Pope’s presence best gift for survivors

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EMOTIONAL DAY Pope Francis waves to well wishers after a mass in Tacloban on Saturday. AFP PHOTO

EMOTIONAL DAY Pope Francis waves to well wishers after a mass in Tacloban on Saturday. AFP PHOTO

Pope Francis’ visit to Tacloban, which typhoon Amang failed to stop, is the best gift ever for the survivors who lost their families, friends and their homes to Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

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Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Romualdez, one of the local officials who welcomed the Holy Father at the Daniel Romualdez airport, noted that the Pope’s presence virtually lifted the burden of the people.

“This is the best relief and gift for all of us. The Vicar of Christ came to Tacloban City to comfort and assure us that the Lord is there for us,” Romualdez said.

The Pope decided to push through with his trip to Tacloban and Palo, Leyte despite the threat of typhoon Amang, which has been pouring rains in the province since Friday. The Holy Father celebrated a mass at the airport, had a lunch with a group of Yolanda survivors, and briefly visited the Palo, Cathedral where he handed his gift to the parish: A rendering the Madonna del Popolo (an image of Mama Mary and Jesus Christ).

“We thank the Pope for the blessings he shared with us. He comes at a time when we are going through one of the most trying times in our history. The prayers he sent us were of immeasurable help,” Romualdez added.

Romualdez hopes that the papal visit will help accelerate the repair and rehabilitation efforts in Yolanda-stricken areas where survivors are still living in makeshift tents.

Currently, the National Housing Authority has built 1,595 housing units or 18 percent of the first year target. The NHA received in December 2013 the amount of P2.4 billion for the construction of 8,629 permanent housing units for Yolanda survivors.

The finished housing units represent less than one percent of the government target of 205,218 permanent housing units for Yolanda victims by 2016.

“It is high time for the government to work double time and rescue the survivors from their poor living condition,” Romualdez said.

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