Farmers and land reform advocates stage a lightning picket at Department of Agriculture to press the agency on the 1.8-billion 2020 fertilizer fund scam.
Their demand: “Ayuda sa magsasaka, hindi pataba sa bulsa!” amplifies the broad public clamor for urgent aid for farmers and transparency on the use of government fund intended for COVID-19 socio-economic response. “DA is so brazen in saying that the centralized, negotiated bidding for the P1.8-billion worth of fertilizer for the Rice Resiliency Program is aboveboard, transparent and has brought the prices of urea down,” says Danilo Ramos of KMP.
“Farmers have stated enough that the Plant, Plant, Plant or ALPAS-COVID Program of the Department of Agriculture is a magnet for corruption because of its lumpsum fund allocation and generalized programs,” Ramos added.
Farmers also demand the resignation of agriculture secretary William Dar for his incompetence in addressing the concers of farmers affected by the Rice Liberalization Law which has caused further bankruptcy of rice farmers. “Secretary Dar is so out of touch from the actual situation and reality of Filipino farmers. Instead of aiming to strengthen the local rice industry, he is promoting rice importation and further liberalization of agriculture. He doesn’t deserve to remain as the agriculture secretary,” Ramos adds.
“Dar must resign. Even President Duterte and the promoters of the RA 11203 will be unable to look at farmers straight in the eye and declare that rice liberalization has improved farmers’ lives,” the KMP leader said.
Ramos said even if the Philippine International Trading Corp. abandoned the plan of importing 300,000 metric tons (MT) of rice through a government-to-government deal, farmers will not back down on their strong stance against rice liberalization. “We will continue to demand the passage of the proposed Rice Industry Development Act or RIDA which aims to genuinely advance our local rice industry and the condition of our rice farmers,” says Ramos. #