Vice presidential candidate Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. said the protest action taken by thousands of drought-hit farmers in Mindanao should be a wake-up call for the government to take more decisive actions to address the El Nino phenomenon and its effects on the agricultural sector.
Marcos, who had repeatedly made calls to the Department of Agriculture (DA) to speed up programs to help farmers in the drought-hit areas in the country, especially in Mindanao, said the farmers’ resort to blocking the Davao-Cotabato national highway in Kidapawan to demand rice distribution is a manifestation that the government has not done enough to address their condition.
“It is an act of desperation and I could not blame them. They are hungry for months, their crops are gone, damaged by El Nino. This should be a wake-up call to our government, our DA officials especially to double their efforts to help them,” he said.
The Davao-Cotabato national highway in Kidapawan was crippled Wednesday after thousands of hungry farmers set up barricades to demand rice distribution as well as government intervention and subsidy to increase production.
Marcos said the DA should account for the P2.1 billion specially earmarked to assist farmers affected by the drought conditions caused by El Nino and spur agricultural production in the first quarter of 2016.
“The question now is, how is the DA spending the P2.1 billion budget set to help our drought-affected farmers? The DA should explain so that the government can fine-tune the programs set and if needed, allocate more funds to augment it,” he pointed out.
The senator then expressed hope that the distribution of the earmarked funding has not been affected by the political season as some politicians are known to request the diversion of funds to their areas at the expense of specific beneficiaries who need it the most.
"With the onset of the political season the DA must take special care to ensure that mitigation efforts for El Nino must be directed to those who really need it most and not just because some politician requested to divert the assistance programs in their areas," Marcos said.
The DA has pegged El Niño’s damage to crops and other agriculture produce at P4.002 billion with the corn sector recording the biggest loss at 195,694 metric tons (MT) valued at P2.36 billion, followed by palay with 94,934 MT or P1.62-billion.
30 areas or 36 percent of the country experienced drought with Regions 2 and 12 suffering the most damage.
Marcos said the DA should act fast to avert the ill-effects of El Nino to farmers. "A lot of farmers and their families in the provinces affected by El Nino are suffering and are going to suffer more hardships if the DA won't be able to deliver on its promise," he said.