More than 5,000 farmers and farm workers set up a barricade along Sayre Highway in Valencia City on the day that commemorates workers across the globe.
The move is a follow up to the series of protest actions they launched in the second half of April to demand for government subsidy for farmers affected by the extreme drought that hit Mindanao.
“Always in negotiations, the governor promises us help,” said Jun Benemerito, the secretary general of Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Bukidnon (KASAMA Bukidnon). “But the actual aid is far from what we need, from what we have been negotiating for.”
In the talk with Bukidnon provincial governor Jose Ma. Zubiri on April 22, he promised one sack of rice per household for Bukidnon farmers. This was to come from the calamity funds of the province.
Governor Zubiri also met with the farmers again on April 25 to look at how the distribution will proceed. However, during this meeting, he said that he will not be able to provide the one sack of rice per household to the harvest season as he said it would cost around P1.5 billion. He said that the province will request the budget from the national government. The farmers are, however, not sure if there has already been a resolution produced since that last talk.
Some problems also arose in the initial distribution of rice. “In Dangcagan, they released 1,400 sacks of rice but the families there are more than 1,400,” said Benemerito. “And in Valencia city, they released 2,000 sacks of rice and there are more than 2,000 farming families there.”
The farmers are now again asking for the appropriate subsidy for them to survive – a sack of rice for each household until harvest time, which is seven months away. They also asked for seedlings and fertilizers to help them recover from the setback of the losses they incurred during the drought.
Banana plantation workers also brought up their case to the provincial government. They asked if they could be given permanent work. They also asked for subsidy as at that time, farm work was difficult to come by because of the drought.
“We know it is election time,” said Benemerito. “It’s just a week before the people would choose the next government officials. These people in position right now are also seeking for another term. We know they are busy. But it is not an excuse to set aside the demands of the farmers. We need to eat everyday. We cannot tell our stomachs to wait until election is over.
“This protest action is a reminder to the province of Bukidnon that we are still here, hungry and determined to get what is due us, what is due to every Filipino who has worked hard, diligently paid his taxes, and yet is suffering from government neglect.”