EDITORIAL

Give them real shelter

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WITH the typhoon season announcing itself via tropical storm “Gorio,” authorities should be bracing for the toll in life and property that possibly more violent atmospheric disturbances would bring in the next two months or so.

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Displacement always looms for ordinary Filipinos through no big fault of theirs when typhoons and other natural calamities rouse them from their sleep, a necessary distraction that means they should prepare for evacuation to safer ground to escape landslides, floods, earthquakes and aftershocks and other threats to their body and soul.

Usually, these plain folks come from poorer communities with little or no drainage and other man-made mitigators, which should have been in place if not for corruption and sloppy engineering.

A frequent result of bureaucracy gone greedy and science applied wrongly is wasteful infrastructure whose lifespan is no match for the climatic and geographical dangers that are the bane of a country like the Philippines located in the Pacific Ring of Fire.

It is common for local government units to herd people needing temporary shelter from floods and fires into evacuation centers that are not specifically built for emergency situations.

Basketball courts, palay-drying facilities, public schools and so-called multi-purpose centers are some of the more convenient choices for government agencies as instant “homes” for evacuees.

But these places usually lack toilets, faucets, kitchens and other amenities for sanitation and hygiene precisely because they are not meant to cater to the health and the privacy of “boarders” who just simply have to accept the accommodations that are offered. They also are not child-friendly, causing young boys and young girls to fall ill or, worse, die unnecessarily, a fate that is dramatized by the token presence of overworked or volunteer medical or nursing personnel who simply cannot cope with treating hundreds or thousands of patients in a basketball court or multi-purpose center.

Schools mostly serve as long-term, temporary shelters for the displaced, forcing their students to give way to school-aged evacuees and their families in a classic case of a double whammy.

At the other end of the evacuation spectrum are the evacuees who have fled the fighting between government forces and Islamic State-affiliated terrorists from the Maute Group.

Whether “political” or “ordinary” displaced persons, both experience the same barely tolerable life in veritable camps where food is rationed and movement is limited, tent-city facts they have to live with until, hopefully, they are able to return to their real homes.

More than 40 evacuees from Marawi City have died, according to a recent report, and it is feared that the toll could go higher because of the deplorable conditions in the evacuation centers.

It is time the government built more permanent evacuation shelters in anticipation of the next big disaster or calamity that would necessitate the evacuation of people from their homes. Such shelters should be homes away from home for the evacuees, complete with play areas for children and light bulbs that work on top of the indispensable toilets that flush and faucets from which potable water flows.

President Rodrigo Duterte has always declared war on the corrupt, even threatening to slap or kill them, and his administration seems the only one in more recent times to deliver on its promises. He might even make evacuees not want to return to their homes immediately if temporary shelters evoke memories of their tahanan that they were forced to leave behind.

The government should not let crooked contractors construct these permanent evacuation centers or else we would be left with temporary homes with toilet flushes overhead and electrical wires underneath bricks and stones.

If they do, then the President can do what he has promised to do with their kind. And he can include politicians shamelessly claiming that they personally shouldered the expenses for the building of Shelter A and that their wives who must be eyeing political office paid for Shelter B.

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