ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Bishops-Ulema Conference channels Government grants to poor people for development projects in southern Philippines

Friday, 12 March 2004

Manila (Agenzia Fides) - The Philippines government has granted 50 million pesos (about 730mila Euro) to the Bishops Ulema Conference BUC, formed of Christian and Muslim religious leaders, to fund development projects in various parts of the Island of Mindanao, southern Philippines. Archbishop Fernando Capalla, President of the Philippines Catholic Bishops’ Conference and BUC co-convenor told Fides. The Archbishop said the funds will serve to alleviate the situations of poverty of many families, Christian and Muslim, in Mindanao. The government has its own development projects but it agreed to fund projects supported by BUC. To obtain a loan people must make a request to BUC presenting a project for micro-credit projects, not more than 50,000 Pesos, to raise the living standards of people in particularly poor areas. The funds are only a loan and must be given back to BUC which will return them to the government.
To ensure the projects would be strictly implemented a monitoring team will determine if the projects really improve the lives of the beneficiaries.
Protestant Bishop Ilario Gomez, also a BUC co-convenor, encouraged the communities and villages in Mindanao to request loans for starting small businesses, farms, fishing enterprises or livestock breeding.
The Bishops-Ulema Conference set up in 1996 has always been in front line to promote peace and reconciliation among Christians and Muslims in southern Philippines at the social and political level politico. With regard to the objectives of the BUC, Bishop Capalla said: “We believe that a lasting peace requires more than a political agreement or development projects. It calls for social healing and this can only be reached by promoting a radically new factor: forgiveness”.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 12/3/2004 lines 24 words 297)