El Niño-stricken farmers picket DSWD-10 office

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 26 July) – Hundreds of farmers who claimed they were affected by the recent El Niño and workers have camped outside the regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development starting Monday night, demanding for sacks of rice to ease their hunger.

In a report to Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, officials said more than 9,000 farmers and workers have camped outside their office, refusing to go home unless they are provided with rice.

The farmers have just come from a rally in Divisoria in downtown Cagayan de Oro earlier Monday afternoon.

DSWD Region 10 Director Nestor Briones said they are in discussion with the leaders of the Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma (a Bukidnon peasant organization) and the Organisasyon sa mga Yanong Obrero Nagkahiusa to meet their demands.

Briones said the farmers and workers told them that there are still 16,000 of them who have not received the rice subsidy promised them after they were affected by the long drought.

He said the farmers and workers claimed that the local government of Maramag, Bukidnon have delisted many of the names of the rightful beneficiaries.

Oliver Inodeo, DSWD Information Officer II, said they have made an initial agreement with the farmers after a series of meetings – that the rice subsidy for the 16,000 beneficiaries will be given to them through the Diocese of Malaybalay.

“Our Director informed Secretary Taguiwalo that we have to find where we can source the rice subsidy,” Inodeo said.

He said that initially, the farmers and workers agreed and accepted 10 sacks of rice that would be used for their dinner and breakfast.

However, Inodeo said the protesters changed their minds, demanding they would not return to their homes unless they receive the rice subsidy.

He said the farmers and workers are still outside their regional office as of press time Wednesday dawn.

Last March, El Niño-stricken farmers also staged a protest in Kidapawan City, demanding the release of rice subsidy. The protest, wherein farmers and their supporter blocked a portion of the Cotabato-Davao highway, ended in a bloody dispersal that killed three farmers and injured several others. Some policemen also sustained injuries. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)