DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Militant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said National Irrigation Administration (NIA) chief Gen. Ricardo Visaya is doing nothing to support the farmers in the country, particularly in Mindanao during the onslaught of El Niño.
Thousands of hectares of farmlands are affected and millions worth of crops were damaged by the long dry spell that started to hit the country starting this year.
Late last year, the state weather bureau PAGASA has already issued a warning of El Niño that will affect most of the country starting this 2019.
“NIA’s silence and inaction toward this situation of farmers is revolting,” KMP chair Danilo Ramos said in a statement issued over the weekend.
Ramos pointed out that NIA has a huge budget to irrigate farmlands but Visaya has not come out with concrete plans to aid the farmers during the long drought.
KMP also hit Visaya for his failure to issue the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Free Irrigation Service Act (FISA).
FISA or Republic Act 109691 is an act aimed to exempt from paying irrigation service fees for water derived from national irrigation systems and communal irrigation systems all farmers with landholdings of eight hectares and below.
Section 10 of the said Act states that within three months from its effectivity, NIA, in coordination with concerned government agencies, farmers, irrigators’ associations, and other stakeholders shall promulgate its IRR.
RA 109691 was signed by President Duterte on February 2, 2018.
KMP also expressed doubt on the cloud seeding and solar irrigation plan of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
“DA’s cloud seeding and solar irrigation activities are good but not enough. Farmers need actual and immediate relief,” Ramos said.
The immediate needs of the farmers at present are food and alternative sources of income, he added.
“It is alarming that the provinces most affected by drought and dry spell are rice-producing provinces. This situation will affect our domestic rice production. Worse, farmers who produce rice and crops are now reeling from the effects of El Nino,” Ramos said.
KMP also cited the situation of the farmers in the province of North Cotabato which, according to a data they presented, damages on agriculture has already reached up to PHP477 million.
The provincial government of North Cotabato has already declared a state of calamity due to the continuing effects of El Niño that ruined farmlands in the towns of M’lang, Alamada, Aleosan, Tulunan, and Pikit.
KMP said the government through the DA, Department of Agrarian Reform, NIA and the Department of Social Welfare and Development could utilize funds allotted for calamity and disaster relief.
“We do not want a repeat of the April 2016 Kidapawan carnage wherein drought-affected farmers seeking for urgent food aid and subsidies from the government were fired at by the local police. Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol knows very well the situation because he is from Kidapawan,” Ramos said. (davaotoday.com)