04/09/2008, 00.00
Send to a friend

Manila asks the Church for help distributing rice to the poor

by Santosh Digal
The rise in the price of rice is making public food assistance for the poor even more essential. To avoid the "disappearance" of the sacks of rice, they will be distributed at the parishes in Manila, and then throughout the entire country. Bishops: there is enough land to feed everyone; the state must provide better support for farmers.

Manila (AsiaNews) - Joint action on the part of the government and the Catholic Church, to confront the shortage of rice, an essential food in the Philippines, following a steep rise in its price and the decision of many rice-producing countries to reduce their exports. With the help of the Church, the agriculture department will distribute at least 50,000 sacks of rice to the poor each week, at various parishes in Manila.

Arthur Yap, secretary of agriculture, and Broderick Pabillo, auxiliary bishop of Manila and president of the national secretariat for social action (NASSA) of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), agreed on April 7 to begin the programme in the diocese of central Manila, and then to extend it to the entire nation. The Church has been asked to help in part because it seems that recently some of the sacks of rice destined for the poor have "disappeared". The problem is big enough that the department has begun distributing the rice in bags of 1 kilogramme, instead of the usual 50, to better control distribution.

The rice will be distributed in at least 30 of the 84 parishes of the archdiocese of Manila. Yap has guaranteed NASSA regular supplies at the offices of the national food authority at the parishes, where it will be sold at 18.25 pesos per kilogramme (about 29 euro cents).

In just a few months, the price of rice has risen by 50 percent, and China, India, Vietnam, and Egypt - which represent more than one third of world exports - have cut their sales in order to protect domestic supplies and prices.  The World Bank and the United Nations have warned that in at least 33 countries, from Mexico to Yemen, there could be "social protests" over the rise in food and energy prices.  There is also the risk of speculative hoarding, and on March 26 Yap said that in order to discourage this, rice imports could be increased from the 1.9 tons in 2007 to 2.7 million tonnes.

The government will also distribute rice to the students of the public schools, and will promote better cultivation technologies and the use of new varieties in order to confront the shortage.

The bishops are reacting positively. Luis Antonio G. Tagle, bishop of Imus, says that the government could also take advantage of the work of the Catholic cooperatives, and that he will immediately appoint two people to coordinate activity with the NASSA.

Many Catholic leaders observe, moreover, that the farmland of the country has the potential to provide food for all of the 91 million inhabitants.  For this reason, observes Reverend Rex Reyes, secretary general of the national council of Churches in the Philippines, "one must not simply blame nature for the rice crisis". Paciano Aniceto, bishop of Pampanga and president of the family and life commission of the CBCP, is critical toward the parliamentarians who attribute the current rice crisis to the "overpopulation" of the country, while it is a problem due above all to a "lack of management capacity" on the part of the government.  "The government", he explains, "should support the farmers.  It must help them with fertilisers, irrigation, and the transport of their products, but it must also help to resolve the controversies over farmland, as in the case of the farmers of Sumilao", where the government took 144 hectares of cultivated land away from the farmers, in order to give it to the San Miguel Corporation for various projects.

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
Chinese inflation remains high, economic growth slows
Growing unemployment in the Philippines, also due to corruption and waste
Pakistan asks for international loan to avoid default
Even the middle class cannot make ends meet because of skyrocketing prices
17/03/2022 13:35
New economic plan focuses on domestic market, promises development


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”