It wasn’t me! NHA pins blame on contractor for collapsed Zamboanga bridge

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by Xave Gregorio

Who’s to blame for the collapse of the wooden footbridge in Zamboanga which led to two congressmen and the city’s mayor to unceremoniously take a plunge into murky waters? The project’s contractor is, the National Housing Authority (NHA) said.

Responding to a query by Negros Occidental 3rd District Rep. Albee Benitez, one of the victims of the collapsed bridge, NHA chief of staff John Mahamu said the contractor should be held liable as the project has not yet been turned over.

“Papaano kung may nasaktan, or worse, kapag may namatay? Sino ang accountable doon sa nangyari?” Benitez, chair of the House committee on housing and urban development, asked during a hearing on Wednesday (May 16).

Mahamu replied, “It is the obligation of the contractor to check on the safeguards of the project because this is still under them.”

But he later said that the NHA is also partially accountable for what happened.

Al-Khwarizmi Indanan, NHA district engineer, under questioning of Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe, also pinned the blame on the contractor as the project has not yet been turned over.

Batocabe then turned to Engr. Alhazen Sapie, technical consultant of Isabela-based Limestone Construction Development and Corporation based in Isabela province, who admitted that they were in charge of maintaining the bridge.

“The company accepts full responsibility for that,” Sapie said.

“The company extends its sincerest offer on how to resolve their problem,” he said.

But Benitez said the NHA ultimately should be held accountable for the bridge’s collapse and the dismal state of housing in the city.

“Based sa initial hearing, at the end of the day, the buck stops at NHA. NHA would have to do a lot of explaining kung ano ang nangyari doon sa housing doon sa Zamboanga City,” he told Politiko in a chance interview after the hearing.

It was also revealed in the inquiry that the wood used to build the bridge was mahogany and germolina, which Benitez said is just used for firewood in his province.

Indanan said they planned to use yakal and tambulain and similar species of wood to construct the bridge, but was barred by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Even then, he said the bridge should have stayed up for five years, afterwards it would be subject to regular maintenance.

The project, however, began in 2015. It can be recalled that last month, Benitez, along with Zamboanga City 1st District Rep. Celso Lobregat and Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco, fell into the sea after a footbridge they were walking on collapsed.