Classes resume tomorrow in Yolanda-hit areas

By Aurea Calica, Evelyn Macairan, Paolo Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 05 2014 08:58 AM | Updated as of Jan 05 2014 04:58 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Education (DepEd) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are finalizing preparations for the resumption of classes tomorrow in the areas hardest hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

UNICEF supplied tarpaulins to cover the roofs of damaged schools, constructed tents to serve as temporary classrooms, and supplied school and recreational materials.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) assisted in clearing debris on the school grounds.

DepEd posted photos of the tents on its Twitter account on Friday.

A new “Safe Schools” campaign was also launched with the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) in November to raise public awareness and increase social demand for safety checks, disaster preparedness and school education on disaster risk reduction.

Margareta Wahlström, the head of UNISDR, helped launch the initiative which will target 48,000 public schools, with Education Undersecretary Dina Ocampo and the UNDP Country Director Tohishiro Tanaka under the program slogan, “How Safe is Your School?”

“The Philippines can emerge from the tragedy of Typhoon Haiyan as a world leader in safe schools by bringing its experience of implementing this program to the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in 2015 when a global campaign will be launched,” she said.

“There is an opportunity now as rebuilding gets underway. We must see a paradigm shift away from simply building back better to building back differently and elsewhere. Build in safe locations and build high enough to withstand storm surges,” she added.

The program is designed to build social demand for preliminary safety assessments of schools in disaster-prone countries like the Philippines using crowd sourcing through action led by children, teachers, students, principals, local authorities and community volunteers. The focus will be on the safety of the buildings, preparedness such as emergency drills, and ensuring that reducing disaster risk is on the school curriculum.

Ocampo welcomed the program and said government agencies would carry out retrofitting and repairs to buildings identified as defective.

“Schools are owned by communities but shepherded by the Department of Education. An initiative like this keeps us in touch with the users and I will support it.”

Mass burial continues

Meanwhile, the burial of more bodies left rotting in an open field in Tacloban City will continue next week following delays in the processing and identification of the corpses, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson reported that the mass burial has been moved to Tuesday.

Lacson said Health Undersecretary Janette Garin was in Suhi, Leyte to personally supervise the burial.

The Department of Public Works and Highways sent additional backhoes and payloaders to hasten the burial.

“They target to process and bury 300 more bodies,” Lacson said.

Authorities started last Thursday the burying of some of the 1,400 bodies left rotting in Tacloban City nearly two months after Yolanda devastated Central Visayas.

Ships washed ashore

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is coordinating with the owners of the 11 cargo ships washed ashore after Yolanda struck Tacloban City, a PCG official said yesterday.

PCG-Central Visayas district commander Commodore William Melad said they have asked the owners of the vessels to clear the shore along the village of Anibong in compliance with the instructions of PCG Commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena and Task Force Yolanda.

Melad said there is a possibility that bodies were buried underneath the ships.

In a list provided by PCG Tacloban station commander Paul Gonzales, the vessels stuck on the shorelines of Tacloban City are M/V Star Hilongos of Roble Shipping Lines Inc.; M/V Jaguar of Tacloban Oil Mills Inc.; M/V Tommy Elegance of Tacloban Oil Mills Inc.; M/V Eva Jocelyn of Eva Shipping Lines; M/V Gayle of Unilink Shipping Lies; M/V David of Candano Shipping Lines Inc.; M/V Rosman owned by Richmond Ng; M/V Ligaya-V of Avega Brothers Integrated Shipping Corp; M/V Rick Uno; M/V Lancer, and a dredger owned by the DPWH.

Special fund

A senior administration lawmaker yesterday supported proposals to set up a special fund to strengthen the country’s disaster resiliency capabilities and ensure that Filipinos will no longer have to endure the same ordeal they suffered from Yolanda.

“We have to assume that Yolanda will not be the last of its kind, especially now that there is a pattern of extreme and unusual climactic conditions apparently due to global warming,” Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento said.

“However, the extent of devastation caused by Yolanda will be the last if we are committed to make our country disaster-resilient,” he added.

Sarmiento said there is no way to stop typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, the El Niño and La Niña phenomena and other natural disasters from hitting the country.

“But what we can do is to help our people develop the right mindset on how to act before, during and after a disaster and ensure that our infrastructure is designed to withstand calamities.”

The lawmaker said he supports the proposal of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima for the creation of a Calamity Resiliency Fund, which will finance projects aimed at enhancing country’s disaster resiliency.