At the beginning of this year during our CBCP Plenary Assembly, we issued a pastoral statement on “The Dignity of the Rural Poor,” which called for a National Rural Congress to commemorate the first one held forty years ago in 1967.
In July 2007, the organizational structure and process for NRC II were approved by our Plenary Assembly. Two parallel secretariats were set up for local consultations at the diocesan and sub-regional levels. The Media and Research Offices were also activated to help the NRC Executive Committee.
To give more time for preparations, the timetable of the NRC phases has been moved. Phase One consisting of local consultations will take place mostly in January – March 2008. Phase Two which consists of the national-level congress (or congresses in four clusters) is being planned to take place some time in May or July 2008.
1) The ad intra secretariat (NASSA/BEC/ECIP) has already distributed a standard format for the diocesan consultations on the role of BECs in rural development. This will be further explained at the National Social Action General Assembly in Roxas City on Nov. 28-30.
2) The ad extra secretariat (PMP/AMRSP/RPS) has finalized its schedule of 13 sub-regional consultations on rural issues. The ZAMBASULI sub-region will have its consultation in mid-November while the rest will take place during the first quarter of 2008.
3) The CBCP Research Office has convened two meetings of research institutes on rural poverty issues. On Oct. 12th, four government agencies (DAR, DA, DENR, and NAPC) were also invited to share their research findings on agrarian reform and rural development.
4) A working group has met twice at the Loyola School of Theology to help prepare a summary of the Social Teachings of the Church for reference in the NRC consultations. Other groups have also taken the initiative of compiling a summary of CST principles.
5) The CBCP Media office has been working out plans for the wider dissemination of NRC proceedings. A website on the internet has recently been installed to share available research findings and NRC updates. The website is: www.cbcponline.net/nrc2
6) Ongoing efforts are being made to access funding for NRC activities.
However, in the spirit of self-reliance, the diocesan and sub-regional consultations will have to depend on local resources in case outside support is lacking.
7) In line with our consultations on agrarian reform and rural poverty, NRC Execom members (Bishop Pabillo and myself) have been following up with DAR and Malacañang current land issues raised by PARRDS, UNORKA, and the Sumilao farmers. (The Higaonon Sumilao farmers are currently on a long march from Impasug-ong, Bukidnon, to Manila to reclaim the land denied them more than a decade ago under a land conversion scheme that was never carried out.)
8) Members of the CBCP Permanent Council (incoming and outgoing) and all other bishops are invited to a special forum on “Agrarian Reform and the Church: A CARP Briefing and Reflections.” This will be held on Nov.28 at 1:00 – 7:00 p.m. at the Pius XII Center, U.N. Avenue, Manila.
Much interest has been generated in NRC II from church circles and the general public, including government agencies. We thank you for your continuing support. Any further inquiries can be coursed through any of the two NRC secretariats or the CBCP secretariat or the NRC II website.