A lawmaker representing Bicol Region, part of the country’s so-called ‘typhoon belt’, is urging government to build storm-resistant homes for Filipinos living in the country’s eastern seaboard and other flood-prone areas.

Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Zaldy Co said that since the Philippines is visited by an average of 20 tropical cyclones a year, government should seriously consider building stronger homes for the most vulnerable Filipinos.

“Instead of using public schools as evacuation centers, moving people out of harm’s way during every storm, and eventually spending public funds to help repair damaged homes, we should consider more permanent solutions,” he said.

Rep. Co proposed that government set up a five-year Core Shelter Assistance (CSA) program which, technically, is a Disaster Resilience Program. This can be done by providing shelters made of slabs with concrete hollow block walls with corresponding windows and doors. To minimize costs, he said these concrete houses will just be roughly finished.

“The structure must be designed to withstand even 380 kilometer-per-hour winds. Per my estimate, each house will cost around P120,000.00 to P150,000.00 which the national government shall provide. The land will be identified and donated by the respective local government units because they know the terrain where these shelters can be safely built,” he explained.

He said main beneficiaries of the CSA program should be the 4P beneficiaries whose homes are located near the eastern seaboard of the Philippines and/or along frequently flooded riverbanks. “Government, through DSWD [Department of Social Welfare and Development], has the official list and addresses of these 4P beneficiaries living in high risk areas. Thus, identifying those we should prioritize is not a big problem,” he added.

“The CSA program ensures that beneficiaries’ homes shall not be destroyed by strong typhoons. At the same time, it will prevent frequent government expenses to restore or repair destroyed houses of the poorest of the poor located in the typhoon belt,” the solon stressed.

As to source of funds, Rep. Co said government is already spending billions to evacuate, feed, provide temporary shelter and repair damaged homes of the poor. “It’s a never ending cycle. Government spends to provide aid, only for these evacuees to return to their high-risk abode. It’s time we change that,” he said.

Currently, he said the DSWD spends at least P5,000 in assistance to typhoon victims whose homes were completely destroyed. Those with partial damage receive P3,000 each.

Recognizing that people choose to return near the sea due to their livelihood like fishing, Rep. Co proposed that government provide safe parking areas for fishing boats.

“Livelihood and lack of alternatives are the most common reason why people don’t want or choose not to relocate. We hope to change that through my proposal. Let’s give them safe and decent shelter while providing a secure area where they can leave their boats during typhoons,” he stressed.

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