Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) senatorial candidate Win Gatchalian today called on the Department of Social Welfare and Development(DSWD) to speed up the distribution of assistance to the thousands of farmers in Western Mindanao hit by the El Nino to avoid a repeat of the Kidapawan incident.
Gatchalian said this as 10,000 farmers in the region continue to suffer from the long dry spell with more than 12,000 hectares of farms already damaged by the worst El Nino to hit the country since 1998. Lost income has been pegged at P466.34 million, with Zamboanga del Sur bearing the brunt at P182 million.
“The DSWD must act fast to prevent the situation from escalating. Concerned government agencies should be proactive and sensitive to the needs of the poor farmers. We need to make the distribution of resources faster and more efficient so they can reach the right beneficiaries at the proper time,” explained Gatchalian who also maintained that a review of how aid is distributed and monitored is crucial for a country often affected by natural disasters.
The DSWD’s field offices have been holding assessments to look at further requirements for food aid and the implementation of cash-for-work in areas hit by drought, with the agency emphasizing it
has adequate funds to augment the resources of local government units in responding to the needs of affected families, according to its website.
Meanwhile, Ray Anthony Credo of the Department of Agriculture in Western Mindanao was quoted as saying they have yet to receive “reports of farmers going hungry or demanding rice like what happened in Kidapawan City.” He also noted that the National Food Authority “is mandated to set aside a certain number of bags [to help farmers].”
Gatchalian warned that concerned state agencies should move fast and help hungry farmers to avoid a repeat of the incident in Kidapawan City, where three farmers were killed and more than 100 were injured during the violent dispersal.
“What happened in Kidapawan is a failure of prompt government action. What happened there is a failure of empathy from the national leadership for the marginalized who fall deeper into poverty because of the drought,” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian has previously scored the Aquino administration for its “callousness” over the plight of farmers, citing the service fees being imposed on farmers in Mindanao for irrigation services despite the raging El Nino.
Research think tank IBON Foundation revealed farmers in Mindanao are being charged P1,000 per hectare per cropping for the services of private irrigation systems, cooperatives, and as well as the National Irrigation Administration (NIA). The charges are even higher in Bukidnon, where they have to shell out P1,700 during rainy days and P2,500 during the dry season.
Gatchalian said government agencies like the NIA should render service to farmers, first and foremost, and profits should only be secondary to their primary reason for existence.
“The fact that farmers, who are in most need of aid from the government, are being charged for irrigation shows the callousness of the current administration which claims it is pushing for the righteous path or the so-called Daang Matuwid,” Gatchalian pointed out.
Gatchalian said he fully agrees with the IBON report which found it ironic that for a country like the Philippines with more than 400 rivers, 10 major lakes and abundant groundwater sources, irrigation is a problem to many farmers who are forced to avail the services of NIA and private irrigation firms. (Monica Cantilero)