Evacuees move out of PSHS-Eastern Visayas
MANILA, Philippines – On Sunday, December 15, thousands of evacuees are expected to pack their bags and vacate Philippine Science High School's (PSHS) Eastern Visayas campus.
At best, they would put up tents where their homes used to be and start picking up the pieces again. (READ: Yolanda families to get P5,000 housing assistance)
But chances are, some of them may opt to transfer to other buildings the school will not use when classes resume on Jan 15, 2014. (READ: Schools told: Accept students affected by Yolanda ASAP)
They are, after all, housed in one of the most organized evacuation centers put up since Typhoon Yolanda (international codename: Haiyan) devastated the Visayas and displaced thousands of Filipinos last November. (READ: Sluggish count: Haiyan deaths breach 6,000)
Order is the norm when people running the center – faculty and staff of PSHS – serve in a Science institution.
“We have a complete list of the evacuees that is very organized – with their family's addresses to account how many are parents, [and] how many are children, because there may be orphans too,” PSHS System executive director Dr Josette Biyo said in a mix of English and Filipino.
In addition to relief goods from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the school has been receiving donations from local and international groups which sustained about 3,000 evacuees for the past month. (READ: DSWD, WFP to give $6-m in cash assistance for Haiyan survivors)
The school also held counseling activities for adults, as well as a feeding program and fun activities for children.
“That is where the role of Philippine Science High School as a Science institution comes in. We are systematic in receiving help, [and] systematic in organizing help,” she said.
Right off the bat and after the super typhoon, the faculty and staff of PSHS – victims of the disaster themselves – were gathered regularly by the campus director for clearing operations, with specific tasks such as cleaning the area and setting up a filtration system for potable water.
But as organized as the evacuation center may be, the school still hopes the remaining 2,000 evacuees will return to their homes soon so they can start preparing for classes in January.
"They [evacuees] always say thank you. They always come to me, or to the teachers, or to the director to say thank you and no one leaves without saying good-bye," Biyo said.
The school reported only 3 casualties at the height of Typhoon Yolanda: one driver and two students out of the school's 54 staff (34 teaching, 20 non-teaching) and 348 student population. (READ: Mission: Palo, Leyte)
To date, all of the surviving staff stayed in Palo, Leyte to assist in the evacuation center.
Meanwhile, 99 students relocated to 4 other PSHS campuses. They will stay in campus dormitories and complete the rest of the school year in their new campuses:
- Main campus (Quezon City): 90
- Western Visayas campus (Iloilo): 4
- Central Visayas campus (Cebu): 4
- Southern Mindanao campus (Davao): 1
Biyo applied for funding from the Department of Science and Technology's (DOST) Quick Response Fund (QRF) to cover the P15,000 allowance and round trip plane tickets of every student who relocated. (READ: UP offers cross-enrollment for Tacloban campus students)
In addition to the QRF, the PSHS community and alumni continue to provide financial and emotional support to the students.
Road to recovery
But aside from the QRF and other donations pouring in, Biyo said they are not expecting government funding for rebuilding the campus to come in anytime soon, especially since it's not the first campus to be hit by a major disaster this year.
The PSHS Central Visayas campus in Cebu was also damaged by the strong 7.2-magnitude earthquake last October. They were told the approval of an P11.8 million funding for the campus is set December 13 or roughly two months since the earthquake happened. (WATCH: Are schools in PH earthquake-proof?)
A bidding process will follow, with the shortest bidding process at 45 days. Biyo said they are expecting the new buildings in Cebu to be up by June 2014. (READ: What goes into the building of classrooms)
But unlike government processes, it only took one month for the Cebu campus to resume classes after the earthquake because the alumni association was able to quickly mobilize funds and put up 8 makeshift classrooms.
"It's really hard to get funding from the government...For me, as long as the money is there, rebuilding can be done in 3 months' time,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.
As for the Eastern Visayas campus, Biyo estimated P40 million will be needed to rebuild the entire facility. Right now, they already began reconstruction of the academic building in time for the resumption of classes in January.
“We are relying on donations to rebuild, first, the academic building, because once you have that – a sign that you're already starting – that can also encourage the evacuees to go out...[and] so we can finish the school year already. But that's only the building. [As for] facilities, it's really zero,” Biyo admitted.
She said if they cannot get government funding for 2013, they will realign their 2014 budget for this purpose. This will, however, delay the process since requesting the Department of Budget and Management to realign takes time, not to mention the bidding process for contractors.
“In terms of goods, we don't have any problem. It's really the amount for rehabilitation of the building since government funds are not yet coming in. So we rely on donations,” she said. – Rappler.com