'YOLANDA' BUNKHOUSES OVERPRICED SHELTERS SUBSTANDARD, TOO


The construction of bunkhouses as temporary shelters for families of homeless typhoon victims has raised questions about the direction and integrity of the government’s rehabilitation and recovery program.
Allegations of overpricing and substandard work have raised fears that the entrenched pork barrel system that spawned the alleged P10-billion Janet Lim-Napoles racket exposed by whistle-blowers last July is again rearing its ugly head in this early stage of reconstruction following the most violent typhoon to hit this country. At least 203 bunkhouses—each unit divided into 24 rooms that would house as many families—are being built in more than a dozen towns in Leyte and Eastern Samar, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Each room measures 8.64 square meters—roughly the size of two Ping-Pong tables—to be occupied by one family, said a DPWH paper, “shelter and reconstruction action plan.”

ALSO: Aquino defends bunkhouses in E. Visayas

—The government wants to build permanent houses that are safe for residents and in the meantime, the bunkhouses are there for temporary use only, President Benigno Aquino III said in a speech in Palo town, Leyte province, after visiting the structures built by the government for the survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international codename: Haiyan). “You might ask why these are just bunkhouses or temporary houses … We want to ensure first that the areas where we will build the permanent houses are safe,” the President said in a speech.

ALSO: 122 bunkhouses built for ‘Yolanda’ survivors; 106 more to go

Better late than never. Of the initial 228 bunkhouses the government had planned to build for survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) in Eastern Visayas, construction firms hired by the Department of Public Works and Highways were able to put up only 122 before the Christmas break. But the same private contractors “will resume work on 96 partially completed temporary shelters next Monday (Jan. 6),” DPWH Region 8 Director Rolando Asis reported on Thursday. “All bunkhouses are expected to be finished by the end of January.” That is, “if weather conditions in the Leyte and Samar areas cooperate,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Asked if the DPWH was considering putting up more temporary shelters for typhoon victims, Asis said: “Yes, if local government units in these areas can provide the required resettlement sites.” Similar bunkhouse construction projects in Eastern Visayas “would depend on available sites,” he said as he assured anew the agency was speeding up the building of bunkhouse units.

ALSO: Aquino orders ‘full assistance’ as Lacson takes on job of rehab czar

Former Sen. Panfilo Lacson formally took charge of the government’s massive rehabilitation work in areas devastated by Supertyphoon Yolanda, getting the full backing of the entire government machinery for the job. Lacson took his oath before President Aquino as presidential assistant for rehabilitation and recovery shortly before attending a Cabinet meeting at the Palace in the afternoon. In appointing the ex-senator, the President directed all government offices and its “instrumentalities” to “render full assistance and cooperation to the presidential assistant as may be required to carry out his functions.” Aquino’s order was contained in Memorandum Order No. 62, which he signed last Dec. 6. It spelled out eight functions for Lacson.
As rehabilitation chief, Lacson will act as “overall manager and coordinator of rehabilitation, recovery, and reconstruction efforts of government departments, agencies and instrumentalities in the affected areas, to the extent allowed by law.” He will be assisted by Undersecretary Danilo Antonio, formerly chief operating officer of Eton Property Philippines, Inc. and professor at the Asian Institute of Management from 1988 to 2008.

ALSO: Lacson hopes to complete Visayas rehab by mid-2016

Newly appointed “rehabilitation czar” former Senator Panfilo Lacson said Monday that with best efforts, he is hoping to rehabilitate areas ravaged by Supertyphoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ before the end of President Aquino’s term in June, 2016. During the “Kapihan sa Diamond Hotel” in Manila, Lacson said he already met with various consultants to discuss the possible steps to undertake to rehabilitate Tacloban and other areas destroyed by the typhoon. “Best effort is before June 2016. They [consultants] told me that it is doable,” Lacson said who admitted that his new mandate is difficult not only because it was a new area for him but due to the fact that they have to start from scratch.


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‘Yolanda’ bunkhouses overpriced Shelters substandard, too


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President Aquino, center, inspects a temporary shelter for typhoon victims during his visit to Tacloban city, on Dec. 22, 2013. Allegations of overpricing and substandard work have raised fears that the entrenched pork barrel system that spawned the alleged P10-billion Janet Lim-Napoles racket exposed by whistle-blowers last July is again rearing its ugly head in this early stage of reconstruction following the most violent typhoon to hit this country. AP PHOTO/ACHMAD IBRAHIM

MANILA, JANUARY 6, 2014 (INQUIRER) By Fernando del Mundo - The construction of bunkhouses as temporary shelters for families of homeless typhoon victims has raised questions about the direction and integrity of the government’s rehabilitation and recovery program.


Officer-in-Charge Director Elizabeth P. Pilorin, Stakeholders Relations Services of the Department of Public Works and Highways shows the perspective of the construction of bunkhouses in Tacloban City, Palo, Leyte, Basey and Marabut in Samar as temporary shelter for the families affected by typhoon Yolanda at the agency head office in Manila on Tuesday. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Allegations of overpricing and substandard work have raised fears that the entrenched pork barrel system that spawned the alleged P10-billion Janet Lim-Napoles racket exposed by whistle-blowers last July is again rearing its ugly head in this early stage of reconstruction following the most violent typhoon to hit this country.

At least 203 bunkhouses—each unit divided into 24 rooms that would house as many families—are being built in more than a dozen towns in Leyte and Eastern Samar, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Each room measures 8.64 square meters—roughly the size of two Ping-Pong tables—to be occupied by one family, said a DPWH paper, “shelter and reconstruction action plan.” The average size of a Filipino family is five, but in many cases there are as many as 10 individuals in one household.

A report by an international shelter group assisting the government in its relief efforts said the bunkhouses being developed by the DPWH in areas devastated by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) were “noncompliant in many respects with internationally recognized standards and best practices.”

“There appears to be a number of contractors working at different sites. Standards and facilities appear to be somewhat different between different locations. It raises the question of whether contractors have different specifications for different sites, if they are using the same specifications, whether these are fully complied with in every location,” said the report made available to the Inquirer.


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DPWH workers from Mindanao were brought to Tacloban to help build the bunkhouses for the victims of Yolanda. (Lito Tecson)

Other concerns

The report by the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) group raised concerns ranging from cramped spaces to lack of ventilation, risk of fires and safety and security of occupants.

Field officers of the CCCM, involved in shelter programs in countries wracked by civil strife and natural calamities, have quietly discussed with municipal authorities apprehensions at the lack of privacy in rooms separated by thin plywood walls and sexual molestation of children while their parents are away trying to eke out a living.

At the very least, consultations with the potential occupants have been suggested.

While “protection issues” are the main concerns of the international workers, local authorities are worried about the potential for corruption in the government’s reconstruction and recovery initiatives in the ruined communities.

One issue is the soundness of constructing temporary quarters nearly two months after Yolanda struck on Nov. 8, after the emergency had passed, rather than getting people back on their feet and building permanent shelters instead.

The most powerful storm to make landfall in history killed more than 6,100 people with winds of 315 kilometers per hour and tsunami-like storm surges, affected 14 million people, and made homeless 4 million of them.

Providing permanent shelters, along with livelihood, is an important first stage in the reconstruction, according to experts interviewed by the Inquirer.

The 15-page CCCM cluster report could be telling. Politicians and priests in Leyte and Samar are worried about reports that a 24-room bunkhouse is being constructed at a cost roughly below P200,000 and not P959,360—the price tag put on it in the DPWH plan.

Specs not followed

The nearly P1-million expense in the DPWH “individual program of work” for each of the 11 bunkhouses now undergoing construction in Tacloban City, for example, includes such amenities as four toilets, two bathrooms and a common kitchen.

In at least one municipality in Eastern Samar, however, some of the bunkhouses do not have toilets, baths or kitchen.

A report by the municipal engineer of this town, sent to former Sen. Panfilo Lacson, point man of the Aquino administration’s rehabilitation efforts, detailed failures of private contractors of the DPWH to comply with specifications of the department.


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Similar bunkhouse built by DPWH for the victims of Typhoon Pablo in Compostela Valley. The bunkhouses will be made of coco lumber wooden frames, galvanised iron sheet roofing, plywood walls and flooring with cement footing. Each bunkhouse will have an area of 8.64 square meters per unit with a toilet and kitchen. A bunkhouse will be able to accommodate a family of five members, according to DPWH. The temporary shelters being built in Barangay Abucay, Tacloban will benefit around 240 families. Another 240 families in Samar will be provided with temporary housings as the construction of ten bunkhouses at the two-hectare Basey First Housing Area in Sitio Bangon in Basey is underway.

For example, this engineer said that while the DPWH specification on roofing was 0.50 millimeter, a 0.30 mm or 0.40 mm sheet was used in some of the bunkhouses; a 6 mm thick plywood wall specified was replaced with a thinner 3/16; instead of a 3/4 plywood for flooring, a 1/2 plyboard was employed.

A government engineer in Manila said in a cost estimate that without the toilets, baths and kitchen and simply coming up with the dwelling, direct cost using coco lumber, ordinary plywood and GI sheets would be P170,075.

Add a 10-percent profit margin of P17,007 and 12-percent overhead cost contingency and miscellaneous expenses and the total comes up to P232,391. Each room in this estimate can be built for P19,365.94.

A simple thatched hut could be built with this amount, according to experts.

Both engineers spoke on condition of anonymity because they had no authority to talk to reporters.

Faithful compliance

Rolando Asis, DPWH director for Eastern Visayas, insisted in an interview in Tacloban that the department’s specifications were being complied with faithfully and that mayors had agreed to the project, especially for informal settlers.

He said that bunkhouses were being built by private contractors outside the affected region and that the costs were in fact lower. He said a similar shelter for victims of Tropical Storm “Sendong” (international name: Washi) in Mindanao two years ago cost P1.2 million.

“They’re just breaking even,” Asis said, pointing out that materials were coming from outside the affected region—from Manila, Davao and Cebu—and that this accounted for the high expense. He said even laborers were being imported. “They are just trying to help.”

In one Eastern Samar town, however, the Inquirer has learned that at least six private contractors were local residents. One of them is an officer of the Commission on Elections who did not have the capacity to cough up the P1-million investment for a single bunkhouse project. The six are neither engineers nor contractors.

The Inquirer was told that the contractors were recommended by an administration politician and that their selection stemmed from traditional practice in the lawmakers’ pork barrel system—the Priority Development Assistance Fund—that has been roundly condemned following allegations that funds meant to ease rural poverty had been diverted to ghost projects and kickbacks. This meant the DPWH contractors needed the blessing of the local political kingpin.

One town mayor, who likewise spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being left out in the reconstruction process, said he had not been told how long the temporary structures would remain and when permanent shelters would be built.

The selection of relocation sites is a major problem. The government has announced that construction of houses will not be allowed within 40 meters of the coastline, reckoned at high tide.

That would require national legislation given the vulnerability of coastlines to violent storms in the era of climate change. In some towns, impatient mayors are pushing ordinances to enforce no-build zones.

Not pigs in a pen

Management of the bunkhouse sites could be a major problem at the turnover by the private contractors, unless ironclad guarantees are arranged for the security and well-being of the occupants.

“It’s not a simple case of dumping pigs in a pen,” the mayor said.

For some people uprooted, like Ailyn Ambid, 25, anything anywhere is better than the ramshackle hut where she is staying at Barangay 88, near the Tacloban airport. There, she lost her husband and three children to Yolanda.

“This place has many bad memories. I would rather move out and get on with my life,” she said, adding that she had no qualms moving to the bunkhouse in the city.

Francisco Bandaje Jr., a 35-year-old father of seven, would rather stay and rebuild his home at the barangay. He works as a driver at the airport.

Disclosure of potential irregularities comes amid a request by the United Nations for a $791-million assistance for the government’s rehabilitation and recovery plan for the Yolanda-wrecked regions.

While Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson has impeccable credentials as a clean and honest manager, concerned municipalities are worried that he may not be aware of what is happening on the ground.

Calls for transparency have been aired by ambassadors of donor countries. Last month, the envoys went on a tour of the typhoon-affected areas, accompanied by Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman and the UN humanitarian coordinator in the Philippines Luisa Carvalho.

At the end of the tour in Ormoc City, Ambassador Neil Reeder of Canada, echoing the sentiments of the diplomats, said: “The next six months into the new year is a very critical window as you transition into the reconstruction phase beyond the immediate needs … . We want to have an open, transparent process.”

Aquino defends bunkhouses in E. Visayas By Joey A. Gabieta Inquirer Visayas 11:19 pm | Monday, December 23rd, 2013


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President Aquino inspects the construction of bunkhouse units in Bliss Kalanipawan during his visit to Tacloban City on Dec. 22, 2013. In the background are the completed bunkhouses. PHOTO COURTESY OF PUBLIC INFORMATION AGENCY REGION 8

TACLOBAN CITY—The government wants to build permanent houses that are safe for residents and in the meantime, the bunkhouses are there for temporary use only, President Benigno Aquino III said in a speech in Palo town, Leyte province, after visiting the structures built by the government for the survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international codename: Haiyan).

“You might ask why these are just bunkhouses or temporary houses … We want to ensure first that the areas where we will build the permanent houses are safe,” the President said in a speech.

Two bunkhouses, composed of 24 units each, were turned over to 48 families in Barangay (village) Candahug, located some 3 kilometers from the town proper.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) plans to build 203 bunkhouses in Eastern Visayas, according to DPWH Region 8 Director Rolando Asis.

Each bunkhouse costs P838,000 and is made of corrugated sheets, plywood and coconut lumber. It measures 8.64 square meters, with a common bathroom and kitchen.

Asis said the cost of each bunkhouse was high because the construction materials had to be brought in from Cebu and Davao provinces. The workers also came from outside the region, he added.

The President said he would see to it that the next permanent relocation sites of the people rendered homeless by the typhoon would be better and more resistant to calamities.

“We will not allow those who will start a new life to face the same danger and uncertainty. We want to ensure that you will live in safe houses where you can build your dreams,” the President said.

Asis admitted the bunkhouses were not the typhoon-resistant type but gave the assurance that the government was committed to providing permanent shelters to the homeless survivors.

He said the residents of the bunkhouses were expected to live there for six months at most, after which they would be given permanent relocation, the site of which would be determined by the local government unit concerned.

The President, meanwhile, promised that the people of Eastern Visayas could still expect assistance from the national government.

So far, he said, the national government had poured P2.6 billion in relief assistance, helped more than 200,000 families and provided three million food packs to the affected families in the region.

The President and Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez met for the first time since they engaged in a blame game over who should be responsible for the absence of the government in the city days after it was ravaged by Yolanda.

The meeting was brief but cordial.

The meeting occurred when the President made a quick visit to Barangay 62-B here to inspect the government-funded bunkhouses for homeless typhoon survivors.

The President inspected the bunkhouses, of which 11 of 17 were ready for occupancy, when Romualdez, accompanied by his cousin, Leyte Representative Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, approached him and told the President that he appreciated the assistance extended to his city by the national government.

The President, however, did not linger and left barely 10 minutes after he arrived, and proceeded to Palo to inspect another set of bunkhouses and meet with local leaders, including former Leyte governor and now Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, who are his political allies.

Mayor Romualdez declined to issue any statement about his brief meeting with the President.

Unlike the quick trip to Tacloban’s bunkhouse site, the President stayed for over 30 minutes in Palo and led in the giving of the certificates of occupancy for the 48 families who would be first locators to the bunkhouses built in Candahug.

The President was accompanied by Petilla, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and former Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the newly named rehabilitation czar.

The President was also met in Palo by the beneficiaries of the bunkhouses for the town.

122 bunkhouses built for ‘Yolanda’ survivors; 106 more to go By Jerry Esplanada Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:36 pm | Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

MANILA, Philippines — Better late than never. Of the initial 228 bunkhouses the government had planned to build for survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) in Eastern Visayas, construction firms hired by the Department of Public Works and Highways were able to put up only 122 before the Christmas break.

But the same private contractors “will resume work on 96 partially completed temporary shelters next Monday (Jan. 6),” DPWH Region 8 Director Rolando Asis reported on Thursday.

“All bunkhouses are expected to be finished by the end of January.” That is, “if weather conditions in the Leyte and Samar areas cooperate,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Asked if the DPWH was considering putting up more temporary shelters for typhoon victims, Asis said: “Yes, if local government units in these areas can provide the required resettlement sites.”

Similar bunkhouse construction projects in Eastern Visayas “would depend on available sites,” he said as he assured anew the agency was speeding up the building of bunkhouse units.

The DPWH had promised to put up at least 119 bunkhouses by Dec. 15 and another 23 units by Dec. 20.
However, only 86 temporary shelters were constructed by Dec. 17.

Worse, only two of them – both in Barangay (village) Candahug in Palo town, Leyte – were turned over by President Aquino during his visit to the storm-devastated province last Dec. 22.

The other 84 bunkhouses, including 32 in Tacloban City, still had no running water, said Asis. Contacted by phone, he also said the recipients of the temporary shelters were still being identified by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The DPWH Public Information Division earlier said the remaining bunkhouse units would be completed by Dec. 23.

The department had planned to build a total of 228 bunkhouses in Eastern Visayas – 50 of them in Tacloban, 50 in Palo, 46 in Ormoc City, 31 in Samar and 55 in Eastern Samar.

Each bunkhouse, which consists of 24 units with a common bathroom and kitchen, costs P838,000.

The bunkhouses are made of corrugated sheets, plywood and coconut lumber. Each unit measures 8.64 meters.
Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson earlier told reporters the government would need at least P15 billion for the construction of temporary shelters for the typhoon survivors.

Asis explained the cost of each bunkhouse was high because the construction materials had to be brought in from Cebu City and other parts of the Visayas and Mindanao and the workers also had to travel to Region 8.

Sometime in early December, the DPWH issued a statement where it said it would go on a “fast-track mode” in the building of the initial 119 temporary shelters in Leyte and Eastern Samar.

The first batch of bunkhouses, each composed of 24 units or a total of 2,856 units, would be completed by Dec. 15, the agency said, adding in Tacloban City, the initial 23 bunkhouses were expected to be finished by Dec. 20.
More would be completed in time for the New Year, the DPWH added.

According to Singson, “the repair and rehabilitation of typhoon-damaged roads, bridges and other state infrastructures can be completed in one year.”

“But it’s the shelter program that will take some time. Putting up the bunkhouses and other temporary shelters will most likely take three years, which is fast enough,” he added.

During his recent visit to Leyte, the President said the government would build “permanent houses that are safe for residents.” The bunkhouses, he also said, would only be for temporary use.

He added he would see to it that the permanent relocation sites of Eastern Visayas residents rendered homeless by the typhoon would be better and more resilient to calamities.

Aquino orders ‘full assistance’ as Lacson takes on job of rehab czar By Christian V. Esguerra Philippine Daily Inquirer 6:24 pm | Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—Former Sen. Panfilo Lacson formally took charge of the government’s massive rehabilitation work in areas devastated by Supertyphoon Yolanda, getting the full backing of the entire government machinery for the job.

Lacson took his oath before President Aquino as presidential assistant for rehabilitation and recovery shortly before attending a Cabinet meeting at the Palace in the afternoon.

In appointing the ex-senator, the President directed all government offices and its “instrumentalities” to “render full assistance and cooperation to the presidential assistant as may be required to carry out his functions.”

Aquino’s order was contained in Memorandum Order No. 62, which he signed last Dec. 6. It spelled out eight functions for Lacson.

As rehabilitation chief, Lacson will act as “overall manager and coordinator of rehabilitation, recovery, and reconstruction efforts of government departments, agencies and instrumentalities in the affected areas, to the extent allowed by law.”

He will be assisted by Undersecretary Danilo Antonio, formerly chief operating officer of Eton Property Philippines, Inc. and professor at the Asian Institute of Management from 1988 to 2008.

Lacson was tasked to come up with “plans and programs for the rehabilitation, recovery and development of the affected areas, including an overall strategic vision and integrated short-term, medium-term and long-term programs, which shall be submitted to the President for approval.”

In doing so, he would have to “coordinate” with the National Risk Reduction and Management Council and “consult” with local government units, according to MO 62.

Even with Lacson’s appointment, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said executive departments would continue “performing their primary mandate.”

But in areas devastated by “Yolanda,” Lacson would be the President’s “top assistant in ensuring that recovery and rehabilitation efforts will be done expeditiously,” Coloma said.

Malacañang said rehabilitation programs were being done “with the highest sense of urgency and priority.”

“There’s no letup in the government’s effort to respond to the immediate needs of our people hit by the calamity,” Coloma said.

Lacson’s functions include the power to “exercise oversight over the relevant government agencies” in the implementation of the rehabilitation program. He could also propose “funding support” and tap “consultants, experts, and professional advisors whenever necessary.”

Lacson hopes to complete Visayas rehab by mid-2016 By Tetch Torres-Tupas INQUIRER.net 12:28 pm | Monday, December 2nd, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—Newly appointed “rehabilitation czar” former Senator Panfilo Lacson said Monday that with best efforts, he is hoping to rehabilitate areas ravaged by Supertyphoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ before the end of President Aquino’s term in June, 2016.

During the “Kapihan sa Diamond Hotel” in Manila, Lacson said he already met with various consultants to discuss the possible steps to undertake to rehabilitate Tacloban and other areas destroyed by the typhoon.

“Best effort is before June 2016. They [consultants] told me that it is doable,” Lacson said who admitted that his new mandate is difficult not only because it was a new area for him but due to the fact that they have to start from scratch.

“For me, if I will be able to accomplish at least 85 or 90 percent (of the task) is already fine by me,” Lacson said.
Lacson has accepted the President’s offer to lead the rehabilitation of typhoon-ravaged areas over the weekend.

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