Distribute rice, release funds for drought-stricken farmers, gov’t told

There is enough supply of rice and there are funds that can be used to help the farmers.

RELATED STORY: Hungry peasants being met with violence by gov’t

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Farmers and their supporters called on government agencies to get their act together and immediately respond to the needs of drought-stricken farmers.

In a media forum, April 21, Jerome Succor Aba of Suara Bangsamoro who joined the Cotabato farmers’ barricade in Kidapawan City, said there has been no substantial aid coming from the government until now.

Aba said the volume of rice distributed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) on April 12 could be considered “alms.” “Mas marami pang naitulong ang private individuals kaysa sa gobyerno,” (Private individuals have given much more than the government.) Aba said.

Rafael Mariano, chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said the April 1 violent dispersal of the farmers’ barricade shows the incompetence and criminal negligence of the Aquino administration.

Some 5,000 farmers from all over North Cotabato started their barricade in Kidapawan City on March 30 to demand rice subsidy, release of calamity funds, among others. On April 1, police forces fired upon the protesters, leaving two dead and scores of others wounded.

Mariano said there is enough supply of rice and there are funds that can be used to help the farmers.

Farmers demand rice subsidy and release of calamity funds for drought-stricken farmers in 23 provinces. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/ Bulatlat)
Farmers demand rice subsidy and release of calamity funds for drought-stricken farmers in 23 provinces. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/ Bulatlat)

Mariano said the three kilos of rice per quarter promised by Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza for every family is just not enough. “Kahit magpalugaw challenge ka, hindi talaga ‘yan kakasya.” (Even if one is to cook porridge instead, still it would not be enough.)

Mariano said the government should immediately distribute the 480,000 bags of rice at the National Food Authority to the 23 provinces affected by El Nino. This, he said, would mean at least 20,000 sacks for every province.

Rice subsidy for farmers should be for six months, Mariano said. The El Nino phenomenon will end by June. If farmers would be able to plant by that time, harvest would still be in October.

Citing data from government agencies, Mariano said that from 2011 to July 2015, the DA has P49.7 billion (US$1.06 million) released but unobligated funds. From 2014 to 2015, the DA has P508.5 million ($10.9 million) unused Quick Reaction Fund (QRF).

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) also has P2.03 billion ($43.5 million) unused QRF from 2014 to 2015.

“The government’s QRF is not at all quick but slow, delayed or no-response at all,” Mariano said.

He said the National Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) has P48-billion ($1.03 billion) calamity funds.

Mariano said all these funds should be tapped to provide relief for farmers whose crops have died due to extreme drought.

Mariano said that a genuine agrarian reform program, coupled with other forms of assistance, would make farmers adapt better to calamities such as drought and typhoons and would ensure food security. ()

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