NHA admits rushed construction of Zamboanga housing unit

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 16) — The National Housing Authority on Wednesday admitted it rushed building housing units for residents displaced by the 2013 Zamboanga siege as they needed to be relocated from temporary shelters as soon as possible.

During the congressional inquiry on the collapse of a footbridge in Barangay Mariki, Zamboanga City, Mayor Isabelle Climaco Salazar said residents had to be transferred to the NHA housing project since hundreds were already dying at the evacuation centers due to sickness.

"Given the 343 deaths, the dilemma of the local government unit was to transfer or to let them die, let them suffer in inhumane conditions in transitory sites," Salazar said.

Former NHA General Manager Chito Cuz said they shelved the original plan to use concrete for building the houses on stilts and the footbridge due to the urgency of the situation and their limited budget.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources also advised against the use of yakal and tambulian, forcing the NHA to buy lower quality lumber for construction.

Both the NHA and the project contractor took responsibility for the collapse of the footbridge last April.

READ: Zamboanga mayor blames housing agency for bridge accident

Among those who fell from the bridge were Salazar, Zamboanga Rep. Celso Lobregat, and Negros Occidental Rep. Albee Benitez, who were all at the hearing.

Residents from Zamboanga testified about the substandard quality of the houses, with one saying her house is always shaking.

"Nung nasira po yung bridge, doon kami nagkaroon ng idea na posible palang gumuho ang bahay namin," said Sattolnina Abba.

While the collapse was unfortunate, the resident said it was a blessing that it happened because the flaws in their housing units were exposed.

Incumbent NHA officials said they are conducting their own investigation to determine if there are anomalies in the implementation of the housing project.