• Masses, memorials for ‘Yolanda’ victims

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    The Philippines marked the second anniversary of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) on Sunday with bodies of possible victims of the disaster that left at least 7,350 people dead or missing still being found.

    Thousands of residents marked the two-year milestone in the city of Tacloban, which was devastated by the huge storm, as memorials were unveiled and Masses held.

    Authorities confirmed they found six new bodies on Saturday.

    The unidentified skeletal remains were found by a man scavenging for wood in the outskirts of the city, according to Tacloban fire chief Charlie Herson.

    “These are possible victims of the typhoon. They were buried by debris, in piles of wood,” he said.

    Yolanda, the strongest typhoon ever recorded to hit land, smashed into central Philippines on November 8, 2013.

    The once-thriving city of Tacloban on the island of Leyte suffered the worst damage with hundreds of houses washed away by a storm surge.

    To mark the tragedy on Sunday, special memorials were unveiled and Roman Catholic Masses were said for the victims, including the more than 2,400 mostly-unidentified bodies buried in a mass grave in Tacloban.

    Thousands of Tacloban residents are still living in makeshift temporary homes as questions are raised about the speed of reconstruction.

    Doubtful
    Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Sunday expressed doubts on the government’s claim that it has accomplished 51 percent of its rehabilitation target in typhoon-devastated areas.

    Marcos, who visited Tacloban City, said he will see for himself the progress of the government’s rehabilitation efforts.

    He said the claim of a 51-percent accomplishment is “a very optimistic estimate,” noting that the government has barely implemented the master plan for Yolanda rehabilitation crafted by former Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery Secretary Panfilo Lacson.

    Lacson submitted the Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan (CRRP) for communities ravaged by Yolanda to President Benigno Aquino 3rd in August 2014.

    A proposed P170-billion budget for the plan was pruned to P167 billion.

    As of August 2015, a report from budget watchdog Social Watch Philippines said of the P167 billion committed by the President, only P84 billion was released.

    “I don’t know how they arrived at 51 percent because by the government’s own admission, if you look at the [permanent]housing figures, it is less than 10 percent—17,000 out of 250,000 is about 6 percent,” Marcos pointed out.

    He said the government has refused to make a full disclosure of what it has done to help victims of Typhoon Yolanda.

    “They do not explain what they are doing, they do not explain how much has been done, how much has been spent, how much is still available. They feel no need to give us any facts and figures,” Marcos added.

    The senator has been demanding full accounting and disclosure of the funds allocated for typhoon victims, the donations received, as well as the status of the rehabilitation and recovery programs for areas devastated by Yolanda.

    Marcos joined the morning commemorative walk that converged at the Astrodome where a Mass was held as well as the unveiling of the memorial for victims of the typhoon.

    While in Tacloban, the senator said, he will take the opportunity to go around and inspect progress of the government’s rehabilitation efforts.

    But President Benigno Aquino 3rd did not join any of the activities to mark the anniversary of the tragedy.

    Aquino issued a statement read by Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

    “We pause in prayer for the loved ones we lost, and pay tribute to the soldiers and civilians who placed themselves in danger to help their fellowmen. May the memory and lessons of that time inspire us to persevere in building back better, and in living up to the solidarity, resilience and generosity of Filipinos from all walks of life demonstrated not only then, but in all times of challenge and adversity,” the statement said.

    “God’s grace has enabled our country to ease the sufferings of those who lost everything in Yolanda, and reestablish communities that are once again working to have a safer and prosperous future,” Aquino said.

    “This would not have been possible without the world’s embrace of our people and our people’s own heroic generosity and sacrifice.”

    Meanwhile, Lacierda defended the government’s apparent slow action on the rehabilitation of the typhoon victims and the places Yolanda ravaged.

    “There may be critics who say that we are slow but considering the enormity of the tragedy we continue to help and perform our mandate. Our principle is ‘build back better’ because of the storm surge that accompanied Yolanda,” he said.

    WITH AFP

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