Redesign to delay construction of temporary housing

Reconstruction in areas in the central Philippines where Typhoon Haiyan (local name:Yolanda) demolished infrastructure in November is facing delays, with the government choosing to redesign some temporary housing after construction had started, officials say.

The government is building bunk houses to temporarily house tens of thousands of victims, many of who are still living in evacuation centers and tent cities two months after the typhoon hit.

On Monday, Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson said the design of the bunk houses has been changed to take into account the recommendations of various international experts who have visited typhoon-devastated areas.

Mr. Singson said he had met with and received suggestions for improvements from “at least 10 different [United Nations] organizations, “ and was adapting the bunk houses based on that advice.

The redesign, which increases the living space in each unit and improves ventilation, has affected the pace of building since adjustments had to be made after construction began, he said, noting that construction of more permanent shelters is likely to extend beyond the current president’s term.

President Benigno Aquino III will leave office in June 2016. Following the massive storm that struck the central part of the country last November, he promised to provide permanent housing for victims as soon as possible.

But Mr. Singson told reporters that the goal could not be met given the scale of devastation and the need for new shelters in other areas hit by earlier disasters.

“We can say that we are doing our best to complete whatever we can do in the remaining two and half years,” he said at a press briefing.

Mr. Singson, who has a reputation for completing public works projects ahead of time and under budget, said it would take three to four years to complete the shelter program.

Haiyan is the deadliest storm in the Philippines’ modern history. It has so far claimed more than 6,100 lives and displaced 4.1 million people. The typhoon has also damaged 1.14 million houses, half of which are have been completely destroyed.

Aside from areas destroyed by the typhoon, the government is also building shelters for victims of earlier calamities. Those include the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that hit Bohol, also in the central Philippines, in October and a weeks-long stand-off between Muslim rebels and government forces in Zamboanga City in the September that displaced around 100,000 people.

The government has set aside P100 billion ($2.2 billion) in its 2014 budget for reconstruction of the areas impacted by Haiyan. Officials estimate that it will cost around $8 billion to fund the reconstruction effort over the next four years.