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Shared prosperity and hunger

/ 05:24 AM November 13, 2020

Those who have prosperity should share with those without it. An urgent area to address today is hunger. The 9-percent hunger rate in December 2019 has increased to 31 percent in September 2020. This is in spite of all the efforts of the government and the private sector to solve this problem. New sources of assistance previously untapped should be secured.

This matter was taken up during the Nov. 4 board meeting of Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI), which is composed of 129 corporations and 34 industry associations. Its chair is Jesus Arranza. The outgoing and incoming presidents are George Chua and Albert Lina, respectively.

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FPI, together with Alyansa Agrikultura and 23 other organizations, had just signed the Philippine business community’s (Philippine Business Groups, or PBG) “Covenant for Shared Prosperity.” This was catalyzed by Management Association of the Philippines leaders such as Francis Lim, Francisco del Rosario and Rex Drilon.

The covenant states: “The COVID-19 has already claimed hundreds of Filipino lives and threatens so many more … Many of these people are now fearful for their lives, not just from the virus but from hunger and starvation.” It also emphasizes the PBG’s support for the government’s Ambisyon Natin 2040 vision of “a country where all citizens are free from hunger and poverty.”

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Consistent with this covenant, the FPI board also approved during this meeting a partnership with Walang Iwanan Alliance (WIA) to address hunger. It did so because of WIA’s five unique features that set it apart from other organizations with the message: “Kung hindi gutom, kayang tumulong.”

First, WIA has the only hunger map for Metro Manila. Its data bank includes the villages with the most hunger and identifies private sector organizations working there. Second, it identifies and promotes the best practices of addressing hunger. Third, it acts primarily as a platform and bridge for donors to connect to organizations on the ground that have an antihunger track record. Fourth, it uses electronic technology and networking so that donations as small as P25 will reach the target hunger beneficiaries. This amount is enough for a hungry person’s meal for a day. Fifth, its main and most important objective is raising the consciousness of people to address our critical hunger problem, which many are still not aware of.

Many FPI members and employees want to address hunger, but do not know how to do it. WIA fills this gap. Untapped sources of funds are harnessed and added to existing efforts. Friends, family members, and even associated Boy and Girl Scouts can donate as little as P25 and contribute to this effort as part of early values education in practice.

If a person wishes to contribute, no matter how small, WIA identifies areas where hunger is most prevalent, contacts the existing organizations working there and facilitates donation delivery to them through electronic means like bank transfers, PayPal and GCash. Concerned corporations have made this easier, such as donating Globe reward and BPI credit points to WIA upon the user’s request. Leaders have seen the uniqueness of this program and support it, such as Tessie Sy-Coson, who recently donated P10 million from her own personal funds (WIA website: walangiwananalliance.com. tel. 0916-5333311 /0908-6883300).

Aside from each FPI board member pledging personal funds for WIA, FPI president Lina offered to have his company’s trucks deliver for free unsold vegetables from Cordillera, identified by Alyansa Agrikultura, to the most vulnerable communities in Metro Manila identified by WIA. These trucks will also transport for free left-over food from eateries to hungry beneficiaries. This is now being discussed with another FPI member company, which is currently doing this in another Asean country.

Another example is an FPI member unit where all its employees voluntarily participated in a P30 monthly salary deduction each for a feeding with values formation program. The beneficiaries were so grateful they serenaded these small donors as a surprise for Christmas, leaving both donors and donees teary-eyed.

Covenants are useless unless lived. There are other important action items in this covenant that will be practiced and measured. Of these, addressing our 31-percent hunger rate should be a top priority. If done, shared prosperity will achieve its true meaning.

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The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of Presidential Programs and Projects, and former undersecretary of DA and DTI. Contact is [email protected]

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