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Friday, October 19, 2007

3 Million Pinoys "Stand Up, Speak Out" vs. Poverty

By Katherine Adraneda / Thursday, October 18, 2007 /Philippine Star

Millions of Filipinos across the country literally stood up as a symbolic pledge in this year’s global campaign against poverty in commemoration of International Poverty Eradication Day.

The participants in part rejected government excuses that allow 50,000 people to die every day because of extreme poverty and the growing gap between rich and poor. It urges government leaders to save the lives of the poorest citizens, tackle inequality, govern fairly, fight corruption and fulfill human rights.

“After the government’s declaration of its six-month war on hunger that brought about the release of the P1-billion fund for their hunger and poverty mitigation programs, hunger rose to record high levels,” declared Nora Protacio, ambassador of the Global Call to Action against Poverty-Philippines (GCAP).

The Philippines will take part in the “Stand Up, Speak Out” pledge of the UN campaign to promote the Millennium Development Goals that include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education and ensuring a sustainable environment by 2015.

About 2,000 government officials, teachers, students, soldiers and ordinary citizens, many of them wearing white wristbands with sketches of multicolored human figures, assembled early yesterday at the Rizal Park to make the pledge.

Agnes Aleman of the UN Information Center said the Philippines was targeting 3 million people to stand up and make the pledge – in parks, government and private offices, schools, hospitals, restaurants and even at Starbucks stores – around the country from 5 a.m. to midnight.

An auditor working with the UN office in Manila will certify the final figure for the country, in which initial reports said have reached five million.

The Stand Up and Speak Out against Poverty campaign targets a Guinness record of 50 million people worldwide standing up and speaking out against poverty and inequality.

A window from 5 a.m. Oct. 17 to 5 a.m. Oct. 18, for which volunteers and advocates could hold their demonstration, was set by event organizers in consideration of differing time zones around the globe.

Last year, 24 million people from 87 countries around the world stood up against poverty, with India leading Asians with 9 million people, followed by Nepal with 3 million and the Philippines with 2.4 million.

“We would like to be one with the others in commemorating our fight against poverty,” Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said.

“It is a gesture that we recognize our effort to fight poverty, as well as the fight itself – what we are doing in order to eradicate poverty in our nation,” she said.

Cabral said in 1990, about 27 percent of Filipinos lived in extreme poverty – on less than P1,022 a month – but this has gone down to 17 percent currently.

Cabral, however, appealed to the people to help the government eradicate poverty in the country. She said the poor must do their part in solving this problem.

Assistant Secretary Dolores Castillo of the National Anti-Poverty Commission said the country’s financial stability plus a combination of government social services, including subsidies for food and medicine, have helped reduce the incidence of extreme poverty. – Helen Flores, AP