MANILA - The chairman of the House of Representatives' Committee on Housing and Urban Development is keen to file charges against officials behind the construction of a wooden bridge that collapsed in Zamboanga City last week, as he bared that it cost P12 million.
Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez, among government officials that fell into murky water during an inspection of housing projects in Barangay Rio Hondo on April 26, said he would seek the accountability of officials under whose time the bridge was built.
“'Yung wooden bridge na nilakaran namin kung saan kami bumagsak ay may cost na P12 million,” he told reporters.
(The wooden bridge where we walked and fell through cost P12 million.)
Benitez said the project was finished in 2016, which meant it began to be implemented under the 2015 budget.
"'Pag nadulas ka lang sa isang restaurant, 'yung establishment may liability na 'yun eh. Siguro ito, di lang kami lang nadulas, nalaglag. May mga scratches, may mga bruises, si Cong. Celso (Lobregat) naka-inom ng tubig. Based on that incident, titingnan natin ano mga legal options," he said.
(When you slip and fall inside a restaurant, the establishment would have liability. Here, we didn't just slip; we fell through. Cong. Celso had scratches, bruises, and even swallowed the water. Based on that incident, we will look at our legal options.)
"Ang kailangan, may mangyari na di maulit. Kailangan gawin para di gawing complacent at di maging substandard ang mga plano at mga programa ng ating ahensiya sa punto na 'yun, di dahil para magkaroon ng compensation para sa amin. It is more sana magkaroon na tayo ng tama at magandang programa sa pabahay at di na maulit 'yung ganitong klaseng proyekto," he added.
(This incident should not happen again. We have to do something so that agencies won't be complacent and plans and programs won't be substandard. It's not for us to receive compensation. It is more so that we could have proper and better housing programs, and so that projects like this would not happen again.)
Last week, Benitez, Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat, Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar and National Housing Authority (NHA) personnel fell into the waters of Sitio Hong Kong, Barangay Rio Hondo when the wooden footbridge gave way.
“Habang tumatawid kami, natanong ko bakit 'yun ang ginamit. Sabi ko, baka di tumagal. 'Yun na nga, di nga tumagal, ilang hakbang nakita natin lahat, bumagsak na kami," he said.
(While we were crossing the bridge, I asked why this material was used. I said it might not be durable. And then it happened. A few steps in and we fell through.)
"Sabi ko nga, pinag-uusapan namin, naghahanap ako ng reports ng substandard materials na ginamit sa proyekto. Hindi ko lang nakita; naramdaman ko na talaga ang pagka-substandard.”
(I said, let's talk about it and I asked for reports on substandard materials used in the project. I did not only see it; I experienced how substandard it was.)
Benitez said his panel would investigate the matter as well as the construction of the housing projects in the area. The investigation could cover officials of the NHA and the Department of Public Works and Highways under the previous administration as these were built during their time.
"Alam na po natin kung ano nangyari sa bridge, sa footbridge. 'Yung materials na ginamit doon sa footbridge are the same materials na ginamit sa bahay,” he said.
(We know what happened to the footbridge. The materials used in the footbridge were the same materials used in the houses.)
"Pinayagan ba ng NHA na gumamit ng kahoy sa proyekto na 'yun? Kung pinayagan gumamit ng kahoy, anong klaseng kahoy, anong species ng wood ang ginawang specification sa project na 'yun?”
(Did the NHA allow wood to be used in that project? If they allowed the use of wood, what kind of wood, what species of wood was used as the specification for that project?)
"Gusto ko rin malaman kung ito, baka naging substandard creation o implementation ng contractor, of which di nasunod na naman 'yung specification. Kinukuwento ng NHA approved ito ng DPWH, lahat ng materyales na ginamit nila approved ng DPWH," he said.
(I also want to know if this is a substandard creation or implementation of the contractor, where the specification was not followed. The NHA said it was approved by DPWH, all the materials they used was approved by DPWH.)
Benitez also expressed doubts on the cost of units stated in the project.
“Ordinarily, 'yung isang housing unit na tinatayo ng NHA sa lupa, semento, umaabot ng P240,000 per unit. Dito sa housing on stilts na ininspeksyonin natin, ang cost niyan is P220,000. Mas mura ng 20,000. Sa tingin ko di ata proportional 'yung materials na ginamit sa cost.”
(Ordinarily, a housing unit that NHA builds on land using cement would cost about P240,000 per unit. The ones they built on stilts that we inspected cost about P220,000. That's cheaper by P20,000. I think the materials used are not proportional to the cost.)
Benitez noted that such problems in the construction of housing projects appear to be the norm in the country.
“'Yung regional director ng NHA, kasama po natin. In fact, bumagsak rin siya, naranasan din niya. In fact, isa sa mga sinasabi ko nga, 'NHA, siguro bago natin i-turn over ang housing units, kayo kaya muna ang tumira doon? Isang buwan pagkatanggap niyo at tumagal kayo ng isang buwan saka natin i-turn over'," he said.
(We were with the regional director of the NHA. In fact, he also fell into the water, he experienced it. In fact, one of the things I said was 'It might be good for the NHA to live in the houses they built before turning those over to the beneficiaries. One month after you receive it and you last, then we turn over.)
“Hindi ho sumagot, but it seems to be a norm. Lahat ho ng relocation sites ng NHA, hindi parating kumpleto. Tinatayo ang bahay napakatagal; pagdating sa usapin ng tubig at kuryente, mas matagal. Isa sa tinanong ko kung bakit tinatayo bahay, iba ahensiya involved sa tubig, iba ahensiya involved sa kuryente. Kaya pagdating sa coordination ng timing ng project, nagkakabuhol-buhol," he added.
(There was no answer, but it seems to be a norm. All the relocation sites of the NHA, they're always incomplete. They take so long to be built; and when you talk about water and electricity utilities, they take even longer. One of the things I asked was why do different agencies handle the water supply, another for electricity. That's why when it comes to coordinating the timing of the project, things get mixed up.)
Benitez explained that state housing units are turned over to beneficiaries without proper amenities like access to water and electricity because there is no holistic approach to the project and various agencies are left to manage different aspects on their own.
“Isang malulungkot na housing project po natin dito sa Pilipinas eh natatapos na ang bahay pagkatapos 2 hanggang 3 taon, susundan [ng] tubig at kuryente 2 hanggang 3 taon. Aabutin ng 6 years bago makumpleto, iba mas matagal pa," he said.
(That's one of the sad things about housing projects here in the Philippines: the house is constructed in about 2 to 3 years, then electricity and water supply takes another 2 to 3 years. It would take about 6 years before it's completed, some even longer.)
While officials were inspecting the housing-on-stilts in Zamboanga, Benitez said they were informed that installation of the sewerage system in the area has only been bid out and would be completed in about 2 months even as the residents have been there for about 2 years.