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Sen. Gatchalian to DPWH: Explain why schools are made with ‘substandard’ materials

Senator-elect Win Gatchalian questioned the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) over the reported use of “substandard materials” in building schools damaged by Typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: “Haiyan”), describing the unsafe school structures as “another disaster waiting to happen.”

“The DPWH should explain why schools were built with materials like limestone, beach sand, and seawater and why, even after the devastation brought upon by Typhoon Yolanda, contractors continue to use inappropriate materials,” said Gatchalian, who currently serves as a senior vice chair of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development.

According to Caritas Switzerland’s technical delegate for its school construction projects, Peter Timm, a certain contractor is ​not using sturdier and bigger reinforcements​ in a ​then-​ongoing school construction.

​“They start already with the construction and again, they use the wrong reinforcements,” CBCP News quoted him in an article as saying.​ It is stated in the story that “pre-Yolanda construction mistakes continue unaddressed in ongoing rehabilitation efforts.”
The technical delegate​ also​ said the remains of school structures damaged by the typhoon in Bantayan Island in the Cebu province show that contractors used beach sand and limestone that corrode steel reinforcements. Beach sand is also ​“too soft to make durable concrete​”. In one damaged school, bamboo reinforcements​ were used​ instead of steel.

“The building will collapse… if you don’t use the correct materials,” said ​Peter ​Timm.

In addition, buildings are left not only unpainted but also without electricity, with contractors claiming that money has already ran out.

​“If this is being allowed by the DPWH to be done by contractors in Cebu, where else is this being practiced? Typhoon Yolanda damaged over 3,000 schools, but we can’t replace or rehabilitate these schools with buildings made ​with unsuitable materials​ or without access to utilities,” said Gatchalian.​

The Education department last year said 95 percent of all public schools in Northern Cebu affected by Yolanda now have newly built or fully repaired classrooms, with over P111 million spent on repairs and another P235.76 million on construction.

The rookie senator added that concerned government agencies and contractors should remember that “it is our children who go to the schools they build.”

“And in times of disasters, people from all ages, all walks of life flock to schools for shelter. During elections, we troop to schools to cast our ballots. But using substandard materials make schools unsuitable and unsafe for use. This is another disaster waiting to happen.”

Data from the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery dated April 2014 showed that Typhoon Yolanda-related damages and losses for school buildings totaled around P3.48 billion, while nearly P7.99 billion is needed for recovery and rehabilitation. (Monica Cantilero)