Manila, Philippines – The Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women raised the alarm on the worsening hunger being faced by farmers in Bicol as alerted by peasant groups, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bicol (KMB) and Amihan – Bicol. The groups said peasant families in the region are now calling for food relief and sources of livelihood, as packs given by local government units are obviously inadequate for the duration of continued lockdown.

“We call on local officials in the region to address the concern, as the food pack composed of 2 to 3 kilos of rice, 2 canned sardines and half a kilo of miki, some farmers received only lasted for two to three days amid the lockdown already nearing three weeks. Their demand for sources of livelihood is urgent and legitimate,” Zenaida Soriano, Amihan National Chairperson said in a press statement.

While the Department of Agriculture announced that farmers are exempted from the lockdown, they are unable to fully attend to their farms as their work hours were limited; they are being blocked at checkpoints when they need to procure inputs from and delivery to the town centers; and there are no mass transport, according to KMB and Amihan – Bikol.

“This Duterte lockdown is a de facto measure to throw farmers into hunger. This will impact poor consumers in the urban centers who will suffer non-supply,” Soriano said.

On top of this, the groups decried the continuing depressed farm gate prices of ageocultural products’ which they claim adds to their miseries. They said that palay is at P12 per kilo, copra at P20 to P24 per kilo, while in Catanduanes, bandala abaca is at P70 per kilo, far lower from its usual P91 to P101 per kilo farm gate price.

“Hunger and depressed farm gate prices is a double-whammy impact of the lockdown to Bicolano farmers. Thus, we join them in demanding the nationwide call for P10,000 financial assistance to more than 9.7 million farmers in the country,” she called.

Amihan reiterated its call for the National Food Authority to procure palay at P20 per kilo as support to ailing rice farmers. It said that the region’s peasant sector is yet to recover from natural and man-made calamities such as: typhoon Usman in December 2018; el niño in whole 2019; typhoon Tisoy in December 2019; the African Swine Flu and bird flu livestock and poultry epidemic.

“We urge the people to support the Bicolano farmers. They are our frontliners for food security and their displacement from production will lead to the worsening of the present food crisis,” Soriano urged.

The farmers of the Bicol region are beneficiaries of the relief drive being led by Amihan and its support group Rural Women’s Advocate (RUWA). ###

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