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Lawmakers blast subcontracting of ‘Yolanda’ housing in E. Samar

TACLOBAN CITY — The subcontracting scheme in the ‘Yolanda’ housing projects in Eastern Samar turned out to be a major setback in the construction of permanent homes for the victims of the 2013 typhoon.

This was uncovered during a two-day inquiry here by the House of Representatives. The probe ended Friday.

Lawmakers learned that projects have been delayed due to hiring of subcontractors, which also resulted in substandard projects.

Camilo Salazar from Balangiga, Eastern Samar said that he is a third-party contractor of JC Tayag Builder, the winning contractor of National Housing Authority (NHA) projects for Yolanda housing units in his home province.

He told lawmakers in a public inquiry on Friday that 40 housing units were contracted to him by a certain Sally Almazan, a sub-contractor of JC Tayag Builder based in Montalban, Rizal. The NHA is building 480 units in Cansumangkay village in Balangiga town.

Salazar also claimed that some of the construction materials used in the housing units were sub-standard.

He revealed the PHP300, 000 uncollected payment from the subcontractor, but admitted he has no documents to prove that he sub-contracted housing projects of JC Tayag Builders.

NHA officials, who attended the public inquiry, said that subcontracting is not allowed by the agency, but if it is needed, the contractor must first seek permission from the agency.

In the case of ‘Yolanda’ housing projects, NHA never issued a single sub-contracting permit.

Housing and Urban Development Committee Chair Rep. Alfred Benitez said that the revelation of Salazar will be used by his committee in the succeeding inquiries for ‘Yolanda’ housing projects.

Benitez also called for other sub-contractors of NHA housing projects to come out and provide the committee information so that they can help improve and rectify the process of housing project implementation.

“We cannot continue these projects if such problems and issues are not addressed first. There is already a revelation here when this sub-contractor share the anomalies about the on-going housing projects. What we are going to do when we come back is to call the contractors so that we can hear their side,” Benitez said.

“If these will be proven, like the usage of sub-standard material or that the housing projects are substandard, then we will be filing appropriate charges to concern people,” Benitez added.

Before the public inquiry, the lawmakers inspected ‘Yolanda’ housing projects in Eastern Samar and Tacloban. Those who joined the inspection were Benitez, Reps. Deogracias Victor Savellano of Ilocos Sur, Tom Villarin of Akbayan, Gary Alejano of Magdalo and Arlene Brosas of Gabriela.

The committee also found out from workers that they had stopped working because of non-payment of their salaries in the past two months.

Benitez said the committee wants the NHA to hasten the construction of the housing projects and implement it correctly.

Other issues raised by beneficiaries during the inquiry include absence of water and electricity, and small houses for big families.

In Eastern Samar, housing project demand under the NHA is 7,573 but only about 454 units have been completed with only 289 occupied nearly four years after the super typhoon struck.

The committee noticed that the bidding of housing projects was held at the NHA main office in Manila.

Alejano said that these schemes also contribute in the slow pace of project implementation because only big contractors have the capacity to join biddings in Manila while local qualified contractors are not given the chance to join the competitive bidding.

The lawmakers held dialogues in several places with the final stop at the office of Leyte Rep. Yedda Romualdez.

Committee members expect that more people will come out in future inquiries to help resolve housing concerns. (PNA)

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