MANILA, Philippines – What happened to the Bukidnon farmers gravely affected by the drought earlier this year?
During the campaign season, El Niño catapulted the plight of farmers into the national election agenda as it made life for Mindanao farmers a daily waiting game.
This year’s El Niño, which was reported to be the strongest in modern history, also sparked food protests in Mindanao.
Addressing their concerns, the Department of Social Welfare and Development-Field Office X (DSWD-FO X) met with an estimated 4,000 El Niño-affected farmers from Bukidnon on Tuesday, July 26, to discuss their request for rice assistance. The farmers were not able to farm during the prolonged dry spell.
Among the farmers’ questions during the dialogue: Why did some families receive one sack of rice, while others only received 5 to 10 kilos along with tarpaulins of politicians during the rice distribution? What happened to the calamity funds of local government units (LGUs)?
The Field Office explained that the DSWD has no mandate over LGUs. It also emphasized that it distributed 25-kilo packs of rice exclusively for 2,791 families of indigenous peoples. The Field Office added that the provision of assistance to affected families is still ongoing.
However, many IP-farmers who participated in the dialogue said that they were not part of the list of recipients of the 25-kilo rice packs. According to the Field Office, they will conduct a validation of the list to make sure everyone is accounted for.
The meeting ended peacefully with an agreement that outlines the provision of rice assistance for farmers.
According to the agreement, the farmers’ group is expected to submit the names of the 16,000 families affected by the dry spell for validation and matching with the list of beneficiaries of the DSWD.
Once the list of beneficiaries is received and validated, the Field Office will resume the distribution of sacks of rice in coordination with Ugion Bukidnon and the Diocese of Balay-Balay to ensure that the assistance will not be used to advance any political interests.
The agency also committed to provide 4,000 sacks of rice for the farmers from the municipality of Quezon and other affected towns in Bukidnon.
DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo promised to expedite the distribution of assistance to the affected farmers. She also asked the farmers to cooperate with the agency and submit the needed list of beneficiaries.
Taguiwalo also assured the farmers’ group that the DSWD’s communication lines are open for complaints or inquiries. – Rappler.com