Philippine government thievery seems to remain alive and kicking, this time stealing victims of super-typhoon Haiyan (a.k.a. Yolanda) blind! Reports are emerging of widespread delivery and building of substandard facilities to house the victims all over the devastated region. Safety and sanitation concerns have reportedly been raised by field officers of the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) group on site.
The CCCM report detailed how each bunkhouse estimated to be worth close to a million pesos if built to the right specifications are being built by contractors in some areas for less than Php200,000. According to a report sent by government engineers to “Rehab Czar” former Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, this huge “savings” is likely achieved by using low-spec materials and omitting the common kitchen, four toilets and two bathrooms that each bunkhouse is supposed to be equipped with.
Each room measures 8.64 square meters—roughly the size of two Ping-Pong tables—to be occupied by one family, said a DPWH paper, “shelter and reconstruction action plan.” The average size of a Filipino family is five, but in many cases there are as many as 10 individuals in one household.
A report by an international shelter group assisting the government in its relief efforts said the bunkhouses being developed by the DPWH in areas devastated by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) were “noncompliant in many respects with internationally recognized standards and best practices.”
“There appears to be a number of contractors working at different sites. Standards and facilities appear to be somewhat different between different locations. It raises the question of whether contractors have different specifications for different sites, if they are using the same specifications, whether these are fully complied with in every location,” said the report made available to the Inquirer.
In a Situation Report published on the 13th November 2013 by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs the cost of construction of sufficient emergency housing facilities for the victims was estimated at more than USD45-million (about 1.8 billion pesos). This was at a time when casualty figures and impact estimates of the disaster were still being underestimated by the Philippine Government. In the second of three Strategic Objectives detailed by the report, a one-month timeframe for setting up “transitory shelter solutions” for the victims on site was clearly set.
It’s been two months since Haiyan hit, and these shelters are only now being constructed and, as reports would have it, being constructed to the borderline-criminal standards most Filipinos have come to expect of stuff delivered by their government.
Not surprisingly, foreign aid donors have declined to comment on these reports…
The Manila embassy of the UK, the largest donor by far, did not issue any comment. British aid for typhoon relief in the Philippines has reached P11.1 billion, including contributions from both the UK government and private individuals, the embassy said.
The UK has also vowed to support reconstruction in Eastern Visayas over the long haul.
The Manila delegation of the European Union also withheld comment pending its humanitarian aid department’s aid assessment this month.
The EU has so far pledged $26.8 million or P1.18 billion, according to the Philippine government portal’s Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAITH).
The US embassy in Manila also did not comment on the issue. A US embassy official privy to American assistance said the embassy “did not contribute any funding for the construction of bunkhouses.”
The prospects for a full rehab of the areas devastated by Haiyan has long been recognised as being dim and much of the relief goods and funds donated all but going to waste. This is in considering the Philippines’ mediocre track record of taking full advantage of otherwise abundant resources at its disposal. Early reports on the snail-paced and disorganised disaster response mounted by the Philippines immediately following early revelations of the full extent of the devastation wrought by Haiyan were quite telling. Even as vast sums of money and resources came pouring in to aid the relief effort, the astounding inefficiency of the Philippine bureaucracy was all but fatal so much so as to bring to serious question the recovery prospects of Tacloban City and other affected areas observes Kevin H.R. Villanueva, a university research scholar in international politics and human rights at the University of Leeds…
The argument to be made here is that there has been no single point person to whom accountability for immediate relief and the eventual task of rebuilding has been bestowed. The Filipino people will survive because it is in their character to counter and rise above adversity. But if we are all to genuinely learn and understand the lessons of this disaster, the question must be given a future perfect thought: Who will be in charge, if Tacloban and its people are to rise from the rubble?
The emergence of these most recent tales of Philippine-style thievery are as disheartening as they are unsurprising. Much of the system on which the majority of Filipinos depend on for essential services are crooked by design — engineered for maximum opaqueness to ensure a maximum “harvest” by the usual suspects: the Philippines’ deeply-entrenched parasitical class of traditional politicians and oligarchs.
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