CHR addresses plights of farmers, fisherfolk

By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

It has been over a month since the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon, and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said that farmers and fisherfolk are facing several issues with their work.

CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said that social distancing measures, travel restrictions, and curfews were set in place by the government to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Farmers and fisherfolk, however, are facing myriad problems as a result. "The quarantine measures have affected the ability of farmers and fisherfolks to sell their products, even though the government has ensured unhampered distribution of their products," she said.

Farmers in the Mountain Province had to throw their harvest just because they have no buyers. De Guia added that their time in the field is hampered because of lockdown measures, and the low price of palay has continued to worsen due to the pandemic and the Rice Tariffication Law.

Meanwhile, fisherfolks within the National Capital Region, particularly in Navotas, Las Piñas, and Malabon have different issues. These fisherfolks have complained of inconsistencies made by local government units in allowing them to fish, to regulations, which they deem as an additional economic burden to them during these trying times.

"They are experiencing physical, mental, and economical disability, particularly the women fishers in the communities who have the primary task of ensuring food security and safety of the family," lamented de Guia.

Both farmers and fisherfolk have already called on the government for faster access to the social amelioration packages as well as sector-specific stimulus, an example of which is the Survival and Recovery Assistance Program for Marginalized, Small Farmers and Fishers (SURE-Aid) from the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Now more than ever, the CHR said that people need adequate and food supply. So it is calling on the government to strengthen the policies that allow farmers and fisherfolk to continue doing their jobs while the enhanced community quarantine is in effect.

"All local government units should allow the sector's access to their farms and municipal waters and allow unhampered access to distribution of their products," stressed de Guia.

She suggested that the government, both national and local, should also consider buying the harvest of small-scale farmers and fisherfolk to be used for the relief operations and mobile markets.

For the part of the DA, the CHR suggested that the Department of Agriculture (DA) create mechanisms to guarantee that the farmers and fisherfolk get to sell their products at equitable prices and not resort to selling them below market value.