Senate sets probe on 'overpriced' bunkhouses

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

MANILA -- Former Senator Panfilo Lacson and other government officials and personalities were invited by the Senate public works committee to attend its hearing on Wednesday on the alleged anomalous construction of temporary shelters for survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Lacson, currently Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery, earlier said that the construction of bunkhouses is under investigation following reports that the shelters built were substandard and some politicians earned kickbacks from the project.

Included among invited resource persons are Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. who insisted that the bunkhouses were “substandard and undersized, and they are not fit for human habitation.”

Singson had denied the alleged overpricing and vowed to resign if such reports were proven true. He admitted, however, some of the specifications in the construction of the bunkhouses may not have been followed.

He also doubled the size of each unit from 8.65 square meters to 17.28 square meters in response to criticisms from international observers that the room should have been wider to make the survivors more comfortable.

Still, Singson said it will take some time to identify the sites for permanent housing, and eventually the building of permanent housing structures for the displaced families.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is responsible for the construction of the temporary shelters, which are made of galvanized iron sheets, plywood and cement.

“It is crucial to look into these issues to make sure that the victims of Yolanda will no longer be victimized further by corruption and abuses perpetrated by the callous culprits who take advantage of the desolate condition in the affected areas,” stated the resolution authored by Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chairperson of the public works committee.

Marcos, along with Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, said the inquiry is aimed at instituting corrective measures to ensure the safety and security of those displaced by the typhoon, which devastated communities in the Visayas last November 8.

Yolanda, the world's strongest storm to hit land last year, left more than 6,000 dead and nearly 2,000 missing.

Damage and losses are estimated at P571.1 billion, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda). (Sunnex)

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