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‘Fast-track housing for Yolanda victims’

TACLOBAN CITY—Rep. Albee Benitez, chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, has urged the government to fast-track the construction and completion of permanent houses for the victims of Super Typhoon “Yolanda” during the committee’s public hearing in the municipality of Hernani and this city.

The committee held a public hearing on House Resolution No. 599, which seeks to investigate the snail-paced implementation of housing relocation and resettlement project for those who were affected by the typhoon in 2012 in the Community Center in Tacloban. The resolution was filed by Rep. Ben Evardone of the Lone District of Eastern Samar.

Benitez said the February 2017 report of the NHA that of the projected 205,128 homes needed, only 48, 950 units were constructed, and more bothersome is that only 13,997 of the units completed are occupied. 

Rep. Alfredo ‘Albee’ B. Benitez (fourth from left), chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, and Rep. Ben P. Evardone of the Lone District of Eastern Samar, lead the Public Hearing on House Resolution No. 599 on Friday at the Community Center in Tacloban City. Mel R. Caspe

Under construction is 69,768 units, while the rest are either already bid out or yet to be issued a Notice to Proceed by the NHA. The solon said it is the mandate of Congress to oversee where the P7.5-billion funding for the resettlement cluster went.

“It is unfortunate that four years after the devastation of ‘Yolanda,’ we are still talking about the construction and completion of permanent housing instead of support programs on how to help the victims to move on with their lives,” Benitez stressed. “The inability of the government to provide permanent homes to the victims is a prolonging of trauma.”

The public hearing is not to point fingers on the agency, Benitez said, but rather to find solution to provide decent permanent homes to the victims and come up with a policy to allow the government to respond better in the face of calamities.

In another report, about P11.25 billion of government funds meant for rehabilitation projects for areas ravaged by the super typhoon remain untouched as of first half of 2017.

The National Economic and Development Authority said the latest “Yolanda” progress report showed that only P20.94 billion of the P32.19 billion had been disbursed to implementing government agencies.

Of the total funds released, the social services cluster got the highest share of P8.71 billion, followed by resettlement (P6.09 billion), infrastructure (P4.28 billion), and livelihood (P1.86 billion).

“More than three years after Yolanda struck the region, there are still issues and concerns that impede the smooth and fast implementation of programs and projects in Region 8,” Neda Eastern Visayas regional director Bonifacio Uy told PNA Thursday.

The report also identified five major issues in carrying out post-disaster projects, all related to relocation efforts. These are: delay in the construction of permanent housing projects in this city and other typhoon-hit areas; substandard housing units; poor access to water and power in resettlement sites; livelihood assistance to newly-transferred families; and absence of permanent school building near housing sites.

Citing the National Housing Authority, Neda revealed that only 15,422 houses out of the 56,140 target homes for Eastern Visayas have been built.

Among the major setbacks are unavailable lots, land acquisition issues, procurement concerns, and lack of qualified contractors.

Uy said the central government and regional officials have been working closely to complete all ongoing projects within three years.

Last week, key regional officials held a meeting among members of an inter-agency task force for the unified implementation and monitoring of post-”Yolanda” rehabilitation and recovery projects.

The formation of task force is following Administrative Order No. 5 issued on Aug. 8, 2017 by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The task force is chaired by Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco with Presidential Assistants for the Visayas Michael Dino and for Special Concerns Wendel Avisado as co-chairs. Avisado is also the Presidential Assistant for “Yolanda” Rehabilitation.

The directive has listed 17 government agencies as members.

“There are some issues that can be better addressed and decided quickly at the highest level. We’re very hopeful that this administrative order will help address the remaining works,” Uy added.

The super typhoon, which struck central Philippines on November 8, 2013, is the deadliest typhoon in the country on record, killing at least 6,300 people. This city is considered as the typhoon’s ground zero. With PNA

Topics: Rep. Albee Benitez , House Committee on Housing and Urban Development , Super Typhoon Yolanda victims
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