BEC-Based Social Action Program: The Diocese of Boac

UNIFIED EFFORTS OF A COMMITTED BEC

Marinduque is a small island province composed of six municipalities and some outlying islets. Boac, the capital town, is also the seat of the Diocese of Boac, which was created on April 2, 1977. Being its thrust, the Diocese started organizing Basic Christian Communities (BCCs) or locally termed Batayang Pamayanang Kristiyano (BPK) in 1982. The diocese used BCC-CO approach in organizing the BBCs.

Marinduque was catapulted to national prominence because of the presence of Consolidated Mines, Inc. (CMI) and the Marcopper Mining Corporation (MMC) in the early part of the 1970s up to the 1990s. But the ecological devastation brought about by mineral extraction and mining tailings in 1996 adversely affected people’s lives particularly their health, the environment and their livelihoods.

Originally expected to alleviate poverty in the province, mining operations caused irreparable damage especially among the poor. Poverty remains the main problem of the populace.

The Marcropper tragedy was an eye opener on the importance of protecting the environment and pushed the BECs to unite and consolidate efforts to seek solutions. It has led to the creation of Marinduque Council for Environment Concern (MACEC) that acts as lobbying group against the giant, multinational companies that operated in the province. When the Diocese of Boac joined the first batch of ten dioceses in 2002 in implementing the Empowerment of the Marginalized Sectors through BEC based Integral Evangelization Program, it has pursued the efforts made by the BECs in five participating parishes namely:

· St. Isidore the Farmer Parish in Mogpog, Marinduque

· St. Joseph the Husband of Mary Parish in Gasan, Marinduque

· Holy Cross Parish in Sta. Cruz, Marinduque

· Holy Child Jesus Parish, Buenavista, Marinduque

· Holy Child Jesus Parish, Buenavista, Marinduque

The program has further forged the commitment of BECs to protect and preserve the environment. The BECs continue their advocacy against mining, rehabilitated mangroves and trees and implemented waste segregation. A total of 6,150 mahogany, narra and other forest and fruit bearing trees were planted at the school, BEC communities and barangay watershed area, involving 223 members in 17 BECs. One remarkable achievement of the BEC is their continuing campaign for the permanent closure of Marcropper Mining Corporation when a total of 1,402 members signed petition to the government against mining and submarine tailings disposal in the province that caused environmental destruction.

Other concerns confronting the BECs were also addressed by the program. The community-based healthcare facilitated the establishment of a herbarium, the production of herbal medicines and the creation of the Social Action Center drugstore. Established in July 2004, the drugstore provides access to affordable and quality medicines and caters to all of the parishes in the diocese. A population of 538 BEC members and non-members benefit from it.

To address farmer’s issue, Sustainable Agriculture has been promoted thru various trainings and seminars. Five BEC areas chose sustainable agriculture as their priority project and two of them implement Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT) that benefit 52 BCC members. Consequently, they are now producing volumes of organic vegetables and high value crops.

The BECs became very active in participating in local governance as a result of Political Education seminars and trainings. Seven BEC members became representatives in Barangay Development Council and six more were elected as barangay captain and councilors.

The BECs also identified the type of livelihood projects that they want to engage in and manage. Social preparation was imperative before implementing a microfinance project. A concrete microcredit policy and procedure was developed. Training on income generating projects took place before qualified beneficiaries were screened. Microcredit management training was attended by BEC 1,551 members. Through various trainings, the BECs were able to prepare feasibility studies on their identified projects and prepared simple project proposals facilitated by DSAC and PSACs as well as policies and procedures of microcredit using the group management approach. Existing small self-help BEC livelihood projects were given more attention as they are more skilled in management. These BECs were organized by the DSAC and became members of Marinduque Social Action Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MASAMCO). A total of 840 members of the BECs were able to access low-cost credits from the program to support trading, food and vegetable production, retail stores, fish vending, fishing, hog fattening and other forms of livelihood. The diocese enjoys a 92-percent repayment rate. All of the beneficiaries who access microcredit reported increase in income from their livelihood with 212 members reporting increase of income Rnging from Php100 up to Php3,000 per month. A total of 436 members in 38 BECs generated savings and capital share amounting to more than Php204,000 from the net profit obtained from their livelihood. With their improved income, they are now able to send their children to school, ensure food sufficiency and meet other needs of the family. The microfinance and income generating activities continue to draw out BEC members’ interest and has gained positive feedbacks and support from the BECs as manifested in their local mobilization and sustained participation in all community undertakings. Commitment and capability of workers both in the diocese and parishes is vital to the success of the program. The support of the bishop and the clergy are instrumental to the continuity of the program as it works to sustain and expand its gains to other communities. The significant ACHIEVEMENTS OF FTHE Diocese of Boac at improving various aspects of life of the BECs can be essentially attributed to the unified efforts of the BEC members to pursue a common goal of bringing justice, peace, truth and love.

UNITY OF BEC, AN INSPIRATION TO ALL

Resident of Sitio Panag, Barangay Kalangkang in the municipality of Sta. Cruz rely on fishing as their main source of livelihood. Poor catch and lack of opportunities for livelihood continue to pester families living in the coastal area. Aside from these, 33 families and BEC members experienced other difficulties: poverty, absence of electricity, high cost of food and other goods, and impassable and inaccessible roads. Through a seminar on environmental protection provided by the program, the members realized the importance of protecting their coastal resources considering that fishing is their main livelihood. BEC leaders and members decided to cooperate so that they can rehabilitate and conserve the mangroves. Through bayanihan system, members planted a total of 45,000 mangrove trees. Proper waste disposal complement this effort.

Members organized themselves into a cooperative and opened a retail store from the microcredit fund provided by the program. Because of very limited budget, they helped one another in constructing the store structure. The store provides various benefits to the members who enjoy savings because they buy the goods at low prices. The parents are now able to provide allowance to their children who go to school and purchase additional food for the family. When their store was partially burned, members helped put out the fire and worked together to rebuild it.

By planting organically grown vegetables in their backyard, BEC members have acquired sufficient food for their nutritional needs. The community-based healthcare training has enabled members to produce their herbal medicines for family use and obtain affordable medicines from the SAC drugstore in the diocese.

Members did not stop pursuing their common goal but instead continue to work as a community to address their other problems. They participated in local governance and lobbied their barangay officials to act on their requests and provide adequate services to the community. The mangrove rehabilitation project initiated by the BEC has garnered much admiration from other communities and groups.

A poor BEC proves that unity is stronger than adversity.

Reference: National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace Annual Report 2007, p38-40