Tensions rise as drought-hit farmers protest in Koronadal PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 24 April 2016 14:58

KORONADAL, Cotabato — Farmers from all over Soccsksargen on Saturday continued their protest in this town to demand the release of government aid amid the widespread effects of the El Niño phenomenon.

Some 2,000 farmers were still gathered outside the Regional Agriculture Office in Carpenter Hill on the protest’s third day.

The group is demanding for the release of the region’s calamity funds, and 68,000 sacks of rice and seedlings from the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Tension rose between the police and rallyists on Friday when the latter barricaded and attempted to enter the Agriculture Office.

The local government and Social Welfare Department mediated between the two groups, out of fear that the standoff will result to a repeat of the violent dispersal that left two farmers dead in Kidapawan, Cotabato on April 1.

The farmers on Saturday have taken down their barricade but policemen remained on standby to ensure security in the area.

Bayan Soccskargen secretary general Ryan Lariba said they will not leave the area without a commitment of assistance from the DA.

Lariba’s camp also hopes that their mass movement will not result in any violence.

Koronadal police chief Supt. Barney Condes, meanwhile, guaranteed that they have coordinated with farmers in order to maintain peace and order in the rally.

Condes also vowed that law enforcers will exercise maximum tolerance in the rally.

The Philippines has been gripped by a strong El Niño dry spell since December which has hit food production, particularly in the conflict-wracked south which is home to the country’s poorest and where more than half of the population is reliant on agriculture.

The DA said that from agricultural damage from January to March this year has amounted to P2.1 billion. Meanwhile, an estimated P3.43 billion was lost to the effects of El Niño last year.

The current El Niño has been classified by state weather bureau as “strong.”

The last time the country suffered from a similar “strong” El Niño was from 2009 to 2010, during which an estimated P17.4 billion in agricultural production was lost and more than half a million hectares of agricultural land got affected.

Weather bureau PAGASA earlier warned that more provinces will suffer drought or dry spell this April. — ABS-CBN News