The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is urging local government units (LGUs) to prioritize, using a portion of 70% of their respective local disaster risk reduction and management fund (LDRRMF), the construction or upgrading of evacuation facilities in their areas.
“In order to counter the adverse effects of disasters, LGUs are hereby directed to invest in the construction of durable, safe, and properly-designed evacuation facilities that meet national standards for building safety and are responsive to the needs of their constituents,” says DILG Officer-In-Charge Eduardo M. Año.
Año says the increasing frequency and intensity of hazard events occurring in the country necessitates immediate action from LGUs in ensuring the availability of sturdy evacuation centers that can accommodate their constituents in times of disasters.
He says that at present, schools, covered courts and other government infrastructures are being used by some LGUs as evacuation centers resulting to the interruption of classes and disruption of services of the government offices used.
“Evacuees tend to face more threats to health, safety and overall well-being within said temporary evacuation facilities which were not built to serve such purpose. Local governments should therefore address this issue by putting up evacuation facilities to ensure the safety of their constituents when there is a need for evacuation,” he points out.
Section 21 of Republic Act 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act provides that the LDRRMF amounting to not less than five percent of the estimated revenue from regular sources shall be set aside to support disaster risk management activities.
The LDRRMF covers 30 percent lump-sum allocation for Quick Response Fund and 70% for disaster prevention and mitigation, preparedness, response, rehabilitation and recovery, including the construction of evacuation centers.
In Memorandum Circular 122 series of 2018, the DILG outlines the guidelines for the construction of evacuation centers such as construction sites, design requirements, operation, maintenance and rehabilitation of facilities.
According to Año, these structures must be able to withstand wind speeds of 300 kilometers per hour and earthquakes with a magnitude of 8.0 on the Richter Scale.
Evacuation buildings must not be constructed close to high risk sites such as military and insurgent camps, power plants, and factories, nor should they be constructed on “no-build-zones” and hazard zones.
Such centers must be both easily accessible to evacuees and have easy access to hospitals, markets, water, electricity and communication.
Given that evacuation centers will be populated by families during disasters, the buildings must be sufficiently ventilated and well lit, allow for temporary partitions, provide separate toilet and bathing facilities for both sexes, give accessibility to persons with disability, among other requirements that guarantee humane living conditions.
“The Department will conduct a yearly audit of the structures and immediately after a hazardous event to ensure the safety of our citizens when the need to evacuate arises,” says Año.
Aside from apportioning 70% of the LDRRMF for evacuation centers and other related operations, LGUs may likewise utilize 20% of the Local Development Fund.
However, in order for the funds to be released, such initiatives must be stated in the Local DRRM Plans and integrated in the approved Annual Investment Programme (AIP) of the LGU.
To complement efforts to establish resilient evacuation centers, Año also urges localities to formulate and issue policies on pre-emptive and forced evacuation; put in place early warning and evacuation alert systems; develop and implement protocols for evacuation; conduct evacuation drills once every three months; and invest in strengthening the capacities of concerned LGU officials.