Cong. Albee News Feed
on Monday, September 18, 2017
The City Government of Victorias and Canetown Development Corporation (CDC), a subsidiary of Victorias Milling Company (VMC) signed the agreement on the perpetual right to use of the 10-hectare land in Brgy. XIX-A, Victorias City, at the Mayor’s Conference Room.
The land to be donated shall be used as housing relocation site of the informal settlers within VMC and Daan Banwa.
Victorias City was represented by Mayor Francis Frederick Palanca, VMC, the mother company of CDC was represented by its President and CEO Eduardo Concepcion and CDC by its President and General Manager Roy Hautea.
Third District Representative of Negros Occidental Alfredo Abelardo Benitez, head of Committee on Housing in the House of Representatives and lead convenor of the Visayan Bloc, also joined the signing.
Mayor Palanca fully supports the program of Cong. Benitez and his initiation of the donation from VMC as he also expressed his gratitude to VMC for the life-changing deed, “A big part of what Victorias is now, we owe it to VMC. We are most grateful to VMC for attending to the need of its close to or over a thousand informal settlers.”
Cong. Benitez lauded VMC, its management and board for its generous gesture with the assurance from the local and national government, “We will make sure that it is properly designed, properly planned to create a viable community so that donation does not go to waste.” Furthermore, Concepcion supports the vision of Mayor Palanca and Cong. Benitez in building a model community, “What we are having now is part of VMC being a good corporate citizen”, he said.
Along with Cong. Benitez are District Coordinator on Housing Concerns Marie June Castro, his Media Consultant Laarni Aguilar and Geographical Coordinator Alana Montepio.
VMC Chief Administrative Officer Atty. Eva Rodriguez and VMC Asset Management Department Head Moises Romy Depasucat graced the event.
Victorias City officials, punong barangays, department, section and division heads, and City stakeholders and guests witnessed the activity.*Source: Negros Daily Bulletin
on Saturday, September 16, 2017
The Victorias City government and Canetown Development, a subsidiary of Victorias Milling Co., signed an agreement on the perpetual right to use of the 10-hectare land in Brgy. XIX-A, Victorias City, at the Mayor's Conference Room, yesterday, a press release from Victorias City Hall said.
The donated land will be used as a housing relocation site of the informal settlers within VMC and Daan Banwa.
Victorias City was represented by Mayor Francis Frederick Palanca, VMC, by its president and CEO Eduardo Concepcion, and CDC by its president and general manager Roy Hautea.
Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Negros, 3rd district), head of Committee on Housing in the House of Representatives and lead convenor of the Visayan Bloc, also joined the signing, the press release said.
Palanca fully supports the program of Benitez and his initiation of the donation from VMC,and also expressed his gratitude to VMC for the life-changing deed, the press release said.
“A big part of what Victorias is now, we owe to VMC. We are most grateful to VMC for attending to the needs of its close to, or over a thousandinformal settlers,” he said.
Benitez lauded VMC, its management and board for its generous gesture with the assurance from the local and national government, “We will make sure that it is properly designed, properly planned to create a viable community so that the donation does not go to waste,” the press release said.
“What we are having now is part of VMC being a good corporate citizen”, Concepcion said.*Source: The Visayan Daily Star
September 13, 2017
Panukalang batas para sa pamamahagi ng lupa para sa mga informal settler families sa Barangay Krus na Ligas, Quezon City at Welfareville, Mandaluyong City, pasado na sa Committee on Housing sa pangunguna ni Cong. Albee Benitez!
The Committee on Housing and Urban Development, led by Rep. Albee Benitez, approved HB 165 authored by Speaker Sonny Belmonte and HB 1848 authored by Rep. Menchie Gonzales, authorizing the disposition of parcels of lands to bona fide residents in Barangay Krus na Ligas, Quezon City, and Welfareville, Mandaluyong City, respectively.
Updated September 12, 2017, 3:44 PM
By Charissa Luci-Atienza
A House leader is calling on his colleagues to pass a bill seeking to provide retirement pay not only for barangay officials, but also for barangay tanods, health workers and Day Care workers.
Negros Occidental Rep. Albee Benitez sought the creation of a Barangay Retirement Fund which shall be used to finance the retirement of barangay officials, barangay tanods, members of the Lupon ng Tagapamayapa, barangay health workers and Day Care workers.
“Barangay workers are in the frontline of government services in the grassroots. They deliver the much-needed basic social services to the people and maintain peace and order, ” he said in seeking to amend Section 393 of Republic Act 7160, as amended, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991.
“However, given the limited resources of the government, these barangay front liners also receive the least compensation. This reality has not discouraged some of our fellow Filipinos to serve their respective barangays and some have even stayed in barangay work for many years, ” Benitez said.
Benitez filed House Bill 6240 to provide all barangay officials and workers a lump sum retirement pay equivalent to one year honorarium.
The retiree should be at least 60 years of age with a minimum of 9 years in service at the time of the retirement, the bill provides.
HB 6240 tasks the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to administer and ensure the appropriate disbursement of the Barangay Retirement Fund.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) , in coordination with the DILG, shall issue the necessary rules and regulations to implement the proposed Act.Source: Manila Bulletin
on Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Melina Monecillo of Barangay Lantad in Silay City, recently thanked Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd Distict) for the educational assistance given to her daughter, a press release from his office said yesterday.
She said her daughter Angel in 2015 graduated Cum Laude from STI-WNU with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Criminology.
Angel Monecillo is one of the more than 7,000 students from all over the Third District of Negros Occidental who has successfully graduated from college under the educational assistance program of Benitez since his first term of office in 2010
Closely coordinating with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the office of Benitez e is able to facilitate assistance for students enrolled in both public and private colleges in the District and in Bacolod City, the press release said.
On Saturday at the Silay City Plaza covered court, a total of 1,600 old and new grantees of the Tulong- Dunong Program met with Benitez for a dialog and an orientation from CHED Region VI representatives on new guidelines of the program.
CHED officials at the orientation were Cristy Laurente representing regional director Cesar Medina and Supervisor Ma. Karen Catalina Zaldivar.
Silay City Mayor Mark Golez welcomed the guests and participants to the orientation and dialog.*Source: The Visayan Daily Star
Monday, September 11, 2017
ABOUT 1,600 old and new grantees of the Tulong Dunong Program in the Third District of Negros Occidental attended an orientation and dialogue with Representative Alfredo Benitez on Saturday, September 9, at Silay City Plaza covered court.
BACOLOD. Negros Occidental Third District Representative Alfredo Benitez (seated, left) and Silay City Mayor Mark Golez (standing, right) with the Tulong Dunong scholarship grantees during the orientation and dialogue and held Saturday. (Contributed Photo)
Tulong Dunong scholarship is being initiated by Benitez in coordination with the Commission on Higher Education (Ched)-Western Visayas represented during the activity by Cristy Laurente, on behalf of Regional Director Cesar Medina, and supervisor Ma. Karen Catalina Zaldivar.
Silay City Mark Golez welcomed the guests and participants.
Benitez reminded the grantees to study seriously, graduate, and join the mainstream of productive citizens of the country.
He also gave an update on the legislative initiatives to help strengthen the education system, including the implementation of free tuition in state universities and colleges next year, and the installation of Wi-Fi facilities in public areas around the country.
Melina Monecillo of Barangay Lantad in Silay City, mother of beneficiary Angel Monecillo, thanked Benitez for the opportunity that enabled her daughter to graduate cum laude in Criminology from the STI West Negros University in 2015.
Monecillo is one of the more than 7,000 students from the Third District who finished college through the Tulong Dunong since Benitez’s first term that started in 2010.
Also present to be updated on the 2017 financial assistance guidelines were the scholarship program coordinators of Carlos Hilado Memorial State College in Talisay City; Central Philippines State University and Colegio de Sta. Ana in Victorias City; Silay Institute; University of St. La Salle, Colegio de San Agustin-Bacolod, Bacolod City College and STI WNU in Bacolod City; and Bago City College.Source: Sunstar Bacolod
on Monday, September 11, 2017
Mrs. Melina Monecillo of Barangay Lantad in Silay City, mother of an educational assistance beneficiary was not in the program but approached the organizers for a chance to thank Congressman Alfredo Benitez on stage. So Nanay Melina was called to say her brief pasalamat for the opportunity given her daughter, Angel who in 2015 graduated Cum Laude from STI-WNU with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Criminology.
Nanay Melina Monecillo of Barangay Lantad, Silay City, mother of a Tulong-Dunong grantee.
Angel Monecillo is one of the more than 7,000 students from all over District Three in Negros Occidental who have successfully graduated from college under the educational assistance program of Congressman Benitez since his first term of office in 2010. Closely coordinating with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Congressman Benitez office is able to facilitate assistance for students enrolled in both public and private colleges in the District and in Bacolod City.
Last September 9 (Saturday), 2017 at the Silay City Plaza covered court, a total of 1,600 old and new grantees of the Tulong - Dunong Program met with Congressman Benitez for a dialogue and an orientation from CHED Region VI representatives on new guidelines of the program.
As the students met Congressman Benitez up close to extend their thanks, he reminded all the grantees to continue their studies seriously, graduate successfully and join the mainstream of productive citizens of the country. He also updated them of recent legislative initiatives to help strengthen the education system in the country – the implementation next year of free tuition in state universities and colleges and the installation of Wi-fi facilities in many public areas around the country that will boost the technical capability of Filipinos to cope with global trends.
CHED officials in the orientation were Cristy Laurente representing regional director Cesar Medina and Supervisor Ma. Karen Catalina Zaldivar.
Also present to be updated on the 2017 financial assistance guidelines are the scholarship program coordinators of Carlos Hilado Memorial State College in Talisay City; Central Philippines State University and Colegio de Sta. Ana in Victorias City; Silay Institute; University of St. La Salle, Colegio de San Agustin, Bacolod City College and STI-WNU in Bacolod City; and Bago City College.
Silay City Mark Golez welcomed guests and participants to the orientation and dialogue.*
Friday, September 08, 2017
By MARCHEL P. ESPINA
SUGAR industry leaders in Negros Occidental are seeking a six-year moratorium on the imposition of excise tax on sugar sweetened drinks.
This was announced by former vice governor Emilio Yulo III, spokesperson of Sugar Alliance of the Philippines, during the “Sugar and More” Negros Summit held Thursday, September 7, at the Sugarland Hotel in Bacolod City.
Yulo, who also represented Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri in the gathering, said the committee report on the tax reform package will be released in the next few weeks.
He said the sugar industry will be one of those that will be “heavily affected” by the proposed tax reform.
Yulo said they are hoping that the sugar sector and stakeholders will be able to send resolutions asking for a six-year moratorium.
He said the excise tax will impact the sugar industry “twice” as the bill also included excise tax on diesel.
“The cost production will go up. If the diesel goes up, the basic commodities will also go up. It will affect the cost of labor…its effect will have lower demand for domestic sugar,” Yulo pointed out.
He said their main contention is that it’s useless for the government to help the sugar industry with the P2-billion allocation from the Sugarcane Industry Development Act (Sida) when it will be imposing taxes that will kill the industry.
He added that the national government should allow the Sida to work first before imposing the tax.
The Comprehensive Tax Reform bill was already passed by the House of Representatives.
Under the tax reform package, the excise tax on sweetened beverages using locally produced sugar will be P10 per liter while those using high fructose corn syrup will be taxed P20 per liter.
He said they are hoping “they would (senators) be able to make known our sentiments.”
Third District Representative Alfredo Benitez, for his part, said the P10 per liter excise tax on locally produced sugar is “immovable” as it was insisted by the Department of Finance, which is why the lawmakers moved for higher tax on imported sweetener.
He said the tax reform bill will have “very rough sailing” in the Senate.Source: Sunstar Bacolod
Friday, September 08, 2017
By MARCHEL P. ESPINA
LOCAL government officials in Negros Occidental are seeking stronger action from various stakeholders to strengthen the sugar industry amid the challenges it is facing.
During the “Sugar and More” Negros Summit held Thursday, September 7, at the Sugarland Hotel in Bacolod City, industry leaders and stakeholders agreed to submit resolutions to various agencies and institutions in the effort to strengthen measures.
Former governor Rafael Coscolluela, consultant on Capitol Investments, Promotions and Trade, proposed 21 resolutions to the body that will be addressed to the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), Congress, Provincial Government, local government units, and Mill District Development Councils.
The resolutions include the mobilization and strengthening of the Sugar Industry Development Council (SIDC); opposition to excise tax on sugar sweetened drinks; farm mechanization program; infrastructure development coordination; agro-industrial development program; project development assistance center; Negros First Development Corporation; sugar mill diversification; mill standards; SRA rightsizing; Alliance for Negros Island Development Agenda; cane transport rationalization study; and public relations campaign.
Coscolluela also proposed the conduct of annual sugar industry summit and establishment of “Sugar and More” technical working group.
He said there are lots of players in the sugar industry.
“We want these players to have a clear idea on what their role is, and perform that role,” he added.
For lack of strong coordinating mechanism, there has been a tendency for stakeholders to move on their own, Coscolluela said, as he hoped that with the proposed reorganization of SIDC, it would play “more significant role” in harmonizing all the efforts of the industry.
He said the SIDC was established when the Sugarcane Industry Development Act was passed.
“If the SIDC is inactive, it needs to be reactivated and strengthened. It is the mechanism we hope to provide cohesion,” he added.
Coscolluela pointed out that there are many good plans, but there is “no follow through.”
He said the lead agency should be the SRA, though he lamented the downsizing in the agency.
Coscolluela said the rightsizing proposal of the agency was disapproved by the Department of Budget and Management.
“How can SRA perform its mandate if it doesn’t have enough people?” he asked.Challenges
Among the challenges affecting the sugar industry were competition, drop in domestic prices, world market surplus, large carry-over inventory, labor shortage and increasing costs of production, health issue, change in consumption patterns and excise taxes on fuel, Coscolluela said during the summit.
He said its impact to Negros include multiple challenges which discourage sugarcane growing or encourage shift to more viable agri-ventures; sugar mills lose revenue from reduced cane supply and lower prices; drop in prices/increasing costs affect growers’ viability; cost reduction measures will affect income of laborers; sugar workers will look for jobs in construction and others; lack of labor will affect milling and cultivation and speed up shift to mechanization; and consumer spending affected by belt tightening.
Moreover, Coscolluela said the strategic action plan for sugar includes measures to position Negros Island’s sugarcane industry as competitive, diversified, and sustainable sector of the economy and develop blueprint for a more resilient, balanced, and sustainable economy.
He said the key issues and concerns in the industry are the changing market; sugar policy; government policies and programs; research, development, and extension; coordination and networking among stakeholders; inefficiencies throughout the value chain; labor shortage; industry and product image; and attitudes and perceptions of planters, millers and the public.Industry shift?
Third District Representative Alfredo Benitez said that leaders have to “dig deeper” as the industry maybe facing a business shift.
“In a sense of what we have now was overtaken by other situation due to technology, so we have to dig deeper whether we are still viable or we need re-tooling or refining for us to move forward,” he pointed out.
Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. said that more can be achieved if everybody will work together.
He said the industry is facing many challenges because of globalization.
The Capitol has started to help the province diversify, he said.
Moreover, Marañon said the sugar industry needs to have a road map.
“It’s about time the sugar industry have rules and regulations and system. We have to reduce our cost. Before, we have high cost and cheap labor. Now, we can mechanize to reduce cost production,” he added.Source: Sunstar Bacolod
on Friday, September 8, 2017
By Carla P. Gomez
Twenty-one resolutions were approved yesterday to ensure the survival of the country's sugar industry and to further boost the growth of Negros beyond its once mono-crop economy.
The resolutions were approved at the end of the “Sugar and More Negros Summit”attended by industry stakeholders and government officials at the Sugarland Hotel in Bacolod City.
“The Sugar and More Negros Summit heralds the beginning of a New Negros, no longer willing to take the ‘business-as-usual' route, but now ready to chart a new course towards a diversified and robust economy,” former governor Rafael Coscolluelasaid.
But Coscolluela, who is the Negros Occidental provincial government consultant on investment promotions and trade, said “We have a long climb ahead of us, and the biggest challenge will be in getting everyone on board.”
As was said some years back, "the future welcomes those who change with the times; the past is littered with dinosaurs that could not", he added.
Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. said a unified road map for the sugar industry is needed to prevent it from becoming a sunset industry, along with the push for the success of alternative industries to ensure the province's continued growth.
Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) said that aside from sugar, the best industry that he sees for Negros Occidental is tourism with its good food and hospitable citizens.
“The province should diversify, if we remain amonocrop industry we might get caught and realize one day that it is too late,” he said.
The agriculture sector in this country does not move forward or develop because there is no reinvestment caused by the uncertainty on whom the land belongs, Benitez said.
“We are here because it cannot be business as usual, it is high time we do a makeover to be better prepared for what will happen to our industry,” Ma. Regina Martin, representing the sugar sector, said.
Roberto Montelibano, representing the business sector,called on the private sector to pour in more investments beyond sugar in Negros to boost economic growth.EXCISE TAX MORATORIUM
Dino Yulo, spokesman of the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines, said they are calling for a six-year moratorium on the imposition of excise tax on sugar sweetened beverages.
He also called on stakeholders to join the lobby in the Senate to push for the moratorium.
Coscolluela, on the other hand, said it should not be implemented at all because it is counterproductive for being anti-poor, anti-consumer and anti-farmer.RESOLUTIONS
Coscolluela said the 21 resolutions approved yesterday will be submitted to concerned agencies for action.
He stressed the need to reactivate and strengthen the Sugar Industry Development Council to harmonize all efforts to boost the sugar industry.
There is also a need to rightsize the Sugar Regulatory Administration workforce, which was previously downsized, to carry out added responsibilities required of it under the Sugarcane Industry Development Act, Coscolluela said.
Among the resolutions needing legislative action are the calls for the Department of Budget and Management to comply with the spirit of the SIDA Law, and for congressmen to revive the AVA (Alternative Ventures Agreement) Bill to encourage consolidation of lands into viable sizes, with appropriate safeguards.
Opposition to excise taxes on fuels and sugar sweetened beverages was also urged, along with a lobby for enforcement of anti-GMO Ordinance to fight High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Also urged isadherence to the intent and spirit of the Renewable Energy and Biofuels Laws and a study of a provincial ordinance creating a Negros First Development Corporation or Authority to serve as an investment catalyst.
Industry reform measures were also urged such as a cane transport rationalization study, establishment of mill standards, and financing for product diversification.
Also urged is national government support for the Alliance for Negros Island Development Agenda to harmonize infrastructure development through CRID (Coordinating Roads and Infrastructure for Development).*CPG
Source: The Visayan Daily Star
BY THE MANILA TIMES ON SEPTEMBER 7, 2017
THE House of Representatives has calendared an investigation on an alleged anomaly in a government housing project involving “billions of pesos” allegedly misused by a contractor hired by the National Housing Authority (NHA) to build homes for victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” that hit most of the Visayas region four years ago.
Rep. Alfredo Benitez of the 3rd District of Negros Occidental said in a text message on Thursday that the committee on housing and urban development, which he heads would conduct the inquiry starting on Sept. 18.
Benitez said that he would also ask the committee on good governance and public accountability, of which he is a member, to join the investigation.
Benitez who, along with committee members, visited the project site in Leyte on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 found out that the houses have not been completed and that some of the materials used were “substandard” four years after the disaster. RALPH EDWIN U. VILLANUEVASource: Manila Times
By: DJ Yap - 07:52 AM September 07, 2017
“Worse than a piggery” was how one member of the House of Representatives on Wednesday described government bunkhouses for survivors of Supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) in 2013.
Many housing units in resettlement areas had unsafe foundations with walls so thin that residents were told not to hammer nails into them, another congressman said. The beam in at least one house toppled over, he added.
Members of the House housing and urban development panel were left aghast at the dilapidated shelters for the Yolanda victims which they saw during a visit last week to inspect the “snail-paced” government housing projects in Eastern Visayas.
“It’s like the houses cannot be lived in. Our piggery is better because we see to it that our pigs do not have accidents. But here, it will only take a small earthquake for a disaster to happen,” said Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso.
Lawmakers said plunder charges could be filed against a contractor of the National Housing Authority (NHA) and its conspirators in the housing agency as the projects cost more than P50 million, the threshold amount for such offense.
They said J.C. Tayag Builders, which reportedly cornered the bulk of housing projects in Eastern Samar, subcontracted the work without official authorization from the NHA.
Committee Chair Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez said they found “glaring substandard construction.”
Many of the bunkhouses had weak foundations and flimsy walls, said Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone. A beam in one house crashed to the ground, he said.
He quoted one resident saying: “We got saved from Yolanda, but if we stay there, we may end up really dead.”
Camilo Salazar, an engineer from Balangiga, Eastern Samar, told the lawmakers he was subcontracted by J.C. Tayag Builders to construct 50 of the 100 units to be built in his town.
Instead of delivering standard 10-mm steel bars for the foundations, the company sent 8-mm bars that would weaken the houses, Salazar said, adding that some of the bars were rusty, according to Benitez.Source: Inquirer.net
BY RALPH VILLANUEVA ON SEPTEMBER 7, 2017
LEYTE Rep. Vicente Veloso is considering filing estafa and plunder cases against the main contractor of the housing project for victims of Super Typhoon “Yolanda” in Eastern Samar for building substandard units.
Veloso and members of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Housing and Urban Development found that only 33 percent of the project has been completed. The lawmakers visited the housing site in Leyte.
At least 14,000 families were displaced in Tacloban when “Yolanda” slammed Eastern Visayas in 2013 in Tacloban.
“Nakita naming na ang mga relocation sites did not have electricity, did not have water (The relocation sites do not have electricity or water). [The housing] has incomplete facilities which hampered the transfer of the intended beneficiaries. To sum it up, I think there was a very substandard construction of the facilities,” Rep. Alfredo Benitez, chairman of the Housing and Urban Development committee, said.
“It was also in this visit that we were able to stumble into one whistleblower who testified under oath during our formal hearing that the materials they used for the construction of the Yolanda housing was substandard,” Benitez added.
The whistleblower, Camilo Salazar, was a sub-contractor of JC Tayag, the main contractor of the National Housing Authority in Eastern Samar.
According to Benitez, Salazar admitted that eight millimeters of metals were used instead of the declared 10 millimeters.
“P75.5 billion ang total allocation with the supplemental budget. P60 billion was already appropriated, and P60 billion is 70 percent of the budget but only 33 percent of the project has been completed. Not even half,” Benitez said.
“So there are billions of pesos that are missing, and therefore somebody has to answer and somebody has to be accountable.This accounts to be a case of plunder,” Velasco said.
The panel urged the Commission on Audit to make a special audit of the Yolanda housing to determine whether or not the houses built for displaced families are safe.
“It’s been four years. Yung iba bumalik sa mga danger zones (Some have returned to live in danger zones). Isipin mo, tinamaan na sila ng trahedya tapos [ganito](Imagine, they were victims of a tragedy and yet this is the situation),” Benitez said.
The lawmakers said Tayag could be charged with estafa because he did not deliver on his promise to build safe houses for the typhoon victims.
“I will say JC Tayag was guilty of estafa when his corporation impressed upon the government that he can build livable and safe houses. But he used substandard materials, he did not follow the specifications of the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways),” Benitez said.
Rep. Arlene Brosas, also a member of the panel, said it is possible that more irregularities will be uncovered when the committee holds an investigation.Source: Manila Times
By WENDELL VIGILIA
September 07, 2017
A CONSTRUCTION company based in San Fernando City, Pampanga is in hot water for constructing substandard housing units for the victims of typhoon Yolanda in 2013.
Rep. Alfredo Benitez (PDP-Laban, Negros Occidental), chair of the House committee on housing and urban development, said the owner of housing contractor JC Tayag may face estafa and even a plunder complaint because of the multi-million irregularities. The owner was not identified.
“This is a double-whammy for the Yolanda victims. They have already experienced the great tragedy and now we have this,” Benitez said.
To get to the bottom of the issue, the Benitez panel will hold a joint investigation with the House committee on good government and public accountability chaired by Rep. Johnny Pimentel (PDP-Laban, Surigao del Sur).
Benitez’s panel earlier held a public hearing in Tacloban City from August 31 to September 1 based on House Resolution (HR) No. 599 filed by Rep. Ben Evardone (PDP-Laban, Eastern Samar).
The panel conducted on-site inspections of housing relocation and community building and resettlement projects.
The irregularities were revealed by an engineer, Camilo Salazar, who told lawmakers that the materials used for the construction of the housing units were “substandard.”
Salazar, a constituent of Evardone, is an authorized subcontractor for 46 housing units of J.C. Tayag Builders Incorporate, the main contractor for the housing project.
“We were able to stumble (upon) one whistleblower who testified that the materials they used for the project were substandard,” said Benitez.
While 10-millimeter steel rods were supposed to be used, Salazar told the housing panel that what was really used were “rusty” eight millimeter steel rods.
Benitez said the National Housing Authority (NHA) should be made to explain why it allowed the sub-contracting policy of the housing units despite its prohibition.
He said Salazar should not have been allowed to participate as a subcontractor approved by the NHA to undertake the project.
He said P60 billion out of the P75 billion allocation from the 2013 national budget had been used but as of July 31, 2017, only 33 percent of the housing projects or 67,754 units were completed while 11.4 percent, or 23,414, were occupied.
A total of 205,128 housing units were supposed to be built and 73,286 units are still under construction.
Evardone said almost 80 percent of the National Housing Authority projects in Eastern Samar were secured by Juanito Tayag of the J.C. Tayag Builders Inc. although the House has yet to ascertain who the company’s owners are.
The Eastern Samar lawmaker said the NHA has to explain why the projects were cornered by Tayag’s firm, noting that some houses built in Balangiga, Eastern Samar were indeed, substandard.
Evardone said the revelations in the two-day hearing prompted the committee to seek a special audit on Yolanda housing projects and the rehabilitation program from the Commission on Audit (COA).
Benitez and Evardone said beneficiaries have remained in temporary shelters while others decided to return to the dangerous zones as the government continues to construct 73,286 more housing units.
Rep. Yedda Marie Kittilstvedt-Romualdez (Lakas, Leyte) urged President Duterte “to hold accountable the parties involved in the anomalies uncovered by the (Benitez) panel.”Source: Malaya Business Insight
GMA News 24 Oras: Pabahay para sa Yolanda victims, wala pa sa kalahati ang naitatayo makalipas ang apat na taon
Source: GMA News Online
RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
Posted at Sep 06 2017 07:44 PM
MANILA- The House of Representatives Committee on Housing claimed to have found substandard housing projects in relocation areas for the victims of super typhoon "Yolanda" in 2013.
The panel, upon the resolution of Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, recently inspected affected areas and claimed to have found mediocre structures.
Housing committee Chairman Negros Occidental Rep. Albee Benitez said he saw "glaring substandard" construction of facilities for the housing projects and noted that during their visit, they met a whistle-blower who testified under oath during their formal hearing that the materials used in the construction of homes were subpar.
The whistle-blower, an engineer Camilo Salazar, was a subcontractor for some of the housing projects in Balangiga, Eastern Samar.
Salazar, according to Benitez, supplied labor and materials and was supposed to handle around 100 housing units.
"Based sa testimony niya (Salazar), nakita niya [na] substandard [ang] materials. He reported it to his supervisor, in-explain na di dapat yan ang gamitin. He refused to put those substandard materials," Benitez said.
Evardone recalled that one of the housing units had a fallen beam and scored the National Housing Authority (NHA) for allegedly failing to monitor the housing projects and its principal contractor, a certain JC Tayag who allegedly subcontracts the projects illegally as well.
“NHA admitted it (subcontracting) is allowed if it is authorized. As of today, nung hearing sa Tacloban, there has not been any authorization for subcontracting," Evardone said.ANOMALY IN CONTRACTS?
Evardone added that they will inquire as to why contracts were given to Tayag when a bidding procedure should have determined the contractor.
NHA figures according to Benitez reveal that the government should have built a total of 205,128 housing units since 2013 but 4 years later, only 23, 414 units are occupied. A total of 73,286 units meanwhile are still under construction, he said.
The lawmakers have also asked the Commission on Audit for a validation of the said figures, Benitez said.
“Four years, nakakaawa po. The victims of the calamity are still suffering as of today. Suffering continues," Benitez said.
Leyte 3rd District Rep. Vicente Veloso meanwhile pointed out that his district has not received any funds for housing nor has the government placed a housing site in their area.
Veloso is already eyeing possible charges against Tayag and other individuals linked to the poor construction of houses.
"I would say JC Tayag was guilty of Estafa when he [and his] corporation impressed upon the government [na] kaya niya magpatayo ng livable, matinong mga bahay only to find out very, very substandard ang ginamit na materials,” he said.
“Mas maganda pa nga piggery namin eh,” he added.
Evardone said P75.7 billion was allocated for the housing projects from the General Appropriations Act and supplemental budget but only P60 billion has been appropriated.
Typhoon victims who were supposed to occupy the units have also complained of the poorly-constructed houses, saying most are shaky, have no power lines, and have inefficient sewage systems, Ilocos Sur Rep. DV Savellano said.
Because of this, Benitez said some have opted to stay in temporary shelters instead while others went back to danger zones.
The strongest typhoon to hit the country in 2013, Yolanda ravaged the island of Visayas leaving hundreds dead and thousands more homeless.Source: ABS-CBN News
By: Marc Jayson Cayabyab - 04:47 PM September 06, 2017
Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are digging deeper into the reportedly substandard construction of the housing units for survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda (internationally known as Haiyan).
In a press briefing on Wednesday, Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez, chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, said only 23,414 of the projected 205,128 housing units – or 11.4 percent – have so far been occupied.
Benitez slammed the “snail-paced implementation” of the housing project.
On top of that, he added, the materials used in the project were substandard, as revealed by an engineer from Balangiga, who identified himself as Camilo Salazar, during a recent House committee hearing conducted in Tacloban City.
“Nakita naman namin dun na relocation sites,” Benitez said. “We found out that the project itself did not have electricity, did not have water – those yung nalipatan sa Guian, Samar – plus [they had] incomplete facilities, which hampered the transfer of the intended beneficiaries.”
“To sum it up, there was a glaring substandard construction of the facilities,” he added. “It was also in this visit that we were able to stumble [on] one whistle blower who testified under oath during our formal hearing that the materials they used for the construction of the Yolanda housing were substandard.”
It was Salazar, an engineer, who exposed the subcontracting involved in the housing units, Benitez said.
“Salazar should not have [been] allowed to participate [as one of the] subcontractors approved by the National Housing Authority to undertake the project. I will ask the NHA to conduct a probe on these alleged irregularities,” Benitez said.
He said his committee had identified the following problems in the resettlement areas:
- Housing unit size is inadequate.
- The structures are of substandard quality.
- There were no livelihood opportunities in the area.
- There was no potable water supply.
- There were no power lines.
Benitez cited a 2017 report of the NHA, which states that, of the projected 205,128 housing units, only 67,754 units – or 37 percent – had been constructed, with only 23,414 units being occupied.
At least 73,286 units were still under construction, Benitez said.
“As of today, four years has passed, only 23,414 housing units are occupied – a mere 11.4 percent. This is based on NHA figures,” he said. “Thirty-three percent have been completed and total of 73,286 units are ongoing construction. We’re not convinced that this is the actual number. [We] asked a special audit by the Commission on Audit to do the investigation and validate these figures.”
Earlier, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone filed a resolution seeking an inquiry into the substandard housing units.
Besides Benitez and Evardone, Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso also mulled filing plunder charges against the contractor, JC Tayag of JC Inc., as well as NHA officials involved in the implementation of the resettlement project.
In a separate statement, Leyte Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to hold accountable the parties involved in the substandard housing.
“I know the President is a no-nonsense action man and very much determined to address corruption,” Romualdez said.
She said those behind the substandard housing should be “burned in hell.”
“How can you take advantage of people during disasters?” she said. “Those responsible behind the supposed substandard housing projects and other irregularities should be burned in hell. They should not make business out of the sufferings of Yolanda victims.” /atmSource: Inquirer.net
Published 12:45 PM, September 06, 2017
Updated 12:45 PM, September 06, 2017
By Bea Cupin
A House committee looks into the progress – or lack thereof – of housing projects for Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors
MANILA, Philippines – They survived the onslaught of a super typhoon in 2013. But in 2017, almost 4 years after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) ravaged Eastern Visayas, survivors now have to contend with the lack of housing, or housing units that are either slow to be built or made using substandard materials.
"Victims of the calamity are still suffering today," said Negros Occidental 3rd District Representative Alfredo Benitez in a press conference on Wednesday, September 6. (READ: 3 unresolved issues, 3 years after Yolanda)
Benitez, who chairs the House committee on housing and urban development, recently led a team of lawmakers on a visit to 3 housing sites in the region as well as a public hearing in Tacloban, Leyte, the worst-hit city.
Benitez said they were "shocked to learn about the progress" – or lack thereof – in housing projects for those displaced because of the super typhoon.
Citing data from the National Housing Authority (NHA), Benitez said 205,128 houses were supposed to be constructed for Yolanda survivors. But of that, only 11.4% are occupied, according to the NHA itself. Only 33% have been completed, although lawmakers believe the real figures are much lower.
Benitez noted that at one site, construction equipment were suddenly in use and construction workers, busy shoveling during their visit. But a team sent by the legislators a week before noted that the site was a "ghost town" and that construction activity was non-existent.Billions of pesos lost?
When they visited Balangiga, Eastern Samar, Benitez said a person came forward during their dialogue with residents. The person, who identified himself as Camilo Salazar, was a subcontractor for JC Tayag, the contractor who won the bidding for the housing project.
Salazar, an engineer, told lawmakers that materials used for the homes were substandard. In Balangiga, for instance, said Benitez, Salazar ordered 10 millimeter (mm) steel rods for the foundation of the houses. Instead, "rusty" 8 mm rods arrived.
The 10 mm steel rods cost around P115 per piece while the 8 mm rods cost around P70.
In the end, Salazar apparently refused to push through with the project. He was among the key witnesses during the public hearing in Tacloban City – which he almost missed, said Benitez, because certain personalities tried to dissuade him from attending.
Tayag, said Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone, cornered around 80% of contracts in his province alone.
The problems in post-Yolanda construction don't end there.
Evardone said Tayag had apparently subcontracted some of his projects. The subcontractors, in turn, also subcontracted some projects. Subcontracting is allowed by the NHA, as long as permissions are granted. The NHA, however, has not approved subcontracting permits for Yolanda rehabilitation, said Benitez.
Around P75.7 billion was earmarked by the government for the construction of new homes for Yolanda survivors. Of that, over P60 billion or 70% has already been allocated. But only 33% of the target number of houses have been constructed.More hearings
The House committee wants to conduct more hearings on the status of post-Yolanda housing, possibly in conjunction with the committee on good government and public accountability. It also wants the Commission on Audit (COA) to conduct a special audit of Yolanda rehabilitation efforts.
But early on, legislators are convinced that Tayag, the contractor, is guilty of estafa for supposedly fooling the government into thinking his firm could handle the projects. They are also eyeing plunder charges against the contractor and officials of the NHA for "gross negligence."
Benitez, quoting subcontractors they spoke to, said the NHA did not monitor the actual progress of the projects.
Still, Benitez said they would be summoning NHA officials to hearings in Manila to "hear both sides."
Evardone also suggested turning over rehabilitation funds directly to the local government units instead of the NHA, pointing out that local politicians are more accountable to constituents than the housing agency.
Yolanda is among the strongest typhoons ever to make landfall.
In official government documents, over 6,000 died because of the super typhoon. But the death toll is believed to be much higher, as many remain unaccounted for even after nearly 4 years.
President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier voiced his dissatisfaction over the slow pace of rehabilitation and ordered officials then to speed up the implementation of housing projects. Last August 8, Duterte also created an inter-agency task force to improve coordination in the implementation of post-Yolanda projects. – Rappler.com
Check out press conference video...Source: Rappler.com
September 3, 2017