Cebu City Hall halts developer’s projects for now

EFFECTIVE yesterday, the Cebu City Government suspended all the projects of a private developer after a four-deck bunkhouse on Archbishop Reyes Ave. in Barangay Lahug collapsed yesterday dawn, killing five construction workers.

According to City Attorney Joseph Bernaldez, the company registered under the City Government is a certain JE Abraham C. Lee Construction and Development Corp. However, this entity is registered only as a developer under the City Hall business permit section.

“It is not registered as a construction firm. On the other hand, there is also an entity named as JE Abraham C. Lee Construction Inc. as contractor,” Bernaldez told reporters.

Claire Cabalda, business permit and licensing section head, said that JE Abraham C. Lee Construction Inc. was registered in 1999 as a firm that offered services and rental of heavy equipment.

But since 2001 up to the present, the firm has not renewed its business permit, and has not paid its dues. It also has not applied for retirement of business.

“The active permit registered is only JE Abraham C. Lee Construction and Development Corp. as developer. They have already renewed their permit as of this year,” Cabalda said.

How they differ

What is the difference between a developer and a contractor?

Cabalda explained that while a developer can develop an area for a project, it does not necessarily mean that the firm will be the one to handle the construction.

“This would mean that they (developer) can’t build. These two different companies have different addresses. The developer’s address is in Barangay Basak San Nicolas, while the other one is on P. del Rosario St.,” she said.

City Building Official Engr. Josefa Ylanan issued a suspension order for four projects currently undertaken by the developer.

“Our inspector said there are four projects. I wanted to be sure. There’s one in IT Park, Pag-ibig area, Lahug and another one that has yet to be checked. All projects undertaken by Abraham Lee will be suspended,” she said.

Ylanan pointed out that it is necessary for firms to secure a building permit for all their structures, including the bunkhouses.

Bernaldez said that under the National Building Code, any structure to be erected requires a building permit.

Regardless of the structure’s size, it has to secure first a building permit from the city or municipal government, he added.

Permit needed

In the case of the collapsed bunkhouse, it was built with steel bars and other light materials.

“Even if it’s just steel bars, you’re supposed to secure a building permit. Remember, it’s going to be used by people. Safety of the people using the structure is the concern of our government authorities,” Bernaldez said.

Engr. Ylanan said it is normal for construction firms to build bunkhouses at the project site to serve as temporary houses for workers during breaktime. But if the construction site is limited, the firm will have to house their workers in a different area.

The bunkhouse, though, must be habitable and have the basic amenities for a temporary abode.

In the case of the collapsed structure, City Hall engineers found that the bunkhouse was not suitable for habitation because, Ylanan said, it lacked a strong foundation.

To prevent similar accidents, Bernaldez said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) should check if construction firms have complied with their safety requirements.

“When it involves injuries and death of workers, we can immediately suspend the operation of a particular undertaking. To ensure that an investigation can be conducted without any interference; ensure the safety of all other employees; and prevent other untoward incidents from happening,” Bernaldez said.
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