COA questions safety of proposed gov't relocation site in Valenzuela
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC) paid P100.329 million out of the total P414 million budget for a relocation site that may be unsafe for residence, the Commission on Audit said in its 2017 report.
According to the COA report released last June 1, SHFC gave the go-signal to start construction of a government relocation project for 864 informal settler families from Valenzuela City in a site prone to flooding, tsunami, and unstable ground.
The project included the development of 18 3-story buildings in Barangay Malinta, which is also located in Valenzuela City.
The COA said site inspections done as early as 2014 revealed the location was also a potential health hazard, as it was located near a former dumpsite and bound by the Tullahan river to its west.
The COA also reported another review of the site completed in September 2014 by the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Office of the Undersecretary for Urban Poor, Informal Settler Families and Other Special Concerns, found the following site hazards:
- Prone to moderate flooding
- Within the tsunami flooding area
- May experience a worst-case scenario of intensity 7 ground shaking during an earthquake
- Had soil susceptible to moderate “liquefaction,” which means it may be unable support structures during an earthquake
The COA also highlighted the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' (DENR) issuance of an Environmental Compliance Certificate for the site on December 29, 2014, despite findings from other government agencies that the area is hazard-prone.
State auditors also flagged SHFC’s payment of the property and mobilization fees despite safety issues of the proposed relocation site.
The COA said SHFC went ahead with a P41.232 million payment for the site, covering 80% of its total cost of P51.539 million. The payment itself was questioned as it was released only in 2016, despite being approved in 2015.
In a statement sent to Rappler on Tuesday, June 12, SHFC said it proceeded with the released the funds for purchase of the property as the local government of Valenzuela City and DENR had already issued a building permit and environmental certificate of compliance, respectively.
“These agencies have the statutory right and expertise to determine the feasibility of putting up the housing project in the area,” SHFC said.
State auditors also flagged the release of P50.59 million or 15% of the project’s mobilization fees, despite no turnover of housing units taking place.
It also noted site development remained incomplete long after it’s slated completion in August 2017.
“Ocular inspection on the site on February 9, 2018, revealed that the project is still far from completion. Site development such as road networks, water layout and electricity were not yet in place,” it said.
Asked by state auditors why the site was in such conditions, SHFC’s management said construction was temporarily stopped in November 2017 to conduct soil testing “in order to ensure the safety of beneficiaries.” The testing occurred 3 years after the findings from the initial site inspection.
SHFC also told Rappler the project contractor would assume construction once the site was “cleared of safety-related issues” and that it exercised “extraordinary due diligence” by requiring community associations to secure soil boring tests for the project.
Should the soil tests reveal the site is unfit for residence, the COA said the project contractor and previous owner of the property should refund the amount paid to them in full. – Rappler.com