ZAMBOANGA CITY — Local officials have called for a probe into the construction of a wooden footbridge that collapsed, forcing officials visiting a housing project here to fall into waist-deep, muddy waters.
Although some members of the visiting party incurred minor injuries, several officials nevertheless sought an investigation into the construction of the structure, which was planned and implemented by the National Housing Authority-Zamboanga Peninsula (NHA-9) regional office.
“I want to find out who approved the design and who constructed it,” said Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Abelardo B. Benitez, chair of the committee on housing and urban development, in an interview after the incident. “The footbridge which we crossed was obviously not strong enough to hold us.”
Mr. Benitez was among the officials who plunged into the water, along with Zamboanga City District 1 Rep. Celso L. Lobregat, Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, NHA officials, and members of the local media.
On Thursday, they conducted a site visit of the housing project belonging to the
Mariki, Rio Hondo, Sta. Barbara, Sta. Catalina, and Kasanyangan communities.
The project is part of the Zamboanga City Roadmap to Recovery and Rehabilitation (Z3R), which covers a development master plan for the reconstruction of the coastal communities damaged during the September 2013 battle between government forces and members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who stormed the city.
Besides the poorly-constructed footbridge, Mr. Benitez said the housing units and the foundations are likewise substandard.
“There is a disaster waiting to happen if we do not act now, it might be worse,” he said.
For her part, Ms. Climaco in a statement apologized for what she called a “mishap,” adding that, “[l]et those found at fault face justice.”
“The incident truly shows the poor state of housing projects currently implemented by the National Housing Authority. I, together with Cong. Albee Benitez, Cong. Celso Lobregat and other officials, staff and some members of the media are first-hand witnesses, and victims, of NHA Region 9’s gross incompetence and negligence,” the mayor said.
She added: “The Z3R Housing Project was designed to give decent homes to those poor residents who were greatly victimized during the 2013 Zamboanga siege, and now they are again victims, this time, of NHA’s ineptitude.” — Albert F. Arcilla