Fr Shay Cullen: Hunger haunts the Philippines

 The Philippines is reeling from the findings of a survey that has revealed widespread hunger in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces. Hunger nationwide President Gloria Macapagal - Arroyo has ordered the release of emergency funds to provide food handouts in schools and to the poor, ordered low-cost food commodities for the poor and the hungry. A huge increase in a VAT tax last year hit the poor hardest, as a result some families can't afford even fish and only eat rice with tomato ketchup. The survey conducted last February by the Social Weather Station found that one in every five Filipino families or 3.4 million households have suffered hunger pangs in the past three months at least once. The Philippines was once the leading democracy and strongest economy in Asia until the Marcos dictatorship. After that national disaster, corruption and cronyism concentrated the national wealth in the hands of an even smaller group of vastly wealthy dynastic families that control the congress and the economy. This seeming unbreakable grip of the few over the many is what most Filipinos want to escape from and are fleeing abroad at a thousand a day as job opportunities with just wages arise. Many are exploited abroad too, yet most do better at feeding their families than they could at home. Hunger is not the lack of food, but the poor lack of money to buy it. The presidential promise to implement the emergency hunger migration, plan and ordering her cabinet to increase food production is praiseworthy but not enough. The need is now. The roots of poverty are in the dictatorship of the elite the rich will never relinquish power. The feeding programme is providing food for children to encourage them to attend school and feed their minds too. Millions of children don't attend school because they have to work to feed themselves and their brothers and sisters. Hunger on this scale cannot be addressed by handouts. What is wanted is a growing economy that benefits the people. Globalization and free trade treaties dominated by the rich nations have pressured the developing nations like the Philippines to lower import duties and allow a flood of products to enter in at little no import tax. This so called free trade agreement, can allow a flood of umping products below cost that wipes out local industry. When the competition is dead the prices increase beyond the pocket of the poor. The rich exporting nations, becomes richer, the Filipinos poorer. The corruption is so intense in the Philippines few investors come here. The hunger is made worse when the poor can't grow food because most of the millions of hectares of land are left unused by the rich or turned into housing estates to avoid land reform. What is cultivated much of it is turned into plantations of the multinational corporations and the food is exported while so many here go hungry. The solution is to be found not in the hand outs by politicians or the charity soup kitchens but in the hearts of the generous, the compassionate, and the doers of social and economic justice. In a nation that claims to be 80 percent Christian the extent of hunger and poverty is evidence that the teaching of Jesus is not practiced. The preachers and teachers have apparently failed to inspire the development of a society built on social justice. The non - Christian nations of Europe, Japan, Korea and now communist China have done much better. No hunger there, it's prosperity for the majority. It's all about equal sharing, that we don't have in the Philippines except among the poor. That's how they survive; they share and help each other. The real miracle behind the story of Jesus of Nazareth feeding the 5000 was the example of the self-sacrifice of his disciples sharing the little they had they inspired those who had brought food to share it. That greatest miracle was what happened in the heart and mind of those who had more than they needed. They shared the little they had with the hungry and all had enough. That's the kind of miracle we need in the modern world and especially for the Philippine elite. But little sign of it these days when so many are poor and hungry surrounded by the shameful abundance of the rich...End For more information see:

Share this story