Drought stricken farmers who barricaded the government regional center here asking for rice subsidy agreed to disperse and have returned home Tuesday after four days of peaceful protest.
Norhata Benito, of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD-12), said 2,000 sacks of rice were turned over to the rally organizers, which she explained, was part of a national program the DSWD has been implementing.
The farmer-protesters carried with them one sack of rice each. Benito said the remaining rice assistance will be distributed to farmers through the local government units and not in the rally site or elsewhere.
Benito urged the protesters to return to their villages and coordinate with their village and other local officials so they can avail of the government aid.
The farmers met with DSWD officials Monday on the manner of rice distribution.
On top of the National Food Authority (NFA) rice, DSWD-12 also distributed 2,000 pieces hygiene and medical kits and 2,000 pieces of malong (Muslim blanket) to farmers before they went home.
Joselito Roxas, speaking for the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and one of the rally organizers, said the farmers agreed to disperse and return to their respective communities in North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato and Saranggani after DSWD-12 distributed 2,000 bags Monday afternoon.
“We consider this a victory,” Roxas said following a dialogue with representatives from DSWD and the Department of Agriculture and the South Cotabato provincial crisis management.
“We are glad the government listened to us. Pasalamat kami nga walay dispersal nga nahitabo. [We are happy no dispersal took place],” he said as farmers dismantled tents and structures they put up in front of the regional government center in Barangay Carpenter Hill, along the national highway connecting Koronadal and General Santos City.
“DA also promised to extend us fertilizers and other farm inputs and will be distributed in the farmers’ communities in the coming days,” Roxas added.
Amalia Jayag Datukan, DA-12 regional director, said that aside from the farm inputs, other non-rice subsidy will be distributed to farmers hardest hit by the dry spell in their respective communities and through the LGUs.
Datukan advised the protesters to submit a list of names of farmers hardest hit by the dry spell, including their addresses so the government can assess and validate their identities.
It was quiet at the rally site where protesters were resting at past 4 p.m. Monday when three hauler trucks with DSWD markings arrived.
The farmers moved closer and were told the cargoes were for them. Police stationed nearby moved back as DSWD personnel alighted from the truck and let the farmers unload the bags of rice from hauler trucks.