THE classic 70’s song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is probably an apt tune for the National Housing Authority.
Well, what else can you suggest when two lawmakers inspecting alleged defects in government housing projects in Barangay Rio Hondo in Zamboanga City suffered what could have been a fatal fall to the water after the wooden bridge—which residents had long been complaining about as unsafe—gave way?
Fortunately, Reps. Alfredo Benitez and Celso Lobregat, along with other local officials of Zamboanga City and some NHA officials who went with them, were all safe.
Nevertheless, the incident was a dramatic display of ineptitude and corruption in the NHA.
Complaints not only of substandard materials, poor design and lack of essential facilities in government housing projects have been hounding the agency through the years.
In fact, the House committee on housing and urban development, chaired by Benitez, found that steel bars used for a housing project for typhoon Yolanda victims in Eastern Samar were substandard.
Similarly, the Iloilo City government was asked to stop a P290 million mass housing project of the NHA which local lawmakers decried as substandard.
Beneficiaries of the housing project—also survivors of Yolanda—have been complaining of cracking floors, weak concrete walls, and leaking roofs, among others. In addition, they bewailed the lack of water supply and poor toilet construction.
And do you remember the infamous housing project for soldiers in Pandi, Bulacan that members of the urban poor group Kadamay had forcibly occupied?
Soldier-beneficiaries were reluctant to live in the housing project, noting that the units were not only too small for families but also lack basic utilities such as electricity and water.
Substandard housing is no joke. It not only brings inconvenience to the residents, but also exposes them residents to mortal danger.
These things cannot happen without the knowledge of NHA officials. Either they are not doing their job or they are on the take from unscrupulous contractors. Either way, they must be held accountable.
It’s interesting how NHA officials would face Congress to ask for their 2019 budget after the Zamboanga bridge incident. There’ll be hell to pay on the day of reckoning.
For now, it suffices for us to give the agency a new name: National Hazardous Agency.