02/20/2014, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Borongan bishop against the government for its failure to help Yolanda victims

A hundred days after the passage of the super typhoon, the government has failed to deliver "adequate support". Bishop Crispin Varquez explains that recovery plans are at a standstill whilst the suffering of the people increases. The Filipino Church allocated US$ 1.6 million for the construction of boats and restructuring of homes and places of worship.

Manila (AsiaNews) - The Filipino government has failed to provide "adequate support" to survivors of Typhoon Yolanda, which devastated several areas of Eastern Samar and other parts of the central Philippines three months ago, this according to Mgr Crispin Varquez, Bishop of Borongan (Eastern Visayas) who has hard words for the administration of President Benigno Aquino and its actions.

The prelate stressed that notwithstanding the controversial emergency bunkhouses set up after the disaster, the government's much-vaunted recovery plans have not started, whilst the suffering of the people gets worse.

By comparison, Caritas Manila has spent 70 million pesos (almost US$ 1.6 million) to help Yolanda victims.

Bishop Varquez said he regularly visits the areas affected by the super typhoon, but "so far, I've only seen bunkhouses," which are "the only concrete thing" the government has done ​​here (in Eastern Samar).

The prelate noted that victims are still waiting for the government to implement the programmes and realise initiatives it promised. Plans are at a standstill and the appointment of former Senator Panfilo Lacson as Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery has had little or no effect.

"There are no houses and no bases for life," said the bishop of Borongan, who also blames Manila for keeping families in the dark about the real situation and the timing of the plans.

"I don't know when it [the rehabilitation work] will start or if it is still in the planning stage. We have no idea," he added.

Meanwhile, the activists of the Tindog People's Network, a group of typhoon survivors, could soon take legal action against the Aquino administration for its failures and shortcomings in relief and rehabilitation operations for the populations affected by the typhoon.

For its part, the Filipino Church is continuing its work. "We have already finished our relief operations for Yolanda survivors," Fr Anton Pascual, executive director of Caritas Manila, told Radio Veritas. "We have spent 100 million pesos (US$ 2.4 million) for typhoon victims in about 10 provinces."

Medium- and long-term rehabilitation programmes have been recently kicked off. Top officials in Catholic charities and the local church have provided an initial outlay of 70 million pesos.

The money will be used to build boats, restructure school buildings and churches, especially in Iloilo and Leyte.

Haiyan/Yolanda, which hit the Visayas islands (central Philippines) on 8 November, affected at least 11 million people. Eight billion dollars will be needed for things to get back to normal.

More than 1,700 people are still missing and the death toll could top 5,000. However, for President Aquino the figure must be put into perspective, noting that first estimates (of more than 10,000) were the result of emotional trauma associatef with the tragedy and that number of deaths did not exceed 2,500.

The country's size, fragmentation and difficulties in some areas have been a serious obstacle to interventions.

Overall, almost 11 million spread over 574 municipalities and cities have suffered various damages or losses.

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