The real issue on the current controversy of the bunkhouses for the survivors of super-typhoon Yolanda is not on the overpricing that is now being investigated by Rehabilitation Czar Panfilo “Ping” Lacson through the Criminal Investigation & Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The real issue on the temporary bunkhouses being built by the Department of Public Works & Highways (DWPH) is the allegation of their substandard quality that does not make the shelter units fit for human beings to live in. It is bad enough that the intended beneficiaries are already victims of a great devastation, what is worse is that they would now have to live in subhuman conditions to be inflicted on them by the DPWH.
There are now more than 200 bunkhouses being built in more than a dozen municipalities in the provinces of Leyte and Eastern Samar. Each bunkhouse is divided into 24 units with an area of 8.64 square meters. Each room is to be occupied by a Filipino family with an average size of five members composed of two parents and three children.
However, there are many instances when the number reach as high as “10 individuals in one household,” as reported in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) that exposed the anomalies in a series of front-page headline reports since Monday this week, 6 January. Such high number of occupants in a small room will only further exacerbate the looming despicable situation.
The area of an 8.64-square meter room has been estimated to the about the size of two ping-pong tables, which is barely enough for one person. How a family of five members would fit in the same area is the question that DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson has probably not thought of. Perhaps some of the victims of the super-storm can sleep standing up at night?
Eyes wide shut
The small size of the bunkhouse rooms raise issues of privacy between the parents and the children. The thin plywood – only one–fourth (1/4) inch thick – that separates the 24 units in one bunkhouse also raises issue of protection on top of the privacy concerns between room occupants. There can be sexual molestation or even rape of children, especially the young girls by occupants of other units.
President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd, DPWH Secretary Singson and DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman and other Cabinet members have visited the bunkhouses last December. It is most unfortunate that they did not see what was wrong. If they could not see the obvious deficiencies of the bunkhouses being built in Leyte and Samar for the survivors of super-typhoon Yolanda, then you really begin to wonder what they can see at all.
No wonder that defective public works are being inaugurated by P-Noy and Singson without them knowing the deficiencies of the pathetic projects. These projects are even commended, like when President Aquino and Secretary Singson inaugurated the C-3 interchange with the Quezon Blvd underpass in September 2012 without realizing that the walls were poorly done and that ride on concrete pavement was bouncy (matalbog).
My family and I passed there last year using the same northbound lanes of Quezon Blvd. Amazing that both P-noy and Singson did not notice the deficiencies. Perhaps it is really hard to see the problem when you really do not know any better.
I was not surprised to read the headline of the Philippine Daily Inquirer last Monday, 6 January, anent the overpriced and substandard bunkhouses being built by the DPWH for ‘Yolanda’ survivors. The report has a credible source, which are the findings of the global shelter group, Camp Coordination & Camp Management (CCCM).
No less than CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on 11 November 2103 asked Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda a loaded question that “for years it has been said that incompetence and corruption of the government (PH) ” has adversely affected public infrastructure. Mr. Lacierda was unable to answer the question directly, but managed a lamentable reply that the “DWPH trimmed corruption and saved P6.0 billion in 2011.”
On the bunkhouses, DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson categorically stated that there was “No Overprice!” He said that “if it is overpriced, I will submit the following day my resignation to President Aquino.” This sounds familiar like the promise of Energy Secretary Petilla. Of course, P-Noy did not accept the resignation. End of story.
What Secretary Singson should have said is that “I will immediately submit my IRREVOCABLE RESIGNATION TO PRESIDENT AQUINO if there is an over-price on the bunkhouses that the DPWH built.” That statement would sound more credible.
However, if Secretary Singson is to resign, it should not be hinged on the alleged overprice. It should be on the substandard quality of the bunkhouses that he approved to be built. As an admission of mistake, the 24 units in one bunkhouse has been reduced to half with only 11 units with the area of the room for families doubled from 8.64 to 17.28 sq. meters.
The new size, 17. 28 sq. meters would now be closer to the minimum 17.5-sq. meter area that the Sphere Humanitarian Project recommends. The revised size is also closer to the minimum international standard cited by Architect Felino Palafox of 20 sq. meters to which I fully subscribe. It approximates the area the 22 sq. meters of Gawad Kalinga houses as well as the size of the relatively small residential studio condominium units now being sold.
Now here comes the pathetic Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda again. He was quoted in the newspapers that the bunkhouses are “not substandard” in spite of what everyone else is saying, from CCCM and Sphere Project to experts like Architect Palafox. Even Secretary Singson called Palafox last Wednesday to say that he did not know the international standards on the specifications of bunkhouses.
Perhaps President Aquino, DPWH Secretary Singson, Secretary Soliman and the other members of the Aquino Cabinet can stay overnight in one bunkhouse and see what it is like to live in those “spacious” rooms. Since there are 24 units in each bunkhouse, then there are enough rooms for the President and his Cabinet to stay overnight in Tacloban. The morning after, they can hold a Cabinet meeting about their respective experiences.
Rick B. Ramos at firstname.lastname@example.org