Church official slams delayed release of farmers’ El Niño funds

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Fr. Edwin Gariguez (Photo taken from Gariguez' Facebook account)

MANILA, April 19, 2016 – Weeks after the bloody dispersal of a farmers’ protest for rice in Kidapawan City, National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines executive secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez has expressed dismay over the fact that government funds to help the agricultural sector cope with the El Niño drought have yet to be released.

“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,” pointed out the priest, referring to the government’s quick response funds (QRF), which were not yet fully disbursed despite requests by local government units of areas hit by El Niño.

“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,” stressed the priest.

Billions in El Niño funds

According to an Philippine Daily Inquirer news story, Laisa Alamia, ARMM executive secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) recently confirmed that their “letter request for funding has not been acted upon despite follow-ups.”

Also according to the same report, North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza said they had not received any funding from the Aquino administration despite having made the request as early as March,

Gariguez 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 Php1.32 billion QRF for 2016 and another Php6.7 billion for the implementation of cash-for-work and livelihood assistance for families affected by El Niño. But these funds have not yet been fully downloaded to the affected LGUs.

Farmers’ rights

Apart from implementing the Catholic Church’s largest rehabilitation program for Yolanda survivors, NASSA/Caritas Philippines also has programs and campaigns for for farmers’ rights, agrarian reform and land rights, good governance, and sustainable agriculture.

The Church’s social action arm 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 Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) earlier released an “Oratio Imperata”, a special prayer for rain, which dioceses are encouraged to adopt in their respective pastoral jurisdictions as the country reels from the effects of El Niño. (CBCPNews)

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