Friday, August 05, 2005

Bataan gov seeks probe of Samal housing project

BALANGA CITY, Bataan — Governor Enrique "Tet" Garcia ordered the other day the evacuation of more than 100 families living at a government-funded shelter project in barangay Gugo of Samal town.

Garcia was compelled to order the evacuation after noting that the houses had weak foundations and were made of substandard materials.

The governor also asked Vice President Noli de Castro to investigate the construction of the R200- million Peninsula Heights.

Earlier, the Provincial Engineer’s Office inspected the housing project and concluded that the houses in Peninsula Heights may not be habitable.

"The contractor did not only utilize substandard construction materials. The houses are also structurally defective. We can not afford to close our eyes on this anomalous government project. What is at stake here are the lives and limbs of our constituents," Garcia said.

According to Garcia, the contractor was Engr. Jimmy Bustamante, a close ally of former top provincial official.

Garcia said whoever was responsible for the project could be accused of serious neglect.

The housing project was funded through a loan a former governor allies secured from Pag-IBIG.

In retort, Bustamante reduced the charge to a political attack.

Garcia shot back, saying there was no politics involved since what is at stake are the lives of 100 people living in the remote village.

"Do we have to wait for a tragedy before we act?" Garcia argued.

At least houses have cracks and some have sunk, raising fears that disaster might strike in the event of a mild earthquake.

The housing project may eventually lead to a plunder case against officials involved, according to the governor.

The 50-hectare housing complex was formerly owned by the Coloso family but it was foreclosed by the provincial government for the family’s failure to pay real property taxes.

The 50-hectare lot was used as collateral by the former officials to secure loans from Pag-IBIG.

According to Garcia, the loan was not entered in the books of accounts of the province.

He said this was highly irregular and anomalous.

The loan has ballooned to a little less than R300 million when Garcia assumed the governorship.

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