THE tragedy in Kidapawan City should prompt the government to take a decisive action in helping farmers hit hard by drought and to address the effects of El Niño on the agricultural sector, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said on Friday.
Marcos, who had repeatedly urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to speed up programs to help farmers in drought-hit areas especially in Mindanao, said the farmers’ resort to blocking the Davao-Cotabato national highway in Kidapawan to demand rice proves that the government has not done enough to help them.
“It is an act of desperation and I could not blame them. They are hungry for months, their crops are gone, damaged by El Niño. This should be a wake-up call to our government, our DA officials especially to double their efforts to help them,” the senator added.
Marcos said the DA should account for the P2.1 billion allocated to assist farmers affected by the drought and spur agricultural production in the first quarter of 2016.
“The question now is, how is the DA spending the P2.1-billion budget set to help our drought-affected farmers? The DA should explain so that the government can fine-tune the programs set and if needed, allocate more funds to augment it,” he pointed out.
The senator expressed hope that the money has not been diverted.
“With the onset of the political season, the DA must take special care to ensure that mitigation efforts for El Niño must be directed to those who really need them most, not just because some politician requested to divert the assistance programs to their areas,” Marcos said.
“A lot of farmers and their families in the provinces affected by El Niño are suffering and are going to suffer more hardships if the DA won’t be able to deliver on its promise,” he added.
Sen. Grace Poe also condemned the violent dispersal of farmers.
“The situation calls for authorities and concerned agencies to immediately investigate and resolve this case, and bring to justice those responsible. The farmers staged their activity for a rightful demand — government aid amid the drought being experienced in the province, which is killing their crops and depriving them of harvest and food to eat,” she said in a statement.
Vice President Jejomar Binay’s camp deplored too the dispersal of the farmers.
“Vice President Jejomar Binay deplores the use of violence to disperse the farmers in Kidapawan demanding rice from the government. Bigas ang hinihingi, pero bala ang ibinigay [They were asking for rice, they got bullets instead],” United Nationalist Alliance campaign spokesman Rico Quicho said.
“Hunger is a reality that must be addressed not by violence but by compassion and concrete programs to improve the lives of the poor,” he added.