• Bunked

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    Ma. Lourdes N. Tiquia

    Ma. Lourdes N. Tiquia

    In urban dictionary, the word bunked means to skip something, such as an event, school, or work. That was what I thought of the news on the overpriced, substandard bunkhouses built by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). Nothing new there especially then the secretary, together with the DSWD Secretary and BSA3 themselves visited the area and saw the 126 bunkhouses build in December of last year. They didn’t notice anything wrong. It was through a leak to the media that we got wind of the anomalous construction.

    But then again, nothing new there because the biggest construction ticket in town is the rehabilitation and reconstruction in the areas hit by Yolanda. That is where the heavy hitters are and where anyone and everyone interested in getting a share of the cake are lining up. Yes, even a supplier of fire extinguisher was present in a recent public presentation of “rehabilitation czar without teeth,” former Senator Ping Lacson.

    What got me to pay attention to the news on bunkhouses were the darn details: “certain bunkhouse is being constructed at around P200,000 or about a fifth of the estimated price of P959,360 mentioned in the DPWH plan.” Singson even volunteered that “each 8.64-square unit costs P34,834 while each 17.28-square meter unit costs P65,715 to build.” He said this may seem expensive, but he noted that the public has to understand the agency is trying to address “the emergency situation.” But a government engineer said that an 8.64-square meter unit in the previously planned 24-room bunkhouses could be built for P19,365.94 each.

    Can victims, survivors of Yolanda, real people at that decently live in an area of 8.64 sqm? What’s the population density of Tacloban? As of 2010, that was 1,100/sq km. Do the math and when you convert it, you will be shocked. Definitely, an average family of five members cannot humanely live on such space. Or are we just embracing the fact that they are being made squatters in their own property?

    So, Secretary Singson, why don’t you look at the EU-funded “transitional houses” instead of uttering words like, “maraming eksperto, maraming kritiko, maraming sira ulo.” If overpriced and substandard, you will resign? The last cabinet secretary who said those words ate it. If cabinet secretaries do not have the gumption to resign, don’t threaten. Just do it. Now, just because you have not paid contractors or they might donate their services do not mean we can sweep the issues under the rug, right?

    So if you decide to stay and it seems that is the case, then get to the bottom of these bunkhouses fiasco and do not justify its shoddiness by talking about international standards and the like. Offering a lame excuse that the size (8.64 sq. m.) needed to be such to limit the number of families was also quite callous on your part. Surely you have heard of the cultural trait of Filipinos re extended family ties? Surely, you have experienced that with your own nuclear unit? Or, are you that privileged?

    Victims, survivors, real people will stay on those bunkhouses not pigs, Mr. Secretary. Better yet, why don’t you, the DSWD Secretary and BSA3 stay there overnight? Sometimes actual experience sir could give you better appreciation of things.

    A policy issue is also crucial to resolve. Why is DPWH sourcing out the construction? Can it not handle it via administration? Or is the organization so corrupt that it cannot be relied upon to do the work “under emergency situation”?

    EU and treating Filipinos with dgnity
    The EU-funded “transitional shelters” gave prime importance to the D-word, dignity. We have a model here Secretary Singson!

    The model launched quietly by the European Union (EU) three weeks ago in Compostela Valley should be replicated in Yolanda devastated areas. Yes, Juana, the EU and not the United States or Japan quietly works in the country.

    The EU gave 2.55 million euros, or about P150 million, to the Red Cross for the shelter project and another 7.45 million euros (P440 million) to other organizations for food, water and sanitation, shelter, livelihood and medical care in the aftermath of Pablo.

    The transitional shelters were made of indigenous materials and cost between P30,0000 and P75,000. Made up of plywood or coco lumber walls and flooring, and galvanized sheets for roofing, the bunkhouses include four toilets, two bathrooms, and a common kitchen. Now, in my book, that’s treating victims, survivors of Yolanda, and real people with dignity. Contractors were not the builders but the affected stakeholders. Using another proven model of cash-for-work or food-for-work in rehabilitation and reconstruction procedures.

    EU further gave families whose homes were damaged cash vouchers for P10,000 and transport allowances to undertake repairs while those who lost their homes were provided shelters measuring at least 20 square meters built in hazard-free locations.

    EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux said at the ceremonial turnover of certificates of ownership to 200 families from Compostela Valley: “the road to recovery and reconstruction is easier when all the stakeholders actively participate—the affected families, local government units, international organizations, and non-government organizations.” Now that’s a winning and proven strategy!

    Secretary Singson, I recall Aristotle once said, “Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in the consciousness that we deserve them.”

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