Manila (Agenzia Fides) - To address the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Church in the Philippines hopes and asks the government "for measures to provide stronger and more targeted support to agriculture", says a note from Mgr. Jose Colin M. Bagaforo, National Director of Caritas in the Philippines (known as the National Secretariat for Social Action, NASSA). The note reads: "The time has come to strengthen our food security programs by providing the necessary support for farmers and fishermen who remain the poorest sector in the country so far". In the text sent to Fides, the Prelate declares: "The crisis due to COVID-19 obliges us to ensure that every Filipino family is guaranteed with a wide range of basic foodstuffs and this can only be provided if priority is given to the agricultural sector", given that, it is noted, measures and assistance initiatives cannot reach everyone. "We strongly urge our government, especially the Department of Agriculture, to start mobilizing farmers at a community level", he adds, citing some of the Caritas Philippines programs launched on sustainable agriculture.
Mgr. Bagaforo recalls that "our community farms are helping to supply fresh vegetables to families seriously affected by the suspension of work in Iligan, Bayombong and Camarines Sur; while a cooperative of local farmers supported by the diocese of Libmanan in Camarines Norte and the 'Gratia Plena' program of the diocese of San Jose in Nueva Ecija are supplying thousands of bags of organic rice to the people of the provinces of Luzon". "The Caritas Kindness Store in San Carlos - he continues - offers local farmers the opportunity to sell their crops at fair prices without interfering with small traders, while supporting the local supply of vegetables and crops. The same is true for farmers in Mindanao".
Furthermore, it is noted, "cultivation programs and greenhouses launched in Iloilo, Bukidnon, Quezon, Leyte, provinces of Samar, Capiz, Oriental Mindoro and Zambales ensure food security at a family level while providing additional stable income to the families of farmers. And the distribution of seedlings offers food aid in the archdiocese of Cebu".
"The negative economic impact of COVID-19 cannot be fought with the social assistance program alone, even if we will have a loan of 280 billion pesos from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Our food industry must be supported above all from our agricultural sector. We will overcome this crisis if we can ensure that no Filipino family suffers from hunger", said Mgr. Bagaforo. The aid and programs launched by Caritas to respond to the emergency of COVID-19 has reached over 1.4 billion pesos in favor of over 4 million families across the country. (SD-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 29/4/2020)