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Officials ask for Church help with money

Curch officials administering charity fund want to avoid politicising the finance

Officials ask for Church help with money
Social workers attend to a poor family in the southern Philippines (photo courtesy of Sulu provincial government) reporter, Manila

February 22, 2011

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The Philippine government is asking the Catholic Church to help identify beneficiaries of president Benigno Aquino III’s cash assistance program to poor families. Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the social action secretariat of the Catholic bishops, said social welfare secretary Corazon Soliman asked for help to validate the beneficiaries of the government’s conditional cash transfer program. “That is one of the things they asked. What we are trying to avoid here is for this to become politicized and that politicians will use this to advance their political aims,” Father Gariguez said. Critics say the government’s cash distribution scheme is a “hand out,” adding that it only encourages the poor to be dependent on government aid. While Church leaders are not convinced the program will solve the country’s poverty problems, Father Gariguez admits the initiative can help the poor. “The concept is good and we are willing to help so that it will be implemented in a transparent manner,” the priest said. However, he still had to consult with other groups before deciding whether to join the project, he added. Aquino earlier earmarked 21.2 billion pesos (US$493 million) for the program, which aims to help 2.3 million households nationwide this year. The initiative is an anti-poverty strategy to provide conditional cash grants to extremely poor households to improve their health, nutrition and education particularly for children aged 0-14. It will provide 6,000 pesos annually or 500 pesos each month per household for health and nutrition expenses, as well as 3,000 pesos for one school year or 10 months or 300 pesos a month per child for educational expenses. PM13389.1642

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