Protesting farmers remind gov’t of promised rice
KORONADAL CITY—Drought-stricken farmers, who barricaded the government regional center here to ask for rice subsidy, returned home on Tuesday, carrying one sack of rice each, but organizers said they would resume their protest if the government failed to provide the additional rice aid and farm inputs.
Joselito Roxas, speaking for Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said the farmers agreed to go back to their communities in North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato and Sarangani provinces after the Department of Social Welfare and Development gave them 2,000 bags of rice in initial assistance on Monday afternoon.
“We are happy with this even if our demand for 15,000 bags was not granted, at least this initial aid is already a big help for us,” Roxas said, adding that it was lamentable that they had to hold a protest first before help arrived.
The farmers initially wanted 60,000 bags but later reduced the volume to 15,000.
Roxas said it was made clear to the government officials that the protest would resume if they did not deliver the balance and other assistance needed by the farmers to restart their livelihood next cropping season. “The government still owes us 13,000 bags,” he said.
Norhata Benito of the DSWD regional office said the remaining rice would be coursed through the local government units.
On top of the 2,000 bags of rice from the National Food Authority, the DSWD also distributed 2,000 “malong” (wraparound garment) at the protest site.
The distribution of rice to the protesters did not impress South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Fuentes, who said she was surprised by the government action while she was still presiding a meeting of the crisis management team.
“We were bypassed,” Fuentes said. “We are trying to attend to their needs in accordance with government policies like dispersing rice subsidy through the local government units. We just want it to be orderly.”
Amalia Jayag Datukan, regional director of the Department of Agriculture, said farm inputs and other nonrice subsidy to farmers who were hardest-hit by the dry spell would be distributed in their communities through the local government units. Reports from Edwin Fernandez and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.