KORONADAL CITY – Drought-stricken farmers who barricaded this city’s main highway did not wait long before they got partial victory Monday, April 25 with the delivery of 2,000 sacks of rice from the government.
Erning Erabon, a farmer from Columbio, Sultan Kudarat said what they received from the Department of Social Welfare and Development were far from the 15,000 sacks of rice they demanded, but they consider it “a victory” nonetheless.
The 15,000 sacks of rice earlier demanded by the farmers were meant to sustain them until the rain comes by the month of June, said Erabon.
Erabon said he is thankful that the local government heeded their demand for rice and that no blood was shed during their protest, unlike the violent dispersal of farmers in Kidapawan City on April 1.
On April 21, an estimate of 3,000 farmers from Socskargen put up a camp at the Regional Center in Carpenter Hill, Koronadal City. Three days later, they occupied the national highway of Koronadal-General Santos City temporarily paralyzing transportation.
On Monday morning, April 25 Norhata Benito of the DSWD in Region 12 had a dialogue with the farmers and by 5:00 pm, 2,000 sacks of rice arrived.
Benito told Davao Today that they also offered 25 kilos of rice per month for the farmers to which the group agreed.
“But this will be distributed in the barangays,” she said.
The 2,000 sacks of rice will be divided to each family who will be going home in their respective communities tomorrow, April 26.
Benito also said the budget used to purchase the rice came from the Quick Reaction fund of the DSWD national office and not from the calamity fund.
She said the rallyists included farmers from North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and South Cotabato. But some of them already went home. A total of 2,031 individuals remained in the farmers’ camp.
Meanwhile, the farmers said, even with the rice aid from the DSWD, they will not stop from demanding the 15,000 sacks of rice.
Minda Dalinan, secretary general of Kaluhamin or Kahugpongan sa mga Lumad sa Halayong Habagatang Mindanao (Lumad unity in Far South Mindanao) said for as long as their farms will bear no produce, they will continue to demand for the government’s aid and food subsidy.
Lito Roxas of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said the sacks of rice were released because of the “farmers solidarity”.
“Because of pressure from the public, the government is forced to act on our demands,” he said.
Roxas said in Kidapawan City the local government “failed to act on the demands of the farmers” causing a violent dispersal.
“Now we see that there is rice. The government has money to provide for rice, yet they are saving it for the election,” he said. (davaotoday.com)