THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has stopped the construction of bunkhouses for Super Typhoon Yolanda victims following allegations they were overpriced.
DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson told The Manila Times that the building of bunkhouses in Eastern Visayas was suspended so that they can make adjustments to the design and make the units more habitable.
“Yes [we]suspended the construction so that we could adjust the design and reduce [number]of families per bunkhouse from 24 to 12 families,” Singson said.
The original area of 8.64 square meters will be expanded to 17.81 square meters.
The DPWH has completed 126 of the planned 222 units.
Controversy shrouded the bunkhouses after news reports came out that they were overpriced and substandard.
Malacañang also confirmed that the DPWH will “tear down walls” in the bunkhouses to make individual units bigger.
Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda admitted on Wednesday the bunkhouses were “cramped.” With the adjustments, a bunkhouse can accommodate 12 families instead of 24.
The bunkhouses were designed for 24 families, but “there were some concerns that it was too cramped,” Lacierda told reporters.
He said Singson spoke to housing experts and it was decided to reduce the number of families from 24 to 12. “So that has been resolved,” he said.
Lacierda said he spoke with renowned architect and The Manila Times’ columnist Felino Palafox Jr. who was “appreciative that Secretary Singson has made the corrections to the unit size of the bunkhouses.”
“And the 17.28 square meter per unit in the 12 unit bunkhouse is for him acceptable,” he said.
Palafox was among the experts who criticized the bunkhouses for being “undersized and substandard.”
In a text message to reporters on Wednesday, Palafox clarified that he did not accuse Singson or the DPWH of corruption.
Singson “has my trust and confidence. I admire his professionalism when he called me yesterday and admitted he was not made aware of the international standards and he himself went to the disaster area to check and initiated to improve the designs and specifications based on international standards. I hope and pray that he will not resign and maintain his role as DPWH secretary. I had worked with him before when he was BCDA Chairman with NO Corruption. He is a professional and a gentleman. We need him in our nation building,” Palafox said.
While there may be delays in the construction because of the adjustments, Lacierda assured that the process will continue until all affected families are given temporary shelter.
“These are temporary bunkhouses. We’re moving towards permanent shelters. In fact, we—a number of the observers—noted that we skipped the emergency part of it. We have moved immediately into temporary shelters, which [are]better than having, for instance, a tent or a tarpaulin over your head,” he said.
He said the government has enough funds for the retrofitting and construction of more bunkhouses.
Senate President Franklin Drilon defended Singson, saying the secretary would not allow graft to taint the building of shelters.
Drilon described Singson as “the most honest, efficient, and decisive Public Works secretary.” He added that over the years, Singson has shown zero tolerance for corruption and has introduced genuine reforms to improve the performance and image of the agency.
“I know for a fact that Secretary Singson would not stand for any shenanigans. His integrity and competence is unassailable,” Drilon said.
He noted that the allegations of overpricing in the construction of bunkhouses are counterproductive, especially at a time “when DPWH’s attention is badly needed elsewhere.”
With report from Jefferson Antiporda