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'French Village' to be built in Yolanda-hit Cebu town

MANILA, Philippines - The French business community in the Philippines on Thursday launched its project to build 100 supertyphoon-resistant houses on the coastal town of Daanbantayan in Northern Cebu which was hit by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

Coordinating the project, dubbed as the "French Village" is the France-Philippines United Actionm(FPUA), a private sector task force that will implement the effort over a 12-month period.

"As we see the outpouring of continuous relief support given to those affected, we would like to supplement these inspirational efforts by launching the rebuilding of permanent homes in these surrounding communities," said Don Lee, president of Lafarge Holdings Cement Services Philippines and FPUA head.

Lafarge is a French industrial company specializing in four major products: cement, construction aggregates, concrete and gypsum wallboard. The company is the world's largest cement manufacturer.

Lee said the project will be done in cooperation with the Habitat For Humanity. The construction of the houses in Barangay Agujo will start later this month and will take six months to be completed. The 5,400 square meter land, where the houses will be built on, was donated by the Cebu provincial government.

"We are priviliged to be working with the architects from Habitat for Humanity, who have redesigned disaster resilient houses that will withstand the deteriorating climate situations in the Philippines," Lee told reporters in Makati City.

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Lee said 20 French companies doing business in the Philippines have so far pledged their support for the project.

Lafarge said Lee, will help coordinate funding for the construction of the houses as well as provide the construction materials needed such as cement and aggregates. In addition, Lafarge's partners and suppliers will provide free building materials for the structural requirements of the houses. Lafarge's grinding plant in Danao, Cebu, will be used as the staging area for construction materials and volunteers.

According to Habitat for Humanity Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Charlie Ayco, the houses will be constructed using a hyperbolic parabola design for the roof to be made of a thin concrete shell. Ayco said each core house will cost P200,000 each to build.

"We could have opted to build cheaper houses but we are looking at in on a long-term basis. Instead of building cheaper ones using GI sheets for roofs, we will build houses that could withstand strong typhoons," said Ayco.

Ayco said the 20 square meter house which could shelter a family of five is designed to withstand 275 kilometer per hour winds and intensity 8 tremors.

Daanbantayan Mayor Augusto Corro welcomed the initiative saying his town of 15 barangays needs 4,000 new houses and about 18,000 houses to be repaired.

"It has already been two months since the typhoon. The present situation is we are now in a rebuilding stage. This is the best gift for the people of Daanbantayan. We have meetings and I have always asked where is the action? This is the action i want to see," Corro said.

"There is still a gap in terms of shelter. At present we have given 7,000 shelter kits but these are just umbrellas and GI sheets. There are a lot of houses are in the danger or no build zone. This is a good start," he added.

For his part, French Ambassador Gilles Garachon said the efforts of the French government to help in the rehabilitation of Yolanda-hit areas are all being coordinated with the Philippine government through the office of Secretary Panfilo Lacson, Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery.

"We are planning to build more (houses). It all depends on the funds," said Garachon.

Garachon added that more and more French business firms both in the Philippines and in the region are pledging help for the Yolanda-affected areas.

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