11/04/2014, 00.00
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Church vs. Manila over the use of papal visit as an excuse to cover up post-Yolanda delays

Archdiocese of Palo spokesman does not mince his words in slamming the government for dragging the papal visit into the controversy over displaced persons. At least 250 families have been told to leave their bunkhouses. More than 20,000 people remain in temporary shelters.

Manila (AsiaNews/CBCP) - There is no necessity to drag Pope Francis' name and charism into the relocation issue concerning survivors living in bunkhouses in Leyte province a year after typhoon Yolanda, a local church official said.

Warning the authorities that the Church would not accept any attempt to associate the papal visit with post-emergency inefficiencies and poor management, Fr Amadeo Alvero, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Palo, said that government's plan is giving the public the impression that many families will lose their shelter because of the papal visit.

"Don't drag the pope into the controversy," the clergyman insisted. "He has nothing to do about it. In the first place, the pope is coming here for the victims of the typhoon".

As the government prepares for the pope's visit to Leyte in January, around 250 families have been asked to move from their bunkhouses at the government centre compound in Palo town's Candahug village in preparation for Pope Francis' visit. However, the relocation of survivors is not a church idea or initiative, the clergyman explained.

"We also want to see the pope!" said Virgie Selario, 48, a bunkhouse resident for almost a year. "We hope that the government will not take away this rare opportunity from us to at least see him".

Haiyan/Yolanda hit the Visayas Islands on 8 November 2013, affecting some 11 million people, in 574 different cities and municipalities. The price tag for getting back to normal has been put at US$ 8 billion.

After almost a year, 5,000 people are thought to have died with more than 1,700 people still missing.

Initially, President Aquino took a conservative line, noting that the first estimates of more than 10,000 dead was the result of an emotional reaction to the tragedy and that the death toll stood at around 2,500.

Assistance has been particularly hampered by the fact that the natural disaster affected a vast area of scattered islands, compounded by specific local difficulties.

In recent weeks, the Filipino Church has delivered the first permanent 1,600 housing units for displaced people.

By the end of the year, this large project aims to build at least 3,000 housing units in all nine ecclesiastical sees hit by the typhoon.

By contrast, the government has only completed 364 housing units in Tanauan and Tacloban (Leyte), but the number of displaced people still living in temporary shelters or bunkhouses in the provinces of Samar, Leyte and Eastern Samar tops 20,000.

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