Archdiocese denies papal visit behind Yolanda survivors’ transfer
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Freeman) - October 28, 2014 - 12:00am

PALO, LEYTE, Philippines – The Catholic archdiocese of Palo in Leyte said the January visit of Pope Francis has nothing to do with the impending transfer of more than 250 families, all survivors of Yolanda, from a bunkhouse settlement near the town’s government center and the Archbishop’s Palace.

There were earlier reports that the settlers have accused Mayor Remedios Petilla of telling them that they have to move out because of the papal visit.

Palo Archbishop John Du however said the Yolanda survivors should be moved to permanent housing and not to another bunkhouse settlement.

Although some of them have been assigned permanent relocation, many said they will be moved to another bunkhouse settlement five kilometers from the town center, which they said would greatly affect their livelihood and their children’s education.

Only recently, Palo homeowners said they, too, face displacement because of the papal visit after the Department of Public Works and Highways began demolishing houses and other structures along the highway leading to the seat of the archdiocese to make way for a road-widening project.

Among the structures in danger of being torn down are the Almadro family ancestral home, built in 1924, and the Palo Public Library, which is located in a 200-year-old house that is one of the oldest “bahay na bato” in the town and which the National Historical Commission of the Philippines has acknowledged as an “Important Cultural Property.”

The quandary faced by the Palo residents has spurred the Promotion of Church People’s Rights, a progressive organization of religious from various denominations, to write Pope Francis with the hope of getting him to speak out on crucial issues during his visit to the Philippines.

When sought for comment on the impending transfer of the bunkhouse dwellers, Father Amadeo Alvero, parish priest of MacArthur town in Leyte and spokesman of the archdiocese, said: “The church has nothing to do with (the transfer) because we did not order that, not even the pope.”

Alvero said it would be wrong to bring Pope Francis into the controversy. In announcing his visit to the country early this year, Pope Francis said he wanted to go to the areas most devastated by Yolanda to see for himself the situation of the storm’s survivors and show solidarity with them.

“The transfer of the bunkhouse dwellers has nothing to do with the arrival of the Holy Father because the reason he is coming is to be with us. He should not be put into any controversy, particularly on that issue. He is innocent of that. He just wants to be with us. Whoever ordered their transfer knows the reason. But definitely, that was not ordered by the Holy Father,” Alvero added.

Du, for his part, said: “It’s not fair to link the papal visit to the transfer of the bunkhouse dwellers, because even before the papal visit was confirmed, there is already an agreement that the people staying (in the settlement) are just … temporary … They are being moved out because they have to go to the permanent houses.”  Interaksyon Online News

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