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Release El Niño funds now Caritas Philippines urges

MANILA (Agencies): “We are appealing to the newly-elected president to listen to the cries of the hungry farmers, especially here in Mindanao. They have already suffered enough from this climate crisis. Why let them wait for too long when money is readily available?” Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, said.

Speaking at the Farmers’ National Sustainable Agriculture Training in Tagum City in Davao Oriental in mid-May, he urged the country’s presumptive president to prioritise the immediate release of government funds to farmers, who continue to suffer from the effects of the El Niño weather phenomenon.

According a report from CBCP News, Father Gariguez emphasised that the government not only has the capacity, but the obligation to respond to the needs of hungry farmers and the poor, particularly those long affected by El Niño.

Mainstream media quoted a senator, Ralph Recto, as claiming that a 19 billion peso ($317million) national budget allocation for disaster funds is available for calamities like El Niño. He appealed to Malacañang for its immediate release to provinces suffering widespread drought, adding that the congress had already appropriated the funds making further delay unwarranted.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture reportedly has 500 million pesos ($835,250) in Quick Response Funds at its disposal. Senate Finance Committee chairperson, Loren Legarda, also claimed, “We have funds, but they are not being accessed”. 

Father Gariguez also observed that Duterte, who hails from Mindanao, would very well understand the plight of the farmers.

“He gives much hope to the people of Mindanao. We are hoping that the new government would heed the call of the farmers, not just for the immediate release of funds, but also for genuine agrarian reform and sustainable agriculture,” he said.

Caritas Philippines has programmes for farmers’ rights, agrarian reform and land rights, good governance, and sustainable agriculture.

Aside from implementing the Catholic Church’s largest rehabilitation programme for typhoon Yolanda survivors, the office also implements a climate change adaptation programme in eight provinces called FARM-FIRST which helps farmers and fishermen adapt to changing environmental conditions, sustainable agriculture and disaster management.

Duterte cited the pursuance of a genuine agriculture development strategy through the provision of support services to small farmers and rural development as part of his eight-point economic agenda when he assumes office in June.

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