Sacks of rice bought with money donated by Catholics in mainland China are distributed to the poor in a slum area of Manila, where many are jobless and hungry after the government imposed a lockdown to contain Covid-19. (Photo supplied)
Catholics in mainland China have collected US$84,000 to buy rice and other food for the poor in slum areas of Philippine capital Manila who are struggling because of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Father Joseph Leo, director of the Chinese language department of church-run Radio Veritas Asia in Manila, said the station's listeners collected the funds as their response to the crisis in the Philippines.
Millions of daily wage workers and poor live without income and work, mostly in the slums of Manila, after President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a lockdown in Luzon on March 16 as part of enhanced social distancing to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.Father Leo said most donations have come from the Diocese of Wenzhou, while others came from Catholics in Guangzhou, Tianjin and Fujian, as well as from individual priests, nuns and parishioners "who have not forgotten the poor."
The money was used for distributing 45,000 kilograms of rice to about 4,000 families.
"Many people told us that because of the epidemic everyone is stuck at home without jobs and income, and some families now only eat one meal a day," said the priest, adding: "They need food more than masks."
The lockdown was originally announced for four weeks, but on April 6 Duterte announced on television that it would continue until April 30.
As of April 8, the Philippines had over 3,800 positive coronavirus cases and 182 deaths.
Father Leo said most poor Filipinos eke out a living by doing odd jobs such as driving tricycles to carry passengers. They have no savings. With their income suddenly stopped, they have no means to support their families.
The Chinese language department of Radio Veritas Asia on April 7 also distributed US$42,500 to several Catholic charities working among the poor in Manila.
"These groups are on the front lines. They will help more low-income families," Father Leo said.
One charity group works with thousands of people living near a garbage mountain who make their living by picking garbage. Other organizations include the Arnold Janssen Center, which serves the homeless, and Claret Solidarity Group, which supports poor rural families.
Father Leo said the Philippine government announced relief funds for low-income families from April 3 but relief and supplies have not yet reached the poor.
There were allegations that some government officials seized relief materials meant for the poor and sold them, the priest said.
"The Philippines is a forgotten corner of everyone's life and deserves attention because there are too many poor starving here," he added.