BATANGAS CITY, JANUARY 17, 2020 – Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones, members of the DepEd Executive Committee, and officials of Region IV-A gathered at the Batangas Country Club (BCC), Bolbok, Batangas City last Friday, January 17, for an emergency meeting to ensure the welfare of displaced learners and personnel affected by the phreatic eruption of Taal Volcano.

DepEd Undersecretary for Administration Alain Del B. Pascua gave an overview of the recent activities of Taal Volcano and other related updates on actions taken by Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) and local government units (LGUs). DepEd data showed that there are currently 30,814 affected learners and 1,055 affected personnel. DepEd Batangas officials said that three schools within the Permanent Danger Zone enclosing the volcanic island of Taal have been closed last year due to warnings from PHIVOLCS over the hazards posed by Taal’s volcanic activity.

Concerns over the learning continuity of the affected learners were also addressed during the discussion. Secretary Briones proactively signed DepEd Memorandum No. 3, s. 2020 ordering schools in the country to accept the displaced learners even without pertinent transfer credentials.

“The children can go to the nearest schools, or to any school in the country, to resume their studies. Temporary Learning Spaces (TLS) shall also be provided to the accommodating schools,” Briones said.

Director Ronilda Co of DepEd Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Service noted that the Quick Response and Recovery Team (QRRT) consisting of various offices in the DepEd Central Office has been mobilized to assist displaced learners and personnel through the provision of hygiene kits, learning materials, emergency school feeding and Psychological First Aid. DepEd said that they shall also track these learners and personnel to provide the necessary assistance.

“Natutulog man ang empleyado ng mga ahensya o hindi, nandito man ang presidente o wala, gagalaw at gagalaw ang burukrasya,” Briones said.

Briones also visited Bauan Technical High School (BTHS) with some DepEd officials to check displaced learners and teachers. BTHS is one of the schools in Batangas which is used as a temporary evacuation center.

During the visit, DepEd discussed with the local government the need to identify spaces to put up temporary shelters for evacuees.  Briones emphasized the need for solutions regarding schools being used as evacuation centers. She shared that DepEd does not want to sacrifice or disrupt classes because the schools are the children’s home.

DepEd data presented that 178 schools (with 1,147 classrooms) in CALABARZON are used as evacuation centers.