An official from the social action arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has expressed alarm over reports of delayed release of government funds that would help ease the burden of farmers suffering from the ill effects of the El Niño phenomenon.
National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines Executive Secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez is referring to the available funds from the national government such as the quick response funds (QRF), which were not yet fully disbursed despite requests by local government units of areas hit by El Niño.
“What is taking them long from releasing these available funds? We have already seen enough bloodshed in Kidapawan which rooted from the government’s inaction to this national concern,” Gariguez pointed out.
The statement was made in light of the recent violent dispersal of farmers rallying for food aid in Kidapawan City which resulted in the death of at least two farmers and dozens more injured.
A ranking official of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) recently confirmed that their “letter request for funding has not been acted upon despite follow-ups.”
This was also the sentiment of the governor of North Cotabato, who said that they had not received any funding from the national government although the request was made as early as March.
“Time is of the essence here. The government needs to act now and disburse the funds intended for the farmers, who have suffered enough. Loss of livelihood means hunger for our people who are already living in poverty to start with,” the priest stressed.
The church official added that several dioceses in Mindanao particularly the Archdiocese of Cotabato and the Diocese of Marbel have already raised the concern about how the drought is taking its toll to their farmers.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development earlier claimed the availability of P1.32 billion QRF for 2016 and another P6.7 billion for the implementation of cash-for-
work and livelihood assistance for families affected by El Niño. But these funds were not yet fully downloaded to the affected LGUs.
Apart from implementing the Catholic Church’s largest rehabilitation program for Yolanda survivors, NASSA/Caritas Philippines has always been a staunch supporter of farmers’ rights, advocating agrarian reform and land rights, good governance, and sustainable agriculture.
NASSA/Caritas Philippines also currently implements a climate change adaptation program called FARM-FIRST in eight provinces by helping farmers and fishermen adapt to changing environmental conditions for food security and environmental preservation.
The CBCP earlier released an “Oratio Imperata”, a special prayer for rain, which may be considered by the dioceses in their respective pastoral jurisdictions as the country reels from the effects of El Niño.