Press Release
September 1, 2019

Recto: Convert multipurpose gyms into evacuation centers instead of schools

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto is calling for the construction of multipurpose gyms in all municipalities and cities to serve as evacuation centers during calamities or disasters.

According to Recto, "schools have traditionally been utilized as default evacuation centers in times of calamities, disasters, conflicts, and emergencies. However, they are not well equipped to accommodate evacuees since they lack the necessary facilities for displaced families."

If passed into law, Senate Bill No. 47, Recto said, would direct the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), to undertake the construction of a multipurpose gym in every municipality and city throughout the country which shall serve as a civic center and as an evacuation center for residents during calamities and disasters.

The use of schools, he said, displaces students, as families cannot immediately vacate school premises because their houses have not been repaired or reconstructed.

This relegates students to makeshift classrooms that are not conducive to learning, Recto said. "The use of schools as evacuation centers could take away from the meager budget what could be used for more permanent solutions to problems brought about by disasters."

According to Recto, the construction of multipurpose gyms in the country's 1,489 municipalities and 145 cities would be a permanent recourse for evacuation in times of calamities and natural or man-made disasters.

"The gym must be able to withstand typhoons, earthquakes and other disasters. It must also be designed to have space that can be used flexibly for social activities, sporting events, and as sleeping quarters during the evacuation," Recto said.

Under the proposed bill, the facilities shall be easily accessible to evacuees and to emergency rescue personnel. It shall also be kept at a safe distance from danger areas or hazards.

Local Government Units (LGUs) concerned shall also coordinate with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to identify the appropriate location of the multipurpose gym.

As to its structural capacity, the multipurpose gyms must also be able to withstand wind speeds of at least 155 miles per hour and seismic activity of at least 7.0 magnitude.

The multipurpose gym, the measure says, must be well-ventilated and able to accommodate large numbers of evacuees. It must be constructed in such a way that it can be used flexibly for assemblies, sports events, and as sleeping quarters for evacuees.

"Shower and toilet facilities and clinics shall be standard features of the gym cum evacuation center," Recto said.

"With the reality of stronger typhoons brought about by climate change and the geographical location of the Philippines making it the second most disaster-prone country, temporary solutions to the displacement of families by using schools as evacuation centers must be stopped," Recto said.

"There should be no tradeoff between protecting lives and the education of students. A better and more permanent facility must be made available to people in times of emergencies," he added.

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