cockpit arena-turned-evacuation center as “heart-breaking”, with more than 900 people sleeping on the cold, hard surface without mats.

“Due to sudden evacuation, people were not able to bring blankets, hygiene essentials, mosquito nets, and supplies for babies such as diapers,” the group said in a statement.

The veteran legislator said the proposed evacuation gyms, to be constructed by the Department of Public Works and Highways, must be easily accessible to evacuees and emergency rescue personnel.

The bill sets the optimum safety requirements that the gyms should meet in order to withstand any natural or man-made disasters.

Under the proposal, the gym must be able to stand wind speeds of at least 155 miles per hour and seismic activity of at least 7.2 magnitude.

The seasoned lawmaker also noted that the gyms must be designed to have space that can be flexibly be used for recreational activities and as sleeping quarters during evacuations.

“They must also be well-ventilated, able to accommodate large groups of people, and must have bathing and toilet amenities to preserve the dignity of our evacuees,” he said.

“Having a gym that will serve as evacuation areas will do away with the practice of using public schools as evacuation centers during calamities.”

“Having a gym that will serve as evacuation areas will do away with the practice of using public schools as evacuation centers during calamities. This will allow students to finish their academic calendar without disruption,” Vargas added.

According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the number of families affected by the eruption of the Taal Volcano on January 12 has risen to 14,918, or equivalent to 65,184 persons.

Based on a NDRRMC report, around 12,370 families or 53,832 persons are sheltered in 244 evacuation centers. 

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