Bishops Deogracias Yņiguez, head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines public affairs office, and Julio Labayen of Infanta, Quezon, called a press conference recently to denounce the “US-imposed policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization” of the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. They blame these and issues such as high oil prices and our foreign debt for the country’s economic woes and called on the administration to repudiate those policies, especially our foreign debts. They were quoted (wrongly, I hope) as having said that they would not hesitate to support the overthrow of President Arroyo if these policies are not reversed.
In the past, critics have lamented that some of our bishops speak out on issues they don’t understand very well. This is one instance when I tend to agree with them. These economic issues are obviously beyond their ken — they can see only the consequences of policies but cannot seem to comprehend what causes them. There is no doubt that our growing foreign debt is perhaps the biggest source of our economic difficulties, but the bishops should see that repudiating them would only isolate the Philippines from the community of nations in this global age — creating greater problems such as the loss of investor confidence and cutting us off from access to financial markets, which would result in total collapse of the economy.
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For instance, it is an indication of our good international standing that the Philippines has gotten concessional loans from countries like Japan and China, obviously due to their confidence in our economy. You repudiate foreign loans and the whole international community will isolate you like a pariah. Which is sad, especially after the stream of international leaders visiting Manila and President Arroyo’s recent interactions with them have put us in a good position to bargain for many things.
The bishops also must realize that high oil prices abroad are beyond our control. The key is not debt repudiation but earnest negotiations. In addition, it must be stressed that supporting a people’s uprising to drive out the duly elected President is the biggest formula for disaster at this point. Instead of carping, the good bishops should help firm up the President’s resolve to arrest corruption, which is definitely one of the causes of hardships, as it cheats the people of what should go to them.
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This is not to say that the bishops’ concern is not valid. The recent Pulse Asia survey notes a slightly smaller number of people who claim they are not getting enough food to eat-from 43 percent last October 2004 down to 33 percent. But this still means one-third of the population is not eating enough. And in a Christian nation this entails action from the 66 percent that enjoys a bigger bounty from heaven.
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How does one help alleviate the poverty of the 33 percent, so that they will have more food on their table? Raising wages to more decent levels is very Christian, but there are constraints to this. Some families I know choose non-cash options. For instance, some housewives make sure their gardener, laundrywoman or manicurist gets to bring home some extra food. Others give bigger tips to taxi drivers, bag boys in the supermarket and others who deliver services. Still others gather newspapers and bottles to give away free to the “magbobote” [bottle collector], or patronize the fruit and vegetable vendors who push their goods in a “kareton” [pushcart] (the “magkakareton” are said to be perhaps the poorest sectors).
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A friend of mine, Mian Wright Aņover, 49, who lives in a plush subdivision in Alabang (she originally hailed from Bacolod), and her husband, lawyer Ignacio “Gig” Aņover, and their children drove to San Pedro Tunasan not too long ago to attend the wake of their driver’s father. They saw how poor was the community at Sitio Rustan, where their driver, Harry Tilad, lives. The Aņovers were touched. Right then and there they resolved to help. They put up a day-care center that they named after St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei. Eventually, at the request of the parents, the Aņovers transformed the day-care center into a pre-school with two shifts of 50 students each. This has made San Pedro Mayor Felicisimo Virneza very happy.
But that’s not all. The Aņovers soon realized that in order to transform the whole community, they ought to seek livelihood training for the kids’ mothers. They put up a high-speed sewing center beside the school to train them. Mon Yambing, proprietor of Quality Gloves, a firm exporting gloves to Europe and the United States, has lent a high-speed sewing machine and is committed to recruiting the best trainees to his firm.
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The cost of running such a school is no joke and Mian is appealing to generous readers to adopt a pre-schooler this coming school year. Each student needs P270 for tuition and P580 for books in math, English and science. She is also seeking help for the very poor students at the nearby Barangay Langgam. Please call her at +63917 5607800 or +632 8093823. The Aņovers’ example shows how private efforts to reach out to the poorer communities can produce wonders.