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‘Yolanda’ housing mix-up gave some families multiple units each

(Last of three parts)

TACLOBAN CITY—For five years, the Butalans have been living in a shanty made of materials gathered in the aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) on Nov. 8, 2013.

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Juanito Butalan, 54, his wife, Rosalina, 59, and their son, Ronel, 23, have been waiting to be relocated by the National Housing Authority in Eastern Visayas (NHA-8).

Butalan said he had been going back and forth to the NHA-8 office and the City Housing and Community Development Office (CHCDO) here to inquire about houses promised to families displaced by Yolanda.

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“It has been five years now since our small house was totally washed out by Yolanda and we are still waiting for the  house promised by the government,” said Butalan, who stopped working as a welder due to poor health.

Duplications

But some of Butalan’s neighbors have been given more than one house each.

Such was the case of Vilma Tesado, 46, and her family.

They are enjoying the comforts of a new home in Guadalupe Heights 2, one of the 15 resettlement sites in Tacloban City for the more than 14,400 families who were displaced by Yolanda.

“We are doing fine here though some amenities are still lacking like running water and it floods during heavy rain,” said Tesado, who moved to her new home on Oct. 17, 2017.

Her two married sons, Bernard, 26, and Bernie, 24, were also given houses on the same resettlement site.

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Leonard Tedence Jopson, head of the CHCDO, said his office was conducting a revalidation after learning that 138 people received more than one house each.

No coordination

Jopson said the duplication happened because the NHA did not coordinate with the CHCDO and  furnished the office a copy of the list of the beneficiaries only this year.

The list indicated the names of the families who had been transferred to the resettlement sites, all located in the northern portion of the city, starting December 2016, when the NHA began a “massive transfer” of beneficiaries.

The CHCDO also discovered that at least 3,900 names had been given houses by the NHA even if they were not endorsed by the city government.

Of the number, 600 names were said to be beneficiaries of the NHA housing projects at  Fisherman’s Village in Barangay 88, San Jose district, and Santa Barbara Village, located in Nula-Tula district.

“The city mayor (Cristina Romualdez) wants to ensure that only beneficiaries from Tacloban City and who really lost their houses due to Yolanda would be given housing assistance by the NHA,” Jopson said.

He said the beneficiaries were selected through a raffle conducted by the NHA but it was done without any representative from the local interagency committee chaired by Romualdez.

“So how can we know that families were transferred? That is why we came in to do the revalidation,” Jopson said.

Yolanda survivors, too

Abegail Jusay, NHA-8 senior community support services officer, said the agency welcomed the revalidation being conducted by the city government.

Jusay explained that the 140 residents of Santa Barbara were given houses at resettlement sites because they were affected by the tide embankment project, aimed at protecting Leyte from devastating storm surges.

Dorcas Secreto, NHA-8 regional management estate specialist, said Memorandum Circular No. 2773 allowed the agency to provide assistance to families living in NHA resettlement areas who were also affected by Yolanda.

Although most of these families living in NHA housing projects had financial means, Secreto said they were still entitled to receive houses from the government because they were Yolanda survivors.

“These people have invested to own their properties located in NHA housing projects,” Secreto said.

As of October 2018, 11,466 families have been relocated to the 15 relocation sites in the city.

Another 1,655 families separately received houses from different private and humanitarian organizations.

The city government has identified 14,433 families who still need to be relocated.

COA cites delay

Five years after Yolanda, construction work in various resettlement sites, particularly in Tacloban, remains so slow that the sites are now overgrown.

The delay has been attributed to limited manpower and equipment by the contractor, according to the Commission on Audit (COA) 2017 annual report for the NHA released in August.

The COA pointed out that 10 houses worth P852.7 million were awarded to one contractor with limited manpower and equipment.

The developer incurred negative slippages ranging from 15 to 91 percent, which prompted the NHA to terminate nine of the 10 contracts on Nov. 5, 2017.

The NHA, in its response to the COA report, admitted the the project was not fully monitored.

Other factors identified by the COA included slow pacing of work due to the contractor’s financial constraints, absence of or unpassable access road for construction materials or road right of way issues, delayed installation of water and power system, problem on water source, construction of barangay access road implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways going to the project site, boundary disputes, and rectification or corrective works.

New target date

But due to the delay, the NHA has reset the target of completion date for all Yolanda housing projects.

“The NHA has issued deadlines for completion of all the existing Yolanda projects and placed a completion date of December 2020 of all remaining projects,” the report said.

This means that Yolanda survivors may have to wait two more years before they can be moved to better and safer homes.

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