ILOILO City – Regional farmers group Paghugpong sang mga Mangunguma sa Panay kag Guimaras (PAMANGGAS) lamented the regional agriculture office’s slow response to farmers affected by the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) calamity this year.
In a picket-dialogue the group held at the regional office of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Hamungaya, Jaro, farmers said that they are finding it hard to look for seeds and they are sure they’ll be indebted once again to usurers and loan sharks in order to plant this cropping season.
Rene Estrada, a rice farmer in Janiuay said that “it will be of great help if the government could provide seeds for us affected farmers. That will mean a deduction already from the loans we would incur. But the question remains, when will it come to us? We have been demanding for more than a month now and yet not a single rice seed has been provided to us.”
PAMANGGAS chairperson Lucia Capaducio added that now is the time for the agency to immediately release the seeds intended for the farmers.
“The rainy season has come but we are left with no seeds to plant due to the effect of the long drought and because of the slow government response, the farmers have no option but to go into loans which aggravates their already bankrupt state.”
Meanwhile during the dialogue, the farmers were faced by Rene Famoso, operations division chief of the DA Region 6, in behalf of its regional director who is in Manila.
The DA clarified that they have already allocated 27,000 bags of hybrid rice seeds that are ready for distribution to different municipalities affected by El Niño. According to the agency, Region 6 or Western Visayas has 322,000 hectares of agricultural and they have supposedly allocated 32,000 bags of rice seeds but their buffer stock now is only 27,000.
The regional office added that they have already allocated Php 22 million pesos for corn procurement intended for the victims of the calamity, however, it will only be distributed by September for the next cropping season.
Indigenous group Tumandok meanwhile wept that they are being left out by the government when calamities strike.
Reynaldo Giganto, spokesperson of the largest indigenous group Tumandok in Central Panay said that “government help reaches us the longest because our areas are very far but the government are not making great strides to address this problem which has been going on for decades every time there is a disaster.”
While the seeds are already available, the agency said they will still be needing the final list of affected farmers from various municipalities in order to implement the distribution.
“As of the today, June 26, only partial lists were submitted to us,” said Famoso.
PAMANGGAS vowed to continue to pursue the necessary help needed by farmers.
So far, only two provinces have declared to be under the state of calamity, the provinces of Iloilo and Antique. In Iloilo alone, almost 500,000 farmers are affected while about 300,000 farmers in Antique. In Capiz, about 9,000 rice farmers are affected according to the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist./www.panaytoday.net