Contractor of Yolanda housing in hot water

September 07, 2017

A CONSTRUCTION company based in San Fernando City, Pampanga is in hot water for constructing substandard housing units for the victims of typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

Rep. Alfredo Benitez (PDP-Laban, Negros Occidental), chair of the House committee on housing and urban development, said the owner of housing contractor JC Tayag may face estafa and even a plunder complaint because of the multi-million irregularities. The owner was not identified.

“This is a double-whammy for the Yolanda victims.  They have already experienced the great tragedy and now we have this,” Benitez said. 

To get to the bottom of the issue, the Benitez panel will hold a joint investigation with the House committee on good government and public accountability chaired by Rep. Johnny Pimentel (PDP-Laban, Surigao del Sur).

Benitez’s panel earlier held a public hearing in Tacloban City from August 31 to September 1 based on House Resolution (HR) No. 599 filed by Rep. Ben Evardone (PDP-Laban, Eastern Samar).

The panel conducted on-site inspections of housing relocation and community building and resettlement projects.

The irregularities were revealed by an engineer, Camilo Salazar, who told lawmakers that the materials used for the construction of the housing units were “substandard.”

Salazar, a constituent of Evardone, is an authorized subcontractor for 46 housing units of J.C. Tayag Builders Incorporate, the main contractor for the housing project.

“We were able to stumble (upon) one whistleblower who testified that the materials they used for the project were substandard,” said Benitez.

While 10-millimeter steel rods were supposed to be used, Salazar told the housing panel that what was really used were “rusty” eight millimeter steel rods.

Benitez said the National Housing Authority (NHA) should be made to explain why it allowed the sub-contracting policy of the housing units despite its prohibition.

He said Salazar should not have been allowed to participate as a subcontractor approved by the NHA to undertake the project.

He said P60 billion out of the P75 billion allocation from the 2013 national budget had been used but as of July 31, 2017, only 33 percent of the housing projects or 67,754 units were completed while 11.4 percent, or 23,414, were occupied.

A total of 205,128 housing units were supposed to be built and 73,286 units are still under construction.

Evardone said almost 80 percent of the National Housing Authority projects in Eastern Samar were secured by Juanito Tayag of the J.C. Tayag Builders Inc. although the House has yet to ascertain who the company’s owners are.

The Eastern Samar lawmaker said the NHA has to explain why the projects were cornered by Tayag’s firm, noting that some houses built in Balangiga, Eastern Samar were indeed, substandard.

Evardone said the revelations in the two-day hearing prompted the committee to seek a special audit on Yolanda housing projects and the rehabilitation program from the Commission on Audit (COA).

Benitez and Evardone said beneficiaries have remained in temporary shelters while others decided to return to the dangerous zones as the government continues to construct 73,286 more housing units.

Rep. Yedda Marie Kittilstvedt-Romualdez (Lakas, Leyte) urged President Duterte “to hold accountable the parties involved in the anomalies uncovered by the (Benitez) panel.”