SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga―The Mega Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center in Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija should also be used as an alternative national or regional evacuation and training center, in preparation for a big earthquake that is predicted to hit Metro Manila anytime soon.
The Regional Development Council, the highest policy making body of Central Luzon, is recommending this to the national government to maximize the use of the 10,000-bed capacity center, the viability of which was questioned by Dionisio R. Santiago, who just resigned as chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board.
Severino C. Santos, regional director of the National Economic Development Authority in Central Luzon, said that since the center has complete facilities like washrooms, water and electric supply, it can be converted into a national evacuation center for the “Big One” earthquake or any disaster that hits Metro Manila and the Southern Tagalog region.
“With its bed capacity alone, we need the center in preparation for the Big One and other disaster and calamities,” Santos, who is the secretary of the RDC, said.
The rehab center is made of fire-resistant imported materials from China that can also endure winds up to 200 kilometers per hour (120 mph). The structure could be further reinforced to ground-attached cables as a measure against winds of 300 kilometers per hour.
According to Santos, Angeles City Mayor and RDC chairman Edgardo Pamintuan, is amenable to the idea, if the national government wants it too.
Pamintuan is also the president of the City Mayors League of the Philippines.
Santos said the RDC is now constructing six evacuation centers in different towns of the seven provinces of the region under the Multi Purpose Emergency Evacuation Center program of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
However, Santos said the evacuation centers “can only accommodate so much.”
The six evacuation centers, worth P30 million each, are located in Lubao and Mexico both in Pampanga; Castillejos in Zambales; Dinaluan in Aurora; and one each in Tarlac and Nueva Ecija.
The centers in Pampanga and Zambales are already 90 percent finished. They are funded by the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management and implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highway regional office.
The standard evacuation building, measuring about 2,000 square meters on lots donated by local governments and complete with facilities like kitchens and washrooms, can only accommodate 100 to 150 families, or about 500 persons at a time.
The centers in Aurora, Tarlac and Nueva Ecija are still in the planning stage, Santos said.
Despite the new evacuation centers, the region still needs more buildings for emergencies, specially during rainy season.
At present, the government’s disaster relief agencies and local governments use school buildings and basketball courts as evacuation centers.
Located on 75,000 hectares inside the Fort Magsaysay complex owned by the Department of National Defense, the multibillion-peso rehabilitation center was inaugurated by President Duterte on November 29, 2016.
The facilities is currently accommodating just 400 of the thousands of drug dependents in the region. The center was funded by Chinese billionaire and philanthropist Huang Rulun as his contribution to the government’s campaign against illegal drugs.