Delay in P551-M relocation housing forces 1,406 informal-settler families to continue living in danger areas

Published July 23, 2020, 5:46 PM

by Ben Rosario

At least  1,406 families residing near Metro Manila waterways and hazard zones have been denied relocation to a housing project in Bulacan and are still living dangerously due to the long delay in the completion of a P551-million relocation site.

Commission on Audit (COA)

This was revealed by the Commission on Audit (COA) after it asked the Social Housing Finance Corporation to take serious steps in completing the project that had apparently been abandoned by the contractor despite receiving initial payments of over P80 million from the state-run firm.

COA, in the 2019 annual audit report released on Thursday, revealed that despite the payment of huge sums of money for the project, the contractor was unable to finish the project under the High Density Housing Program.

“The Gumamela Neighborhood Housing Cooperative Project amounting to P551.020 million under the High Density Housing Program (HDHP) was not completed within the scheduled date of completion despite the approved extension period until June 30, 2018, contrary to the provisions of the Building Construction and Site Development Agreement, thus, depriving the intended 1,406 Informal Settler Family (ISF)-beneficiaries, living in waterways and danger zones of decent and affordable housing and defeating the objectives of the Program including the non-recovery of funds invested in housing,” COA said.

Identified beneficiaries of the near-city relocation project were ISFs living beside the Tullahan river, San Juan river, Tonsuya river  and Lagarian creek which are waterways in Metro Manila. Other ISFs to be benefited are those living near the NPC transmission and dumpsites in Quezon City.

The GNHCP was able to finance the project after being granted a loan by the SHFC to acquire the lot for the relocation site, conduct side development, and construct houses for the members of the association.

With the loaned amount, the GNHCP tapped a contractor after the two parties entered into a Building Construction and Site Development  Agreement in 2015.

Under the agreement, the contractor was tasked to deliver the 1,046 duplex with loft type housing units and develop the 12-hectare project site in Barangay Kaypian, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

The contractor was also given one year from receipt of the P63.27 million mobilization fee to complete the project.

“The project, however, was not completed within the one-year period stipulated in the Agreement, or on September 15, 2017,” COA revealed.

The audit agency also disclosed that the project remained unfinished even after an ocular inspection was conducted by COA in December, 2019.

“We noted that despite the slippage of 14 months, the 8th partial payment amounting to P23,109 million was released to the Contractor under Check No. 74534 dated September 5, 2019,” the COA report noted.

In the audit recommendation, COA asked the SHFC to demand liquidated damages from the contractor and issue an ultimatum to the contractor to proceed with the work as provided under the agreement.

“If the contractor fails to do so within seven days from receipt thereof, the CA and SHFC shall have the option to proceed against the bond, enter the premises and employ another contractor to complete the work at the expense of the original contractor,” COA said.

The SHFC said it is in constant communications with the contractor to resolve the problem.