Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bulacan Gov bats for climate proofing public schools

By Dino Balabo

MALOLOS CITY—Worried about floods, Bulacan Gov. Wilhelmino Alvarado bats for climate proofing of schools in the province to serve as functional evacuation centers during floods.

He also asked the sangguniang panlalawigan to ratify an ordinance for the creation of permanent evacuation centers in flood-prone towns and cities in the province.

Alvarado’s call came after the province suffered floods after the onslaught of typhoons Pedring and Quiel in 2011 and the southwest monsoon rains last year.

“This is very timely, we found out that our functional evacuation centers were also submerged in recent floods,” the governor said in an interview after delivering his first state of the province address in three years.

He said that public schools along with churches served as functional evacuation centers during the flood, but many were submerged and were not utilized.

The governor said that while the Department of Education (DepEd) is completing their counterpart in constructing half of the more than 1,800 classrooms in the province, the Department must make sure that it will not be easily submerged.

The governor also asked the sangguniang panlalawigan to pass an ordinance that will serve as basis for construction of permanent evacuation centers in flood-prone towns in the province such as Hagonoy, Calumpit,Paombong, Guiguinto, Obando, Bocaue, Marilao, Bulakan, and the cities of Malolos and Meycauayan.

As an example, he said that the grounds of Hagonoy West Central School in Barangay Sto. Rosario in Hagonoy town will be elevated to at least one meter above the road.

The campus of the said school used to go under water during high tide, and during floods.

“There must be a dry area where people can evacuate during flood events,” he said and stressed that to provide that, school facilities must be climate proofed when undergoing rehabilitation.

With regards to funding of permanent evacuation centers, the governor said that they will coordinate with local mayors for counterpart funding.

As this developed, he also urged the sangguniang panlalawigan to pass a resolution asking the national government to establish the first National Dam Safety Board, and the revival of the Pampanga River Control System (PRCS) which is tasked to manage river systems in Central Luzon.

The call for the national dam safety board is a parallel move of the provincial government to the proposed National Dam Safety Law authored by Rep. Marivic Alvarado of the first congressional district of the province.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Bulacan informal settlers to be relocated soon

BUSTOS, Bulacan—Hundreds of informal settlers living on identified geo-hazard zone along the Angat River will soon be relocated to a resettlement site in this town.

Mayor Arnel Mendoza of this town said that first batch of informal settlers will be resettled within the year.

The National Housing Authority (NHA) established a resettlement housing project in a seven hectare lot at Barangay Catacte here.

The mayor said that at least 80 percent of the 1,166 low coast housing units has been completed.

He said that informal settlers living along the banks of Angat River in Baliwag, Plaridel, Pulilan and this town were identified for resettlement.

For Bustos town alone, Mendoza said that at least 600 families has been identified.

“They are the ones who has been identified by the provincial and municipal government,” he said noting that said informal settlers are usual resident who used to be evacuated when Angat, Ipo and Bustos dams in the province release water into the Angat River.

According to Mendoza, community affairs officers (CAO) the Social Welfare and development office in the province and Bustos has coordinated with the residents for identification and validation of families that will be relocated.

He said that informal settlers offered not resistance.

The same was echoed by Amancio Surigao, Fatima Datiles and Erna Villamor, all residents living under the General Alejo Santos bridge that links this town with Baliwag town.

They said that they have been living under the bridge for more than 30 years and noted that when water on the Angat River is high, they have to evacuate on top of the bridge where they used to pitch tents.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to stay away from danger zone” said 52-year old Surigao in vernacular.

In a separate interview, 32-year old Datiles said she always fear for her three children when water on the river start rising.

She said that during the flood spawned by typhoon Pedring in 2012 and monsoon rains last year, they house was submerge and it made her fearful.

“My children are so young and I have to keep watch over them,” Datiles said.

Like Datiles and Surigao, Villamor welcome the housing project offered by the government in Barangay Catacte in Bustos town.

She said that it is not far from their sources of livelihood, but stressed that they might have problems with their children in going to school.

Villamor said that other families living along the bank of Angat River in Barangay Tibag, Baliwag have children attending nearby schools.

“Its just a walking distance from our house, that’s why we don’t have to worry much about transportation,” Villamor said in Filipino.

Earlier, Governor Wilhelmino Alvarado said that housing project developed by NHA in Bustos town will have school facilities along with a clinic and mini-market.

The said housing project is likely to be expanded to accommodate more informal settlers.

He also disclosed that the NHA is also developing another housing project in Pandi town for other informal settlers in the province.  (Dino Balabo)