ILOILO – Of the 1,000 mass housing units that the National Housing Authority (NHA) constructed in the municipality of Concepcion for survivors of November 2013’s super typhoon “Yolanda”, 542 units still have to be turned over to the local government. “The houses are not safe. Kon tandugon mo ang walls, nagaka-pudpod,” said Mayor Raul Banias.

“Yolanda” (international name: “Haiyan”)was one of the most powerful typhoons recorded and the deadliest in the Philippines. It plowed the Visayas on Nov. 8, 2013 – exactly six years ago today – killing at least 6,300 people.

The houses were supposed to be sturdy and capable of withstanding “Yolanda-grade” typhoon, Banias told Panay News.

“I cannot allow my people to live in them. The 542 units are allegedly ready for turnover but we will not accept them,” he stressed.

NHA started constructing the P290-million mass housing project in Barangay Bacjawan Sur, Concepcion in 2016, three years after the disaster. The contractor was Hercar Construction Corp.

Each housing unit costs P290,000.

“I think we have recovered from the disaster already except for the housing resettlement area,” said Banias.

Last month, said Banias, he wrote NHA-Iloilo recommending the termination of the contract with the housing contractor.

“NHA-Iloilo told me they recommended the same to their central office but I wonder what happened. I am writing them again. They have to act on the problem or I will complain of inaction. They have to comply with the ARTA Law,” said Banias.

ARTA is the Anti-Red Tape Law that guarantees speedy government action to transactions.

The local government of Concepcion would accept the 542 housing units only after their quality has been assured, said Banias.

As early as 2017, beneficiaries were already complaining of the following: cracks on floors, scaling of concrete walls, leaky roofing, uneven paint application, no water supply, and sloppy construction of toilets.

In June last year, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan asked the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to conduct an inspection.

“In my view, these won’t last. They have to be replaced,” said Engr. Victor Diomo of DPWH Region 6’s Maintenance Division after inspecting the housing project.

According to Diomo, the standard mixing proportion of cement, sand and gravel may not have been followed.

The standard mix is one sack of cement, two sacks sand and three sacks of gravel, Diomo told SP members led by Vice Gov. Christine Garin and Engr. Romeo Andig of the Provincial Engineering Office.

Hercar Construction Corp.’s Herminio Carreon who was present during the DPWH ocular inspection denied the housing units were substandard. Construction workers followed the standard mixing proportion of cement, sand and gravel, he insisted.

Carreon, however, vowed to fix the defects.

According to the contractor, he would never do anything that would ruin his reputation or that of his construction company.

“Kon may ara deperensya, liwaton ko. Kon kulang dugangan ko,” said Carreon.

During the May 22, 2018 Senate hearing conducted by the Senate committee on urban planning, housing and resettlement on the alleged irregularities on resettlement and relocation programs undertaken by the government for disaster-affected areas, then senator Loren Legarda (now congresswoman of Antique) said all those involved in the government housing programs have to be accountable.

Given the sufficient budgetary support from the national government, she said there should be no substandard and delayed implementation of housing projects in different calamity-hit areas and relocation sites.

“These housing programs are being funded by taxpayers’ money, allocated through General Appropriations Act. So why does this regularly happen? Somebody has to be liable for the irresponsible use of inferior, substandard and even inappropriate construction materials,” said Legarda.

The senator underscored the need for the judicious use of funds allocated for housing programs to strengthen the accountability of the government and provide the people with the assistance that they deserve.

“All these issues are not new to us, or to the NHA, and they need to be addressed because this is an example of wasting the people’s money.  Wastage and inefficiency in government programs undermine the confidence of the people in the institution,” said Legarda./PN


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