P50-M emergency center to boost city’s disaster preparedness

Iloilo City lone district Rep. Julienne “Jam-jam” Baronda, together with DND Secretary Jose Faustino Jr., lead the groundbreaking ceremony of the Emergency Operations Center on Saturday, Dec 10, 2022, at Sto. Nino Sur in Arevalo district, Iloilo City.

By John Noel E. Herrera

The construction of the Emergency Operations Center in the metro will boost Iloilo City’s disaster response and preparedness, according to Iloilo City lone district Rep. Julienne “Jam-jam” Baronda.

Baronda, together with Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Jose Faustino Jr. led the groundbreaking ceremony of the Iloilo City Emergency Operations Center on Saturday, Dec 10, 2022, at Sto Nino Sur in Arevalo district.

“This will address sang problema naton sa panahon sang kalamidad and will provide evacuation centers at the same time gymnasium para sa kabataan and sa dalom economic enterprise to serve the 30 barangays of Arevalo district,” Baronda said.

Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)-Iloilo City’s Engr. Edward Joseph Sudario said that the P50-million operations center will have a total lot area of 1600 square meters.

The ground floor will have offices and an open space that can be utilized for any cultural, civic, or multi-purpose activities. It will also have a kitchen, storage, and toilets, while the second floor will be used as an evacuation facility.

“The goal of this project is to safeguard our residents from impending disasters, while also significantly contributing to our nation’s disaster risk and response system. The facilities can also be used by the locals as a recreational and sporting venue, which contributes to the creation of a sustainable environment for the residents,” he added.

When asked about the safety of the center since Brgy. Sto. Nino Sur is located near the coastline, Sudario explained that the exact area where the facility is set to stand is still far from the coast, and the center is designed also to be disaster resilient.

Baronda emphasized that the construction of the emergency center will also address the issues of using schools as evacuation centers during the onslaught of typhoons and affecting the educational set-up of students.

“We don’t want nga gamiton ang mga eskwelahan pag panahon sang may mga sunog, kalamidad para man makaprovide kita better and comfortable place for the victims of calamities,” she added.

“We wanted to have these facilities in all the region because sad to say merong mga municipalities na wala pa talagang mga evacuation center and kailangan kasi ang mga eskwelahan hindi na ginagamit for evacuation, but some areas are forced to do that dahil walang evacuation centers,” Faustino also said.

It is noted that in August 2022, Senator Win Gatchalian refiled Senate Bill No. 940 or the Evacuation Center Act, pushing for the establishment of an evacuation center in every city and municipality, as the country lacks emergency centers intended for calamities.

Just like Baronda, Gatchalian also pointed out the common practice of using school buildings as evacuation centers during calamities, which disrupt school activities.

Meanwhile, Faustino said that the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) in the region should be strengthened to cater more to the disaster response needs of the people.

“We have to strengthen the OCD here. I have visited the OCD office yesterday, and their operation center, they are just renting a building and it is not enough, so we need to improve it to have modern equipment pagdating sa ating operations center that can cater the whole region,” Faustino said.

Baronda noted that this is already the eighth evacuation facility to be constructed in the city, while the fund that will be used for the construction of the emergency center will be coming from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) 2022, through the DPWH.

The construction of the facility will start in the first quarter of 2023 and is expected to finish late in the same year, or the first quarter of 2024.