Act vs. Climate Impacts on Food, DU30 Government told

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Is the Philippines ready for La Niña or El Niño? Is the DU30 Government up to the task to minimize and manage the impacts of extreme weather events? This is the question hurled by the largest climate justice movement to the sitting government of today.

The Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) recalled that it was a year ago when the Kidapawan National Highway in North Cotabato was stained with the blood of hungry farmers asking for the immediate and urgent assistance from the government. Farmers who have been reeling the impacts of a nine-month record-setting drought, with no food to eat and many were hungry, were welcomed with the sound of gunfires. Farmers who were already slowly being killed by the impacts of climate change were directly killed by the very government who is supposedly the one to protect them.

“The Kidapawan Massacre was the most condemnable action by a government against victims of a climate crisis. Farmers, agricultural workers and indigenous peoples suffering from the effects of nine months of drought in Mindanao demanded government support and aid for their families, but instead were met with dispersals and bullets killing some of the aggrieved. Rather than climate justice, they were served with double injustice from an indifferent government. One year had passed since the tragedy and none of the perpetuators have been reprimanded. Worse, not a single government official was held accountable. Where is justice and where is change?”, Val Vibal of the Aniban ng Mangagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA), a national federation of agricultural sector asserted.

PMCJ notes that the El Niño crisis last year affected small farmers and indigenous people mostly in the Visayas and Mindanao regions. More than 180,000 farmers lost their income. Almost 225,000 hectares of agricultural land were directly affected causing an agricultural loss of Php 4.77 billion. On mid-January of this year, the same regions experienced unprecedented flooding due to excessive rainfall brought by a series of low pressure areas and the tail-end of a cold-front. According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the flooding has resulted in 18 reported casualties, affected more than 320,000 households, and caused an initial estimate of Php 126 million worth of damages to agriculture alone. This did not include the extent of destruction to watersheds, coastal and municipal fishing grounds, and their long-term effects.

These extreme weather disturbances show how climate change threatens not only our right and access to food but also the rights and well-being of our food producers–farmers, fisherfolk, agricultural workers and indigenous people. Unfortunately, government’s efforts have fallen short in addressing the climate-induced impacts on agriculture. It is the government’s responsibility to immediately respond to the needs of the affected communities and to provide the necessary support to build their resilience. Government’s continuing neglect of farmers, fisherfolk, agricultural workers and IPs.- people at the front line of climate-related disasters- is deplorable”, remarked Joseph Purugganan, Philippine Coordinator of Focus on the Global South.

“A year has already passed since the Kidapawan Massacre, but the situation of the farmers here in SOCSKSARGEN remains the same. The subsidies given by the government is inadequate to relieve the affected farmers and indigenous people of hunger and extreme poverty. To be able to lessen the debt they have incurred due to little amount or lack of harvest, they are forced to let large agribusiness plantations to take over their agricultural lands and convert them into large plantations of cash crops”, said Lilian Abela of Demokratikong Magbubukid Sandigan ng Kanayunan sa Pag-Unlad (DEMASKU), a Mindanao-based organization of farmworkers, farmers, agriworkers, Moro and Indigenous People.

Government’s program for farmers to adapt did not help the farmers either as being experienced by the peasant sector in Luzon, specifically the farmers from Isabela. Farmers from the CREDO Savings and Agrarian Reform Cooperative have incurred million pesos worth of losses arising from the defective Pioneer 30T80 corn seeds. “Genetically modified organisms, a product of biotechnology, are said to be one of the adaptation measures needed by the farmers to survive from climate change impacts. However, our experience showed otherwise. What’s even more depressing is how the government responded to our problem. When we asked for the assistance of the Department of Agriculture in investigating our situation, what we got was a distorted final technical investigation report”, said Essex Lara of the Northern Luzon based cooperative CREDO Coop.

“Climate-induced impacts on food and displacement is not only a phenomenon here in the Philippines. It is being felt globally and it is historical. Societies that migrate to evade food shocks are the ones that survive. There is already an estimated 25 million people yearly displaced due to climate impacts on food and these numbers are increasing through time.” reminded Mr. Ian Rivera, the National Coordinator of Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ).

“Sad to say, these climate-induced displacements don’t only happen in the Philippines. These are also happening in Africa, in Latin America, in Asia and in all vulnerable countries and communities in the world. Unless rich countries will commit to higher ambitions and actions this COP 23, the continued inaction of the rich countries will condemn 250 million people by 2050 to hunger, without homes, without countries, and death, and this includes the Philippines”, Rivera added.

In line with this, the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) is organizing a forum on April 6, 2017 to raise and discuss the impacts of extreme weather events and how they affect the country’s food self-sufficiency, and to also commemorate the Kidapawan Massacre. This forum also aims to revive the campaign for food sovereignty with the banner slogan “KALAMPAG: Kampanya Laban sa Pagkagutom”.

KALAMPAG is a multi-sectoral formation campaigning to address the slow and inefficient response of the government to the issues on hunger and food insufficiency exacerbated by climate change. There is an urgent need to have a comprehensive and strong campaign against hunger especially now that climate change affects our ability to produce food.

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