The aftermath of the neglect. The wooden footbridge gave way and collapsed during an inspection visit at the Z3R Housing Project in Zamboanga City. Photographed by Kathy Wee Sit via Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco's Facebook

Zamboanga footbridge collapse wake up call for housing officials

With the collapse of a Zamboanga footbridge during an official inspection, substandard housing projects are now in the spotlight.

  • May 3, 2018

The collapse of a footbridge in Zamboanga City on 26 April 2018 reminded the Philippines of how substandard most, if not all, government housing projects are, regardless of their billion-peso price tags. It’s been one of the many longstanding complaints of relocated families, but it has now been amplified.

That day, Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco-Salazar, Negros Occidental Representative Albee Benitez, Zamboanga City Representative Celso Lobregat, and National Housing Authority (NHA) regional director Alfonso Borlagdan visited Sitio Hongkong, Barangay Rio Hondo to inspect the “poor” conditions of the relocation site for the victims of the 2013 siege of the city by Moro rebels. The community is part if the Zamboanga City Roadmap to Recovery and Reconstruction (Z3R) Housing Project. Little did they know that they will experience more than what they expected.

(L-R) Negros Occidental Representative Albee Benitez (in stripes), Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco, and Zamboanga City Representative Celso Lobregat (partly hidden, in blue). Photographed by Kathy Wee Sit via Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco’s Facebook

As the government officials and their staffers tread a wooden footbridge leading to the houses on stilts, the rickety wood structure gave way . The mayor and her colleagues plunged into the water. The accident was caught on camera and went viral on the Internet.

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Netizens surely have a lot to say, pointing out the faults of those in power as well as the corrupt system of implementing government projects, especially infrastructure. While a lot of people made sensible comments on the matter, Filipinos didn’t fail to make fun of it.

Facebook users shared and commented on the video of the footbridge’s collapse and the officials’ fall, with every share earning thousands of views.

Some even edited the video and inserted another famous meme. Memes about the accident also became a subject of some funny tweets, like these two ladies’ Twitter posts:

More than the snarky remarks and funny memes, however, this unfortunate event (at least to those who had a taste of the murky water), is fortuitous to the residents of the housing project and to the other families relocated to substandard facilities across the country.

The “Build Back Better” slogan of the project by NHA under the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), did not manifest in the poor state of the Z3R Housing Project, evident in the decrepit houses in wobbly wooden stilts, which are supposedly “sustainable communities” on concrete stilts for the Badjao people, as seen in the schematic plan shared by Mark Lopez on Facebook.

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Aside from the houses on stilts, the P1.93 billion project is supposed to develop the roads and fishponds in the area, including boardwalks and parks. The timely downfall of the footbridge—that was supposed to improve the lives and the overall environment in those the affected communities—during the visit is a slap of reality urging the officials to act immediately.

Starting 30 April, the city government of Zamboanga has took over the Z3R Project, including the housing component, led by Cesar “Jawo” L. Jimenez of the city’s Housing and Land Management Division. The footbridge has also been fixed.

The fallen footbridge in Brgy. Mariki, Zamboanga City. Photographed by Kathy Wee Sit via Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco’s Facebook
The newly ‘fixed’ footbridge being visited by Mayor Climaco-Salazar (in floral dress). Photographed by Kathy Wee Sit via Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco’s Facebook

Surely, the local officials plunging down made them realize the NHA’s and the local government’s shortcomings in the planning, bidding, review, implementation, and maintenance of the housing project that cost more than a billion pesos.

The materials used for the footbridge are evidently substandard. And wooden footbridges may not even be the best long-term connective solutions for the area. How they sourced and approved these materials to build the footbridge, only the authorities know. But one thing’s now known to all: Corruption leads us nowhere but down—in the case of the visiting officials, down into the murky waters in Barangay Mariki, Zamboanga City. 

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