May 16, 2016
An official from the social action arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has appealed to presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte for the immediate release of government funds to farmers, who continue to suffer from the El Niño phenomenon.
National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines Executive Secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez made the appeal during a five-day Farmers’ National Sustainable Agriculture Training in Tagum City in Davao Oriental.
“We are appealing to the newly-elected president to listen to the cries of the hungry farmers especially here in Mindanao. They have already suffered enough from this climate crisis. Why let them wait for too long when money is readily available?” the priest pointed out.
In his homily, Fr. Gariguez again emphasized that the government not only has the capacity, but they have the obligation under its mandate to respond to the needs of hungry farmers and the poor, particularly those affected by El Nino for several months already.
Particularly, within the last month in the context of response to El Nino, mainstream media has quoted Senator Ralph Recto in claiming P19-billion national budget from disaster funds is available for calamities like El Nino, and appealed to the Malacanang to immediately release the funds for provinces with widespread drought, adding that the Congress has already appropriated the funds thus there is no reason to delay the release.
The Department of Agriculture also reportedly has P500-million in Quick Response Fund (QRF) at its disposal. Senate Finance Committee Chairperson Loren Legarda also claimed that “we have funds but they are not being accessed” – Department of Agriculture still has P11.9 million balance in its QRF for 2015 and P496.6 million for 2016, while the DSWD has balance of P703.6 million in its QRF in 2015 and P1.6 billion for 2016.
Gariguez also said Duterte, who ran with a platform of “change” and hails from Mindanao, would very well understand the plight of the farmers.
“He gives much hope to the people of Mindanao. We are hoping that the new government would heed the call of the farmers, not just for the immediate release of funds, but also for genuine agrarian reform and sustainable agriculture,” Gariguez explained.
NASSA/Caritas Philippines, which Gariguez is heading, has been known as a staunch supporter of farmers’ rights, advocating agrarian reform and land rights, good governance, and sustainable agriculture.
Aside from implementing the Catholic Church’s largest rehabilitation program for Typhoon Yolanda survivors, it also implements a climate change adaptation program called FARM-FIRST in eight provinces by helping farmers and fishermen adapt to changing environmental conditions, sustainable agriculture and disaster management.
It can be recalled that Duterte cited the pursuance of a genuine agriculture development strategy by providing support services to small farmers and rural development as part of his eight-point economic agenda when he assumes office next month.
In Photo: NASSA/Caritas Philippines Executive Secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez
Fr. Edwin A. Gariguez