Editorial: Controversial bunkhouses

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

THE report that bunkhouses built by private contractors under the supervision of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in areas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda are overpriced had Secretary Rogelio Singson surfacing in a Malacañang press conference yesterday to deny the claim.

The bunkhouses are to be used as temporary dwellings for families left homeless by super typhoon Yolanda while they wait for the construction of their houses.

Sun.Star Cebu editorial cartoon on
Editorial cartoon by Sun.Star Cebu

The story was obviously triggered by reports reaching former senator Panfilo Lacson, the Aquino administration’s rehabilitation czar, that in one municipality in Eastern Samar the specifications laid down by DPWH for the construction of the bunkhouses were not followed.


From there, other sectors’ concerns regarding the manner the bunkhouses are being constructed, specifically the structures’ supposed non-compliance with internationally recognized standards, were raised.

For Singson, however, what happened was “underspecification” on the part of contractors and not overpricing. Contractors who didn’t follow the specifications DPWH set for the construction of the bunkhouses won’t be paid, he added.

That may be mere play of words, though, because had the complaints not been publicized, it might have been possible that the contractors would have ended up being paid even if they didn’t follow DPWH specifications, in which case the bunkhouses would have been overpriced.

To be fair to DPWH, the overpricing report only came from one municipality, which means that not all bunkhouses were constructed under questionable circumstances. A small part does not constitute the whole.

Also, even Lacson said that he is still investigating the report, which means that everything is still in the realm of allegation.

But something good may have come out from the report. Singson, for example, said that his department has addressed the concern of an international shelter group and has decided to expand the bunkhouses’ units to twice the sizes they pegged in their original specification.

What this episode in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas devastated by Yolanda shows is that there is a need for transparency and for government agencies to solicit the suggestions of as many concerned sectors as possible on how to go about with the task.

For the rehabilitation and reconstruction phase, government losing its credibility would be damaging.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 07, 2014.


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