Disaster Relief and PAGCOR – Manila Bulletin

HEARD FROM GRIPE-VINE: OUR NEW ABNORMAL

At a time when most government agencies have basically gone on “hold” and are playing a game of “wait and see” in anticipation of the fact that a new government will be inaugurated in about 30 days; It’s good to see PAGCOR still flexing its muscles and inaugurating several Multipurpose Evacuation Centers (MPEC) across the country. It’s great because we all know the rainy season is just around the corner; and disaster preparedness, relief and resilience will soon be a major concern in different parts of the nation.

As recently as May 20, the city of La Paz, Tarlac, was the latest LGU (Local Government Unit) to inaugurate a fully constructed multi-purpose evacuation center funded by the Philippines Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). This contingency structure was completed one year after groundbreaking for the project on April 9, 2021. Located in Barangay Rizal, this is one of the communities in La Paz known to be prone to severe flooding and natural disasters. The fact that the barangay is part of a catch basin is often cited as the reason for the unusually heavy flooding.

Alicia Cumbe, 52, is from La Paz and shared how her home was often submerged in deep water after heavy rainfall. As a single mother, she supports her child and elderly mother by selling goods and groceries at a small stall in front of her house. Every time it rains heavily, she and her family have to endure the ordeal of evacuating their home and taking shelter at either their relatives’ house upstairs or the Barangay Daycare, and she readily says the situation is there anything but ideal.

A two storey building, the new PAGCOR MPEC in La Paz, Tarlac was completed in just over a year.

Alongside the fear, nervousness and open fear, Cumbe shared that it’s the uncertainty of where they can really go safely and how they’ll find food and shelter for the days of severe flooding that keeps them busy as the rainy season comes. She is also concerned with the hygiene factor, the health of the children and how they can protect themselves from diseases. So it was a relief for them to understand what this new PAGCOR funded MPEC represents – a clean, safe haven and a new option for those displaced by natural disasters in the area.

Another La Paz resident, 64-year-old farmer Alex Cancio, recalls having to sleep overnight in a tractor parked on the national highway when his home was flooded by flooding. And let’s not even talk about how his crops were damaged by typhoons and floods. For Cancio, the rainy season each year is a cause of concern and fear of what might befall his noble livelihood. For his personal safety alone, Cancio also welcomes this two-storey new building in his community.

Alicia Cumbe and Alex Cancio are just two of the real people and stories that will be affected by this MPEC becoming a reality just before the rainy season really begins. La Paz Mayor Venustiano Jordan sincerely thanked PAGCOR for funding the facility and saluted PAGCOR

Chairman and CEO Andrea Domingo, who honored the inauguration of the center. With the center now fully operational, La Paz residents have a safe haven to be in during times of natural disasters.

During the handover ceremonies, the tireless PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Didi Domingo said: “I am delighted that this contingency structure is complete. It is wonderful. And those affected by disaster, fire or other unforeseen calamities now have a comfortable and clean place to turn to.

PAGCOR CEO and Chair Andrea Domingo (right) meets with La Paz Mayor Venustiano Jordan at the plaque announcing the completion of the PAGCOR Multipurpose Evacuation Center in La Paz.

Because the hardest hit victims of these disasters may just have lost their homes, lost their livelihoods, and then just be relocated somewhere else, giving them even more hardships like hunger, disease, and cold.” Remembering these very important facts explains why these MPECs are potential lifesavers wherever they are built.

In response, La Paz Mayor Jordan noted, “PAGCOR has helped us achieve our dream of having a safe haven for families who are left without a place to stay when their homes are submerged in deep rainwater. As you all know, the city of La Paz is historically marked as a catchment area. During heavy rains, La Paz locals suffer the effects of severe flooding.”

PAGCOR is the state run gaming company and has committed £3.5 billion to build these MPECs at 76 approved sites across the country. There are a total of seven MPECs in Tarlac, Albay, Capiz and in Caramines Sur that have been completed. In Camarines Sur, MPECs can be found in the cities of Sagnay, San Jose, Tiagon, and Ocampo. This is the kind of “good work” PAGCOR started and we can only hope it will continue for years to come.

I know that the existence of PAGCOR has often been a controversial issue in years past, viewed by some as a “cash cow”. But under Chair and CEO Andrea Domingo, we have seen concrete evidence of how PAGCOR can be used for nation building in general and for disaster risk reduction specifically.

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