Solons hit slow distribution of aid for farmers amid COVID-19 crisis
MANILA, Philippines — Noting that only ten percent of farmers have received aid from the government, lawmakers on Wednesday urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to hasten the distribution of relief for farmers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat said it has been five weeks into the enhanced community quarantine in the Luzon region but merely ten percent of farmers have received aid from the national government.
According to President Rodrigo Duterte’s report to Congress submitted Monday, only 53,881 of the 591,246 farmers covered by the Financial Subsidy to Rice Farmers (FSRF) program of the agriculture department have received the aid as of April 22.
This constitutes only 9.11 percent of the farmers covered by the program.
“Napakatagal ng ayuda ng gobyerno sa ating magsasakang nagugutom na. Panglimang linggo na ng enhanced community quarantine ngunit 9 sa 10 magsasaka ang hindi pa nabibigyan ng tulong,” Cullamat said in a video message.
(The national government’s aid for our farmers who are already hungry is so slow. We are five weeks into the enhanced community quarantine yet nine out of ten farmers have yet to receive help.)
“Hanggang ngayon tinatapos pa lang nila ang paglilista ng magsasakang benepisyaryo. Mamamatay na lang ang mga tagalikha ng pagkain ng bansa, wala pa rin ang ayuda,” she added.
(They are still finishing the list of farmer beneficiaries until now. Our farmers that produce our food would die without even receiving aid.)
Under the FSRF program, P5,000 cash subsidy is provided to assist small rice farmers, who plant one hectare or less, located in 24 provinces not covered under the Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RFFA) program, as per an earlier press release of the agriculture department.
“Dapat ay bilisan ng Department of Agriculture ang distribusyon ng ayuda at palawakin ang target nila,” Cullamat said.
(The Department of Agriculture should hasten the distribution of relief and they should also expand their coverage.)
Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero also lamented how only 10 percent of the farmers have received the cash aid. He stressed that aid delivery has not improved much since two weeks ago when a total of 52,043 farmers got assistance.
Romero added that of the P3 billion budget of the agriculture department for rice farmers, only P645 million has been utilized as reflected in Duterte’s report to Congress.
The House leader likewise lamented how only 20,500 of the 135,720 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) covered by the program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) have been given cash aid as of April 23.
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