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Palace backs Lacson probe on bunkhouses

Philippine Daily Inquirer January 09,2014 - 10:55 AM

Bunkhouses are being constructed in barangay Sagkahan, Tacloban City for the victims of supertyphoon Yolanda

Malacañang yesterday expressed its full backing for rehabilitation chief Panfilo Lacson’s ongoing investigation into alleged irregularities in the construction of bunkhouses for typhoon victims in Leyte and Samar provinces.

“Yes, that is part of his process,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing when asked if the Lacson probe had the full backing of the Palace.

Part of the investigation covers the possibility that contractors did not meet specifications set by the government, giving rise to purportedly substandard bunkhouses.

But before Lacson could complete his investigation, Lacierda maintained that the structures—a temporary shelter for an estimated 6,000 families—were “not substandard.”

“Let me be clear: It’s not substandard,” Lacierda said in a press conference, insisting that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) followed the Building Code in constructing.

Lacierda said the government was concerned about the safety of the typhoon victims in the temporary shelters, and wanted to avoid “congestion.”

“We’re following our standards. We don’t necessarily have to follow international standards because our concern is safety, our concern is it should not be congested,” he said.

Architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. on Tuesday questioned the quality of bunkhouses for victims of supertyphoon “Yolanda.”

“Would you want your family to live here?” he had said, referring to the Inquirer’s front-page photo of bunkhouses under construction. “It’s a fire hazard. There’s no privacy. The materials are so flimsy.”

Lacierda’s office released yesterday a statement purportedly coming from Palafox clarifying that the architect did not accuse the DPWH of “corruption.”

“I only commented on the shelters for survivors being undersized and substandard based [on] our international experience and standards,” Palafox said.

Concern over subpar compliance with standards has been raised by a UN-led shelter group. The United Nations has issued an appeal for $791 million to the international donor community to help the Philippines in its rehabilitation and recovery program.

The UN humanitarian coordinator in the Philippines has noted gaps in shelter assistance for typhoon survivors, low donor response to requests for funding and the use of salvaged materials by residents rebuilding homes that would put them at risk in the next violent storm.

‘Building back worse’

An international coordinating body on shelter response in humanitarian emergencies has also noted that typhoon survivors in the Visayas have been “building back worse,” with more than half starting their own reconstruction effort using materials of poor quality.

In its situation report released on Jan. 7, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the government had committed to increasing living spaces in bunkhouses following “constructive dialogue” on the standards of the transitional shelter units.

Such talks apparently came following the reported overpricing and subpar construction by private contractors of the DPWH of bunkhouses—temporary quarters where survivors in makeshift homes and evacuation centers will be moved pending construction of permanent shelters.

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TAGS: bunkhouse, DPWH, national budget, Tacloban

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