By Chito Chavez
The Department of Agriculture (DA) should divulge how it intends to distribute the cash aid and actual production support to the farmers affected by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) made the call on Wednesday as it appealed to the DA to “clarify and release actual guidelines on how to avail of the P5,000 cash aid from the agency’s Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RFFA) Program and Land Bank of the Philippines’ Financial Subsidy to Rice Farmers (FSRF) program”.
“Our food security frontliners also need help. They need immediate production support and subsidies,” said KMP leader Danilo Ramos.
“Both the FSRF and RFFA are ongoing DA programs which cover farmers that till up to two hectares of land. “What about more farmers and farm workers that are not covered by these existing DA programs? How can they avail themselves of cash aid and social amelioration from the government? They are also severely affected by loss of income and livelihood as a result of the prolonged ECQ,” KMP said in the statement.
In the President’s third report to Congress last Monday, he bared that as of April 8, the DA has already released an unconditional cash transfer to 300,994 rice farmers out of the targeted 597,404 rice farmers.
KMP claimed that the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) also reportedly distributed unconditional cash transfer to 18,495 qualified farmers out of the 591,246 targeted farmer-beneficiaries or those located in provinces not covered by the RFFA.
“DA has a long way to go in aiding an estimate of 9.7 million farmers, farm workers, and fisherfolk in need of assistance during the enhanced community quarantine and beyond,” the group noted.
“Five weeks into the lockdown, we are still getting numerous reports that farming households in rural barangays have yet to receive any form of assistance or relief from the government. These are valid grievances from farmers and fisherfolk whose livelihood were disrupted by the ECQ,” Ramos added.
MP said that the DA has a whopping P31-billion budget for its ALPAS-COVID or Plant, Plant, Plant Program.
Based on the pronouncement of DA Secretary William Dar, KMP noted that the DA is leaning toward massive promotion of urban and community gardening as an intervention to help ensure food availability. “While urban farming can help in the interim, it is not a viable long-term strategy to ensure food security. We must strengthen our domestic rice industry, increase our local rice productivity, and do away with dependence on rice imports,” the group noted.
“The government is projecting a prolonged pandemic. Health and nutrition must go hand-in-hand as these important socio-economic factors can be effective shields in our fight against COVID19,” Ramos concluded.