North Cotabato town lacks fund for rice aid to drought-stricken farmers

ARAKAN, Cotabato (MindaNews/07 April) – This town’s P2.5-million quick response fund is not enough for rice subsidy to farmers who are affected by the long dry spell, an official said.

Mayor Rene U. Rubino, in an interview on Tuesday said they might realign what’s left of the municipality’s P8.09-million mitigation fund to augment the budget for rice subsidy.

“Unsaon man nato ng mitigation fund kung wala na tay mga tao (What can we do with the mitigation fund if there are no more people left),” he said.

The P2.5-million QRF will be disbursed quarterly, which means about P625,000 each quarter.

The QRF and mitigation fund come from the Local Risk Reduction and Management Fund.

The mitigation fund is used to procure equipment and build infrastructure to cushion the impact of El Nino.

The QRF, as defined by the Department of Budget and Management, are the “built-in budgetary allocations that represent pre-disaster or standby funds for agencies in order to immediately assist areas stricken by catastrophes and crises.”

Rubino said the municipal government has purchased 634 sacks or 31,700 kilos of rice from the National Food Authority which was scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.

It will be distributed among the 8,800 households in the municipality.

Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office head Jo-Ann Gafate said the supply will not be enough as each family is only receiving about three kilos for the period January to April.

Gafate said they are also receiving 500 sacks of rice from the Department of Agriculture Region 12.

“What we will do is to combine the rice from the municipality and DA so that we can give more to the farmers,” she said.

Rice subsidies were scheduled for release by second week of April.

Rubino said the municipal government has purchased water pumps for the rice fields, as some of the rivers have dried up due to the El Nino phenomenon.

“Some of the farmers have harvested in small quantities but most of them are failure,” he said.

Based on the damage report of the LDRRMO, 4,601 hectares planted to various crops have been damaged by the dry spell in all 27 barangays of Arakan.

The crops included corn (2,880 hectares), cacao (74 ha), rice (791 ha), rubber (43 ha), bananas (361 ha), and vegetables (282 ha).

Gabiro Laudan, of Sitio Kaindut in Brgy. Malibatuan said the drought damaged his one-hectare corn farm.

He said he would have joined the rally in Kidapawan City last week that ended in a bloody dispersal by police had he not joined the school program of his 3-year old child.

“Last December 2015, I only harvested 10 sacks,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)