April 7, 2016
Manila, Philippines— Bantay Bigas (Rice Monitor), an alliance for sufficient, safe and affordable rice has joined the nation in condemning the violent dispersal of farmers during a protest in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato-- which took the lives of at least 2 farmers while many others were wounded-- and calls for immediate relief to be given to the drought-affected farmers.
“Even without El Nino, farmers’ access to rice has been very limited because they cannot afford it with their little income,” said Cathy Estavillo, spokesperson of Bantay Bigas. “How much worse when they lose their crops due to a calamity like El Nino? Where are they supposed to get money to buy food?” she added.
According to reports from the provincial agricultural office of North Cotabato, at least 23, 280 farmers in the province lost their crops due to dry spell and rat infestation affecting at least 27, 558.55 hectares in 17 towns.
“As early as January of this year, the province was already under state of calamity and it is absurd that the government prioritized cloud seeding operations instead of giving them immediate relief,” said Estavillo.
After the Kidapawan incident was broadcasted nationwide, outpouring of support from people’s organizations and individuals came but the government blocked the food from entering the compound of Spottswood UMC. It was also reported in a solidarity gathering for the Kidapawan farmers held yesterday in UP Diliman that some warehouses in the province are now refusing to sell rice to supporters who want to donate rice to the farmers.
“Is it not enough that they ignored the people’s demands for food, shot them, killed them, and continuously harass them? Now that people want to help, they won’t allow it? How cruel and rotten can this government be?” Estavillo said. “This also reflects the miserable state of our local rice industry. The government can boast about rice stocks all they want but the truth remains that Filipinos, most especially the farmers, do not have access to it, “ Estavillo added.
The alliance also held the Aquino administration ultimately responsible for the incident.
“He has failed to address the farmers’ needs even before the massacre happened. He won’t act on it and take responsibility after lives have been lost. This deafening silence shows that under Daang Matuwid, farmers can die and they won’t even flinch,” Estavillo ended. ###