Solon’s challenge: Zero backlog in ‘Yolanda’ housing

Published November 8, 2017, 10:00 PM
By Ben Rosario

Bring to zero the more than 190,000 backlog in housing units for Yolanda-affected families when the nation observes next year the fifth anniversary of the worst typhoon tragedy that hit the country in recent history.

That was the challenge aired by the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on housing to the National Housing Authority (NHA) when the country marked the fourth anniversary of the super-typhoon yesterday.

Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez also called for the swift release of funds to finance the Typhoon Yolanda Housing Project as noted by the Commission on Audit in the recently-released 2016 Annual Financial Report for Government Owned and -Controlled Corporations that included NHA.

“Next year, the fifth anniversary of Yolanda should be observed with all homeless victims being made to experience the comforts of having their own homes,” Benitez said.

Benitez said COA has also aired misgivings over the failure of the NHA and other agencies involved in Yolanda housing to make available relocation sites for displaced families in the typhoon stricken areas.

“After the target three-year period for providing homeless families with a roof over their heads lapsed last year, only half of the target houses were completed.  I find this fact sickening,” said Benitez.

Citing COA’s 2016 AFR, Benitez said that only 49.84 percent or 190,413 houses out of the target 382,082 units were completed by NHA in 2016.

The PDP-Laban stalwart also lamented that of the total houses completed and ready for distribution, only 76,004 are actually occupied.

“Many Yolanda victims have aired strong doubts as to the structural integrity of the houses being offered them.  Corruption is to be blamed for this,” Benitez said.

Earlier, the senior administration lawmaker vowed to bring to justice officials and private contractors for the delay and substandard quality of housing projects.

Since August, Rep. Benitez has led a series of public hearings in Eastern Samar, Tacloban and Congress to investigate the snail-paced implementation of Yolanda housing projects.

The committee had uncovered substantial information showing that aside from delays in the construction, substandard materials were used in the Yolanda housing project in Balangiga, Eastern Samar.

An inspection team directed by the committee had discovered the use of 8 millimeter re-bars in the housing project in Balangiga.

In a joint meeting with the committee on good government in September, lawmakers had grilled National Housing Authority (NHA) officials on allegations of irregular bidding process where a single contractor – JC Tayag Builders – cornered the R800-million housing project in Eastern Samar.