Kidapawan protest continues

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KIDAPAWAN CITY: Farmers refused to lift their picket and vowed to continue their protest until the government fully provides rice for their families affected by drought here.

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North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza admitted that the distribution of rice to areas affected by El Niño was pegged at four to five kilos per family and released according to standard procedures.

The process of distribution was to ensure that the 500 sacks allocated monthly to six towns composed of 543 villages would reach people in all areas struck by the drought, Gov. Mendoza said.

Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista backed Mendoza by saying that it was “impossible” to distribute a sack of rice to each family citing that thousands of families were affected by drought.

Around 300 farmers on Sunday left Spottswood Methodist Center compound where they sought refuged during the bloody dispersal on Friday, and went back to their respective families. But another 200 farmers from Makilala town in North Cotabato camped outside the church’s complex.

Secretary General of Pasaka Southern Mindanao Region Jong Monzon, who leads the new arriving protesters, said their presence in the area was to “get rice from [the compound]and go home” but were blocked by policemen.

Hundreds of the protesters already left the compound but others preferred to stay and had set up cooking and sleeping areas.

The farmers have been demanding for 15,000 sacks of rice from the government because their families no longer have food to eat because of the drought.

North Cotabato province on January was placed under state of calamity due to the long dry spell brought by El Niño.

Jerome Aba Succar, leader of the Suwara Bangsamoro said the government should exhaust its “calamity funds” to provide rice to 46,000 families affected by the drought.

He said they sympathized with the plight of the farmers in North Cotabato who were allegedly being “mistreated.”

Other groups, including religious organizations, also visited the protesters and provided sacks of rice and other food items.

 MOH SAADUDDIN

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