• DPWH bunkhouses: Sheer waste of public funds!

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    Rick B. Ramos

    Rick B. Ramos

    TWO months after super-typhoon Yolanda struck last November 8, 2013, the Filipino people and foreigners alike were shocked to learn that more than 1,000 dead bodies in Tacloban, Leyte, still have to be buried amid complaints about the strong foul odor and the serious health hazard to the residents in the area.

    Yet as if this miserable failure of the national government to bury the dead in two months is not enough, another shocking issue surfaced: the overpricing and the substandard quality of the more than 200 bunkhouses (with 24 units each) for the survivors being built by the Department of Public Works & Highways (DPWH).

    In my column last week, I wrote that the real issue is the substandard quality that does not make the temporary shelter units fit for human beings to live in. It is truly bad enough that the intended beneficiaries are already victims of an “apocalyptic” devastation, but even worse are the subhuman conditions that they forced to live in.

    Thus, if DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson is to resign on the bunkhouses debacle, it will not be over the alleged overpricing, but over the substandard quality that includes undersized rooms of 8.64 sqms and materials that are subpar to the specifications. The despicable bunkhouses simply show that nothing much has really changed with the DPWH over the past three-and-a- half years insofar as corruption and incompetence are concerned.

    The question is why DPWH Secretary Singson, who is greatly admired by President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd and showered with annual commendations as his favorite Cabinet member, approved the design of the undersized bunkhouse units. The area of 8.64 sqms of each unit is barely enough for one person and yet the DPWH would like the devastated families, with an average of five members, to live in that size room.

    If Secretary Singson is supposed to be honest and clean, why then did he allow construction of more than 200 substandard bunkhouses even after he had visited and inspected them? Did the DPWH Secretary not see the deficiencies of the design of the bunkhouses or was he just playing blind? Or is it because he really does not know any better and his people are simply running circles around him?

    The same question applies to both President B. S. Aquino 3rd and DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman who have both visited the DPWH bunkhouses in Tacloban, Leyte. There was even a photo of the two of them in the Inquirer last November 6, 2013 looking proud of the bunkhouses. Most unfortunately they, just like Secretary Singson, saw nothing wrong. Perhaps they all did, but could not care less?

    President Aquino and his Cabinet members like Singson and Soliman could not see the obvious deficiencies of the bunkhouses. The question is what they can really see at all! Can they see what is wrong in front of them if they really do not know any better?

    After the media expose early last week on the substandard and undersized bunkhouse units, the DPWH Secretary halved the number of units in the remaining 90 bunkhouses from 24 to 12 units. That effectively doubled the area of the rooms from 8.64 to 17.28 sqms. This is a vast improvement from the original size per family of five persons that is estimated to be only the size of two ping-pong tables.

    The revision from 24 to 12 rooms per bunkhouse is an admission of the great mistake committed in the design of the bunkhouses. What took Mr. Singson so long to realize that big blunder? Imagine more than 100 bunkhouses worth about P100.0 million with 250 undersized rooms for devastated families to live in subhuman conditions.

    Mainstream and social media probably pressured Secretary Singson to rectify the monumental mistake after the Inquirer published the findings of the global shelter group, Camp Coordination & Camp Management (CCCM), in its 15-page report. The DPWH Secretary may have not taken any action at all – not knowing any better? – if the controversy did not spread like wildfire in mass media and went viral in social media.

    Other than the serious concern with the substandard of the DPWH bunkhouses, the question now is the construction of the bunkhouses. Why not proceed to build permanent houses for the Yolanda victims instead of providing them with temporary shelters that are not even fit for human beings? This is what the private sector is doing now through the Habitat for Humanity and Gawad Kalinga (GK).

    Yesterday, the SM group published a full-page advertisement in the newspapers on their “Building Homes for Yolanda Survivors.” SM officials announced that “they are committed to build 1,000 houses for the survivors.” Last December, they started the construction of their SM Cares Village in Brgy. Polambato, Bogo, Cebu, for 200 families whose homes were completely destroyed by the super-typhoon.

    Other than the initial project in Bogo, Cebu, the SM Cares Housing Program will also build homes in Concepcion, Iloilo; Culasi, Antique; Tacloban, Leyte and Guiuan, Eastern Samar. The houses are designed to be “disaster-resilient and [have]plenty of ventilation.” Community centers, playgrounds, basketball courts and other amenities will also be built to complete the facilities of the housing projects.

    There is no doubt that DPWH’s building the more than 200 bunkhouses worth P200 million is a sheer waste of public funds. This position is shared by myriad of Filipinos and foreigners alike.

    The victims of the super-storm can continue staying in tents while their permanent homes are being built. Others who are now not in tents can move to sites where tents can be installed. There should be no serious problem for the survivors in to live in tents even for one year. The Syrian refugees in Turkey have been living in tents for almost three years now since the outbreak of their civil war.

    rbrpilipinas@gmail.com

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    9 Comments

    1. I am very disappointed with sec. Singson who is a friend and my former boss. I know him to be honest, competent and a dedicated government officer but this is a blunder so much unlike him to commit. I am still hoping that he is not really involved in this mess but was somehow bamboozeled by scheming people who are addicted to making palusot in government projects. Babes sana hindi ikaw ang may sala at nadamay ka lang.

    2. Woah,Hold your horses,
      Let us befair. Those bunkhouses are temporary facilities or living quarters up to such time as PEMANENT HOUSING WOULD BE COMPLETED. This kind of facilties is being use on all building works nation wide from Forbes Park to mass housing. Although of course it is not at par with international standards but they are only TEMPORARY. LUCKY FOR US WE HAVE AN HONEST DPWH SECRETARY and an HONEST PRESIDENT

    3. More excuses & half-hearted explanations from the palpak Sec. Singson don’t cut it. He didn’t do his homework on this bunkhouse interment sardine-like overpriced & sub-standard place of abode. Other projects are watched by a sort of Inspector General or an overall overseer if specifications are followed. None of it was in place & our easy-going president is satisfied by the performance of this idiot Singson. People will not forget. Pnoy & his dysfunctional party will suffer in the next election.

    4. Generally, a bunkhouse is a simple barrack-type temporary shelter
      with a separate common kitchen, bathroom and sleeping area. Its
      purpose is to help protect health, safety and welfare for the occupants.

      In this case, the bunkhouse is a modified version with several efficiency
      dwelling units in one building wherein each dwelling unit is provided with
      a cooking area, kitchen sink, bathroom and sleeping area in one room.

      There is no such thing as international standard for bunkhouses. Since
      a bunkhouse is only a temporary shelter, it does not have to comply
      with any national or international codes for buildings as long as it free
      from health and safety hazards.

      However, there is an International Building Code (IBC) or International
      Residential Code (IRC). These codes are only used in the U.S.

      Critics of bunkhouses for the victims of typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)
      were concerned about corruption and the substandard construction
      of bunkhouses, particularly on the size of any habitable floor area in
      each dwelling unit.

      To satisfy critics, DPWH has increased the floor area of each dwelling
      unit from its original design of 8.64 square meters to 17.28 square meters
      for a family of four.

      Following the IBC or IRC standard, the minimum required superficial
      area in an efficiency dwelling unit is 220 square feet for two occupants,
      and an additional 100 square feet for each occupant of such unit in
      excess of two. Thus, on a family of four, each efficiency dwelling unit
      should have a minimum floor area of 420 square feet, or 39.03 square
      meters. [17.28 15.8].
      At a minimum, no one side of a habitable room is less than 7 feet,
      or 2.13 meters.

      The reason for the standardization of any habitable room in the
      dwelling is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the occupants.
      But this protection has been breached in our boarding houses and
      public transportation.

      • victor hernandez on

        Ang bunkhouses ay temporary shelter. Alternatibo ito sa tent shelter.
        Tulugan (Sleeping quarters) lang siguro ang 8.7 square meters na bunkhouse.
        Meron hiwalay, at sa labas ng bunkhouses na communal facilities: kitchen, toilet and bath.
        Kailangan lang ng tamang space use and planning.
        Challenge ito sa mga interior designers. Mag pa-contest kaya on interior design, makikita natin kung puwedeng tumira ang 5 or 6 na tao (matanda at bata).
        Maraming Hapon(Japanese) na nakatira sa maliit na tirahan (kaya ang tawag ay rabbit houses).
        Kaya puwede.
        Ang importante ay panatilihing malinis ang tirahan o tulugan.
        Kung maraming pera,puwedeng palakihin ang space para pag-tulugan.

    5. apolonio reyes on

      SABI NGA NI DINKY ” LET US ALL HOLD…. KUMITA SA RCBC NGO FUNDS ” NA MAS MAIGI NAMAN DAW MAGSIKSIKAN SA 8.64 SQ, BUNKHOUSE KAYSA SA TENT. TANGA KA TALAGA AT WALANG PAKIRAMDAM, HINDI KA DAPAT MAGING DSWD SEC. DAPAT PATIRAHIN MO NG ISANG ARAW DINKY ANG PAMILYA MO SA 8,64 SQ,M. AT TIGNAN MO KUNG HINDI MAGREKLAMO AT DI SA BAHAY SA LA VISTA AT MERON KA PA DAW SA AYALA ALABANG O KAYA ISAMA MO SI SINGSON AT PNOY MATULOG NG ISANG ARAW SA 8.84 SQ,M AT TIGNAN MO KUNG DI MAGREKLAMO DIN YUON DALAWA. TAMA LANG HINDI MA APPROVE NG CA ANG APPOINTMENT MO., DI BA DINKT?

    6. Totally agreed with you Mr. Ramos.
      So it time to keep the pressure to those who are in the forefront of recovery/rehab effort. They should (due to limited fund) immediately build a permanent shelters. There are technologies available in the market and it could be built in pieces. “Waffle box technology, “vasbuilt”, “container house” or ask Japanese technology. It is matter of maximizing and setting priority right in less available resources.

    7. Almost all government project were intended to be either overprice or made from substandard materials. That is an SOP for them. Sec. Singson knew all along what has transpired in the construction of these bunkhouses. Mga utak manloloko talaga sila. Kung makakalusot eh di kuwarta na! Kaso may pumuna kaya nag adjust, pero kumita pa rin. Wala na talagang pag-asa ang mga Pilipino pag ganyan ang mga taong namumuno sa gobyerno. Pati pagdurusa ng kababayan pinagsasamantalahan! Ma karma sana sila kaagad para makita rin ng mga taong pinagsamantalahan nila ang kanila pagdurusa.