The militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas lauded the daring mass action of thousands of North Cotabato farmers who blocked the Davao-Cotabato highway to demand food aid, production support and immediate assistance to farmers severely affected by drought in Mindanao.
As of this writing, farmers are still blocking the main national highway connecting Davao and Cotabato cities and all exits and entrance routes along the boundaries. They are demanding the regional National Food Authority (NFA) to provide free rice allocation and food aid to help sustain farmers until the end of El Nino.
“These kind of daring protests and display of assertion are just and legitimate in the face of drought and hunger that is worsened by the incompetence of the haciendero president in Malacanang,” says Antonio Flores, secretary general of KMP.
“We are supporting the demand of North Cotabato farmers for food aid, financial and production subsidies, increase in the prices of their agricultural products like coconut, rubber, rice, and corn and the immediate pullout of AFP troops and demilitarization of peasant and Lumad communities in the province,” added Flores.
Flores said the farmers’ barricade is just the start of a series of peasant-led actions in Mindanao to demand significant government response to farmers’ and people’s issues.
“We call on farmers nationwide to replicate these daring protests across the country,” Flores said.
The peasant leader said the Aquino government’s response is not addressing the serious effects of drought to farmers and the local agriculture. KMP also lambasted the Department of Agriculture’s wastage of public funds for its ineffective ‘comprehensive El Nino response plan’. “The DA’s cloud seeding operations are in fact designed for corruption. The cloud seeding, which costs a minimum of P45,000 per flight, is not concentrated in targets areas in most need of rainwater.”
In North Cotabato alone, the drought has damaged more than P238 million worth of rice, corn, banana, rubber, coconut, oil palm and vegetable planted by small farmers in over 27,500 hectares in Kidapawan City and the towns of Arakan, Antipas, Pres. Roxas, Magpet, Makilala, Tulunan, M’lang, Matalam and Kabacan.
Based on data released by the DA, losses incurred in the agriculture sector as of February, has reached to more than Php5.32-billion, affecting 237,000 hectares of agriculture areas with an estimated production loss of 358,800 metric tons of rice, corn, high value crops, and livestock. ###