By Chito Chavez
The militant farmer’s group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) asked the government to provide emergency relief, food aid and other needed subsidies for the country’s drought-affected farmers.
KMP Chairman Danilo Ramos KMP said the government can utilize its available calamity and quick response fund to help the impoverished farmers.
He noted the assistance that farmers need include emergency cash assistance, food aid, and production support and subsidies.
“Marami ang walang kita at malulugi ngayong anihan dahil mababa o walang ani dahil sa tagtuyot (Many of them do not have any source of income and they incurred huge losses due to the low or no harvest because of the dry spell),’’ Ramos said.
“The Department of Agriculture’s (DA) cloud seeding and solar irrigation activities are good but not enough. Farmers need actual and immediate relief,’’ he added.
Ramos emphasized the farmers urgently need food and immediate sources of income to compensate for the huge losses they incurred during the dry spell.
“It is alarming that the provinces most affected by drought and dry spell are rice-producing provinces. This situation will affect our domestic rice production. Worse, farmers who produce rice and crops are now reeling from the effects of El Nino,” Ramos noted.
“We do not want a repeat of the April 2016 Kidapawan carnage wherein drought-affected farmers seeking for urgent food aid and subsidies from the government were fired at by the local police. Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol knows very well the situation because he is from Kidapawan,” the KMP leader said.
Effects of El Nino felt in more provinces, rice producing areas among the hardest hit by drought, dry spell.
In North Cotabato province alone, the group noted that damage to agriculture has already reached P477 million.
The Kidapawan City agriculture office said P40-million worth of crops were already damaged while officials in Pagadian City reported a P69 million worth of damage in corn crops and P9.3 million damage to palay.
Occidental Mindoro was among the first to suffer from the effects of drought with areas in Zamboanga now also under state of calamity due to drought.
These provinces are among the top rice-producing provinces in the country with the farmers in these drought-affected areas fearing that they will not have sufficient yield in the coming harvest season this March to April due to lack of rain and irrigation.
Among the areas that have declared a state of calamity were Zamboanga City, Zamboanga Sibugay, Pagadian City, five towns in North Cotabato namely M’lang, Alamada, Aleosan, Tulunan, and Pikit; and San Jose town in Occidental Mindoro.
The group will launch activities in rice-producing provinces and regions to demand immediate government assistance to farmers.