LUCENA CITY: Local rice farmers and those in Sariaya town are skeptical about the pronouncement of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala that Quezon and the Philippines will be rice-sufficient by 2014, following claims that Alcala released P3.2-million “pork” in 2008 through Sir Pelagio Alcantara Development (Spade) Foundation Inc. that no cent was received by supposed farmer-beneficiaries.
“How can the President entrust Alcala with huge responsibilities of promoting the welfare of the farmers when he [Alcala] seem to take advantage of marginal farmers like us,” said ‘Rita,’ a farmer from Lucena City.
Rita added that if the Secretary is really sincere about helping them, they should have seen projects such as buying their rice harvests.
“Every rainy season, we couldn’t dry our palay harvest, eventually forcing us to sell to traders at almost one third of the prevailing market price for palay,” Rita added.
Rita is also skeptical about the rice-sufficiency pitch of Alcala because of NFA’s statement that the government has to import rice to be used for calamity-stricken provinces.
“Instead of importing, why can’t the government buy our palay harvest? And they have the nerve to declare that the country fall short of rice production, when our harvest nearly spoiled because of lack of buyers?” Rita lamented.
Rita’s experience is similar to the members of Tumabaga 1 Barangay Irrigator’s Association (TBIA) in the town of Sariaya.
Margarita Sarmiento, manager of TBIA told The Manila Times that much as they want to sell their harvest to National Food Authority, they are enticed to sell to private traders who buy their palay at P17/kilo. Although NFA has the same buying price, the agency refused to buy palay not fully dried.
Sarmiento relates that the 231 rice farmer-members of TBIA were also told by Alcala that the country will be rice-sufficient in the next years but minimal assistance were extended to them to attain this target.
Meanwhile, the 16 farmer-complainants from Sariaya, Quezon who denied receiving the cash assistance of P50,000 each, saying their signatures on the disbursement vouchers were faked, are urging President Aquino to investigate Alcala.