Senator Loren Legarda today called on the government to prioritize the retrofitting of schools and other critical infrastructure to create a safer environment for children and to shield them from disasters.
Legarda noted that as of 6:00 am February 9, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has recorded 26 fatalities in the earthquake that struck Negros and Cebu. Of this number, three persons died after they were hit by school walls in Negros Oriental, while others were pinned down by collapsed concrete walls or hit by debris of houses. At least five of the victims were children.
“Children are most vulnerable to disasters and this makes ensuring disaster-resilient infrastructure crucial. If our schools are not structurally sound, a single strong temblor could kill hundreds of schoolchildren inside their classrooms, unaware of the disaster that would fall upon them,” Legarda said.
“To make our schools safe from disasters such as earthquakes, concerned government agencies should get their act together—the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) must identify earthquake hazard areas within the country; the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) should conduct a nationwide structural evaluation of all schools and enhance the structural integrity of schools. The Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) must ensure that schools are structurally and organizationally resilient to earthquakes,” she added.
The Senator explained that even the private education sector, which also invested in the country’s education system and is equally responsible for running it, should likewise support these initiatives.
“We have to prioritize making schools resilient to earthquake, typhoon, and other natural hazards because aside from being shelter for children, schools serve as emergency refuge of victims of disasters, while we have yet to build homes in safer ground or erect buildings that would serve as evacuation centers,” Legarda concluded.