APRIL 24 2007 (STAR) President Arroyo witnessed yesterday the signing of an "anti-hunger" cooperation agreement for the government, an independent oil player and a civic group to provide free meals and livelihood training programs for thousands of poor residents in Metro Manila.

The memorandum of cooperation was signed by oil firm Flying V and Rotary International District 3800 for the private sector, and the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) and the Luzon Urban Beltway (LUB) at the Rizal Hall in Malacañang.

Under the agreement, Flying V will allocate funds from its daily sales to feed in one month some 30,000 household-beneficiaries selected from the 10 priority communities in Metro Manila earlier identified by the NAPC-LUB team.

The 10 communities are Smokey Mountain, Parola, Baseco, Payatas, Soldiers Resettlement Housing in Taguig, Bagong Silang, and areas in Pasay, Pasig, Navotas, and Malabon.

Free iron-fortified rice will be given to the beneficiaries each time they attend the values formation and livelihood seminars to be held four times a month. The scheme is similar to the "food-for-school" program of the Department of Education where pupils attending classes qualify for food aid.

The NAPC-LUB team, together with Rotary, will implement the program with possible supplemental services such as medical and dental attention to the beneficiaries.

After the trainings, the NAPC-LUB team will coordinate with concerned government agencies for microfinance assistance to the "graduates" as well as seek the cooperation of the business sector for their possible employment.

In a joint statement, NAPC chief Domingo Panganiban and LUB Secretary Edgardo Pamintuan described the agreement "as a sign of Flying V’s commitment to support the President’s program to put food on every household’s table."

""What we are doing here is an emergency and long term solution to the (food) problem of our people. The distribution of food will not only feed their families four times in one month, but will also serve as a ticket to a more sustainable solution by harnessing their earning capabilities through livelihood trainings and seminars," Panganiban said.

Pamintuan, for his part, described the Flying V’s support to the President as a sign of a snowballing private sector participation in the war on hunger kicked off by the Mrs. Arroyo’s order to release P1 billion to fund her administration’s "emergency hunger mitigation."

The first to respond to the President’s call to support her fight against hunger was the Philippine Confederation of Grains Associations, which recently distributed tons of iron-fortified rice to thousands of poor families in Smokey Mountain.

The agreement was signed Flying V chairman Ramon Villavicencio, chairman of Flying V, Marcos Hermoso, governor of Rotary International District 3800; and Panganiban and Pamintuan. – Paolo Romero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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