BEC-Based Social Action Program: The Archdiocese of Jaro

AN INTEGRAL APPROACH TO DEVELOPMENT

The Archdiocese of Jaro is one of the oldest dioceses in the country. It was created as a diocese by virtue of a papal bull of Pope Pius IX on May 27, 1865, and was later elevated to an archdiocese on June 29, 1951. Its Vision-Mission practically calls for the strengthening of the social action ministry that would promote social transformation and integral human development. Thus, the Jaro Archdiocesan Social Action Center (JASAC) was born, and immediately established the Parish Social Action Center (PSAC).

BOTIKA SA PAROKYA

The conduct of the Basic Orientation Seminar on Social Action Work (BOSSAW) laid the groundwork for the creation of the PSAC and the establishment of Botika sa Parokya popularly known as JASAC Drugstore that sells affordable medicines to the poor. Since Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) formation and strengthening has always been a pastoral thrust of the archdiocese, JASAC participation in NASSA’s BEC-based Integral Evangelization Program in 2002 with five pilot parishes.

-                – San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish of Cabatuan;

· -              – San Isidro Parish of San Joaquin;

-                – St. John the Baptist of Sara;

· -               – Our Lady of Candles of Jelicu-on Montinola, Cabatuan; and

· -               – San Isidro Labrador Parish of Buenavista, Guimaras

COMMUNITY ORGANIZING PARTICIPATORY ACTION RESEARCH (COPAR)

To initiate BEC empowerment through the program, JASAC introduced COPAR to the PSAC and eventually to the BEC members’ involvement in assessing their own needs and identifying responses appropriate to the unique situation of each community.

Problems reflected in their COPAR are poverty, scarcity of livelihood opportunities, poor waste management, lack of basic services from he government, high prices of commodities, inadequate income of farmers, and deterioration of moral values. The COPAR also revealed other problems such as malnutrition, inaccessibility of education, and instances of conflicts and unpeace.

These interlocking issues and problems are being directly addressed through the integral approach of the BEC-based Program. A total of 269 members availed of microcredit to finance various livelihood projects such as pig fattening, talaba (mussels) culture, crab farming, fowl and cow raising, trading and consumer store. The value of economizing resources has also been instilled among the youth through a savings mobilization project that encourages both parents and children to regularly set money aside for future use. The savings mobilization project is being replicated in other BECs.

THE SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE COMPONENT

Bec-based trainings and seminars on sustainable agriculture have resulted in massive organic farming practices among locals. The Bahay Kubo project encouraged members to plant 18 kinds of vegetables in their backyard using organic inputs. BECs actively participate in the advocacy against genetically modified organism (GMOs) and trade liberalization. Around 80 or more farmers practice Diversified Integrated Organic Farming System (DIOFS). An inter-parish and inter-BEC trading project where knowledge and resources on sustainable agriculture are exchanged enable BEC members to access rice at low prices.

DIOCESAN HEALTH PROGRAM

JASAC’s health projects were already in place years before the entry of NASSA’s BEC-based Program so that its introduction intensified existing health projects at the diocese and BEC levels.

While some members produce herbal medicines in the form of cough syrup, ointment, roots and other preparations solely for family use, 34 BEC members sell the products in their community and in the JASAC Drugstore. Five BECs each established a communal herbal garden and practice waste segregation.

PARTICIPATORY GOVERNANCE

JASAC established the Peoples Graft Watch of Iloilo, Incorporated (PGII). Trained volunteers numbering 116 serve as observers in government biddings and monitor the usage of the 20-percent development fund of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). Their efforts and achievements at stmping out corruption earned them the distinction of being the Best Performing Corruption Prevention Unit of the Ombudsman in the year 2000 and 2005.

Anti-corruption milestones-testaments to JASAC’s dedication to good governance

· Dismissal of the regional and assistant regional directors of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) due to their involvement in a Php25-million project found to be anomalous.

· Suspension of Municipal Mayor, Municipal Treasurer and the Mayor’s private Secretary for having initiated a bogus road project costing Php1 million.

· Participation of PGII volunteers in 127 biddings, bringing to the attention of the Deputy Ombudsman in Visayas an irregularity in the procurement of medicines costing millions of pesos in taxpayers money.

· Benefits from IRA through close coordination between BEC members and local government units (LGU) in monitoring the said fund at the barangay level. This vigilance has translated IRA into development projects like electrification and water system, among others. IRA supports JASAC’s feeding Program that benefits 1,550 children age 0-6 years.

“SUSTAINING AND EXPANDING THE INTEGRAL DEVELOPMENT OF BEC AMURAO”

The village of Amurao is one of the pilot BECs in Cabatuan that was identified both by JASAC and San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish as having the potential of becoming a self-sustaining, self-nourishing, and self-governing community. At the start of the program in 2002, COPAR results were use in formulating a Barangay Development Plan. The program concluded in 2004 but improvements continue to take place and positive results are felt in a much wider scale. Problems and issues that were initially identified such as lack of food and potable water, absence of electricity, inaccessibility to higher education, high prices of foods and commodities are continuously being addressed even beyond the program duration. An integrated values education and formation in the BEC directly responded to the problem of values erosion.

To date, 80 percent of the total 90 members of BEC Amurao practice DIOFS in their vegetable and rice production. A cooperative store that sells affordable cheap medicines, rice and other basic commodities was established from members’ contributions. Their commitment to ecology protection and sustainable use of resources has inspired them to practice waste segregation and discontinued the use of fertilizers and pesticides due to heir adverse effects on the environment.

BEC Amurao is an example of effective partnership between the government and a people’s organization for community development. Guided by the principle of solidarity, barangay officials support and participate in BEC undertakings. BEC Amurao access the IRA fund to finance hog raising, organic vegetable production, and supplemental feeding of pre-school children. Likewise, the IRA fund and the governor’s fund financed the installation of electricity and the installation of a water system in Barangay Amurao.

LOCAL FUNDRAISING DRIVE

Barangay officials started a communal savings fund that was later expanded by other community members. A total of Php100,000 has been generated as group savings of 25 barangay officials, Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNS) and Barangay Health Workers (BHW). Parents generated total savings of Php30,000 and 55 children pooled Php15,000. By accessing the IRA fund, BEC Amurao instituted a local scholarship project that supports six high school students.

Reference: National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace Annual Report 2007, p18-20