By Priam Nepomuceno
FERNANDO AIR BASE, LIPA CITY, Batangas — All military engineering units are ready to build latrines to prevent a possible health disaster in various evacuation centers housing thousands of families severely affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano on Jan. 12.
This, according to newly-appointed Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) chief, Major General Antonio Parlade, Jr., in an interview at Fernando Air Base, Lipa City, Batangas Sunday.
“(All engineering units in SOLCOM) are ready to construct latrines, comfort rooms, they are just waiting for the details and the decision of the Department of Health on where these facilities will be constructed,” he said in Filipino.
Parlade expressed hope that the decision to construct these facilities will come soon as to maximize the time and effort of military engineering units in the area.
There is also a great need for additional and clean latrines in order to prevent the outbreak of the disease in the evacuation centers, he added.
“You know people, when comfort rooms are dirty, the portalets we provided, they might find other areas to (defecate). So it is really necessary to construct and made available more of these latrines or comfort rooms,” he said.
He urged philanthropists and other people wishing to help families affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano not to donate any more food — as there is more than enough at hand — but give toilets and other sanitation or hygiene kits that are more urgently needed.
He said sleeping items are also welcome.
Parlade also appealed to the officials of affected local government units to utilize these military engineering units for the construction of latrines in evacuation centers.
All these units need are materials to begin working, he added.
He said they are also working to ensure that the proper assessment regarding the eruption is given to the national and local government units on what to do to help or rehabilitate the affected communities.
Anticipating worse scenario for Taal Volcano
When asked how ready the SOLCOM is for a possible Level 5 (also known as magmatic eruptions), Parlade said they are anticipating the worse -case scenario for this event.
“Actually, Level 5 is (still) to be experienced in Taal so we cannot really tell if we are well prepared. (Only) the experts can tell when it (eruption) happens,” he added.
Though Level 5 has not been reached, Parlade said the damage caused by Taal Volcano on a Level 4 (intensifying unrest characterized by earthquake swarms and frequent ash explosion), warning is already considerable.
A recent aerial inspection conducted by ranking government officials revealed that a lot of houses and other infrastructure were damaged by the Taal Volcano’s eruption
“What we are doing now is anticipate the worse scenario for this Level 5 and (whether this event) can bring a phenomenon like liquefaction or what. As early as possible, we must be able to determine it on when it will occur so that preparations (by concerned agencies) can be made as this could affect thousands, even hundreds of thousands of victims,” he added in Filipino.
Ready for the job
Meanwhile, the Philippine Air Force (PAF)’s 355th Aviation Engineer Wing (AEW) is more than ready to provide its technical skills in providing additional latrine facilities for the evacuees.
355th AEW deputy commander, Col. Gerardo M. Zamudio, said they have already deployed 25 officers and enlisted personnel with backgrounds on engineering, plumbing, electricity, plumbing, carpentry, and masonry, aside from equipment consisting of trucks, graders, bulldozers, and backhoes for the job.
Zamudio said they are initially planning to build 20 latrines, 10 for the women with G.I./ sheet dividers for privacy and another 10 for the men with curtains for partition.
He added that they can easily construct the latrines are they only need to dig a hole in the ground, connect the old drums with pipes, and install the toilets for the use of evacuees.
They can easily build these facilities when requested, adding that they are also planning to install electricity, water and used old fuel drums as temporary septic tanks to make these latrines more sanitary and environment-friendly. (PNA)