PDRRMC pushes “fortified” evac centers, core housing

ONE OF THREE EVACUATION CENTERS being constructed by the DPWH regional office in Catanduanes, this one in Manambrag, San Andres had its GI roofing blown away by super typhoon Rolly last Nov. 1, 2020.


Aware of heavy infrastructure damage that another super typhoon in the near future could bring, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) is pushing for the adoption and implementation of “fortified” designs for evacuation centers and core housing units.

With one of the three evacuation centers being built in Catanduanes damaged by Rolly’s 280-kph sustained winds, the council has reportedly moved that similar centers to be built in the island be made with reinforced concrete slab roofing.

The evacuation center in Manambrag, San Andres, which was built on a rice field near a river and relatively far from a populated area, lost its corrugated GI sheet roofing during the Nov. 1, 2020 typhoon.

The other two centers in Pandan and Viga are still in various stages of construction by contractors of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional office.

According to the DPWH Catanduanes District Engineering Office, there is only one evacuation center in Catanduanes which has a slab roofing: the one built by the DPWH regional office inside the community hub at San Isidro Village.

However, the center’s main evacuation room at the second flood proved useless for evacuees at the height of the storm as they had to move to a small room at the ground floor where they huddled until the typhoon’s winds subsided.

The second level of the building had two big balconies and other openings that reportedly allowed strong winds to buffet the building.

The plan, apparently based on an evacuation center designed and built purposely for Mayor eruption evacuees, was followed to the letter without considering local conditions.

This meant that the comfort rooms and communal kitchen to be used by evacuees were located in separate buildings outside the main building just across the road.

With two more evacuation centers proposed for funding by both Rep. Hector Sanchez and Rep. Jose Teves Jr., the local DPWH headed by District Engineer Gil Augustus Balmadrid is instead calling for a new design for a two-storey reinforced concrete building that would take into considerations the local conditions during a super typhoon and likewise withstand strong earthquakes.

Changing the DPWH’s standard design for an evacuation center to be more adaptive to the island’s situation would be favorable to the government, it was stressed during a recent PDRRMC meeting, as it would avoid spending for the repair of damaged public buildings with GI roofing.

Such a move, it was underscored, would be in keeping with President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent call for lawmakers to prioritize the construction of sturdy evacuation centers to provide shelter to vulnerable population during disasters.

“Alam mo, it is high time that government consider really, of course, in the government units facing the Pacific Ocean, gamit na gamit ito na we build a strong structure, stronger than a typhoon that would come their way para mapuntahan ng mga tao, and maybe small rooms with many comfort rooms where people can really stay for a while,” the President said in a Nov. 19, 2020 public address.

Some concerned observers, however, are worried that the DPWH regional and central offices would insist on their standard design for the evacuation center which has been proven by super typhoon Rolly to be inadequate in withstanding 300-kph winds.

During the meeting of the Provincial Rehabilitation and Recovery Committee created by Governor Joseph Cua to facilitate the coordination of rehab and recovery programs, it was disclosed that the chief executive had asked the National Housing Authority (NHA) to institute design changes in the construction of row houses at the resettlement project in San Isidro Village, Virac.

Citing collapsed structures at the project, the governor said that the GI roofing should be changed to slab roofing so that the completed housing would not fall prey to strong winds of super typhoons.
It is claimed, however, that a ranking NHA official brushed aside the suggestion and instead proposed that an evacuation center should be built at the 9.4-hectare site for its residents.

Initiated by former Mayor Samuel Laynes, the Socialized Housing Project is funded through a P500-million grant from NHA, with the funding to cover land development and required works for a total of 938 lots intended for families affected by typhoon Nina in 2016 and the families of informal settlers in hazard-prone areas.

A similar project, covered by a tripartite agreement signed by Mayor Sinforoso Sarmiento Jr. on behalf of Virac LGU with the provincial government and the NHA, is also underway at barangay Sto. Domingo.

The repair and rehabilitation of the resettlement project, started in the early 2000s and destroyed by typhoon Reming in 2006, has been funded with an NHA grant of P114 million in 2019 to cover 340 units of socialized housing.

Both the DPWH Catanduanes Engineering District and the CARITAS Virac Justice and Peace, Inc, are espousing the construction of core housing units using CHB walls, reinforced concrete columns and beams, and reinforced concrete slab for roofing.

The two designs for a room measuring 3 meters by 3 meters are compliant with the latest provisions of the National Building Code as well as concrete and steel structural requirements.
Once the core unit is built, the occupant can then add around it the living room, kitchen and comfort room using light materials.

Several non-government organizations intending to provide housing for typhoon victims are said to be proposing the use of Gi sheets and other materials but some are reportedly insisting on a more permanent and sturdier homes that could withstand typhoons so that there would be no need to rebuild.

Last year, following a similar devastation left by typhoon Nina on Dec. 25, 2016, CARITAS Virac used the Build Back Better concept to provide 10 housing units with GI roofing and CHB walls in several towns.

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