Benitez shoos off corrupt contractors from Marawi rehab

Published December 7, 2017, 3:56 PM
By Ben Rosario

MARAWI CITY – The chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development on Thursday warned crooks behind the multi-million peso irregularities in the “super-typhoon Yolanda” housing projects to stay away from government reconstruction and rehabilitation program in this war-torn Mindanao locality.

Senior administration Rep. Albee Benitez (PDP-Laban, Negros Occidental) aired this warning as he asked the local government of Marawi City to submit the master plan for the city’s reconstruction, saying that a carefully laid urban design could make it the centerpiece of urban development.

Benitez also called on local officials and community leaders to help guarantee that relocation sites and government-assisted housing projects for displaced Maranaos are freed from corruption and are safely guarded against exploitative contractors.

Benitez led ocular inspection of the 11-hectare Sagonsongan Transitory Shelter project here to make a personal assessment of the housing needs of the over 5,000 Marawi residents who lost their homes as a result of the nearly five-month takeover of IS-inspired Maute terrorists here.

Negros Oriental Rep. Arnie Teves accompanied the House contingent in the trip.

He also offered to provide the area with solar lighting kits. Samples were presented to Alfonso Borlagdan, head of the National Housing Authority in Region 9.

The House official vowed to strongly push for budgetary support for the Marawi recovery program as soon as the proposed allocation is presented in the Lower House.

He said the proposed P10 billion supplemental budget for Marawi City rehabilitation may not be enough to ensure swift recovery efforts, adding that shelter needs should be prioritized.

“Many of those who suffered from Yolanda’s wrath were victimized twice over as they were forced to accept substandard houses. Marawi has to be insulated from such despicable acts of corruption and abuse,” said Benitez.

The House official said he expected the National Housing Authority and the Department of Public Works and Highways to have gotten rid of dishonest contractors and their government contacts who were involved in the Yolanda housing program mess that his committee uncovered a few months ago.

It will be recalled that Benitez led a House probe that unearthed massive fraud in implementation of the Yolanda housing program. The housing committee discovered that many houses built for homeless typhoon victims in Samar and Biliran were constructed with substandard materials in order for the contractors to pad profit.

The House contingent met with local officials and project managers of the Sagonsongan shelter project which will initially provide 1,100 housing units to Marawi terror victims.

City and community leaders were asked to set up teams of concerned volunteers to help oversee the construction of houses.

Currently under construction are 22-square meter single detached houses with each unit costing an estimated P160,000.

The city government has identified two more housing sites in Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur and Barangay Bangon here for 1,600 more housing units if the Sagonsongan site is not enough to accommodate evacuees.