Solons mull plunder raps vs Yolanda housing contractor

MANILA -- Leaders in the House of Representatives are eyeing the possibility of filing plunder charges against the main contractor of 'Yolanda' housing projects in Eastern Samar, as well as officials of the National Housing Authority (NHA) for allowing subcontracting and the use of substandard materials in the project implementation.

In a press conference on Wednesday, House Committee on Justice Vice Chairman Ching Veloso of Leyte said JC Tayag of JC Tayag Builder -- the principal contractor of Yolanda Housing projects -- could also be guilty of estafa for impressing upon the government that his firm could establish livable and decent housing units.

I would say JC Tayag was guilty of estafa when the corporation impressed upon the government that they could establish livable, decent housing units only to find out that very, very substandard materials were used, Veloso said.

Veloso also accused the NHA officials of gross negligence for the snail-paced project implementation.

House Committee on Housing and Urban Development Chairman Alfredo Benitez of Negros Occidental revealed that only 23,414 of the projected 205,128 housing units under the government's resettlement program for the Yolanda typhoon victims are being occupied.

Benitez explained that the low occupancy rate at a meager 11.4 percent is due the substandard construction of Yolanda housing projects.

"As of today, four years have passed, only 23,414 housing units are occupied -- a mere 11.4 percent. This is based on NHA figures. Thirty-three percent has been completed and a total of 73,286 units are ongoing construction. We're not convinced that this is the actual number, Benitez said.

We asked a special audit by the Commission on Audit to do the investigation and validate these figures," he added.

This was uncovered during a two-day House inquiry in Tacloban City on August 31 to September 1.

Among the issues in resettlement areas for Yolanda victims that the committee identified include the inadequate size of housing, substandard quality of housing structures, lack of livelihood opportunities in resettlement sites, lack of potable water supply as well as power line in the area.

Citing the NHA report as of February 2017, Benitez said that out of the projected 205,128 housing units under the government's resettlement plan, only 67,754 units or 37 percent were actually constructed, with only 23,414 units or 11 percent being occupied.

Meanwhile, he said 73,286 units are currently under construction.

The government has earmarked PHP75 billion for the implementation of Yolanda housing project.

Source: Philippine News Agency