10/06/2004, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Food coupons won't sate hunger, Bishop Iñiguez says

Manila (AsiaNews) – Mgr Deogracias Iñiguez Jr, Bishop of Kalookan, criticised the initiative taken by the government to hand out food coupons to solve the problem of hunger. "When I saw the headline in the newspaper about the government giving food coupons, my immediate impression was: 'this is bad'," the Bishop said. "This is just another symptom of the mess we are in."

According to a Social Weather Station survey realised between August 15 and 22, 15 per cent of Filipinos experienced hunger for the past three months. And the International Monetary Fund agrees that the Philippines are in a mess. In its recently released country report, it says that four Filipinos in ten earn US$ 2 or less per day. This comes after an official government report which indicated that that 13.7 per cent of the country's workforce was jobless in April.

Filipino President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has not denied the problem exists but has argued that its causes were the insurgencies in the countryside and lack of jobs. As an immediate remedy to the hunger situation, she asked the Department of Social Welfare and Development to distribute "food coupons" to the poor. "Our nation," she said, "has all the resources to feed its people but we have to unlock the channels for food and opportunity to flow."

"If there really are cases of hunger among the people," Bishop Iñiguez cautioned, "it is right to issue food coupons. But when we look at the bigger picture, we see that [this initiative] is really a sign that things are not going well [in the government]."

When asked whether overpopulation caused hunger in the country, the Bishop answered: "There have been several explanations none of which consider population as the main cause of poverty." He did however say that unless "the government takes drastic steps we will easily roll into an economic crisis and from there, to a humanitarian crisis". (SE)

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