DPWH chief to quit post if bunkhouses overpriced

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Monday, January 6, 2014

MANILA -- Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson offered to resign on Monday if it will be proven that there was overpricing in the construction of bunkhouses for the displaced families of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) chief, however, insisted that there was no overpricing of the government's project.

"It is not overpriced. If it's overpriced, I will, submit the following day, my resignation to President (Benigno) Aquino (III)," he said at a news briefing in Malacanang.

He also differentiated overpricing from underspecification.

"Overpriced means that there are specifications detailed, given by DPWH and the unit prices of these bunkhouses are above what normally would be in the market place. That’s overpriced," he said.

"I can tell you there's no overpricing here," Singson reiterated.

But he added that there might be possibilities that some of the contractors may have not followed the specifications and "therefore, we refer to them as underspecs."

The DPWH secretary warned contractors tasked to build bunkhouses that they will not get paid if their work is substandard.

Singson said he will fly to Tacloban City, one of the typhoon-ravaged areas, on Tuesday to inspect the bunkhouses being built for the survivors.

"I'm going there tomorrow to check. I can tell you 'pag substandard, hindi sila babayaran," he said.

"We have not paid any of the contractors at this point. We asked them on voluntary basis ... If the contractors did not follow the specifications we gave them, they will not be paid unless they correct or rectify to meet our standards. So whether they want to retrofit to meet our standards or they will not be paid," he added.

He also noted the contractors had agreed to build the bunkhouses minus their overhead and profit margins.

Contractors whose work is found to be substandard can retrofit the bunkhouses or donate them altogether, he said.

Also, he said he has discussed the matter of substandard bunkhouses with Presidential Assistant on Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Panfilo Lacson.

"I assured him that we have not paid the contractors. If contractors want to be paid they have to follow the specifications of the DPWH," he said.

Lacson reportedly said that at least one politician in the typhoon-hit area was allegedly colluding with contractors and allegedly getting kickbacks of 30 to 35 percent.

He has said that investigation has been ongoing on the alleged overpricing of bunkhouses.

Singson said he was not aware of the alleged 30 to 35 percent kickbacks by a local politician.

"Hindi ko alam kung saan nanggagaling yung 30 to 35 percent. Alangan naman yung contractor, nag-abono pa siya. Wala pa naman siyang tinatanggap sa aming bayad. Saan manggagaling yung 30 to 35 percent na ipamimigay nung contractor? Siya na nga ang tumutulong, siya pa yung tutukaan. Kung ako naman yung contractor, bakit pa ako pupunta riyan," he said.

But Singson said he told Lacson they would address the allegation.

He said that while there is no overpricing, there could be the possibility of some contractors not following the government's specifications.

The DPWH's original design is to have each bunkhouse accommodate up to 24 families, but it revised the design to have each bunkhouse accommodates up to 12 families each.

In the previous design, one unit has an area of 8.64 square meters (sqm), but it is now adjusted to 17.28 sqm.

One bunkhouse with 24 units originally amounted to P83,017. With the adjustment, each bunkhouse with 12 units costs P78,587 or over P14 million for about 20 bunkhouses, Singson said.

He said the changes in the design stemmed from comments of representatives from international agencies that one room unit is too tight.

Singson said they initially aimed to accommodate up to 6,000 families in the bunkhouses by end-January, but because of the reconfiguration of the bunkhouses, they had to reduce the number of families that can be accommodated.

But he also pointed out there is no guarantee the DPWH can complete the construction of bunkhouses in the last two-and-a-half years of the Aquino government.

"We are doing our best to do what we can do in two-and-a-half years. I cannot claim we can finish the shelter program in two years," he said. (SDR/Sunnex)

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