Tuesday, October 19, 2010

When calamities strike, what happens to our farmers? The state must care for those who break their backs day in and day out to feed our people

Typhoon Juan has left many of our fellow Filipinos, especially those in the northern provinces, displaced and once more worrying not only about their security for now, but also about their source of livelihood for months to come.

The National Food Authority reported last night that "up to 70%" of unmilled rice crops in the northern Philippines could be damaged by Typhoon Juan.
News reports also quoted Andrew Villacorta, DA executive director in Cagayan Valley, as saying that estimated losses could go up to 159,000 metric tons, covering 88,000 hectares, in Isabela, and up to 63,000 metric tons (43,000 ha) in Cagayan province.
Imagine that.

Which is why we're calling on the Department of Agriculture (DA) to extend all possible forms of assistance and relief to farmers and agricultural workers most affected by Typhoon Juan. Nananawagan po kami sa DA na agarang maglabas ng anumang ayuda na maaari nating maibigay sa ating mga magsasaka. Alam natin na walang kalaban-laban ang mga magsasaka sa pinsalang dulot ng mga bagyong tulad ni Juan, at wala na silang ibang maaasahan maliban sa mga programang pinansiyal ng pamahalaan.

Bukod sa DA, nananawagan rin kami sa mga punong-lalawigan na magtabi ng emergency funds at magbukas ng mga emergency loans na makatutulong sa mga nasalanta ng bagyong Juan.

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We also need to start developing long-term, sustainable measures to address the usual threats faced by our farmers. The Philippines is battered by an average of 20 typhoons a year, yet we always seem to be caught by surprise when a storm hits. We ought to strengthen crop protection measures for our farmers, who are always the biggest losers when faced with natural calamities.

We did some research on crop protection facilities and practices, and we found an April 2009 study by by Celia M. Reyes and Sonny N. Domingo for the Philippine Institute for Development Studies. Entitled "Crop Insurance: Security for Farmers and Agricultural Stakeholders in the Face of Seasonal Climate Variability", it revealed that "formal lending institutions and crop insurance were virtually non-existent in select farming communities" in Isabela. Further, "local usurers and loan sharks have long been profiting from smallholder agicultural workers through high-interest loans", leaving farmers "up to their necks in debt."

Imagine that. Halos walang-wala na nga sa buhay ang ilan sa ating mga magsasaka, lalo pa silang nawawalan at tila inaabuso pa ng mga sakim at ganid.

This brings me to a point I've been trying to stress in recent statements. We really need to sit down and craft a more comprehensive review of agricultural policies under the Aquino administration, together with all concerned sectors. Our farmers need our help. We owe it to them. The state must care for those who break their backs day in and day out to feed our people, by providing state-funded progams that will help tide them over in the short run and raise their incomes and the quality of their lives in the long run.

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