Less than 1/10 of 'Haiyan' houses up

LESS than one-tenth of the more than 200,000 houses targeted to be built in communities devastated by Supertyphoon "Haiyan" have been constructed by the government almost two years after the calamity struck the Visayas, rendering millions homeless.

The numbers were presented Monday by housing officials to Sen. JV Ejercito, who led a hearing by the Senate committee on planning, housing and resettlement on the government's rehabilitation efforts, particularly the construction of housing for Haiyan victims.

National Housing Administration General Manager Sinforoso Pagunsan said the NHA was targeting to build 205,128 housing units in six regions devastated by the supertyphoon.

At present, only 16,544 houses had been completed, while 72,738 houses were under construction, Pagunsan said.

He said the 16,544 houses included units that were 75-per cent completed as of Sept. 15 but which were expected to be finished by now.

He said the 72,738 houses whose construction were started last year and were ongoing were part of the 92,554 housing units covered by the P26.9 billion (S$820 million) released by the Department of Budget and Management.

He said the DBM will release another P25.6 billion for next year and this will cover the construction of 87,405 additional housing units.

The ongoing construction of over 70,000 houses were in Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Leyte and Tacloban, Eastern Samar, Samar and Biliran, the NHA official said.

Depending on budget release

In reply to Ejercito's query on how many houses were expected to be completed by yearend, Pagunsan said they expected about 45,000 housing units.

The rest of the 92,554 houses already funded by the DBM will be completed by July next year, Pagunsan added.

"The rest of the (construction of) houses will depend on the budget releases," he said.

He said the entire 205,128 targeted houses might be completed in one more year.

Ejercito asked the NHA for a monthly update on the construction of the houses.

The senator also cited an earlier explanation by housing officials that the delay in the construction of the houses had to do with land acquisition problems.

Replying to Ejercito's question on the delay of the construction of the houses, lawyer Chito Cruz, chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, said the challenge was to look for land for the housing units.

Land has to be titled

"According to the Commission on Audit, we just cannot develop a piece of land. The land has to be titled, otherwise COA would not allow it," Cruz said.

In addition, he said, the NHA had to secure permits from government agencies like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, and the Department of Science and Technology to make sure the land to be developed was safe for the storm victims.

Likewise, Cruz said, the NHA had to seek approval from the local governments to develop the land.

Asked later by reporters about the pace of construction, Ejercito acknowledged it was slow but said the NHA should inform the public about the long process involved here.