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Miriam blasts bunkhouse overpricing, wants probe

Posted at | Updated as of 01/10/14 12:17 AM

MANILA - Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Thursday slammed the alleged overpricing of bunkhouses meant as temporary shelters for the victims of supertyphoon Yolanda (international codename: Haiyan).

The senator has filed Senate Resolution No. 436 seeking a Senate investigation on reports that some 203 bunkhouses being developed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Leyte and Eastern Samar allegedly do not comply with internationally recognized standards and best practices.

“This controversy multiplies the suffering of our countrymen in the typhoon-affected areas, as they faced devastation from a natural disaster and the evils of corruption,” she said.

Santiago said the inquiry will investigate the potential overpricing and other unscrupulous acts concerning disaster relief operations.

"The national government owes local and international typhoon relief donors transparency and accountability, and therefore must ensure that the typhoon victims should receive relief by observing internationally recognized standards and best practices,” she said.

Urban planner and architect Jun Palafox earlier said the designs he saw when he visited the bunkhouses for Yolanda victims last December showed disregard for the safety and decency for the families that will be living there.

The architect said the international standard for bunkhouses must be at least 22 square meters per unit, with at least three bedrooms, windows for proper ventilation, floor level must be one meter above the floodline, and materials should not be a fire hazard.

What he saw in Visayas bunkhouses, Palafox said, is nowhere near those standards with each unit less than 9 square meters, only two small bedrooms, poor ventilation, and the materials used such as plywood are fire hazards.

For his part, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson denied reports that the bunkhouses are overpriced especially since contractors who built the bunkhouses would not be making a profit.

He told reporters he would resign if the accusation is proven to be true.

Santiago previously filed another resolution seeking to establish protocols and standards for disaster relief operations by local government units in cooperation with nongovernment organizations, responding to reports that relief operations for the victims of the Visayas earthquake last October have been hampered by alleged politicking by local government officials and political aspirants.