CBCP backs P71-billion coco farmers’ trust fund

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Archbishop Villegas with farmers at the CBCP Chapel. (CBCP News)

MANILA, Nov. 24, 2014–The Catholic bishops’ leadership has supported calls for the creation of P71-billion Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund from the recovered coconut levy fund.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP President, urged the government to take steps that would look into the plight of the country’s coconut farmers.

“I join the protest against this marginalization of our coconut farmers and call on the government to demonstrate its resolve at social justice in their favor,” Villegas said.

The CBCP expressed hopes that the government will not allow the farmers to be continuously exploited by the prevailing social injustice.

“My fear, as President of CBCP, is that our coconut farmers are, by a cruel turn of circumstances, becoming part of the weaker if not weakest members of society — victims of those who, in an unprincipled and un-Christian manner, exploit the defenselessness of the economically harassed,” he said.

Villegas made the statement on Monday after a dialogue with the 71 farmers, who for more than two months, walked around 1,772 kms from Davao City to Manila to call on President Benigno Aquino III and Congress to create the trust fund.

According to him, they are hopeful that the government will listen to the demands of the marginalized sector instead of confining themselves only to particular concerns.

The archbishop was referring to several inquiries being conducted by lawmakers, such as those against Vice President Jejomar Binay.

“Kasama naman sa prerogatives ng legislatures ang investigation. Kaya lang, palagi nating sinasabi na (But then we always say) virtues are in the middle. Anything in the extreme ay makakaapekto sa kabilang bahagi (affects the other part). So ituloy ang investigation kung kailangan, pero huwag nating makakalimutan yung iba pa na tungkulin ng pamahalaan at lalo pa yung paghihirap ng mga taong bayan,” (Continue with the investigation if needed, but let us not forget other government concerns, especially people who are suffering) he said.

“Sana mabuksan ang kanilang isip na kailangan natin talagang gawin ito sapagkat dukha ang nangangailangan e,” (I hope they will realize that we need to do this because it is the poor who is in need.) stressed Villegas.

He also scored Aquino for not giving time to meet the farmers when they sought a dialogue with him.

“Katulad ng sinasabi ng kanilang pinuno na nung huli silang nagpunta sa Malacanang at hindi sila hinarap ng Pangulo. Mabigat para sa kanila yun… na silang nakayapak, paltos ang paa ay walang puwang sa pamahalaan. Mas mabigat dalhin,” (Like what the leader of the farmers said the last time they went to Malacañang when they were not given audience by the President. It is painful for them to realize that the barefoot and poor are ignored by the government), Villegas said. (CBCPNews)

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