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Only 13% of ‘Yolanda’ housing occupied, 38% built

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FILE – . The National Housing Authority has failed to meet the March deadline set by President Duterte to complete the houses for families displaced during the onslaught of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in 2013. Among these are located in North Hill Arbours Village in Barangay Suhi, Tacloban City in Leyte province. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Four years after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (“Haiyan”) hit the Philippines, particularly in the Visayas region where it made landfall, the government has built only less than half of the housing demand for those devastated by the monster storm, and has rehomed only a little more than a tenth of the families.

Based on data presented to the media by the National Housing Authority (NHA) on Tuesday, as of October 30, 2017,  only 12.79 percent—26, 256 units of the 205, 128 targeted number of permanent housing units nationwide—have actually been awarded to and are already being occupied by beneficiaries.

Only 78,291 units—38 percent of the target—have actually already been constructed, with 59,924 units remaining under construction to date.

Of the units already constructed and remaining unoccupied, 54,180 are hoped to be awarded to beneficiaries by year-end.

In explaining the slow pace of building and distributing permanent housing for “Yolanda” survivors, NHA officials underscored the massive scale of devastation wrought by the supertyphoon across six regions, comprised of 14 provinces, and 171 cities and municipalities.

The NHA pointed to various chokepoints in the process: local governments being delayed in identifying, listing and validating beneficiaries; having to reconstitute lost land titles and procuring land suitable for homes; the slow start of reconstruction efforts.

For NHA manager for Visayas Grace Guevarra, these were only expected and did not point to any lapses.  “Reconstruction and rehabilitation came later. In any calamity, housing will not be the priority of every local government unit. They focus first on subsistence…On the first year, we only did data-gathering.”

Bidding for the gargantuan permanent housing project only began in September 2014, nearly a year after the typhoon hit.

Of the government’s 205,128 targeted number of units, 95 percent, or 194,454 units, have already been bidded out for construction. The government permanent housing program for “Yolanda” survivors required hiring around 300 contractors for the construction.

The construction for the last 10,674 units will be opened for bidding just today (Wednesday).

Disqualified from further participating in the bidding is contractor JC Tayag Builders Incorporated, which was hit in an earlier Congressional inquiry for allegedly using substandard materials for permanent housing units in Balangiga, eastern Samar, in the hardest-hit region eastern Visayas. The NHA has earlier issued a notice to terminate the contract with the construction firm for not meeting set time tables.

In eastern Visayas, only 17, 824 units of a targeted 56, 140 have been built, and 11,752 occupied. The construction of 27,058 units was ongoing.

Guevarra, however, vehemently denied the NHA was responsible for substandard “Yolanda” housing.

“Definitely, we will not admit to that…Construction defects and substandard housing are two different things. In every construction, every mass housing, we cannot avoid construction problems…but that is subject for rectification.”

Guevarra maintained contractors are not paid unless such defects are corrected and the agreed-upon projects accomplished.

Of the total P59 billion allotted for the “Yolanda” resettlement project, P52 billion has already been “obligated” to contractors, with P23 billion actually “disbursed” or paid. The NHA is awaiting the release of the remaining P7 billion from the budget department.

Guevarra said all constructions and distributions under the “Yolanda” permanent housing program is targeted to be completed by 2019.

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