The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) lambasted the attempt of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to downplay the poverty incidence in North Cotabato, saying that even government statistics show that almost half of the province’s population is poor.
“Halos kalahati po ng populasyon ng North Cotabato ang mahirap, kung kaya’t hindi po namin maintindihan kung saan nanggagaling si Sec. Alcala (Almost half of North Cotabato’s population is poor, that we cannot understand where Sec. Alcala is coming from),” Mon Ilagan, UNA spokesperson, said.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said that the province registered a 48.9 percent poverty incidence rate in the first semester of 2015.
UNA said that the province’s sufficient food supply as claimed by Alcala will not matter if the people had no money to buy food.
Reports said most of the protesting farmers came from the towns of Arakan, Antipas, Pres. Roxas, Magpet and Kidapawan, severly affected by drought.
In 2012, Arakan registered a 53.9 percent poverty rate, Antipas 41.1percent , Pres. Roxas 47.6 percent, Magpet 48.9 percent and Kidapawan 27.7 percent , according to the PSA.
“Simple lang naman po ang hiling ng mga magsasaka doon, bigyan sila ng bigas dahil apektado sila ng El Niño (The farmers there are simply asking for rice because they were affected by El Niño),” Ilagan said.
The PSA’s February 2016 agroclimatic/crop condition assessment showed that “no farming activities were undertaken” in SOCCSKSARGEN “due to insufficient rainfall received over those areas.”
North Cotabato is part of SOCCSKSARGEN and registered a 52.4 percent poverty rate in 2012, according to the PSA.