House sets own bunkhouse pricing probe

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The House of Representatives will launch its own investigation into the alleged overpriced and substandard bunkhouses built by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for the survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda.

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Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap, who will file a resolution to initiate the inquiry, said on Thursday: “It seems that these bunkhouses were designed for corruption and source of kickback by some officials.”

“There is an urgent need to conduct an inquiry on the construction of bunkhouses and temporary shelter for typhoon Yolanda victims. Two months after Yolanda struck, the national government has not presented its temporary and permanent housing plan for calamity victims who lost their homes,” Hicap said.

He noted that a comprehensive housing and shelter program must be a major component of the government’s rehabilitation and recovery efforts for the Yolanda victims.

Hicap said that at the meeting of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development last November, the Department of Interior and Local Government, National Housing Authority (NHA), and DPWH failed to present any firm plans on how to build shelters for homeless Yolanda survivors.

“We need to get to the bottom of this. If the anomaly is true, then it is a great disservice and betrayal to the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda,” Hicap said. “The corruption surrounding the construction of bunkhouses doubly victimizes typhoon victims and their families who lost their livelihood and loved ones in the flood.”

The bunkhouses are said to be overpriced by 30 to 35 percent.

The quality of the structures is also under close scrutiny.

Renowned architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr., who writes a column for The Manila Times, has said it doesn’t take an expert to see that the temporary shelters are poorly built.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) has started a separate inquiry, saying the media reports on the pricing of the bunkhouses have basis.

While the government’s bunkhouse project is mired in controversy, private and business sectors are rushing to build disaster-resilient houses for Yolanda survivors.

Vice President Jejomar Binay said on Thursday about 600 housing units will be built in Tacloban City and Palo, Leyte province by the GMA Kapuso Foundation, Inc. (GFKI) with the help of NHA.

Binay, who is also the housing czar, said the housing units, which GMA Kapuso will fund and build, will adhere to the “Build Back Better” design parameters set by NHA.

The parameters include gender sensitivity, emergency design concepts, and stronger structural elements to better withstand adverse weather and geological conditions.

Four hundred of the units will be constructed on a 3.5-hectare property in Barangay Kawayan owned by the Tacloban City government, while 200 will be built on a 2.05-hectare land in Barangay San Jose owned by the local government of Palo.

Binay said the NHA will handle the land development for the two sites which include setting up the drainage and lighting system.

Binay said families whose houses were partially or totally damaged by Yolanda will be given priority in the permanent housing program.

Also given preference are typhoon victims living in No-Build Zones that will be determined by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)–Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and local government units.

“We are grateful for the steadfast support of the private sector for our housing programs for the families affected by
Typhoon Yolanda,” Binay said.

The project sites will have community facilities such as schools, health facilities, and water and power connections.

“I am confident that through our concerted efforts, we will be able to fast track the building of quality and climate resilient homes for survivors of the recent calamities,” he added.

French businessmen in the country are also pitching in and are reaching out to communities in Northern Cebu that were hit hard by Yolanda.

The group will build disaster-resistant houses in Northern Cebu as one of the rehabilitation activities aimed to help more than 30,000 affected households in the area.

The France-Philippines United Action (FPUA) is a private sector initiative that will coordinate the French business community’s relief efforts in Northern Cebu over a 12-month period, ensuring that activities are sustained, well organized, and have the most impact.

Don H. Lee, head of the FPUA, said the first phase of the rebuilding efforts involves the construction of a “French Village” in Daanbantayan, a coastal town in Northern Cebu that was among those hardest hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

For Phase One, 100 row houses donated by various members of the French business community will be constructed, with the new community to occupy 5,400 square meters of land donated by the Cebu Provincial Government.

“As we see the outpouring of continuous relief support given to those affected, we would like to supplement these inspirational efforts by launching the rebuilding of permanent homes in these surrounding communities” said Lee.

Habitat for Humanity, on the other hand, will provide architectural supervision in coming up with the unique design of the houses.

Charlie Ayco, chief executive officer and managing director of Habitat, said the disaster-resistant, durable and beautiful structures, were designed to withstand an intensity 8 earthquake as well as 275 kilometers per hour (kph) winds.

Daanbantayan Mayor Augusto Corro, who estimated that rehabilitation efforts will cost P1 billion, said that the project will positively impact the rehabilitation process of their town.

“This takes off some of the burden from the national government in terms of providing houses for the displaced residents. We are very appreciative of these efforts,” he added.

For his part, French Ambassador to the Philippines Gilles Garachon said that they are considering expanding the project to cover more areas that were affected by the calamity.

“We are planning to build more, it all depends on the funds,” he said.

With a report from Ritchie A. Horario

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