Rappler - Senate report: PH lacks rules for disaster shelters

In The News
28 May 2014

'You cannot fault someone for not following standards if those standards do not exist,' Senate public works committee chair Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr says

By Paterno Esmaquel II | Rappler.com
Logo_RapplerMANILA, Philippines – The Philippines needs clear-cut rules in building temporary shelters after disasters, a Senate committee said, as it capped its probe into bunkhouses built for Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors.

Echoing Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, the Senate public works committee also concluded that the bunkhouses “are under specifications... thereby making these structures substandard” – not overpriced as initially suggested.

“Legislative measures should be introduced amending the Republic Act 6541 as amended by Presidential Decree 1096, or the National Building Code, and other related laws that would clearly define the minimum design guidelines in building temporary structures, and even permanent evacuation centers to be built in local government units in calamity-prone areas,” the committee said.

20140528_Rappler_PaternoEsmaquel_Senate-report--PHLacksRulesDisasterSheltersYolandaLeyte_SI'POORLY BUILT.' The original design of these bunkhouses failed to meet international standards. File photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler

The committee recommended this in its report sent to the media on Wednesday, May 28, more than 3 months after it conducted a hearing on the allegedly overpriced Yolanda bunkhouses on February 6. (READ: Erring Haiyan contractors of the hook?)

It also based this recommendation on a visit by Senator “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, the committee chair, to the bunkhouses in Leyte on February 13. (READ: Gov't hit for delayed Haiyan shelters)

Marcos is a cousin of Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez, the leader of the city worst hit by Yolanda, who has criticized the national government for the “red tape” delaying the rehabilitation process.

DPWH didn't know int'l standards

In its report, the Senate public works committee cited Jun Palafox, an urban planner and architect, who said “there is no clear definition and minimum design standard” for temporary buildings and shelters that serve “as reference for officials to follow.”

Given this problem, Congress should approve the proposed Department of Housing and Urban Development “so that a specific government entity is tasked to focus on the housing or shelter needs of the people,” the committee said.

Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, the committee added, should be amended.

The amendments should “introduce provisions that prevent unscrupulous contractors, government officials, and employees from taking advantage of construction of buildings during disasters by simply refurbishing substandard materials, thereby compromising the structural integrity of government structures.”

These recommendations came after Marcos, during the hearing last February 6, noted “we have no standard template in the Philippines” in building temporary shelters for disaster survivors.

“You cannot fault someone for not following standards if those standards do not exist,” he said.

International standards for temporary shelters exist, however.

The problem at the start was, the Department of Public Works and Highways was clueless about these standards. – Rappler.com