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Palace: Tacloban did not invite PNoy to Yolanda anniversary

President Benigno Aquino III with Rep. Ferdinand Martin Rumualdez, Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez and Governor Dominic Petilla inspect bunkhouse units in Leyte. Marcelino Pascua/PCOO

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang on Tuesday defended President Benigno Aquino III's absence at the commemoration of the second anniversary of Typhoon Yolanda's devastation in Tacloban City.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Aquino was not formally invited to the event held in Tacloban City on Sunday.

"Tsinek po natin sa Appointments Office, at ayon po sa impormasyon na natanggap natin ay hindi naman nakatanggap ng kahit anong imbitasyon diyan sa event na tinutukoy natin," Coloma said in a radio interview.

"Ganunpaman, ang mahalaga para sa ating pangulo ay iyong pagtutok doon sa mga nakalatag na na rehabilitation at reconstruction programs," he added.

Coloma said Aquino did not intend to skip the commemoration rites to avoid meeting Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez, who earlier criticized the administration's relief and rehabilitation efforts.

"Wala pong ganoong intensyon, at patuloy pa rin naman pong tinututukan ang kapakanan ng ating mga pamilyang apektado ng Yolanda," Coloma said.

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He said the president continues to address the needs of the typhoon victims such as permanent housing and livelihood.

Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez earlier claimed that they invited Aquino and former Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II but the officials did not respond, according to a CNN Philippines report.

Instead of visiting Tacloban on Sunday, Aquino attended the wedding of business tycoon Andrew Tan's son in Pasay City.

However, Aquino offered prayers for those who died in the aftermath of the typhoon.

"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 fellow man," Aquino said in a statement.

"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," he added.

Unlike Aquino, administration and Malacañang officials, Vice President Jejomar Binay, his running mate Sen. Gringo Honasan and their senatorial slate joined Taclobanons and Leyteños in the commemorative activities.

During the commemoration rites, the Tacloban mayor still thanked Aquino for helping typhoon victims despite the slow implementation of the recovery and rehabilitation program of the national government.

"We would like to thank the president, in behalf of the city government of Tacloban, sa lahat ng tulong niya sa mga Taclobanons during our desperate moments. I apologize na minsan nga nakakapagsalita kami ng maaanghang na salita, sapagkat kami ay tao lamang at dahil kami ay nasaktan," Romualdez said.

READ: Two years after Yolanda: Markers unveiled, rehab remains slow

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