Palace: Bunkhouse anomaly not tackled in Cabinet meeting

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

THE alleged anomaly in the construction of bunkhouses in areas hit by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) was never discussed during the Cabinet meeting that President Benigno Aquino III called on Thursday in Malacanang.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that the President convened again the members of the Cabinet to ensure that the post-Yolanda rehabilitation program is on track and to accelerate its implementation.

"Hindi po tinalakay 'yon sa pulong," he said when asked if during the Cabinet meeting, Presidential Assistant for for Rehabilitation and Recovery Panfilo Lacson gave a report on the alleged overpricing and kickbacks by some politicians in the construction of bunkhouses in Visayas.

Lacson earlier disclosed that he received information that there was overpricing in the building of bunkhouses for Yolanda survivors and some politicians received 30 to 35 percent kickbacks from the project.

Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson, whose office has been involved in the construction of temporary shelters, denied that there was overpricing but he did not discount the possibility that some materials being used by contractors were "underspecifications."

Coloma said that Lacson and Singson were seating beside each other and were talking to each other during the three-hour Cabinet meeting.

In the meeting, Coloma said that Lacson stressed the need to remove the remaining debris in Tacloban City, prompting the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to promise to send 30 shredders to the calamity area.

He also said that Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) might also redeploy its rescue battalion to Tacloban City.

Aquino also asked the concerned agencies to immediately reconstruct the local government facilities, such as town halls, public markets, civic centers, school buildings, tourism facilities and the Tacloban airport.

Coloma said the government is waiting the result of the study being conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency on the design of new school buildings and of the Tacloban airport by the end of this month.

The Department of Health (DOH) reported during the meeting that massive fogging operations were also being conducted in typhoon-affected areas after monitoring the spread of "chikungunya," a mosquito-borne disease resulting in body pains, but is considered less dangerous than dengue, Coloma said.

The President also ordered the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to provide additional funds to complete the cadaver identification and burial process of those who perished from the typhoon at the soonest possible time.

In Tacloban City alone, Coloma said that the National Bureau of Investigation reported a total of 2,249 bodies recovered and of this number, 448 were processed and buried in permanent burial sites, while 1,801 were buried in temporary burial sites and will be exhumed for further identification processes.

Aquino has also asked the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to submit a report by the end of the month regarding its simulation studies on effects of possible storm surge occurrence similar to those that was brought about by Yolanda, he added.

The President also directed the Budget department to submit recommendations on the possibility of extending financial assistance to national government employees affected by typhoon Yolanda similar to assistance given to those affected by typhoons Pablo and Sendong. (SDR/Sunnex)

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