Local gov’ts told: build evacuation centers instead of using schools
Local governments affected by Taal Volcano’s eruption should take advantage of the downgrading of alert level and begin constructing evacuation centers now.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones made the appeal on Monday, reiterating that the law specifies that schools should only be a “last resort” evacuation center.
“This should not lull us into complacency. After an unresolved crisis, we move on to the next crisis and get very excited about it. But this could only be a possible lull, and we are given the opportunity, this time now, for the local governments to build their own evacuation center,” she said.
Briones made the remarks a day after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) downgraded the volcano’s alert level.
The downgrade means a “decreased tendency toward hazardous eruption,” but Phivolcs said this should “not be interpreted that unrest has ceased or that the threat of a hazardous eruption has disappeared.”
Evacuees still in 328 schools
At a press briefing in Malacañang on Monday, Briones said 328 schools in the Calabarzon region were still being used as evacuation centers for residents who fled the eruption.
This means that 18,314 students are unable to go to school because their schools, or 3,083 classrooms, are being used as temporary shelter for the evacuees.
Classes were suspended as a result of the volcano’s eruption, which Briones said affected five school divisions in Calabarzon, or a total of 1,083 schools and 616,809 students.
Following the downgraded alert level, the Department of Education (DepEd) has recommended the opening of classes by Feb. 3.
“We have proposed a modified school calendar and we hope that we’ll be able to complete the required number of school days and face-to-face interaction by April,” Briones said.
She showed reporters the proposed school calendar, which scheduled classes for Saturdays and Sundays until the first week of April, for a total of 65 school days. This translates to a school week with an average of six days from Feb. 3 to April 6.
Students could not graduate without attending classes, according to the education secretary.
Briones said the DepEd had been coordinating with local governments in the search for alternative evacuation centers.
Republic Act No. 10821 or the Children’s Relief and Protection Act states that “as much as possible, schools should not be used as evacuation centers,” she said.
She said the volcano’s lower alert status was not a “complete relief” but a “breathing space and opportunity to catch up with what is lacking, to clean up and so on.”
“We also encourage local governments to really comply with the law and answer positively the call of the President himself (to construct permanent evacuation centers),” she said. INQ
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.