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Filipino bishops address poverty, social development issue

MANILA, July 12, 2007—The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) will hold the second National Rural Congress (NRC-II) in early 2008 to address country’s poverty issue and strengthen sustainable social development in the light of Church's social teachings.

“The dignity of the rural poor is a gospel concern and the Church must go to the villages,” CBCP vice-president Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro said.

The NRC-II to be held in two phases is to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the National Rural Congress held in 1967 in the light of Church’s social teachings, the prelate said in a press conference held at CBCP Media office, July 9.

The 101 bishops decided to hold NRC-II in order to “To describe the current situation of various sectors of the rural poor, small farmers, indigenous people, fishermen and rural women.”

Archbishop Ledesma was speaking at the CBCP headquarters after a two-day of deliberations in the 95th bishops’ semiannual plenary assembly, Manila, July 8-9.

Last January the bishops had said, “But this time, our farmers must do the speaking by themselves, the discerning, the proposing of their own ideas, and the planning of how we must as a people come together to work for the common good of the country.”

The first phase of the forthcoming Congress would be done at diocesan level in the context of the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) followed by sub-regional level gatherings.

The second phase would consist in collating inputs emerging from the first phase.

Philippine government’s data say 30 percent of Filipinos live under the poverty line in 2003.

But latest statistics released by the government last 6 June 2006 indicates that approximately 24 out of 100 Filipino families did not earn enough in 2003 to satisfy their basic food and non-food requirements.

According to a report published on March 13 by the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Council, the Philippines have the most corrupt system in the Asian continent.

Another objective of the NRC-II is to stress the role of BECs and Church-based programs in rural development.

The proposed NRC-II will review the impact of social legislation and engage government agencies in the implementation of ongoing social reform programs under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL), the Indigenous People’s Rights ACT (IPRA).

The NRC central Committee would be composed of Archbishop Ledesma as executive chairperson, Archbishop Angel N Lagdameo, CBCP president as honorary chairperson, and members: Bishops Socrates Villegas of Balanga and Sergio Utleg of Laoag, Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila and Sister Rosanne Mallillin, a St. Paul de Chartres nun, who is the executive secretary of the bishops' national secretariat for social action.

The Jesuit prelate Ledesma said 86 dioceses would apply the social teachings of the Church to the concrete problems in Philippine rural society in view of arriving at recommendations and action plans prior to the NRC-II.

The expected outcome of the NRC process is to see a fuller description, both quantitative and qualitative, of the rural poverty situation; have a deeper analysis of the situation and come out with concrete proposals for action addressed to the rural sectors, local churches, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, Archbishop Ledesma said. (Santosh Digal / CBCPNews)