Wanted: Evacuation centers in each district
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila (The Freeman) - July 12, 2019 - 12:00am

On November 2013, super typhoon Yolanda struck the Visayas, hitting Samar, Tacloban, Leyte, northern Cebu, and Iloilo and causing devastation not seen anywhere in the world, making it the biggest storm to hit the earth. When this happened, the administration of then President Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III revealed its incompetence, not only in the nation, but throughout the world, simply because the world’s news organizations covered this disaster on TV.

It was then that I came up with a column, suggesting that it was high time for Congress to develop an evacuation center in each congressional district. But I guess at that time, no one cared to listen. But a couple of days ago The Philippine STAR reported on its editorial page an article entitled “One town, one evacuation center.” It then suggested, thus following my suggestion for the 18th Congress to open its session this month, with a refiled bill by Senator Ralph Recto, seeking the establishment of a decent evacuation center in every city and municipality nationwide.

Senator Recto noted that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has constructed 82 evacuation centers in 52 provinces, with 55 more underway. Yet in many areas, schools continue to serve as evacuation centers during calamities. Indeed, one of the biggest mistakes of our government is allowing our schools to become an evacuation center and thus depriving our students of their education.

No doubt, our schools are not designed for mass housing or disaster relief. There have been numerous stories of diseases spreading in crowded evacuation centers, where there is often inadequate supply of water and basic sanitation facilities. Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable to health risks in such cramped evacuation sites.

At this point, let us hope that each congressman or congresswoman come up with an evacuation center that would be designed by the national government and be replicated all over each congressional district. It is a very good idea for each House representative to fulfill this within the three years of his or her term.

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First of all, allow me to congratulate new Cebu City councilor Joel Garganera, who ranked 10th in the last elections, but due to the fact that Councilor Sisino Andales was issued by the Commission on Elections en banc a writ of execution for disqualification, Councilor Garganera is now a Cebu City councilor, thus making the Partido Barug-PDP-Laban the ruling party in Cebu City. As they say, all’s well that ends well. Congratulations!

Meanwhile, after the proclamation of Councilor Garganera next week, Partido Barug-PDP-Laban will have 10 councilors --Garganera, Prisca Niña Mabatid, Raymond Alvin Garcia, Donaldo Hontiveros, Eduardo Rama, Antonio Cuenco, Renato Osmeña Jr., Phillip Zafra, and Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan councilors Jerry Guardo and David Tumulak who already expressed support for Mayor Edgardo Labella. While the BOPK will have councilors Nestor Archival, Joy Augustus Young, Lea Japson, Alvin Dizon, Eugenio Gabuya Jr., Yayoy Alcoseba, and ex-officio members Franklyn Ong and Jessica Resch. Of course, councilors Andales and Arcilla have elevated their respective cases before the Supreme Court so it will be interesting what jurisprudence we would learn from this incident.

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Just a couple of days ago, President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte warned about the urgent need for a stronger military and police force to confront terrorism. He says that these are dangerous times, especially with the suicide attacks in Sulu late last month. President Duterte said this in a speech at an appreciation dinner hosted by the women of the 17th Congress for former House speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at The Manila Hotel where the president said that he wants the Armed Forces of the Philippines to be fully modernized before the end of his term in 2022.

The president also said: “I’d rather that I leave with a strong military and police equipped to challenge the enemies of the state, especially terrorism.” The president, of course, was referring to the current terrorism by extremist groups and other enemies of the state that continue to plague the country and, unless addressed decisively, will continue to bedevil succeeding administrations. Of course, the modernization of the AFP relies strongly on the support by the 18th Congress and we can only hope they can be relied upon to strengthen the AFP.

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