NEWS RELEASE: Feb. 21, 2018
Stand With Samar campaign commences
Farmers from Northern Samar starts Lakbayan to Manila, demands Duterte gov’t to address plight of the poorest
Members and supporters of the Northern Samar Small Farmers Association (NSSFA), will embark on a national Lakbayan from Northern Samar to Manila to raise to the national government issues and demands of the poorest citizens in the country. Among the province’s 24 municipalities are the most populated Catarman, Laoang, Catubig, Las Navas and Allen.
The activity Stand with Samar, aims to raise public awareness on the plight of farmers in the province who have not yet recovered from the devastating effects of successive typhoons that struck Eastern Visayas such as Yolanda, Glenda, Ruby, Seniang, Nona, and the recent Urduja and Vinta.
Fifty (50) peasant leaders of the NSSFA will be in Manila from Feb. 22 to March 8 to appeal to national government agencies, hold dialogues and actions to demand the Duterte government to address the situation of poor farmers in Northern Samar.
According to KMP regional chapter SAGUPA-Sinirangan Bisayas leader Jun Berino, farmers received very minimal aid from the government but in most cases, they have not received any support at all.
“It’s like the national government have neglected and forgotten us. We exist. Northern Samar is a province of the Philippines and our people are the poorest. Years of rehabilitation efforts are not felt by poor farmers,” Berino said.
Of the six provinces in Eastern Visayas, Northern Samar is the poorest, with a poverty incidence of 61.6 percent. This means that six out of every 10 people in the province are poor.
Northern Samar is the fourth poorest province in the country, next to Lanao del Sur (74.3 percent), Sulu (65.7 percent), and Sarangani (61.7 percent).
Infestation of agricultural crops
Aside from successive storms, another calamity reeling in the province is the infestation of agricultural crops. Abaca crops in Northern Samar are heavily-infested with bunchy top virus or BBTV, resulting to dwindling abaca production in the province which is the main livelihood of Northern Samar farmers.
Rice or palay crops, another major agricultural output, is also affected by pests, particularly the Bacterial Leaf Blight pest. Coconut, on the other hand, is affected by coconut-scale insects or cocolisap.
“We have exhausted all means possible in the province. We have consistently pleaded with the municipal and provincial offices of the Department of Agriculture (DA), but our demands fell on deaf ears. In December 2016, Las Navas municipal officials even joined the farmers in storming the gates of the local DA and a municipal resolution was passed to urge the national government to deal with the pest problem, but still to no avail,” Berino said.
“Recovery is impossible as long as the agriculture and fisheries sector in the province remain neglected. We have repeatedly sent our plea to the government regarding our situation. Instead of addressing our situation, the government blatantly replied with militarization and gross human rights violations,” the peasant leader said.
Worsening human rights violations due to militarization
The NSSFA have also recorded worsening human rights violations in upland farms and in the hinterlands of the province perpetrated by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Some of the violations against civilians are as follows: physical abuse, harassment, torture, arbitrary arrests, death threats, damaging of crops, and forced labor. Schools and places of worship including churches, are also being used as barracks by the military.
Berino said “farmers have no land to till and are not receiving government support and services. Vast coconut farmlands are infested with coconut scale insect or cocolisap. Abaca is infested with bunchy-top virus. People who are trying to start a new life in the hinterlands cannot live in peace because of intense military operations. With our dire situation, it’s like farmers are stuck between purgatory and hell.”
The farmers are launching the Stand with Samar campaign to demand the government the following:
- Provide immediate financial relief to all families with damaged crops.
- Craft and Implement a Pro-People Agricultural Rehabilitation Program
- Junk the anti-people Typhoon Recovery Plan
Scrap the existing Nona Rehabilitation Plan that is anti-people and pro-big businesses and craft a new program that is anchored on pro-people objectives and policies. Create such plan in consultation, coordination, and partnership with the farmers.
- End Militarization
“The farmers of Northern Samar stand united in demanding from the government what is due to them: assistance and most importantly, respect for their basic human rights. The situation in Samar provinces require tangible and decisive actions from the government. Likewise, public support and solidarity is also needed,” says KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos. ###
Reference: KMP chair Danilo Ramos, 0997-4182478
Press release, February 22, 2018, Amihan
“Stand with Samar,” support farmers afflicted by crop pest outbreak, military abuses – Amihan
Manila, Philippines – The National Federation of Peasant Women (AMIHAN) welcomed the arrival of 50 farmers or “lakbayanis” from the Eastern Visayas region, and Northern Samar province in Manila, to press the Duterte government to address the impact of the bunchy top virus on their abaca crops, as well as, denounce the continuing by elements of the military. The farmers belong to the Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma sa Sinirangan Bisayas (Sagupa-SB), a regional chapter of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), holding the national caravan and campaign “Stand With Samar” until next month.
“We support the farmers from Eastern Visayas, and we demand the Duterte government to address their plight, for immediate relief and rehabilitation and stop to militarization of their communities,” Zen Soriano, National Chairperson of Amihan.
Soriano said that the farmers, particularly from Northern Samar are raising the issues of the destruction on abaca crops brought about by the bunchy top virus, the “cocolisap” on coconut crops, and black bug infestation on their rice crops. She said that these consecutive disasters, adding the impact of the 2015 typhoon Nona, sank the farmers into deep bankruptcy, poverty and hunger. Thus, the farmers are seeking dialogues with the Department of Agriculture and other agencies for possible aid and relief.
According to Northern Samar Small Farmers Association (NSSFA), the province is considered to be the regional hub in abaca production and second biggest abaca-producing province in the country covering a total of 10,290 hectares of land and each year produces 3,381 metric tons.
Aside from the pest epidemic, Eastern Visayas farmers were victims of militarization. Sagupa-SB reported not less than 4 cases of extra-judicial killings (EJK) from February to November 2017; 8 cases of military encampment in barrios and schools; 4 cases of forcible evacuation including 2,423 individuals; 8 cases of illegal arrest and detention; aerial bombing to peasant communities; psywar and surveillance; destruction of properties; sexual harassment; blocking of humanitarian aide and other cases of threat, harassment and intimidation.
“The death of farmers in the region are both due to hunger and by the bullet. Military presence in the barrios is aimed in silencing them, not to air their grievances, while being branded as members or supporters of the New Peoples Army (NPA). The Duterte government is limiting their opportunities to voice out and demand for their right to social services and aid”, Soriano added.
Amihan also highlighted that the impact of poverty and hunger, and continuing military atrocities on peasant women and children.
“Militarization in the country has triggered mass trauma, affecting the psychological and physical health of peasant women and children. This has generated abuses such as threats, rape, sexual harassment and consistent with military presence in communities,” Soriano said.
“We dare President Duterte and the Department of Agriculture to immediately resolve the crisis hounding Eastern Visayas farmers. We warn against avoiding them while they are on their 15-day stay here in Manila,” she said.
“As support, we are calling on sectors, youth-students, academe, church peoples, professionals, artists and others to concretely support the Eastern Visayas farmers and join them in their struggle to expose government’s neglect,” Soriano ended. ###
Reference: Zen Soriano, Amihan chairperson – 09214571904