Food security frontliners dismayed with dismal aid delivery

Farmers to DA, IATF: Gov’t aid to agri sectors, too little, too late

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said farmers, farm workers and fisherfolk are extremely dissatisfied with the Department of Agriculture for its very sluggish and extremely unsatisfactory aid sectors in agriculture severely affected by the lockdown. Seven weeks into the Enhanced Community Quarantine, farmers have not felt any trickle down of aid from the national government despite the huge budget allocation announced by the DA and DSWD. Kulang na kulang o halos wala pa talagang ayuda na lumalapag sa mga kanayunan.

Even President Duterte’s fifth report to Congress last night underscored the DA’s unsatisfactory performance in delivering aid to agriculture-based sectors. Out of the 591,246 rice farmers targeted for the Php5,000 cash aid under the DA’s Financial Subsidy for Rice Farmers (FSRF) program, only 9.1 percent or 58, 881 rice farmers have reportedly received assistance as of April 21. Out of the Php3-billion available fund for FSRF, the utilized amount reached Php645 million. DA has a total of Php31-billion supplemental fund for its ALPAS-COVID program.

Based on estimates, at least 9.7 million farmers, farm workers and fisherfolk are in urgent need of aid. “Napakabagal na nga ng pagbibigay ng ayuda, napakaliit pa ng bilang ng naabot ng tulong mula sa DA. Baka sa Disyembre o sa isang taon pa matapos ang DA sa pamimigay ng ayuda,” says KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos.

“Mas malaki pa ang ginagastos ng DA sa urban agriculture na umabot na sa Php248.6 milyon kaysa sa naitutulong nito sa mga mangingisda na nasa Php14.7 milyon lang na halaga ng mga fingerlings, feedstock at propagules na suporta sa pangingisda,” the peasant leader said. Nauubos yata sa pagpapabango ng imahe ng DA ang pondo para sa mga magsasaka. Lahat ng aktibidad may turnover ceremony at media blitz.”

The peasant leader also noted that the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) accomplishment so far is the distribution of ARB IDs under the Agrarian Reform Beneficiary ID System. A total of 77, 119 ARBs were issued with ID cards to identify if they are in dire need of assistance. Dalawang buwan na itong lockdown, nasa identfication pa lang ang DAR kung sino ang nangangailangan. No ID, no assistance naman sa magsasaka ang gustong ipatupad ng DAR.

“We are not at all appeased with DA’s performance in aid delivery to farmers. If agriculture secretary William Dar cannot do his job properly and diligently, then he better resign from his post. What Secretary Dar has done so far is to constantly ask for understanding and patience from farmers and fisherfolk,” Ramos added. “Ubos na po ang laman ng kamalig at lalagyan ng bigas ng ating mga magsasaka. Malapit na ring maubos ang pasensya ng mga magbubukid sa DA at sa gobyernong Duterte.”

Ramos said farmers, farm workers and fisherfolk are among the country’s food security frontliners. They must be afforded with the necessary assistance in the form of immediate cash aid and production subsidies at this time of crisis. Food production never ceased under the ECQ and will further need boosting after April 30 when other provinces begin to transition to a General Community Quarantine situation. “Food production, particularly agriculture and fishing activities are among the core economic activities maintained during the lockdown. It is enraging that farmers and fisherfolks come in last in the government’s priorities,” the peasant leader concluded. ###

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