Lawmakers aghast at ‘Yolanda’ shelters

By: DJ Yap - 07:52 AM September 07, 2017

“Worse than a piggery” was how one member of the House of Representatives on Wednesday described government bunkhouses for survivors of Supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) in 2013.

Many housing units in resettlement areas had unsafe foundations with walls so thin that residents were told not to hammer nails into them, another congressman said. The beam in at least one house toppled over, he added.

Members of the House housing and urban development panel were left aghast at the dilapidated shelters for the Yolanda victims which they saw during a visit last week to inspect the “snail-paced” government housing projects in Eastern Visayas.

“It’s like the houses cannot be lived in. Our piggery is better because we see to it that our pigs do not have accidents. But here, it will only take a small earthquake for a disaster to happen,” said Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso.

Lawmakers said plunder charges could be filed against a contractor of the National Housing Authority (NHA) and its conspirators in the housing agency as the projects cost more than P50 million, the threshold amount for such offense.

They said J.C. Tayag Builders, which reportedly cornered the bulk of housing projects in Eastern Samar, subcontracted the work without official authorization from the NHA.

Committee Chair Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez said they found “glaring substandard construction.”

Many of the bunkhouses had weak foundations and flimsy walls, said Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone. A beam in one house crashed to the ground, he said.

He quoted one resident saying: “We got saved from Yolanda, but if we stay there, we may end up really dead.”

Camilo Salazar, an engineer from Balangiga, Eastern Samar, told the lawmakers he was subcontracted by J.C. Tayag Builders to construct 50 of the 100 units to be built in his town.

Instead of delivering standard 10-mm steel bars for the foundations, the company sent  8-mm bars that would weaken the houses, Salazar said, adding that some of the bars were rusty, according to Benitez.