ON JULY 17, 2018, heavy rains and strong winds enhanced by southwest monsoon or “habagat” and typhoon “Henry” hit Iloilo City. Classes in the city at all levels were suspended in the afternoon session at around 3 p.m. due to deep flood and heavy rains. It took more than 4 hours of heavy rains and flood in the morning and afternoon before the suspension order was issued. This delayed declaration of suspension of classes caused panic and heavy traffic in the flooded areas of the city.
Many were stranded on the road including the innocent schoolchildren in the elementary and secondary levels. The suspension was made in compliance with Executive Order No. 66 (“Prescribing Rules on the Cancellation or Suspension of Classes and work in the Government Offices Due to Typhoons, Flooding, Other Weather Disturbances, and Calamities.”)
According to this order, when Signal No. 1 is raised by PAGASA, classes in the pre-school level in the affected area shall be automatically canceled or suspended.
When Signal No. 2 is raised, classes in the pre-school, elementary, and secondary levels, in the affected area shall be automatically canceled or suspended.
And when Signal No. 3 or higher is raised, classes at pre-school, elementary, secondary, and tertiary levels in the affected area, including graduate school, as well as work in all government offices, shall be automatically canceled or suspended.
In the absence of typhoon signal warnings, localized cancellation or suspension of classes and work in government offices may be implemented by local chief executives, as chair of the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (LDRRMC) concerned, in coordination with PAGASA and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), specifically in flood-prone or high-risk areas.
Announcements will be made through radio, television, landline communications, and other means of communications within the community or locality not later than 4:30 a.m. of the day of the intended cancellation of classes and work, or not later than 11 a.m. for suspension of classes or work in the afternoon session.
On the other hand, in the occurrence of other disasters or calamities such as but not limited to floods, earthquakes, tsunami and conflagration, classes in all levels as well as work in the government offices may be cancelled upon the declaration by the President of a State of Calamity in areas affected based on the recommendation of the NDRRMC.
Issues were raised on why for so many instances there was no timely suspension of classes or work in the affected areas in the Region. It is, therefore, highly appreciated that on July 23, 2018, Mayor Jose Espinosa III declared an earlier “preventive suspension” or suspension of classes at all levels in public and private schools in the City of Iloilo to keep our children in school safe from the expected flood and heavy rains in the area produced by southwest monsoon or “habagat,” strengthened by typhoon “Josie.”
It is easy and possible for our school authorities to do make-up classes to recover the lost school days due to calamities than to recover the lost lives of the stranded pupils/students due to failure to declare no classes on time of the said calamities.
Also, there is a need to review the applicability of the provisions of EO 66 in view of climate change that occurred every year. PAGASA noted that heavy rains now are more than four times heavier than normal rains long time ago.