We are happy to learn that the city government of Davao has finally put up an evacuation center somewhere in Barangay Los Amigos in Tugbok district. The center will be used to temporarily house families affected by any calamity that will occur in the city.
We have also observed in the course of our making some rounds in the various barangays in the city, including those in the rural areas, that there are directional markers pointing to where the evacuation centers are located.
However, we are a little bit apprehensive first as to the city’s already completed evacuation center in Los Amigos. The structure was reported built with a measly P2 million budget? To be honest about it — and the City Engineer’s Office will definitely agree with us on this — based on our experience in construction of school buildings which our previous employer Davao Light, donates to the Department of Education, the amount would hardly complete a 3-classroom structure. If at all the budget will suffice, the building will likely have single-coat paint, no tiled floor, no comfort rooms, and no durable ceiling. And each of the three classrooms can only accommodate a maximum of 50 students seated on armchairs arranged closed to each other. The total floor area is 210 square meters.
In the case of the newly completed evacuation center of the city, we read in a report that it has a floor area of 1000 square meters.
So, we could not figure out how many families the evacuation center can accommodate with some degree of comfort, including facilities for the hygiene needs of the evacuees for the duration of their stay.
Of course the city government provided the center with electric and water connections. What about comfort rooms? How many are constructed to ensure that there are enough of such facilities for the center occupants?
In terms of distance from the most likely to be affected areas and population of the city, we believe that Los Amigos is a little bit far. What if the calamity that will strike is a major flood brought about by the swelling of Davao, Talomo, Pangi, and Lizada Rivers, as well as the creeks in Puan? That would mean the routes leading to Los Amigos would be cut off. So how will the flood victims be transported to the evacuation center?
For us, the most accessible house of refuge not only in terms of distance and topography would have been the existing but abandoned Ma-a Sports Complex.
Of course we know that there are political and legal dynamics involved in that nearly completed sports dome. The property with which the dome is now standing is a donation by the Uy family of Tagum City for a specific purpose — as site of a sports arena for the City of Davao.
But we are also aware that the loan contracted to finance the sports facility has already been fully paid by the city government. So why not renegotiate with the donors for a change in the condition and have the structure used instead for a more socially relevant purpose — as evacuation center?
Yes, why not the city’s local officials cast aside politics and make use of a multi-million project funded with a P350 million loan from Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and paid by people’s taxes, as the city’s evacuation center instead of allowing the structure and its supposed add-ons to deteriorate?
Well, there was that apprehension that the sports dome is sitting on a fault line that could lead to even more serious disaster if a strong earthquake hits the city. But while earthquakes may hit the city in varying magnitude, there is no way to determine when and how strong as to cause massive destruction. That makes such reasoning somewhat myopic.
On the other hand, floods are easier anticipated and can give some degree of time flexibility for people likely to be affected to move to safer grounds on their own or on orders from the authorities.
Really, if the city decides to convert the dome, this time into the main evacuation center, the structure can accommodate easily a thousand families. It can also provide for field office spaces for such agencies as the City Social Services and Development Office, an extension office for the city’s emergency rescue group, or even the City Health Office and the police whose services will be extremely important in evacuation centers during and immediately after the occurrence of calamities.
So, gentlemen and ladies of the city government, did it not occur to your minds that an evacuation facility is actually ready for the taking even before the construction of the one in Los Amigos?
Meanwhile, on our observation that there are directional signs for the location of evacuation center in the barangay, if indeed true that there is such facility, then that is indeed a very welcome development.
We were however, dismayed during the August 28 (the other week) floods in some barangays in the south and southwest sectors of Davao City, to personally witness the designated evacuation center in one rural community submerged in knee deep water.
Now, should we be surprised? We think we should not. After all, most, if not all, of the designated or identified barangay evacuation centers are the existing covered courts most of which are constructed in the villages’ plain or flat areas. Hence, the facilities are also vulnerable to inundation.