Ivy Marie Mangadlao

Published: April 9, 2024

MACO, Philippines — More than a month after a tragic landslide occurred in a gold mining village in Davao de Oro, families who lost their homes face a new struggle: intense heat in the tent city where they temporarily seek refuge.

The tent city called ‘G-Works Campo Uno’ hosts over 86 families formerly residing in ground zero Zones 1 and 2 of Barangay Masara in Maco town. It is located inside a church compound owned by the Immaculate Conception Quasi-Parish in Barangay Elizalde.

Heavy rains caused massive floods and landslides in February, burying houses and killing 98 people in Masara.

Eduardo Año, 67, who serves as the vice president of Campo Uno, said one of the major challenges they have faced since relocating to the tent city on March 15 is extreme heat.

“The heat is intense from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Elderly individuals like us are prone to high blood pressure due to the heat, but we just continue taking our maintenance medication and drinking plenty of water,” Año said.

Año noted that while taking a bath daily could help in managing the heat, it is a challenge due to the scarcity of water.

“The water hose they provided often doesn’t flow, and if it does, it’s very slow. There are days when there’s no water at all,” he said, adding the lack of water also presents difficulties for essential tasks such as cooking and laundry.

Electricity is unavailable inside the tents, compounding the challenges faced by residents.

This prompted some families to purchase solar-powered electric fans. They can also charge their electric fans in a nearby multi-purpose hall.

Año, however, noted that these fans can operate for only four to five hours.

No choice but to stay’

An evacuee carries cooking utensils and groceries from the market as he passes by the tents in Campo Uno in Barangay Elizalde, Maco, Davao de Oro. (Ivy Marie Mangadlao)

Año said they are unsure of how long they will stay at the tent city and must wait for an announcement of a permanent relocation site.

He mentioned, though, that the local government and the environment department’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Davao region are still evaluating potential permanent relocation sites in Barangays Panibasan, Kinuban, and Calabcab.

Isabelita Allena, another landslide survivor, said the conditions of the tent city are not conducive to her well-being. The 74-year-old resident suffers from high blood pressure.

But Allena pointed out she has no choice as her house has been completely damaged.

“I really have to take my maintenance medication. I am just thankful that they provided us with maintenance medicine. Also, I spend time outside the tents, especially at noon when the heat becomes unbearable,” she said.

The Philippine health department has warned the public against heat-related illnesses, which become more prevalent with extreme temperatures.

In a municipal council meeting early this month, Councilor Grace Alo expressed concern about the situation of the evacuees living in the tent city, citing two cases of heat stroke that nearly resulted in death.

“We need a step-by-step procedure to level up their health because we are concerned about their health, right? And that’s indeed the primary concern. They are evacuees and victims. The tent city is really not practical,” she said.

Need for suitable tents

An aerial view of the G-works Campo Uno tent city near the Immaculate Conception Quasi-Parish in Barangay Elizalde, Maco, Davao de Oro. (Ivy Marie Mangadlao)

Parts of the Philippines have been enduring dangerously high temperatures exacerbated by the El Niño phenomenon and climate change, forcing schools to shift to distance learning.

According to a climate outlook from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the province of Davao de Oro will experience two more dry days in April than the usual 17

PAGASA defines a dry day as a day where less than 1 millimeter of rainfall is observed.

Segundo Joaquin Romero, Jr., an advocate for internally displaced persons, has visited numerous evacuation centers nationwide post-disasters and found most to consist of tarpaulin tents, overly hot and ill-suited for evacuees.

“Apparently, these were tents that were treated as if they were all-weather, but actually poorly suited for Philippine conditions,” Romero said.

According to a United Nations guide on family tents in humanitarian relief, tents with fly sheets are the most effective way to keep occupants cool. Covered external areas, often made to provide shade, such as trees and vegetation, are also beneficial.

While the tents in Campo Uno have fly sheets, the majority lack shade covers, such as trees, as the tent city is situated in an open area.

The 89 tents in the temporary relocation site were donated by the Philippine Red Cross. Only one family is allowed to occupy each tent, with a capacity of four to five members.