TAPAZ, Capiz – The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) has finally inaugurated its first Multi-Purpose Evacuation Center (MPEC) in the Visayas Region, a year after the state-run gaming agency broke ground for the P50-million project.
The landmark structure, which was inaugurated on March 25, 2022, will cater to the needs of locals in the flood-prone communities of Tapaz, one of which is Barangay Carida, whose river easily swells during typhoons and rainy season.
Whenever the river’s water level rises, Mercy Libuna, 55, and her family are among the locals who are directed to evacuate to safer ground as floodwater in their farming community reaches waist-deep.
“Puro tubig na lang ang makikita ninyo dito kapag may malakas na bagyo o sunod-sunod na ang pag-ulan. Iyang mga palay at mais na nakatanim sa paligid, hindi niyo na makikita ‘yan. Puro tubig na lang diyan,” Libuna narrated.
As a farm worker who earns a measly P300 per day, Libuna shared they barely have enough resources to buy food and other basic needs for their family – much more for building a safe and sturdy house.
When Typhoon Odette hit the Visayas region in December 2021, they immediately evacuated to a relative’s house right after their barangay officials instructed them to do so. “Ano pa ba mas mahalaga bukod sa buhay? Kahit walang pera, ang importante, buhay kami. Kakapalan na lang ang mukha para makitira sa kamag-anak o kakilala – kahit isang gabi lang, para lang mabuhay,” Libuna added.
Now that the PAGCOR-funded two-storey MPEC in Brgy. Carida is finally completed, Libuna’s family – as well as the locals in the flood-prone communities of Tapaz – will finally have a safe haven during disasters.
Tapaz Mayor Roberto Palomar said the newly-constructed MPEC is a testament of the government’s sincere efforts to bring good governance and services closer to the people.
“Matagal pong nakalimutan at napag-iwanan ang Tapaz. Our town used to be the center of insurgency in Capiz and Panay Island. Dati pangarap lang namin na magkaroon ng ganitong building. But today, our dream has turned into reality as this is the first state-of-the-art evacuation center built by PAGCOR in the Western Visayas. Dati, para tayong mga sardinas na jam-packed sa ating civic center sa tuwing may kalamidad. Sa pamamagitan ng proyektong ito, maipaparanas natin sa ating mga kababayan na sa tuwing may sakuna at kalamidad, sila ay maaalalayan. Hindi ito magiging possible kung hindi dahil sa PAGCOR,” he said.
President and COO Alfredo Lim, who graced the inauguration of the first PAGCOR-funded MPEC in Visayas lauded the local government (LGU) of Tapaz for being one of the first LGUs to complete the MPEC project despite the ongoing pandemic.
“We know that your area has just been recently affected by Typhoon Odette when it brought considerable damage in the Visayas Region last December. Calamities like these constantly remind us of the urgency of providing evacuation centers to our constituents so that when the next ones come, they will have a safe shelter to keep them safe and dry,” Lim shared.
Aside from the inauguration of the two-storey MPEC in Tapaz, PAGCOR also released the first tranche or P25 million of the P50 million funding for the construction of a two-storey MPEC in Maslog, Eastern Samar.
PAGCOR Chairman and CEO Andrea Domingo turned over the initial grant to Maslog Municipal Mayor Heraclio Santiago at the PAGCOR Executive Office on March 23, 2022. The PAGCOR chief was joined in the turnover rites held by President and COO Alfredo Lim, and Directors Gabriel Claudio and Jimmy Bondoc.
To date, PAGCOR has already released a total of P1.87 billion, which bankrolled the construction of MPECs in 74 sites.