The heat from the parched land has ignited a massive movement of farmers who have not received aid from the government since the onset of extreme drought in northern Mindanao region.
Kasama Bukidnon (Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Bukidnon or Bukidnon Farmers’ Association) launched its series of protest actions on April 12 where 5,000 farmers gathered in Valencia City to demand their subsidy from the government. They were able to negotiate 4,200 sacks of rice from the city, and are expecting more from the provincial government.
“We are the hardest hit in this climate disaster,” said Ireneo Udarbe, the Secretary General of Kilusang Magubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Philippine Peasant Movement) in the region. “Our livelihood is dependent on the land which is now too parched to grow anything. Farmers are innovative. We can look for alternative crops to plant, find some growths that are edible. But right now there is simply nothing – just hectares of dust that even weed won’t grow on.”
Farmers' march rally today in Maramag, Bukidnon.
3,000 farmers in San Fernando
On April 17, around 3,000 farmers from San Fernando, Bukidnon have also assembled to demand government action on their situation. However, even as they were still on the way to the municipal hall, the 68th Infantry Battalion and members of the Philippine National Police have already barred them twice – in Bunacao and in Barangay Poblacion.
“It is apparent that there are local governments who do not want to hear the plight of the farmers,” said Udarbe. He shares that many of the farmers are already mired in debt, loaning sacks of rice, which they had previously grown but could not afford to buy.
“The thousands of farmers will only be affirming to the government officials what they actually already know – that the extreme drought is death not only to the crops but also to the people who plant them! They do not want to hear our demand to survive,” he said.
Farmers and Lumad's protest in San Fernando, Bukidnon
Pangantucan farm workers push for wage increase, aid
On the same day, more than a thousand farmers from Pangantucan also launched a mobilization, calling not only for government subsidy but also for an increase in wage for farm workers.
“Farm workers at the average can only find work for three days a week,” said Jun Benemerito, secretary general of Kasama Bukidnon. “What they had been earning with regular work was already not enough to feed their families. Right now, most of us, having no proper irrigation in our own fields, are farm workers. It is the summary of our dire situation as poor farmers – we compete for our lands with these big companies that can afford proper climate remedies. Then even when we are able to assert our right to our land, in the end we are driven to work for these companies because there is not enough support for us from the government.”
No drinking water
In the area of the Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus, an organization of farmers who have been fighting their right to the land against a state university’s move to grab it and lease it to a corporate plantation in Maramag, Bukidnon, potable water has also become a problem. The families have one by one left their homes to temporarily seek refuge where they could find drinking water nearby.
On April 18, around 1,500 farmers from Maramag and another 1,000 from Dangcagan launched simultaneous protest actions. Farmers in Malaybalay City will also be holding an activity on April 20, expecting 3,000 participants.
The protest actions in the province are expected to peak on April 21-22 where Kasama Bukidnon expects at least 7,000 farmers from the different municipalities and cities will come together to dialogue with the provincial government for their much-needed subsidy.
Salay, other Misamis Oriental areas
On April 15, an estimated 2,000 members of the Misamis Oriental Farmers’ Association (MOFA) from eight barangays in Salay negotiated with their local government through a People’s Forum. Their municipal council signed a resolution to release 5% of the calamity fund of Salay for the drought-stricken farmers. The politicians also signed the position of the MOFA.
Similar protest actions and dialogue happened in Opol town in April 15, and in El Salvador on April 18.###
Dialogue in Salay, Misamis Oriental
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Northern Mindanao Region (KMP-NMR)
Mobile number 0935-574-1656