Farmers demand free irrigation, along with food aid, drought assistance

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today commended farmers from South Cotabato for their successful barricade and protest action in Koronadal City that prompted the local government to grant 2,000 sacks of rice to drought-hit families in the province.

Last Friday, more than 3,000 farmers barricaded a portion of the Sultan Kudarat-General Santos highway to press for urgent aid and subsidy for farmers. The action was part of the escalating island-wide farmers’ protests in Mindanao against hunger and the Aquino government’s apathy and incompetence to address the severe effects of drought.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Central Mindanao released the sacks of rice to farmers. The farmers lifted the barricade but vowed to continue their legitimate demands for land, food and justice from haciendero Aquino administration.

“This initial victory resulting from the farmers’ barricade is both a collective assertion of their right to food and an indignation of the Aquino regime’s continued negligence and rejection of farmers’ demand for urgent aid in time of El Nino,” said KMP secretary general Antonio Flores.

“We encourage drought-hit farmers across the country to unite and emulate these kind of legitimate protests”, Flores added.  As of now, there are nine provinces under state of calamity due to the severe and prolonged drought that damaged more than P10-billion worth of crops.

The Kidapawan local government and police, the Department of Agriculture, the DSWD and Malacanang are still drawing flak for their inhumane response to the demand of North Cotabato farmers for rice subsidy and calamity assistance that resulted to the violent dispersal of farmers’ barricade in Kidapawan City last April 1.

Flores said that aside from the urgent demand for rice and food aid, farmers will also intensify the just demand for free irrigation services as a necessary support to farmers affected by drought.

“We have heard so much from presidential and senatorial candidates advocating free irrigation in their campaign speeches. We challenge all of them to give concrete actions on how they would provide free irrigation for farmers,” the peasant leader added.

“It is only just and imperative that the government provide free irrigation services to farmers and condone past back accounts of farmers and irrigation associations incapable of paying high irrigation service fees at this time of calamity caused by El Nino,” Flores said.

Koronadal City | Farmers from Socsksargen Region 12 staged a die-in protest along General Santos- Cotabato national highway to raise their demand to the government for the immediate release of calamity funds and justice to the farmers of North Cotabato who were violently dispersed last April 1 in Kidapawan City.

Posted by Kilab Multimedia on Sunday, 24 April 2016

Tomorrow, April 27, farmers will lead a “Street Conference for Free Irrigation” at the Department of Agriculture national office in Quezon City.

Drought-stricken farmers from Ilocos, Isabela, Cagayan Valley, Tarlac, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Palawan, Rizal, North Cotabato and Davao, along with irrigators associations, will demand for free irrigation services from the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and the Department of Agriculture. ###