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House leaders want government to terminate substandard Yolanda housing projects

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 17:02




By Jovee Marie de la Cruz - September 27, 2017

Leaders of the House of Representatives on Tuesday urged the national government to terminate all contracts it signed with JC Tayag, who won the bidding for the Yolanda housing project, after the committee’s recent inspection validated that substandard materials were used in the construction of housing units in Eastern Samar for victims of Supertyphoon Yolanda.

With this, House Committee on Housing and Urban Development Chairman Alfredo B. Benitez of Negros Occidental, said perjury, syndicated estafa and plunder cases may be filed against JC Tayag, while officials of the National Housing Authority (NHA) may be held liable for the delayed implementation of the projects.

For his part, Rep. Ben P. Evardone of Eastern Samar, chairman of the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries, said all housing units with substandard materials must be demolished following the panel’s discovery.

“We need to remove and replace these substandard housing units for the people’s safety,” Evardone said.

During the September 18 hearing of the housing committee, an official of JC Tayag Builders Inc. denied accusations by subcontractor Camilo Salazar that he used substandard steel and bars for the construction of 2,000 housing units for Yolanda victims in Balangiga, Hernani and Guiuan, Eastern Samar.

Salazar alleged that JC Tayag used 8-millimeter steel rods in the construction instead of the required specification of 10 millimeters.

However, after JC Tayag’s denial, Benitez’s committee decided to conduct a site inspection in Eastern Samar  to verify the materials used.

Benitez said his panel’s inspection team uncovered that the size of the reinforcing steel bars averaged at 8 millimeters, while it also discovered that JC Tayag also used undersized bars of 12 millimeters, which is below the required 16 millimeters.

“With this evidence that we’ve uncovered, we will expand our investigation to other housing projects of Yolanda, not just in Eastern Samar,” Benitez said.

Benitez added he already asked the House Committee on Good Government to conduct a joint  hearing with his panel to further investigate the issue.

The government has earmarked P75 billion for the implementation of housing and resettlement program for Yolanda victims.

Four years after Supertyphoon Yolanda devastated communities in Eastern Visayas, Benitez said only 23,414 of the projected 205,128 housing units under the government’s resettlement program for the typhoon victims are being occupied.

He added substandard construction of Yolanda housing projects is the main reason the occupancy rate is low.

“Among the issues in resettlement areas for Yolanda victims [that the committee has identified] include: size of housing is inadequate, structure is substandard quality, lack of livelihood opportunities in resettlement sites, lack of potable water supply in resettlement sites and lack of power line in the area,” Benitez said.

Citing the NHA report in February 2017, Benitez said that out of the projected 205,128 housing units under the government’s resettlement program for the victims of Yolanda, only 67,754 units, or 37 percent, were actually constructed, with 23,414 units, or 11 percent, being occupied.

Meanwhile, Benitez added 74,286 units are currently under construction.

Evardone, who filed a resolution to investigate the slow implementation of Yolanda housing projects, said years after Yolanda, the people have anxiously observed the snail-paced implementation of the resettlement projects for the victims, as well as those living in danger zones.

“Procurement policies, land acquisition issues, and the many permits and clearances needed to start certain projects have been cited as among the primary reasons that slowed down the implementation of the resettlement projects,”  Evardone added.

Source: Business Mirror

NHA contractor in ‘Yolanda’ housing faces perjury raps

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 16:02



By: Tonette Orejas, Vince F. Nonato - @inquirerdotnetPhilippine Daily Inquirer / 07:23 AM September 27, 2017

Perjury and even possible syndicated estafa charges may be filed by lawmakers against a contractor in housing projects for victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) in Eastern Samar, after an inspection last week showed the steel bars used by the contractor fell short of government specifications.

Negros Occidental Rep. Albee Benitez, chair of the House of Representatives’ housing and urban development committee, said at a press briefing on Tuesday that contractor Juanito Tayag of JC Tayag Builders Inc., “definitely committed perjury” when he denied in a Sept. 18 hearing that substandard materials were used in the resettlement sites.

Benitez said an inspection conducted after the hearing showed the reinforcing steel bars used by JC Tayag fell short of the 16 millimeters specified by the National Housing Authority (NHA).

The rebars were found to measure 6.53 millimeters to 11.84 mm, Benitez said.

Ilocos Sur Rep. Deogracias Victor Savellano recalled that he made Tayag testify under oath during the Sept. 18 hearing.

“[He’s] lying right in front of us. I don’t understand it. How brave of him,” he said.

Tayag on Tuesday insisted that the materials were not substandard, contrary to the claim of whistle-blower Camilo Salazar.

He said the claim had “damaged the reputation” of his company.

Tayag said he regarded the findings of Benitez’s committee as important because he needed to “save the company” he “worked hard to build.”

Not licensed engineer

Tayag said Salazar was not a licensed engineer and was fired when the group of workers he supervised did not follow the housing design in a project in Balangiga, Eastern Samar.

He said receipts and results of material testing showed that his company did not use 8-mm rebars, as claimed by Salazar.

All in all, JC Tayag’s resettlement project contracts amounted to P800 million covering more than 2,000 housing units, Benitez said.

He said the syndicated estafa angle was “being studied,” because the undersizing of the rebars resulted in a 30 to 40-percent price difference.

NHA officials responsible for the projects may also be held liable for negligence, Benitez said.

“We were wondering how this can happen without the monitoring and supervision of NHA officials,” he said.

Benitez and Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, who authored House Resolution No. 599 that triggered the congressional inquiry, may file the criminal complaints in their personal capacities.

Other Yolanda projects

Benitez added that the House’s investigation would be expanded to cover Yolanda housing projects handled by other contractors.

Evardone urged the NHA and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to conduct a joint investigation and testing of construction materials.

“I want to make sure the units that will be occupied or are occupied already are really suitable for the victims of Yolanda,” he said.

He noted that the houses built with substandard materials are already a sunk cost, because the DPWH’s standard procedure is to “remove and replace” such infrastructure.

During last week’s hearing, Tayag lamented that lawmakers took the allegations of Salazar about the use of substandard materials as “gospel truth.”

“The alleged substandard issue only happened in one of our project sites in Balangiga,” Tayag said then.

“However, they declared the construction in Eastern Samar as a whole substandard. Standard logical principle does not agree that a particular fact can form a general statement. That is malicious,” he said.

He claimed Salazar was a foreman who was relieved over the poor implementation of works and plans.

In response, Benitez said Tayag could not present payment slips during the hearing and only showed a billing statement claiming payment.

“How can a salaried person or foreman bill his employer?” he said.

NHA inspection

On Tuesday, Tayag said in a statement to the committee that NHA engineers were “very, very diligent and meticulous enough in the inspection of the quality of the materials delivered to the project sites.”

He said it was not true that his company had cornered 80 percent of housing projects in Eastern Samar.

Tayag asked the committee to clear his company’s name.

“The bad publicity over this issue tarnished the reputation of our company,” he said.

“The bad publicity impressed on the minds of the Filipino people that JC Tayag Builders Inc. entered into a fishy contract with NHA [and that it was] inefficient,” he said.

He added that the damage to his company was “irreparable.”

According to Tayag, the NHA notified him to proceed with the project in February 2016.

He attributed the delays in the implementation of the project to some changes in the massive earth-moving operations that arose from land boundary errors and illegal claimants.

Tayag also cited shortage of workers, as the government embarked on housing projects in 171 towns in 54 provinces.

Due to lack of gravel, sand and soil, JC Tayag had to haul road-building materials from supply sites 150 kilometers from the project sites, he said.

Construction was also hampered by rain, he added.

Tayag denied his company subcontracted parts of the project.

“The company directly called the shots in the operations,” he said.

Explaining why he took on the project, he said few contractors were interested to work in Eastern Samar because of the difficulty in obtaining materials and the distance.

Source: Inquirer.net

Yolanda housing contractor faces plunder, perjury charges

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 09:22




Published September 27, 2017, 12:08 AM
By Ben R. Rosario

The contractor of the P892 million housing project for “Yolanda” victims faces plunder and a string of criminal cases after lawmakers confirmed that the houses he built could jeopardize the lives of people for containing substandard construction materials.

Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez, chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, said an inspection team sent by the House panel to verify the contractor’s denials to the said accusations confirmed that he had perjured himself.

Benitez said the adverse findings gave the House panel substantial reason to determine whether or not inferior construction materials were also used for housing units for all other super-typhoon Yolanda victims funded by the government amounting to P60 billion.

During a House hearing early this month, JC Tayag of the construction firm bearing his name vehemently denied accusations by subcontractor Camilo Salazar that he used substandard steel and bars for the construction of over 2,000 houses in Balangiga, Hernani and Guiuan towns, Eastern Samar.

 Immediately after the hearing, the House panel dispatched a team of construction experts to determine who between the contractor and whistleblower Salazar was telling the truth.

“Itong contractor na ito, niloko na mga tao sa Eastern Samar, niloko pa rin ang committee,” Benitez concluded as he revealed that charges of perjury, contract violations and plunder are being prepared against Tayag. (This contractor fooled both Eastern Samar folk and the committee.)

Together with Reps. Ben Evardone (LP, Eastern Samar) and Deogracias Victor Savellano (PDP-Laban, Ilocos Sur), Benitez said the team discovered that Salazar was telling the truth when he said that steel bars used in the houses were below the standard set by the National Housing Authority for the construction.

The team, composed of engineers from the NHA and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), found out that instead of 12 mm steel enforcement bars and 20 mm horizontal bars, the constructed houses were undersized by 6 mm and 12  mm, respectively.

“There is a possibility that similar houses for Yolanda victims are being built in Leyte, Biliran and other provinces that suffered the super-typhoon’s wrath,” he said.

Further, Benitez warned the DPWH and other government agencies involved in infrastructure construction to inspect the structural integrity of JC Tayag’s construction projects.

Benitez said he had asked the House Committee on Good Government to jointly conduct the next hearing with his panel to determine whether JC Tayag Builders colluded with government men, particularly the NHA, in committing fraud by constructing and delivering housing units made of substandard and inferior construction materials.

 For his part, Evardone asked the NHA to suspend work on all JC Tayag constructions while an investigation is being conducted.

Both Benitez and Savellano agreed that the demolition of all houses built with inferior materials has become necessary in the light of the discovery made by the House panel.

Source: Manila Bulletin

Raps eyed vs ‘Yolanda’ housing contractor over substandard materials

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 21:01



By: Vince F. Nonato - Philippine Daily Inquirer / 01:14 PM September 26, 2017

Perjury and even possible syndicated estafa charges may be filed by lawmakers against a contractor of housing projects for victims of typhoon “Yolanda” in Eastern Samar, after an inspection last week showed the steel bars fell short of the government’s specification.



Housing and urban development committee chair Rep. Albee Benitez (Negros Occidental, 3rd Dist.) is flanked by Reps. Deogracias Victor Savellano (Ilocos Sur, 1st Dist.) and Ben Evardone (Eastern Samar) during a Tuesday press briefing. VINCE F. NONATO/INQUIRER.net

Negros Occidental 3rd Dist. Rep. Albee Benitez, chair of the House of Representatives’ housing and urban development committee, said contractor Juanito Tayag of J.C. Tayag Builders, Inc., “definitely committed perjury” when he denied in a Sept. 18 hearing that substandard materials were used in its resettlement sites.

Benitez said an inspection conducted after the hearing showed the reinforcing steel bars used by JC Tayag fell short of the National Housing Authority’s 16-millimeter specification. The rebars were found to measure 6.53 to 11.84 millimeters.

Ilocos Sur 1st Dist. Rep. Deogracias Victor Savellano recalled that he made Tayag testify under oath during the Sept. 18 hearing. “[He’s] lying right in front of us. I don’t understand it. How brave of him,” he said.



The reinforcing steel bars used in a housing project by J.C. Tayag Builders, Inc., were measured from 6.53 millimeters to 11.84 millimeters, falling short of the National Housing Authority’s 16-millimeter specification. Photo courtesy of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development.

All in all, JC Tayag’s resettlement project contracts amounted to P800 million covering more than 2,000 housing units, Benitez said.

He said the angle of syndicated estafa is “being studied,” because the undersizing of the rebars resulted in a 30 to 40-percent price difference.

NHA officials responsible for the projects may also be held liable for negligence. “We were wondering how this can happen without the monitoring and supervision of NHA officials,” said Benitez.

He and Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, whose House Resolution No. 599 triggered the congressional inquiry, may file the criminal complaints in their personal capacities.

Benitez added the House’s investigation will be expanded to cover other Yolanda housing projects under other contractors.

Likewise, Evardone urged the NHA and the Department of Public Works and Highways to conduct a joint investigation and testing of construction materials. “I want to make sure the units that will be occupied or are occupied already are really suitable for the victims of Yolanda,” he said.

He noted that the houses built with substandard materials are already a sunk cost, because the DPWH’s standard procedure is to “remove and replace” such infrastructure.

During last week’s hearing, Tayag lamented that lawmakers took the allegations of whistleblower Camilo Salazar regarding the use of substandard materials as “gospel truth.”

“The alleged substandard issue only happened in one of our project sties in Balangiga,” Tayag said then. “However, they declared the construction in Eastern Samar as a whole is substandard. Standard logical principle does not agree that a particular fact can form a general statement. That is malicious.”

He claimed Salazar was a foreman who was relieved over the poor implementation of works and plans.

In response, Benitez said Tayag could not present payment slips during the hearing and only showed a billing statement claiming payment. “How can a salaried person or foreman bill his employer?” he said. /je


Source: Inquirer.net

Rep. Benitez to sue Yolanda contractor in Eastern Samar project for perjury

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 20:18



By News5-InterAksyon | September 26, 2017, 8:51 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Negros Occidental Representative Alfredo Benitez is readying perjury charges against one of the contractors of housing projects in Eastern Samar for victims of typhoon Yolanda for using substandard materials.



Inspection of substandard construction in Typhoon Yolanda housing project.

Benitez said he will sue contractor Juanito Tayag of J.C. Tayag Builders, Inc. for denying in a committee hearing on September 18 that the materials used in the resettlement houses were not based on the specified requirements.

In a news conference, Benitez said Tayag may also be liable for breach of contract. A series of inspections conducted by the House committee on housing and urban development, headed by Benitez, showed that instead of using 16mm steel bars, the contractor used 12mm bars. And, while the specifications required 10 mm bars, 8mm bars were used as reinforcement for the houses.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone and Ilocos Sur Rep. Deogracias Victor Savellano expressed support to the move to file cases against Tayag.

“Definitely, there’s breach of contract, and we’re also studying the angle of syndicated estafa. I am filing it in an individual capacity,” Benitez said, adding that he would lodge the cases before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.

Benitez said J.C. Tayag bagged the contract for P800 million worth of houses in Eastern Samar as part of the rehabilitation program for families affected by the storm surge when super typhoon Yolanda hit the Visayas in 2013.

“The total contract of J.C. Tayag is P800 million, and based on the costing of the undersized bars, there’s a price difference of 30 to 40 percent,” he said.

The issue is currently being investigated by the committee on housing based on House Resolution No. 599 field by Evardone in December 2016. The resolution was seeking investigation into the “perceived snail-paced implementation” of housing relocation and resettlement projects for the Yolanda victims, and for those living in danger zones.

Several lawmakers recently visited several resettlement sites in Leyte and saw the condition of the families.

The Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery or OPARR was created post-Yolanda and drafted the Yolanda Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan that was submitted to then Philippine President Benigno Aquino III in August 2014.

The eight-volume, 8,000-page plan was approved three months later and became the country’s biggest rehabilitation effort since World War II, requiring a total cost of PhP 170 billion to implement programs, plans, and activities in four clusters: infrastructure (PhP 33.9 billion), social services (PhP 26.7 billion), resettlement (PhP 75.7 billion), and livelihood (PhP 33.7 billion). The target is for the rehabilitation to be 80 to 85 percent accomplished before President Aquino completes his term in June 2016.

According to Benitez, the government should have built a total of 205,128 housing units since 2013.

“As of today, four years have passed. Only 23,414 housing units are occupied, a mere 11.4 percent,” he said, adding that according to the National Housing Authority (NHA), around 33 percent or close to 70,000 units have been completed.

Benitez said they also received reports that 73,286 units are still undergoing construction.

Benitez said that during their site visit, they met a subcontractor, who testified about the substandard materials used for the housing units.

The “whistle blower,” Camilo Salazar, an engineer from Balangiga, Eastern Samar, revealed that, for example, instead of using 10 mm steel bars, what were used for some of the houses were 8 mm, which shortchanged the government by 30 percent of the price paid.

Source: InterAksyon News 5

Solons to file charges vs. contractor of Yolanda housing project

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 19:38




Published September 26, 2017 4:06pm
By ERWIN COLCOL, GMA News

Lawmakers are poised to file charges against the contractor of a Yolanda housing project for allegedly making false statements over the supposedly snail-paced implementation of housing relocation and resettlement for typhoon victims in Eastern Visayas.

In a press conference, House Committee on Housing and Urban Development Alfredo Benitez said Juanito Tayag, the owner of J.C. Tayag Builders Inc., committed perjury when he stated under oath that his company used 10-millimeter steel bars instead of 8-mm steel bars in the construction of the houses.

Whistleblower Camilo Salazar had earlier testified that the contractor used 8-millimeter steel bars, but Tayag belied such allegations in the House panel hearing on the matter last September 18.

Benitez said an inspection team visited the area to verify Tayag's claims, but they found out that what was used in the construction were indeed 8-millimeter steel bars.

"The size of these bars will prove that 8-mm steel bars were used on those housing units," he said.

A second whistleblower, Virgilio Salazar, had also testified that a specification of 16-millimeter steel bars was required by the Department of Public Works and Highways and the National Housing Authority in building the houses.

But as found by the inspection team, Benitez said J.C. Tayag Builders used "undersized" bars of only 12 millimeters.

"So ito na nga ang sinasabi namin na ang contractor na ito ay niloko na ang mga tao sa Eastern Samar, niloko pa ang committee na ito. Hindi na namin palalagpasin ito," he said.

"I will personally file criminal charges against this contractor," he added.

Benitez said perjury charges will be filed against Tayag for making false allegations under oath.

"He (Tayag) claimed that he did not use or purchase 8-mm bars, and testimonies, pictures and official reports claim otherwise," he said.

Benitez said Tayag had also claimed that Salazar was hired as a foreman for his company.

"But when we pressed to ask him for payment slips, proof of withholding mandated deductions, hindi niya napakita ito. In fact, what was presented was billing statement coming from the whistleblower claiming for payment," he said.

Aside from perjury, the lawmakers are also looking into filing of charges for breach of contract and syndicated estafa against Tayag.

But as far as the Eastern Samar Representative is concerned, Tayag should be charged with plunder.

"If the evidence would warrant, we'll not hesitate to file plunder charges because this involves a series of transactions and the amount is more than P50 million," he said.

Benitez earlier said their investigation showed that out of the target 205,128 housing units covered by the project, only 11.4 percent or 23,414 units were occupied. Only 33 percent or 73,286 units, on the other hand, are undergoing construction.

This, even as more than P60 billion of the P75 billion allocation for the project sourced from the 2013 national budget have already been utilized.

With the evidence they have uncovered, the House panel is also planning to expand their investigation into other housing projects and other contractors. —KG, GMA News

Source: GMA News Online

Kaso vs contractor ng Yolanda housing sa Samar, ihihirit ng ilang kongresista

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 19:04



ABS-CBN News
Posted at Sep 26 2017 12:24 PM | Updated as of Sep 26 2017 12:25 PM

MANILA - Dapat sampahan ng kasong kriminal ang JC Tayag Builders, contractor ng 2,000 pabahay para sa mga nasalanta ng Bagyong Yolanda, iginiit Martes ng ilang miyembro ng House Committee on Housing and Urban Development.

Una nang ibinulgar ng ilang whistleblower sa pagdinig ng Kamara na substandard umano ang mga materyales na ginamit ng JC Tayag Builders.

Sa isang press conference, ipinakita nina congressmen Albee Benitez, Ben Evardone at DV Savellano ang mga litratong nakuha sa site inspection ng mga pabahay.

Makikita anila rito na manipis ang mga bakal na ginamit sa mga bahay, taliwas sa sinabi ng contractor sa pagdinig na magagandang materyales ang ginamit.

Dahil dito, irerekomenda anila ng kanilang komite na kasuhan ng breach of contract, syndicated estafa at perjury ang contractor.

Nais din ungkatin ng komite kung may negligence of duty sa panig ng National Housing Authority dahil nakalagpas ang proyekto sa kanila.

Binubuo na ng komite ang ulat nito ukol sa substandard Yolanda housing units. Sasalang ang committee report sa plenaryo ng Kamara bago maaprubahan.

Mahigit 7,000 ang nasawi habang nasa 4 milyong bahay ang nasira nang bayuhin ni Yolanda ang Visayas noong 2013.

Source: ABS-CBN News

Kontraktor at mga Opisyal na Responsable sa Mabagal at Substandard na Yolanda Housing, Papanagutin ni Cong. Albee Benitez

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 12:50


September 26, 2017



Rep. Albee Benitez, chair of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, together with committee members Rep. Ben Evardone and Rep. DV Savellano, told the media in a press conference today, September 26, that the Committee is considering filing criminal and civil charges against private contractors/developers and government officials who are responsible for the snail-paced implementation and substandard quality of housing for Yolanda victims.


* Photos Galo Glino III

Cong. Albee Benitez at PDP Oathtaking at Borongan, Eastern Samar

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 20:04


September 21, 2017



Cong. Albee Benitez at PDP Oathtaking at Borongan, Eastern Samar


Access to water, electricity delayed housing for victims of ‘Yolanda’ – Benitez

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 22:01




Published September 20, 2017, 10:01 PM
By Ben R. Rosario

Access to water and electrical services has been pinpointed as among the factors that caused the delay in the implementation of housing relocation and resettlement projects for victims of typhoon Yolanda four years ago in Leyte and Samar.

Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez, chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, said the irregularities in the construction of housing units have been aggravated by lack of access to water and electrical facilities for the thousands of typhoon victims in Eastern Samar and Leyte.

Benitez said this was the initial findings of the committee during the resumption of public hearing on House Resolution NO. 599 calling for an investigation on the snail-paced implementation of the housing projects financed by the government through the National Housing Authority.

“We’re out to find the appropriate intervention to fast-track housing production and at the same time hold accountable those who have been remiss in their duties in these housing projects,” said Benitez.

Whistleblower Camilo Salazar has claimed that they have constructed housing units with substandard construction materials as ordered by the contractor of the project.

Witnesses summoned to the hearing, including officials of the NHA and its principal contractor JC Tayag, pointed to the lack of available access to potable water and electricity as among the factors that have delayed the completion of the resettlement projects.

Benitez said relocating homeless Yolanda victims to communities that would make their lives more miserable is as bad as the commission of anomalies in the handling of the construction projects.

Benitez said the housing and urban development committee will get into the bottom of the irregularities committed in the construction of resettlement sites, saying that it might recommend the filing of criminal and administrative charges if necessary.

The senior administration lawmaker noted that during the hearing a sub-contractor pointed to the contractor.

Rep. Ben Evardone (Lone District, Eastern Samar), author of HR 599, asked National Housing Administration (NHA) General Manager Marcelino Escalada and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Assistant Secretary Merceditas Sombilla to consider the suggestion that Yolanda relocation project funds be downloaded to local government units.

Source: Manila Bulletin

9,000 Local Officials to Take Oath Under Ruling PDP-LABAN

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 16:24



on Wednesday, September 20, 2017

It seems like the upcoming oath-taking of about 9,000 local officials in Negros Occidental into the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP LABAN) on October 5 at the Victorias City Coliseum will be a consolidation of support for Representative Alfredo Benitez’ (3rd district) 2019 senatorial bid.

Benitez said, there is an ongoing mass oath taking of PDP-Laban members all over the country and the activity on October 5 will be part of the party’s recruitment.

He said, the controversies among some PDP officials in Manila has not affected the party especially the recruitment of new members.

Benitez, who is on his last term as congressman, has been offered a slot in the ruling’s senatorial party’s line-up for the 2019 national elections.

However, he has not yet bared whether he will accept the offer to run as senator or run as governor to replace the outgoing Marañon.

Benitez said that he has invited House Speaker and PDP-Laban Secretary-General Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, PDP- Laban President who will swear in the new members to the party.

Earlier, Negros Occidental officials led by Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. and his partymates in the local United Negros Alliance (UNegA) pledge their allegiance to the party of President of Rodrigo Duterte.

Benitez, on the other hand, heads the rival Love Negros group and has also swore in with the party.*(NDB)

Source: Negros Daily Bulletin

Sugar Alliance to Back New SRA Chief

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 16:21



on Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Sugar Alliance of the Philippines (SAP) has vowed to support Hermenegildo Serafica, the newly appointed head of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).

Lawyer Emilio Yulo, spokesperson of the SAP yesterday said that while he has not yet an official confirmation of the appointment of Serafica by President Rodrigo Duterte to the SRA, “we welcome the development especially with the opening of the new milling season.”

“We hope that the appointment will enable SRA to have a fresh start,” Yulo said.

Serafica, a member of the Sugar Board representing the sugar planters was recommended by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol to Malacañang.

“We are willing to work with the new administrator,” Yulo said, adding that the appointment “is a sign that the President will prolong the life of the SRA.”

He added that if given a chance to talk with the new SRA chief, SAP will lobby that “there will be no threat to Sugar Order No. 3 and he will buckle down to work especially on the implementation of the Sugarcane Industry Development Act.”

“An SRA administrator will mean stability in the agency and the industry,” Yulo said.

Earlier, Representative Alfredo Benitez (3rd district) said that he has talked with Pinol during the budget hearing and that the Secretary told him that he has sent a letter to the president lobbying to retain the SRA because it is the gate keeper of the sugar industry and the consumers as well.

Benitez also revealed that he heard that the president was irked of certain individuals at the SRA because of alleged corruption that’s why he is thinking of the abolition of the whole institution.

“The president would only like to spare the institution from alleged corruption especially about the alleged consultants having huge allowances,” the Congressman pointed out.*(NDB)

Source: Negros Daily Bulletin

Albee:Serafica SRA chief; I can't confirm it, Piñol says

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 15:38



on Wednesday, September 20, 2017
By Carla Gomez

President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Sugar Board planter representative Hermenegildo Serafica as the new Sugar Regulatory Administration chief, Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3 rd District) said yesterday.

However, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol last night told the DAILY STAR he could not confirm that Serafica was appointed as he did not have a copy of his appointment papers signed by the president yet.

Anna Rosario Paner earlier said she resigned as SRA chief, but Duterte said he fired her for hiring overpaid consultants.

Piñol had nominated Serafica, his original choice for SRA chief, to replace Paner.

Serafica of Ormoc City, Leyte, is a member of the United Sugar Producers' Federation of the Philippines, and was president of Leyte Cane Planters Association and vice chairman of the Philippine Sugar Research Institute.

Emilio “Dino” Yulo III, former Negros Occidental vice governor and Sugar Alliance of the Philippines spokesperson, had also been nominated for the top SRA post.

Yulo said yesterday “We welcome the appointment of a new SRA administrator since the milling season has started and amidst all the challenges we face, we hope this will be a fresh start for the SRA”.

He noted that the prices of sugar have not moved.

“We hope that this appointment will give anew boost to the sugar industry. We are more than willing to work with the new administrator as well as the Sugar Board”, Yulo said.

On Duterte's threat to abolish the SRA following his discovery of the high-priced salaries of SRA consultants, Yulo said, “The abolition of the SRA is up to the president, we must remember it was created by an executive order so it can always be abolished by way of an executive order.”

Yulo said he hopes the appointment of the new SRA administrator “is a sign that the president is seriously thinking about prolonging the life of the SRA.”

Yulo also said he hopes the new administrator will uphold and support Sugar Order No. 3 that regulates the entry of high fructose corn syrup into the country as a substitute for sugar.

HFCS has driven down the prices of domestic sugar, industry stakeholders have said.

“Sugar workers fear revocation of Sugar Order No. 3 with Serafica as SRA head,” Wennie Sancho of the Save the Sugar Industry Movement, said.

Save SIM will join the National Congress of Unions in the Sugar Industry of the Philippines if such action looms, he added.

Hernani Braza of NACUSIP also said they are worried Serafica might lift Sugar Order No. 3.

Meanwhile, Piñol's meeting with sugar industry stakeholders in Bacolod on September 29 will allow him to hear the concerns of the different stakeholders, Yulo said.

Piñol said he will meet with labor groups in the morning and the planters in the afternoon while in Bacolod on September 29.

He will also meet farmers and fisherfolk in Negros on September 28.

In Ilog, fiberglass fishing boats will be given to fisherfolk, while in Bago City farm implements will be distributed, he said.*CPG

Source: The Visayan Daily Star

9,000 Negros officials to join PDP-Laban

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 17:36



BY EUGENE Y. ADIONG ON SEPTEMBER 19, 2017

BACOLOD CITY: About 9,000 local officials in Negros Occidental are set to join the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban in a mass oath-taking set for October 5 at the Victorias City Coliseum, according to Rep. Alfredo Benitez (3rd District).

Benitez said he has invited House Speaker and PDP-Laban Secretary-General Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, PDP- Laban president, to swear in the new party members.

Earlier, Negros Occidental officials led by Gov. Alfredo Maranon Jr. and his partymates in the local United Negros Alliance (UNegA) pledged their allegiance to the party of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Benitez heads the rival Love Negros group and has also pledged loyalty to Duterte’s party.

He said there is an ongoing mass oath-taking of PDP-Laban members all over the country and the activity on October 5 will be part of the party’s recruitment.

Benitez added that controversies among some PDP-Laban officials in Manila have not affected the party, especially in the recruitment of members.

Benitez, who is on his last term as congresssman, has been offered a slot in the ruling party’s senatorial line-up for the 2019 national elections.

He, however, has not yet disclosed whether he will accept the offer to run as senator or run as governor to replace the outgoing Maranon.

 

Source: Manila Times

9,000 NegOcc officials to join PDP-Laban oath-taking

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 15:18




Tuesday, September 19, 2017
By Teresa D. Ellera

THIRD District Representative Alfredo Benitez said Monday that about 9,000 local officials in Negros Occidental will join the mass oath-taking of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) on October 5 at the Victorias City Coliseum.

Benitez said House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, party secretary-general, will swear in the incoming PDP-Laban members in the province.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, president of PDP-Laban, has also been invited to the oath-taking rites.

Benitez said there is an ongoing mass-oath taking of PDP-Laban members all over the country.

The controversies involving some PDP-Laban officials in Manila have not affected the recruitment of more members, he added.

Housing inquiry

Benitez, chairman of House committee on housing and urban development, said they will continue with the inquiry on the delayed and substandard housing units intended for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) four years ago.

He said that during his personal visit to Tacloban City, he discovered that a number of victims are still staying in temporary shelters because up to this time, the government has not provided them housing units.

Benitez noted that the previous administration allocated with Special Release Allotment Order the amount of P6 billion for the rehabilitation of Yolanda-affected areas but only about 23 percent of the housing units are occupied.

Source: Sunstar Bacolod

Congress’s interest brings fresh hope to Yolanda shelter beneficiaries

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 23:58




By Elmer Recuerdo - September 18, 2017

BALANGIGA, Eastern Samar—Residents of Barangay 6, a coastal community of over 400 households of this historic town, are edgy when visitors come to make inquiries on their issues with the housing project of the National Housing Authority (NHA).

They have a valid reason for their anxiety. While Supertyphoon Yolanda flattened almost all of the more than 400 houses except for about a dozen or less, the NHA has identified only 165 households qualified for relocation in the resettlement site. Those identified for relocation have issued a “notice of refusal”, citing the poor structural design of the houses built.

“We will just be transferring from a danger zone to a death zone,” rationalized 55-year-old Merlita Alvarina, a fisherman’s wife with 11 children. “We have been raising this concern to the regional office of NHA. We do not want to live there.”

On September 14 officials of the NHA regional office came to Balangiga—the first in almost four years after Yolanda hit—raising hopes of the locals that their concerns will finally be addressed. To their dismay, the visit was only meant to orient the people of the do’s and don’ts when they transfer to the resettlement site.

Alvarina said NHA officials also made an additional listing of beneficiaries of the housing units from two outskirt villages not within the identified danger zones, apparently to anticipate a complete refusal of listed qualified beneficiaries who are presently living along the danger zones.

“This is a mockery of the real intent of the government’s shelter program for Yolanda survivors, which is to help become more resilient to future disasters,” she said.

The NHA is set to construct 460 houses in this municipality, but only two have been completed to date and both houses are being used as sleeping quarters of the workers. Status reports of the project show 230 are “ongoing” construction and the other half have not yet started.

When the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development resumes its congressional hearing on the Yolanda housing this week, two shelter beneficiaries from Eastern Samar are scheduled to testify on the problems surrounding the implementation of the NHA shelter program.

Lita Bagunas, a farmer and president of Uswag Este-Katarungan, said she will bring to the attention of the legislators the formal land and property-rights issue that impeded the implementation of timely construction of government shelters.

“We are asking for our own houses on our own lands. Urban solution is not the solution to farmers’ housing needs,” Bagunas said. “The Congressional committee’s proposal to accept tax declaration, in lieu of titles, is good but we need titles so we will not be excluded from aids.”

Bagunas cited the recommendation of Rep. Alfred B. Benitez of the Third District of Negros Occidental, chairman of the House Committee on Housing, for the NHA to skip the requirement of acquiring only titled lands. This recommendation came in the heels of Benitez confirming with Commission on Audit that requirement of land titles was imposed by NHA itself.

For 47-year-old Imelda Tacalan, a mother of five children, this pronouncement of the lawmaker provides a glimmer of hope to have an acceptable resettlement site for her family.

“Since the NHA has only started building half the number required here, we hope that the other half will be built near our barangay so that the fishermen will not be displaced from their source of income,” she said. “I hope the NHA will not continue building the remaining 230 houses in the same location.”

Residents of Barangay 6 have been endorsing a parcel of flat land some 200 meters from their community as a potential resettlement site. This site was earlier turned down since it was only covered by a tax declaration, instead of a land title.

“We have very high hopes that the Congress will listen to us. We are thankful that they came here for a dialogue to listen to our grievances. It was the first time that a government entity came to hear what we want to say,” she said.

Source: Business Mirror

NHA scolded for being too lax on Yolanda housing works

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 23:42




Published September 18, 2017, 6:38 PM
By Ellson Quismorio

House of Representatives members on Monday scolded the National Housing Authority (NHA) for being too nonchalant in its supervision of the construction of resettlement sites for super typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) victims.

Negros Occidental third district Rep. Alfredo Benitez, Caloocan City second district Rep. Edgar Erice and Eastern Samar lone district Rep. Ben Evardone all agreed during a House inquiry that it’s the NHA’s fault why the construction of homes for the victims remain “snail-placed” nearly four years after the storm.

I think there should be more effort coming from NHA in monitoring and instilling some sort of discipline among the contractors to finish it on time and make sure that there is no slippage,” Benitez told the agency’s general manager, Marcelino Escalada Jr.

Escalada was among the resource persons invited to the probe held by the Benitez-chaired committee on housing and urban development regarding the housing backlog. It was a follow-up on the committee hearing held by congressmen in Tacloban, Leyte on September 1.

Packing winds of 315 kilometers per hour (kph), Yolanda brought the country’s central islands to its knees in November 2013, killing and displacing thousands. At that time, it was the strongest typhoon ever observed.

In his presentation to the housing panel, Escalada said the NHA’s target is to build 205,000 housing units along the Yolanda corridor or the typhoon’s path of destruction from Eastern Samar to Palawan. Of this figure, less than 72,000 have been completed.

Even less, some 24,000, are the units that are actually occupied by the beneficiaries.

Evardone, who filed House Resolution 599 which led to particular inquiry, couldn’t put a finger as to what was delaying the construction of the homes.

One unfinished relocation site that the Visayas solon highlighted was the Hernani Townsville 1 relocation site, located in his district. The NHA official said the contract for the site was awarded on January 7, 2016, while the contractor was given the notice to proceed the following month.

“The point is, (the contracts) have been bid out. Therefore, that means the land conversion and land title have been OK’d. Why has it taken more than a year?” asked Evardone, chairman of the banks and financial intermediaries committee.

Source: Manila Bulletin

Contractor denies using substandard materials in ‘Yolanda’ housing

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 22:30



By: Marc Jayson Cayabyab 07:40 PM September 18, 2017

A contractor denied before a hearing at the House of Representatives on Monday that he had built substandard housing for the victims of Supertyphoon Yolanda.

During the hearing conducted by the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, Juanito Tayag, who owns JC Tayag Builders Inc., lamented that lawmakers deemed as “gospel truth” the allegations of a certain Camilo Salazar that substandard materials were used in the construction of the housing units.

“The alleged substandard issue only happened in one of our project sties in Balangiga,” Tayag said. “However, they declared the construction in Eastern Samar as a whole is substandard. Standard logical principle does not agree that a particular fact can form a general statement. That is malicious.”

Tayag said Salazar was not even an engineer, but a foreman who was relieved over the poor implementation of works and plans.

“We regret to say that the unverified statement of Mr. Salazar was treated as if it was a gospel truth,” Tayag said.

Tayag also justified the slow construction of units, blaming it on the rugged terrain and erroneous topographic data, among others.

He also denied that he resorted to subcontracting, adding that the JC Tayag still “called the shots” in the construction.

In a news conference last Sept. 6, Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez, committee chair, slammed the “snail-paced implementation” and “substandard” construction of the Yolanda housing units.

He added that only 23,414 of the projected 205,128 housing units were occupied.

Benitez cited a 2017 report of the National Housing Authority, which stated that of the projected 205,128 housing units, only 67,754 units – or 37 percent – were constructed, with only 23,414 units being occupied.

At least 73, 286 units are still under construction, Benitez said.

“As of today, four years has passed, only 23,414 housing units are occupied – a mere 11.4 percent,” Benitez said at the news conference. “This is based on NHA figures. 33 percent has been completed and total of 73,286 units are ongoing construction. [Actually] we’re not convinced that this is the actual number. Asked a special audit by the Commission on Audit to do the investigation and validate these figures.” /atm

Source: Inquirer.net

Contractor denies substandard materials used for Yolanda housing units

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 21:55



Published September 18, 2017 7:21pm
By ERWIN COLCOL, GMA News

The contractor for the Yolanda housing project on Monday denied the accusations against his company regarding the "snail-paced" implementation of the project.

During a hearing by the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, Juanito Tayag, owner of JC Tayag Builders Inc., belied the claim of Camilo Salazar that the materials for the housing project were substandard, among others.

The House panel is investigating the perceived snail-paced implementation of housing relocation and resettlement projects for those affected by Typhoon Yolanda, which battered Eastern Visayas in November 2013, killing over 6,000 people.

Tayag, in his testimony, claimed that, contrary to what Salazar said, they did not use 8- millimeter steel rods for the construction of the houses instead of 10 millimeters.

"The allegation of substandard issue from the unverified statement of Mr. Salazar is malicious. We categorically deny the allegations of Mr. Salazar," he said.

"Our company records can attest to the fact that the company never purchased or used 8-millimeter rods for the construction," he added.

Tayag also added that Salazar is not a licensed engineer, and that his company hired the latter as foreman to oversee their housing projects in Balangiga, Eastern Samar.

"The company requested him (Salazar) to bring in more workers and he would be the leader of that labor group.... The company was not satisfied with his performance. He never did show any improvement, which led to his termination," he said.

"The unverified statement of Mr. Salazar was treated as if it was gospel truth," he added.

Tayag also denied the allegation that 80 to 90 percent of the contracts for the housing project was awarded to JC Tayag Builders Inc. "This is absolutely false," he said.

He said that out of the 7,573 housing units in Eastern Samar, only 2,949 units, or 39.9 percent, were constructed by JC Tayag Builders Inc.

"The contracts for the housing units were not given to us on a silver platter. The company underwent in a rigorous process of bidding of NHA," Tayag said, at the same time arguing that there was no delay in the implementation of the housing projects.

"To clarify the role of JC Tayag regarding the housing project, our company entered into a contract with the NHA to construct some housing units. We agreed that the implementation of the projects started way back in 2013," he said.

"But please take note, that the notice to proceed with the project was released by NHA in early and mid-2016. So it is not true that we started the project four years ago," he added.

For his part, Salazar did not deny Tayag's testimony that he was not a licensed engineer. "Ang sinabi po ni Mr. Tayag, lahat po ng documents na sinubmit ko, ay Camilo Salazar, wala pong engineer," he said.

Negros Occidental Representative Alfredo Benitez, the chairman of the committee, admitted that it was only them who called Salazar an engineer.

"Mukhang kami lang yata ang naglagay ng engineer sa inyo e," Benitez said, drawing laughter from the attendees of the hearing.

Despite this, Salazar insisted that his expertise and rich experience in the field makes him more than qualified for the job.

The House panel earlier warned that Tayag may face plunder and estafa complaints over the allegedly anomalous construction of housing units.

A deeper investigation into the matter, with the help of the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, should also be conducted, the panel said.

The Commission on Audit and the Department of Public Works and Highways should also look into the structural integrity of the houses constructed for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda, they added. —KBK, GMA News

Source: GMA News Online

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