Visayas coco farmers mired in dire straits

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THE livelihood of small-scale coconut farmers in Eastern Visayas areas affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda is in critical danger. This was the alarm raised by Vicente “Ka Sonny” Domingo, national chairman of the Kapisanan ng Magsasaka, Mangingisda at Manggagawa ng Pilipinas Inc. (KaMMMPi) who said coconut farmers continue to wait for the delivery of heavy duty tractors needed to clear their land of tons of fallen trees and debris. In a letter sent to Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, Domingo cited the report by international humanitarian organization Oxfam which said that coconut “farmers face years of lost income in the race against time to clear the land of fallen coconut trees before they rot in three months’ time.” “It’s been over three months since Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines and the coconut farmers are still waiting for the tractors they need to clear their farmland and begin replanting,” Domingo wrote. De los Reyes put the delivery of the tractors (127 units worth P274.6 million) on hold after questions were raised by Rep. Henry Pryde Teves of Negros Oriental and George Canapi of the Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers and Distributors Association Inc. (AMMDA) about the conduct of the public bidding supervised by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on January 3.

“We have received reports that a DAR lady undersecretary is meddling with the procurement process and is putting pressure on the DBM to lower the specification requirement for tractors to favor certain suppliers,” Domingo revealed.

“We urge Secretary de los Reyes to look into this as coconut farmers may end up with substandard equipment unfit for the job of clearing and heavy lifting. “It is tragic that the urgency of the situation is lost because of officials who wish to circumvent government regulation.” continue to make a mockery of President Aquino’s ‘matuwid na daan,’” Domingo added.

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