Groups claim gov’t action on El Nino impacts a ‘colossal flop’, hold protest

Members of the Sanlakas coalition participated in Kalampag or Kampanya laban sa pagkagutom, a campaign to demand from government the political will to take drastic action in addressing the impacts of El Nino and demand justice for the continued neglect of the country’s agricultural sector..

They alleged that the mitigation efforts of the government’s El Nino Task Force to combat the climate-induced water crisis is a “colossal flop”. “The bloodshed in Kidapawan could have been avoided if not for the gross negligence and incompetence of the task force that claimed two lives and left hundreds injured last week.

The task force formed in September last year composed of Cabinet-level agencies under the Office of the President led by the Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, with the departments of Public Works, Agriculture, the National Irrigation Administration and the Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization after state weather bureau PAGASA issued a warning in March last year that the El Nino will affect 68 of the 81 provinces by April 2016.

“The much-vaunted El Nino preparations by the Aquino government since last year have been exposed to be 19 billion peso fiasco by the very blood of our starving farmers. If only they were not too busy campaigning for the administration’s bets then they should have monitored that the water crisis was worsening and should have acted upon it promptly,” said Leody de Guzman, president of the militant Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, a founding member of Sanlakas.

He added that, “Not only does the El Nino bring severe droughts to the countryside but we are also looking at imminent food crisis specially that Mindanao is the country’s food basket. To downplay the farmers’ pleas will likely have dire consequences on our food security on top of the already devastating effects on their lives and livelihoods,”

De Guzman cited that Mindanao provinces produce 25% of the country’s rice production, more than half of our corn production, 81% of our bananas, and 75% of the total coffee output and has contributed 59% to overall coconut yield among others.

“Concretely, we urge the Aquino administration to declare all 68 provinces affected be placed under a state of calamity and expedite the release the much needed calamity and the standby quick response funds to counter the fast-spreading water and looming food crisis”.

So far, the government has declared only four provinces, including North Cotobato and the city of Zamboanga to be under a state of calamity.

At their program, the activists banged the pots and pans in front of the agriculture department’s head office along the Elliptical road in Quezon City to symbolize their clamor for food security and justice for the Mindanaon farmers.
Among the organizations that participated in the protest were Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Partido Lakas ng Masa and Kongreso ng Maralitang Lungsod. Protests were also simultaneously held in the cities of Calamba, Cebu, Tacloban, Bacolod, Pagadian, Ozamis and Davao.

The groups’ leaders also took turns lambasting Secretary Proseso Alcala for his recent statements in a televised interview where he claimed that the farmers’ conditions in North Cotobato are not as bad as it seems.

“If so, then we challenge Alcala to live on poisonous wild yam even for a week, like the desperate farmers there are eating and repeat his statement on live television”, dared Oyette Zacate, national officer of Sanlakas.