Of all the things that the national government should be concerned right now, apart from anxieties
on the implementation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the request (or is it demand?) by the United States for the country to provide sanctuary for thousands of Afghans seeking refuge, and
the ongoing controversy on the illegal drugs corruption that has tainted the Philippine National Police, is the problem on how to manage 15,241 affected individuals or 4, 286 families that are now currently occupying evacuation centers in Albay province due to the restive Mayon Volcano.

Based on previous experiences and observation and according to Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) Director Teresito Bacolcol, the residents living within the designated permanent danger zone of 6 kilometers would probably have to stay in their temporary
shelters or evacuation centers for some months until the volcanic activity of Mt. Mayon will subside. The local government of Albay has come up with a forecast that their affected residents now living in these emergency evacuation centers might have to stay for 90 days in these shelters.

Now all is well and good in terms of the timely and effective response of the national government, the concerned local government, various agencies and offices and even the assistance and supported provided by the private sector. But they can only do so much. At the moment reports
are already coming in for the need for more food and potable water for the evacuees as well as non-functional toilets and available water supply. (https:/ / 15k-albay-folk-brace-for-life-inshelters-for-months).

While the local government of Albay gave assurances that they are on top of the situation and remedies are already being implemented it cannot be emphasized enough that as the days will turn into weeks and the weeks into months these problems will only increase in number and severity as the evacuees struggle for a normal life in these emergency temporary shelters. We also have to point out the obvious that if the national government thru the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the office of the civil defense (OCD), and their counterparts in the local level have made earlier and effective preparations then these concerns and problems
would not have cropped up.

Take for instance the problem with non-functional toilets, even before Philvolcs raised to a high level of alert the status of Mt. Mayon, there was sufficient time for these concerned agencies and
offices to check the integrity and usability of these toilets and may be even provide for a number of portable toilets or portalets in the evacuation centers. Apparently this was not done earlier. Another glaring instance of failure to prepare is the complaint regarding lack of potable or drinking water. There is no shortage of water refilling stations in Albay and going online will show you that there
are around 20 water refilling stations near the old Albay district.

It would have been a cinch for the concerned agencies and offices such as the OCD and their counterparts in the local government to avail or purchase from these refilling stations bottled water well before drinking water became a problem for the evacuees. The concept of “hope for the best but prepare for the worst” seems to have been forgotten by those concerned with pre-empting, preventing, abating and managing disasters in the country.

Perhaps, and as a suggestion, may be the NDRRMC and the OCD should look into the possibility of putting up storage areas adjacent to emergency evacuation centers (those established by the government) that would be used for the storage of potable water, nonperishable food (or food packs more than the expected number of evacuees at any given time), emergency rescue equipment (for redundancy purposes), portable toilets, sufficient medicines, and other essential equipment and materials needed in an evacuation center. These have to be prepared well in advance for static and ever present disaster in waiting such as the eruption of a volcano.

By the way Section 23 of Republic Act No. 10121 which is the act strengthening the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management System, providing for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management framework and Institutionalizing the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management plan, appropriating funds therefor and for other purposes, provides that, “As lead agency to carry out the provisions of this Act, the OCD shall be allocated a budget of One billion pesos (Php1,000,000,000.00) revolving fund starting from the
effectivity of this Act.”

So the OCD has more than enough funds to provided succor and relief to the evacuees in Albay. The latest report from the OCD shows that as of June 14, 2023 more than 33 million worth of relief assistance has already been provided by the national government, private organizations and nongovernment organizations to the evacuees in Albay.

Quite surprisingly from the 33 million relief assistance the OCD only contributed 9.2 million worth of assistance. Finally, the government has all the manpower and resources to prepare for any eventuality in the event of disasters and all it takes is a little bit of initiative, creativity and commitment to provide relief to those victims of calamitous events. And hopefully Congress will approve into law a bill pushing for the establishment of an evacuation center in every city and municipality in the country.

Amianan Balita Ngayon