Limited facilities hinder SUCs from taking in Taal Volcano evacuees

Bonz Magsambol

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Limited facilities hinder SUCs from taking in Taal Volcano evacuees
Anakalusugan Representative Michael Defensor says state universities and colleges might be in a better position to accommodate provisional shelters 'because they have more land, structures, and facilities'

MANILA, Philippines – Due to limited space, lack of ventilation, and shortage of comfort rooms, a state university in Batangas cannot accommodate more Taal Volcano evacuees even if its campuses wanted to.

In an interview with Rappler on Tuesday, January 21, Glenda Dimaano, head of extension services of Batangas State University (BSU), said only 3 of their 11 campuses are being used as evacuation shelters.

“Sobrang problema po talaga ang limited space at construction ng building sa mga campuses namin. At special case ‘yung sa Lipa campus namin dahil sobrang liit ng space at kulang sa toilet, so hindi talaga kaya mag accomodate,” said Dimaano. 

(The limited space we have and the construction of buildings on our campuses present major problems. The Lipa campus is a special case since it’s small and there’s not enough toilets there, that’s why we could not offer it.)

The same problems were experienced by BSU-San Juan campus. Campus coordinator for extension services Riza Banaera said, “Puwede kami tumanggap, pero kaunti lang po kasi po ang mga classroom ay limited lang. Mayroon din po ditong construction ng building kaya po di rin kami makapag accomodate ng madami.”

(We could accommodate only a few evacuees because of limited classrooms. There’s also an ongoing building construction on our campus that’s why can’t accommodate more.)

‘Better position to accommodate survivors’

Anakalusugan Representative Michael Defensor has urged state universities in the provinces of Batangas, Cavite, and Laguna “to consider offering portions of their campuses as possible evacuation sites.”

In a statement sent to the media on Sunday, January 19, Defensor said state universities and colleges (SUCs) should take initiative in taking in evacuees as they are “autonomous administrative entities” and should not wait for any “directive from the office of the President or Commission on Higher Education.”

Defensor said that “state universities might be in a better position to accommodate provisional shelters simply because they have more land, structures, and facilities available across multiple locations” compared to public elementary and high schools.

The Department of Education reported that more than 200 public elementary and secondary schools in Batangas and Cavite are being used as evacuation shelters, resulting in the cancellation of classes.

Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas has suspended classes for all levels in all public and private schools in Batangas while Alert Level 4 is raised. Taal Volcano remains under this alert level since the evening of January 12, the day it started erupting.

Appeals for donations

BSU-Malvar campus currently houses 695 individuals or 178 families as of Tuesday. Dimaano appeals for donations.

“Ngayon po, ang panawagan na lang namin ay ready-to-eat food na ise-serve sa kanila for breakfast, lunch, and dinner kasi so far naman po pagdating sa mga fruits ay napakarami na,” said Dimaano. (As of now, what we need is “ready-to-eat” food to serve for evacuees during breakfast, lunch, and dinner.)

(READ: #ReliefPH: Help communities affected by Taal Volcano eruption

As of Monday, January 20, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that 104,377 people were staying in evacuation centers, while 68,755 other displaced residents were outside evacuation centers. (WATCH: Taal evacuees rummage for clothes that fit)

So far, the cost of agricultural damage in Calabarzon is pegged at P3.06 billion. Ashfall destroyed various crops.

Batangas remains under a state of calamity. (READ: How to stay safe during volcanic ashfall) – 

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.